Arab League condemnation baffles Israel


JERUSALEM, March 14 (JTA) — Israeli leaders are unmoved by an Arab League declaration this week calling on Arab states to reconsider their ties with the Jewish state as long as there is no progress in the peace process.

The resolution was issued at the end of a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Beirut over the weekend. The ministers convened in the Lebanese capital instead of Arab League headquarters in Cairo in an act of solidarity following Israeli airstrikes on Lebanese power stations. The strikes last month came in response to the killing of Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as telling his Cabinet on Sunday that the Arab League declaration was “of the sort that does nothing to advance peace in the region.”

Foreign Minister David Levy said the “peace-war double talk” used by some of the Arab League representatives at the meeting cast a “heavy shadow” over the Arab states’ true intentions regarding the peace process.

Despite Egyptian efforts to soften the concluding resolution of the meeting, the Arab League foreign ministers warned of the possibility of war if Israel unilaterally pulls out of Lebanon and backed Damascus’ demand that a withdrawal be part of a comprehensive agreement.

“The first rule of a comprehensive and just peace lies in full Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon,” the statement said, “and from the Golan until the June 4, 1967, line and from the Palestinian occupied land, including Jerusalem.”

Syria has criticized the Israeli government’s March 5 decision to pull Israeli troops out of Lebanon by July with or without an agreement. From Damascus’ perspective, a unilateral Israeli pullback would deprive Syria of one of its bargaining cards in negotiations with Israel.

Israeli officials said it is absurd that the Arab League would condemn an Israeli decision to pull out of Lebanon.

Levy said the outcome of the Arab League meeting revealed that “hard-line opposition” to the peace process still dominates the organization.

“In the face of these threats, Israel will take decisive action in order to protect the welfare of its citizens and soldiers, and that of the SLA and the residents of southern Lebanon,” Levy said, adding that “Israel will also continue to strive for peace.”

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