Saturday, March 29, 2008

Circling the wagons

Abbas urges Arab, int'l forces to protect Palestinians from IDF

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday called on Arab and international forces in the Palestinian territories to protect his people against Israeli attacks.

Abbas has called in the past for international peacekeepers in the Gaza Strip, but his call Saturday at the Arab Summit in Damascus marked the first time he has urging Arab countries to send forces.

In his speech at the summit, Abbas accused Israel of undermining the basis for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of attacking Gaza "brutally," killing innocent Palestinians. He asked Arab countries to "think seriously of Arab and international protection for our people."

Earlier, in his opening speech at the gathering, Syrian President Bashar Assad accused Israel of rejecting every peace initiative offered over the last three decades.

Assad singled out the Madrid conference and the 2002 Arab peace initiative, saying that Israel had responded to those proposals by massacring Palestinians, continuing settlement activity and building the security barrier.

The Syrian president said Israel had used every possible chance to prove how uncooperative it is and questioned how long Arab nations can keep offering Israel a land-for-peace proposal.

Assad said peace was the only way for Israel to gain security in the region, and "peace will not come except through withdrawal from occupied Arab land and giving back (Arab) rights."

He added that Israel was "exploiting the internal Palestinian divisions for its own benefit."

Assad warned that Arab countries may have to seek alternatives to the Arab peace initiative if Israel continues to refuse to accept it. The proposal offers Israel full peace with Arab nations if it withdraws from "occupied lands" and allows for the creation of a Palestinian state.

"The question is: Do we leave the peace process and initiatives hostage to the whims of successive Israeli governments, or do we search for choices and substitutes that can achieve a just and comprehensive peace?" Assad said.

Assad went on to accuse Israel of stalling on peace negotiations with Syria.

"The foot-dragging Israel is displaying on the issue of peace with Syria for the return of Golan Heights is not working in its favor and the passing time won't help it achieve better conditions in the future," he said.

Also during the summit's opening session, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa proposed that Arab foreign ministers meet in mid-2008 to evaluate the Israeli-Arab peace process.

"We must know in which direction we are moving," Moussa said. "If there is progress, we will welcome it. If there is not, then Arabs may have to take painful positions.

"No one will blame us for a decisive position we will take," he said. "What have we achieved? So far, nothing ... Things are not reassuring."

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi slammed Arab countries for calling on Israel to only pull back to the 1967 borders. "The occupation did not start in 1967 and Palestine is not only the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," he said.

Gadhafi reiterated his proposal to establish one state for Israelis and Palestinians between Jordan and the Mediterranean. He said the state should be a haven for all Palestinian refugees, it should disarm its nuclear weapons and hold democratic elections.

Saturday's session comes amid anger among pro-US Arab countries over what they say is Syria's obstruction of the election of a new president in Lebanon. They are also worried about Damascus's close alliance with Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah.

Ten of the Arab League's 22 heads of state are absent from the summit. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are represented by low-level officials in a snub to Syria.

In his speech, Assad denied that Syria was interfering in Lebanon. "The key to a solution is in the hands of the Lebanese. They have their country, constitution and institutions," he said. "Any other (outside) role is to give assistance, not be a substitute."

Comment: Listen to the rhetoric-observe the Arab countries' actions after the conference. As long as they believe they can benefit form the Palestinian turmoil they will use the situation to their advantage. Please note that during this entire period of time not one of the "Arab friends" has offered to accept them into their country or even offered any substantial aide. Gadhafi conveniently "forgot" his history and intentionally is using the worn out revisionist strategy of redefining legal documents. Assad is not a beacon of decency when it comes to telling the truth or acting wiht integrity. To believe him is to accept the notion that he has not assisted in the re-arming of Hizzbollah.

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