DOHA: Qatar called at an Arab League ministerial meeting yesterday for a rethink of an Arab offer of normal ties with Israel in return for its pullout from occupied land and branded the international Quartet a failure.
“It is logical after 10 years to objectively reconsider the peace process, including the Arab initiative,” said Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani, the country’s prime minister.
He called for a “thorough look into developments in the region and the world, and to decide carefully on our future steps and roadmap.” The League has proposed a normalization with the Jewish state in return for its pullout from occupied lands, notably the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, for his part, told the meeting in Doha that he was opposed to a withdrawal of the offer, warning that it could lead to regional conflict.
“It is not permissible to talk about sidelining the Arab peace initiative. It should stay,” he said. “It is a very important initiative, and I hope that we would not every time talk about shelving it, because that would mean war.
“Are we ready for war? Personally, I say I am not,” he added.
The Qatari premier also criticized the diplomatic Quartet for Middle East peace comprising Washington, Moscow, Brussels and the UN, which he said had “proven to be a failure and unable to make any achievements.” He called for a “reevaluation of its performance.” The ministerial committee agreed to form a delegation to the UN Security Council to negotiate an Israeli withdrawal to pre-June 1967 borders, in light of the UN General Assembly vote to admit Palestine as a non-member state.
“Palestine’s admission as an observer state at the United Nations and the significance of this international recognition of Palestine as a state under occupation obliges the international community to end occupation,” it said in a final statement.
The committee endorsed a call by Abbas for Arab countries to activate a monthly $100-million safety net for the Palestinian Authority agreed this year at an Arab League summit in Baghdad.
Abbas asked for the aid package to be dispersed as Israel withholds customs revenues due to his Palestinian Authority in retaliation for last month’s UN upgrade of the Palestinians.
Call for unity
Meanwhile, leaders of the feuding Palestinian factions, the Hamas in Gaza and the secular Fatah government in the West Bank, urged reconciliation between the two former foes yesterday despite diverging policies on Israel.
The two groups are hoping to boost ties on the heels of an eight-day war with Israel last month, which buoyed Hamas, and a Fatah-led initiative at the United Nations General Assembly, that recognized a de facto Palestinian state.
But Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, visiting the Gaza Strip for the first time, struck a hard line against recognizing Israel or negotiating with it for a state on the lines pre-dating the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, just as Fatah’s Abbas pledged himself to diplomacy and non-violence.
“Let bygones be bygones,” Meshaal told an audience at Gaza’s Islamic University. “Responsibility for Palestine is bigger than one faction alone ... Hamas cannot do without Fatah and Fatah cannot do without Hamas,” he added.
Hamas and Fatah have sought unity before, but a succession of Arab-brokered plans have repeatedly run aground over issues such as the holding of new elections, releasing prisoners and the make-up of Palestinian security forces.
In the days before Meshaal’s homecoming, Hamas eased curbs on Fatah partisans in Gaza.
However, the Hamas leader made no concrete proposals for reconciliation and stuck to the party line on Israel, saying he would never recognize the Jewish State even in its original 1948 borders, telling Fatah that “resistance” was the way forward. Their fundamental differences aside, top Fatah leader Azzam Al-Ahmed praised Meshaal’s reconciliation push as “positive,” but cautioned his remarks contained nothing new.
Meshaal and other top Hamas leaders have earlier mooted a long-term truce with Israel based on the 1967 lines, but say this does not mean they are ready to recognize Israel’s right to exist in the rest of the territory.
Israel says it will only accept a demilitarized Palestinian state, and says Hamas’s history of suicide bombings and rocket attacks on Israeli towns makes it a terrorist group — a stance the United States and European Union endorse.
Israel criticized Abbas for not condemning Meshaal’s comments and for seeking unity with the Islamist group.
“What is interesting is that (Abbas), of all people, did not condemn the (Hamas) words calling for Israel’s destruction, just as previously he did not condemn the rockets fired at Israel (from Gaza),” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.