Arab League delegation visits Israel for the first time
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – An Arab League delegation is to visit the Jewish state for the first time since its founding to discuss the League’s own peace initiative. Envoys from the 22-member organizations should arrive on Thursday, Arab and Israeli diplomatic sources said. It could be some concrete step forward and is undoubtedly significant even if the League will be represented in Jerusalem by Jordan’s and Egypt’s Foreign Ministers Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib and Ahmed Aboul Gheit, that is the only Arab countries that have already signed a peace treaty with the Jewish state.
The announcement came as Israel's cabinet approved the release of 250 Palestinian prisoners, all from Fatah, to bolster Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas. Marwan Barghouti, a top Palestinian leader, is not on the list of prisoners to be released. Mr Abbas was especially keen on seeing him free.
Next Thursday’s visit follows the one held on May 10 in Egypt which Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had called ‘historic.’ It was the first step by the Arab League, which delegated Jordan and Egypt, to see Israel’s attitudes towards the Saudi peace plan the League had endorsed.
The Plan calls for Arab recognition of Israel in exchange of an Israeli withdrawal from all lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war and the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and a “just solution” to the Palestinian refugee problem.
Israel welcomed the proposal as something positive but sought to negotiate its content before accepting the plan, whilst the Arabs want Israel to accept the plan before any details can be negotiated.
In talking about the first visit by an Arab League delegation, Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, said: “They will be talking about how the Arab peace proposal can help energise the rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians.”