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Arab summit was truly an embarrassment

Proximity talks are doomed and real talks must discuss all colonies and borders

Gulf News

The Arab Summit this week was an embarrassment. It came to no conclusion, produced no call to action and offered no clear way forward. It missed the point by arguing that the Middle East peace process is doomed unless Israel freezes building in the Jewish colonies in occupied east Jerusalem. The Arab Summit was wrong not to dismiss the American-backed proximity talks as doomed.

Rather than arguing about one Israeli building project, any successful peace talks will have to focus on how to manage complete withdrawal of all Israeli colonies from the West Bank, how to define the final borders of Palestine and Israel, and the final status of occupied Jerusalem. If any talks fail to grasp these essential items, they will fail. It has been wrong of the Arab leaders to agree to the indirect talks under pressure from US President Barack Obama's new administration which is anxious to be seen to be doing something. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mousa was wrong to say that the proximity talks may fail. There is no ‘may' about it. They will certainly fail, because the present Israeli government has no interest in their success. Mousa should have dismissed the proximity talks as a sad charade and insisted that the Arab League revert to its previous well-defined position summed up in the Arab Peace Initiative, under which the Arabs offer Israel complete recognition in return for complete withdrawal.

The simplicity of this proposal allows little room for Netanyahu's tactical distractions. The Israeli prime minister is an expert at flinging up new issues, like the planned (but not built) 1,600 new houses in occupied east Jerusalem. Of course they would be wrong if they are built, but the Arabs allowed themselves to be focused on this one issue rather than working on the far more important Arab Peace Initiative.