JERUSALEM (Jul. 27)
The two-day meeting last week between Premier Shimon Peres and King Hassan of Morocco was a “long-term success” and an “historic turning point” in the Arab-Israeli dispute, according to Moroccan officials quoted in media reports here.
Two senior Moroccan Cabinet officials, Foreign Minister Abdel Atif Sillali and Minister of State Mulla Ahmed Allawi, stressed Israeli-Moroccan “brotherhood” and the “chemistry” between Hassan and Peres in an interview with reporter Victor Malka in Morocco, published Sunday in The Jerusalem Post and Davar.
Both officials did not rule out the possibility of future summit meetings between Hassan and Peres. The meeting at Hassan’s summer palace at Efrana, about 160 miles southeast of the capital of Rabat, was the first and only public face-to-face contact between an Israeli Premier and Arab chief of state other than Egyptian President Anwar Sadat who went to Jerusalem in November 1977.
Peres had some 10 hours of talks with Hassan and his senior officials. The talks have been viewed by some observers as little more than a frank exchange of views on the Middle East between the two heads of state. But that in itself was regarded as an accomplishment, as was the joint communique published simultaneously in Jerusalem and Rabat which made clear that the two leaders could reach no agreement.
The joint communique described the meeting as of “a purely exploratory nature, aimed at no moment at engaging in negotiations.” It outlined in general terms the positions of Hassan and Peres. Hassan urged Middle East peace on the terms of resolutions adopted at the Arab League summit in Fez.
The Fez resolutions, adopted in September, 1982, call for Israel’s total withdrawal from the occupied territories, negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization and the creation of a Palestinian state.
Peres informed Hassan that those terms were unacceptable to Israel. According to the communique, “Peres clarified his observations on the Fez plan, putting forth propositions pertaining to conditions he deems necessary for the installation of peace.” The communique did not elaborate.
OUTRAGE IN MIDEAST CAPITALS
Despite the inability of Hassan and Peres to agree on a Mideast formula, the talks brought outrage in some Mideast capitals. Syria severed diplomatic relations with Morocco, calling the talks an act of “treason.” Jordan disassociated itself from the talks.
But in the most violent reaction to the talks, the Moroccan Embassy in Beirut was ransacked Friday by demonstrators. They smashed a portrait of Hassan, tore down the Moroccan flag and replaced it with that of the pro-Iranian Shiite Moslem Hezbollah. The Embassy had been virtually deserted for about a year, only guarded by a handful of Lebanese security personnel. Meanwhile, Arab League secretary general Cheldi Klibi urged the 21 member-nations and the PLO to hold an urgent summit as a result of the Peres-Hassan talks. Though he did not directly criticize Hassan, Klibi said in a statement issued from Tunis that the meeting of Hassan and Peres had “shown Israel’s true face … and revealed spectacularly his (Peres) rejection of any peaceful solution” to the Arab-Israel dispute.
“The first concrete action (of the Arabs) should be an urgent summit of Arab leaders, the elimination of everything liable to compromise the solidarity of our states and the reinforcement of a joint Arab action,” the statement said.
HASSAN RESIGNS AS ARAB SUMMIT CHAIRMAN
Hassan’s reaction to Klibi’s call for an Arab League meeting was to announce Sunday that he was resigning his post as Arab League summit chairman. This action was announced in a letter to Klibi published in the official Moroccan news agency, MAP.
According to Hassan, he was stepping down from the summit chairman position because of the “upheavals” caused in some Arab states by his meeting with Peres, and so Morocco would not stand in the way of an Arab summit. The last full Arab summit was held in 1982 in Fez. All attempts to have a full Arab summit meeting since then have resulted in cancellation.
Hassan did host a summit in Casablaca last August but it was boycotted by five Arab states–Lebanon, Syria, Algeria, South Yemen and Libya. Hassan also sought to arrange an Arab summit meeting in Morocco after the U.S. air strikes on Libya last April. His efforts failed, as Arab League members failed to agree on a venue or agenda for the meeting.
Despite internal Arab dissention on the meeting, Moroccan officials attempted to interpret the Hassan-Peres meeting as purely “prepatory,” called to give both sides an opportunity to present their views. Future meetings, according to Foreign Minister Sillali, would depend on whether Peres presents “positive suggestions” to Morocco.
He maintained in the interview published Sunday that if Israel wants to achieve peace, it should be “less intransigent,” adding that “no peace is possible if all sides stick to their opening positions.”
Moroccan Minister of State Allawi was more upbeat about the two days of talks, referring to it as an historic turning point. He spoke of the “warmth radiating from the meeting” and that he felt “a kind of electric current flowing between the King and Mr. Peres.”
He also stressed that “Peres cannot return to Morocco if he does so only to tell us the same thing.” But he did see as an Immediate result of the meeting “a substantive and psychological change in relations between Israel and the Arab states.”