10/20/2008, 00.00
ISRAEL
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For Barak, Israel’s new government to give room to Saudi peace deal

President Peres is said to have discussed the matter with Livni. The Arab League-approved plan calls for all Arab states to recognise Israel in exchange for a pull back from the occupied territories, including Jerusalem. Some remain sceptical.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Saudi peace plan is back on the discussion table. Labour Party Chairman and Defence Minister Ehud Barak told Israel's Army Radio that “there is room in the Israeli coalition for the Saudi initiative” and “a mutual interest with moderate Arab elements on the issues of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.”

According to Israeli daily Haaretz President Shimon Peres is “in agreement with such consideration and [. . .] has spoken about the matter with Prime Minister-designate Tzipi Livni”.

However, the Jerusalem Post has reported that on Sunday senior Israeli officials dismissed the sudden surge of interest in the Saudi Peace Initiative.

“Whenever the process stalls, there will be those who will pull out the Saudi plan,” one senior official was quoted as saying on Sunday. “And the Saudis have an interest in pushing this out there now, to put on a 'constructive face' with which to greet the new US president."”

The Saudi plan was issued in 2002 and re-launched last year by the 22–member Arab League. It calls for the recognition of Israel by all Arab countries in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from all the lands Israel occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, as well as the creation of a Palestinian and a “just solution” to the Palestinian refugee problem.

Jordan's King Abdullah II said he doubted a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal will be clinched by the end of this year.

During a state visit to Spain he said that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will depend on the next US administration.

Also “Israel must decide if it wants to be a fortress or involve itself in the Muslim and Arab world,” the king said.

As for peace initiatives Israel’s Foreign Ministry is mulling a non-aggression treaty with Lebanon, a step which is part of the ministry's evaluation of regional developments.

Initiated by ministry director-general Aharon Abramovich, and later supported by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the initiative could become official policy should she succeed in forming a government.

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