Three Arab leaders called Saturday for an all-Arab summit to form a solid front against Israel’s new rightist government, and warned that any Israeli slowdown in the peace process could trigger a fresh “cycle of violence.”
After two days of meetings, the leaders of three pivotal Arab states - Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia - issued a strongly worded statement reaffirming their intention to achieve a comprehensive, just peace.
Such a peace, they said, “requires that Israel also adhere to it seriously, with no backing away or reneging on anything which has been achieved.”
Arab countries are worried that Israeli Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu will abandon the basic tenet of the U.S.-sponsored peace process - giving up land Israel captured in war in exchange for peace.
Netanyahu promised during the election campaign to slow the peace process despite commitments made by his predecessor, Shimon Peres. He has ruled out major territorial concessions to Syria, vowed to block Palestinian statehood and supported building more Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Although there have been signs since the May 29 election that Netanyahu may be softening his position, his promises caused considerable apprehension among Arabs.
Syrian President Hafez Assad, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia said the June 21-23 all-Arab summit would help unify Arab nations and increase their effectiveness in dealing with Israel.
However, complete unity will be impossible, as Mubarak said Saturday that Iraq will be excluded from the Cairo summit because of remaining divisions in the Arab world over its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
“Basically the invitation is to all, but because of the present circumstances…we will postpone the issue of (inviting) Iraq to another stage due to the current sensitivities,” Mubarak said after arriving at the Cairo airport.
In addition to the lingering differences over the Iraqi invasion, Jordan and Syria have had a falling out over Jordan’s decision to break with its powerful northern neighbor to sign a separate peace deal with Israel.
At Saturday’s meeting, Assad, Mubarak and Abdullah warned that it would be disastrous - and dangerous - for Israel’s new leadership to retreat from previously inked peace accord pledges.
Any attempt by Israel to back off agreements already reached, or to delay implementing them, “will place it in confrontation with the international community and will threaten to reignite the cycle of violence for which Israel will be held totally responsible,” the three Arab leaders said in their statement.
The leaders insisted the Palestinians be able to establish an independent state and said that the only way to secure peace in the region is for Israel to withdraw from all occupied Arab land.
The land in question encompasses the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war; a border strip in south Lebanon that Israel has controlled since 1978; all of the West Bank; and east Jerusalem, which Israel also seized in 1967.