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Palestinians Following Summit in Casablanca with Skepticism

Palestinians, suffering the self-imposed hardships of their uprising and increasingly tough countermeasures by Israeli security forces, did not react with much enthusiasm this week to the encouraging words reaching them from Western capitals and the Arab summit in Casablanca.

There was U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s speech Monday in Washington urging Israel to give up its “unrealistic vision” of a Greater Israel and to cease settlement activity in the territories.

In London, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, after hosting Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, said the Israeli peace initiative was insufficiently forthcoming.

Those remarks by Western leaders might have been expected to spark new hope among the Palestinians. But reactions in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem were surprisingly low-key.

The Palestinian attitude is wait-and-see. Too often, words have proven meaningless and their hopes for change have been dashed.

This has been especially true of emanations from the Arab world. The Arab League summit deliberations now taking place in Casablanca are being followed closely in the territories, but with a large degree of skepticism.

President Hosni Mubarak, who regained Egypt’s membership in the Arab League without renouncing its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, called for revival of the Arab peace plan worked out nearly seven years ago at the summit in Fez, Morocco.

CHALLENGE FROM REJECTIONISTS

In essence, the 1982 Fez plan called for full Israeli withdrawal from the administered territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Mubarak warned, however, that the indirect recognition of Israel implied in the Fez plan was not sufficient and that a broader formula was needed.

That is the line widely accepted in the administered territories. Arab League endorsement of it would give new impetus to the peace offensive launched last fall by Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat.

But as the Palestinians well know, Mubarak, King Hussein of Jordan and Arafat are not the only influences at the Casablanca meeting.

They face tough opposition from President Hafez Assad of Syria and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, both die-hard rejectionists, though Assad is the more rational of the two.

Gadhafi has threatened to walk out of the summit at the first hint of willingness to recognize Israel.

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