Arab League decries Israel at summit start


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Arab leaders took their shots at Israel during the opening of the Arab League summit.

Syrian President Bashar Assad blamed Israel for the fact that Israel and the Arab world have not achieved peace.

Arab countries "have no real partner in the peace process," he said Monday in Doha, Qatar. "The arrival of a rightist government makes no difference because in Israel, the right, the left and the center … all reflect a reality which is that Israeli society is not ready for peace."

The absence of the leaders of nine Arab countries from the summit highlighted the differences in the Arab world over Israel and its recent military operation in Gaza. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stayed away over Qatar reaching out to Hamas as Cairo continued to push negotiations between Israel and Hamas for a permanent cease-fire.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said at the summit’s opening that Israeli soldiers should be held accountable for what he called war crimes committed during the Gaza offensive in late December and January.

Arab leaders gathering Sunday in Qatar called on Israel to accept the 2002 Saudi Peace Initiative, which offers a comprehensive regional peace in exchange for Israel returning to pre-1967 borders with minor adjustments.

"The peace initiative being proposed today will not be on offer for a long time," read the draft proposal of a statement by the Arab League. "Arab commitment to this initiative is dependent on Israeli acceptance."

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