Egypt and Israel discuss peace push 29Dec09 December 30, 2009

Aljazeera -  29 December 2009


Israeli and Egyptian leaders are meeting in Cairo to discuss US-backed efforts to relaunch peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Talks between Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, and Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president, on Tuesday are also expected to focus on efforts to secure the exchange of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier held in the Gaza Strip.

Egypt and Germany have been mediating those talks and Israel recently relayed its response to the latest swap proposal to Hamas officials holding Gilad Shalit, who was seized by Palestinian soldiers in 2006.

Hamas has not yet delivered its response but a delegation from Gaza travelled to Damascus on Tuesday to discuss the issue with Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas’s political bureau.

However, the talks in Cairo are to be dominated by “ways to advance peace efforts”, Ahmed Abul Gheit, Egypt’s foreign minister, said on Sunday.

“We are also preparing for a visit will make to Washington [in January], and in the context of these talks [Egypt] must listen to the positions of the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he said.

‘New initiative’

The US administration of Barack Obama, the US president, is said to be drafting letters of guarantee for Israel and the Palestinians to serve as a basis for the relaunch of peace talks, stalled for almost a year.

“The mere fact of Mubarak meeting Netanyahu in Egypt is in and of itself an instrument of pressure on Mahmoud Abbas [the Palestinian president]“

Mouin Rabbani,
senior fellow of the Institute of Palestinian Studies

“We’ve been hearing increasing reports that the Americans may be about to unveil a new diplomatic initiative,” Mouin Rabbani, a senior fellow at the Institute of Palestinian Studies, told Al Jazeera.”The mere fact of Mubarak meeting Netanyahu in Egypt is in and of itself an instrument of pressure on Mahmoud Abbas [the Palestinian president] to accept whatever conditions the Americans may be putting forth.

“The message that is coming from the Egyptian leadership now is that what the Americans are going to propose is good enough for the most important Arab state and therefore it should be good enough for the Palestinian leadership,” he said.

One Arab diplomat in Cairo was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East “will present two draft letters of guarantee, one for Israel and one to the Palestinian Authority during his next visit to the region”.

Arrest request

Egypt had already asked for written US guarantees before peace negotiations could resume, in order to ensure that their aim is the establishment of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders.

But peace efforts have already been overshadowed by Israel’s announcement on Sunday that it had invited tenders for the construction of hundreds of new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.

The announcement prompted criticism from the US and EU, alongside Egypt.

Netanyahu announced a 10-month moratorium on new housing projects in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank in November, but that suspension was not applied to East Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel in 1967.

Separately, four Egyptians filed a request with the country’s prosecutor general demanding Netanyahu be arrest over his treatment of the Palestinians.

In their request, the activists stated they were “filing this on grounds that the constitution states that Egypt is part of the Arab nation … and that the Palestinian issue is the central Arab cause”.

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