Algeria: No Israel normalisation plan

Algeria’s envoy to the Arab summit currently convening in Algiers has rejected King Abd Allah of Jordan’s proposal for a new strategy that seeks to normalise ties with Israel. 

Algeria says the summit will not be about the Jordanian plan
Algeria says the summit will not be about the Jordanian plan

The Jordanian initiative drops traditional Arab demands that Israel give up all land seized in the 1967 war and offers the Jewish state normalised relations with Arab countries, according to a text provided by Arab diplomats.

Abd al-Qadir Hajjar said claims the summit would be largely about the Jordanian initiative was wrong, and would instead focus on issues such as structural reform of the Arab League.

“Algeria, nor the summit, is seeking to discuss normalisation with Israel. Certainly, the train of normalisation will not begin in Algiers, it can be dealt with in [their] own countries,” Aljazeera correspondent Shahata Awadh reported Hajjar as saying.

UN resolutions ignored

The proposal itself has made no mention of specific UN resolutions and usual Arab demands for an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, and for the right of return of refugees.

The omission suggests King Abd Allah, whose country signed a peace deal with Israel in 1994, wants the Arabs to accept geographical changes Israel has made in the territories and to start normalisation even before a full peace is reached.

“Certainly, the train of normalisation will not begin in Algiers”

Abd al-Qadir Hajjar,
Algerian envoy

The proposal submitted in the Algerian capital has only vague wording, declaring “Arab states’ preparedness to end the Arab-Israeli conflict and establish normal relations between the Arab countries and Israel through just, comprehensive and lasting peace,” according to a text read by an Arab diplomat to The Associated Press.

It says peace should be along the lines of “international resolutions and the principal of land for peace and the (1991) Madrid peace conference” but makes no specific demands.

Original Saudi plan

Arab leaders have always demanded full peace with Israel -meaning a return of all occupied lands – in return for normalisation.

The Jordanian proposal is meant to amend a Saudi Arabian peace initiative adopted at the 2002 Arab League summit held in Beirut, which offered Israel peace with all Arab nations on condition it returns all land seized in the six-day war of 1967 -including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Syria’s Golan Heights – in line with UN resolutions 242 and 338.

It also calls for the creation of a Palestinian state and a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue.

Arab League officials said the proposal had little support among Arab nations. Syria has always staunchly opposed any normalisation.

Palestinian delegates to the summit’s preparatory discussions said the Jordanian proposal was unacceptable because it ignored the “fundamental basis for a just and comprehensive settlement”.

“This is like giving a thief more than he had already stolen,” one senior Palestinian official said.

Term of reference

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa ruled out any change to the Saudi-proposed initiative, which he described as “the Arab term of reference” for peace with Israel.

King Abd Allah of Jordan says he needs to explain his plan better 

King Abd Allah of Jordan says he
needs to explain his plan better 

“What is on the summit agenda is to revive the Arab peace initiative on the international level to represent the joint Arab position, especially with regard to Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders,” he said on Thursday. “It is not expected to come down from this ceiling.”

Jordanian officials have refused to comment or give details on the proposal by Abd Allah, who met this week in Washington with US President George Bush.

Earlier this month, the Jordanian monarch said the Algerian summit should amend the Saudi Arabian initiative to ease Israeli concerns and get it to make concessions.

Better explanation

“Should we understand the fears of others, problems might be settled,” Abd Allah told French Channel II in a 7 March interview.

“We were surprised that after the Beirut summit the plan had no effect on the Israeli society. We might have to explain it in a better way.”

Though he did not mention the Jordanian initiative, Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas used similar language in an interview published on Saturday in the Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Ahram.
“The (2003) Arab initiative needs to be clarified by Arabs to the world,” Abbas was quoted as saying. “We ask for more explanation of it to the West, Israel, Europe and the United States.”

Arab diplomats said Jordan’s envoy to the Arab League, Umar al-Rifai, officially presented Abd Allah’s proposal for discussion on Wednesday.

Saudi position unclear

The Saudi Arabian position on Jordan’s proposal was unclear. On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince AbdAllah, dispatched his foreign minister to Algiers for talks with Algerian President Abd al-Aziz Butaflika.

Arab diplomats said both discussed the Jordanian proposal but no details emerged.

Aljazeera correspondent Awadh has also learned that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abd Allah bin Abd al-Aziz will not be attending the Arab Summit, a change on his earlier pledge.
Sources have attributed the reasons behind his decision not to attend down to his desire to not get involved in heated disputes that happened during the Sharm al-Shaikh summit with Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi.

Difficult times

Following that summit, Riyadh announced it had uncovered an assassination attempt targeting the Crown prince Abd al-Aziz which Libya had been planning.

“The (2003) Arab initiative needs to be clarified by Arabs to the world”

Palestinian President Abbas on the original Saudi plan

The Algiers summit, which begins on Monday, comes at a particularly crucial time in the region, with Iraq trying to put together a government amid continuing violence, the bid to restart the Middle East peace process and the crisis in Lebanon.

Another sensitive issue, reforming the Arab League itself, is also on the table.

Algerian authorities are on high alert ahead of the Arab League summit, deploying about 15,000 Algerian security forces in and around the capital ahead of the arrival of 20 Arab heads of state and about 3000 officials.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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