Third of World in Exchange for Israel Peace

The Obama administration is reportedly working on a comprehensive approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict offering Israel recognition by Arab and Muslim countries in exchange for talks on all peace tracks.

"What we are talking about is not Israelis and Palestinians sitting at the table, but Israelis sitting with Palestinians, Israelis sitting with Syrians, Israelis sitting with Lebanese," Jordanian King Abdullah, who is coordinating the efforts, told The Times on Monday, May 11.

The plan was hatched when President Barack Obama invited Abdullah to the White House last month in his first meeting with an Arab leader since being elected in January.

The ambitious plan could include a peace conference bringing all the parties involved as early as July or August.

The final touches are expected after a series of high-profile meetings, including Obama’s meeting with Israeli Premier Binyamin Netanyahu next week.

"The critical juncture will be what comes out of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting," notes King Abdullah.

"If there is procrastination by Israel on the two-state solution or there is no clear American vision for how this is going to play out in 2009, then all the tremendous credibility that Obama has worldwide and in this region will evaporate overnight if nothing comes out in May," he maintained.

"If there are no clear signals and no clear directives to all of us, then there will be a feeling that this is just another American government that is going to let us all down."

Israel’s far-right government opposes the internationally-backed two-state solution on a Palestinian state side by side with Israel.

Hawkish Netanyahu said Sunday he had no intention of leaving the Syrian Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in 1967.

"If we delay our peace negotiations, then there is going to be another conflict between Arabs or Muslims and Israel in the next 12-18 months," Abdullah cautioned.

Hefty Price

The Times said Arab parties may offer incentives to Israel such as the right for El Al, its flagship carrier, to fly over their air space as well as visas for Israeli tourists.

But Abdullah went even further, suggesting that as Israel sits with the parties "the Arabs and the Muslim world [would be] lined up to open direct negotiations with Israelis at the same time."

The Arab peace initiative, drafted by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by the 2002 Arab summit, offers recognition of Israel by Arab league’s 22 members in exchange for a pullout to the pre-1967 boundaries.

Abdullah, however, seems to extend the recognition offer far beyond the Arab region, referring to the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference.

"The future is not the Jordan River or the Golan Heights or Sinai, the future is Morocco in the Atlantic to Indonesia in the Pacific," he said.

"That is a very strong statement when we are offering a third of the world to meet them with open arms.

"I think that’s the prize."

( and Agencies)

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