Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League, symbol seen behind, talks during a press conference with Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, not pictured, following the last session of Arab foreign ministers meetings Sunday, March 20, 2005, as a preparation for the 17th summit of the League of Arab States to be held at Algiers March 22-24 and expected to bring some 20 heads of state to the Algerian capital . (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
By SALAH NASRAWI, Associated Press Writer
ALGIERS, Algeria - The Arab summit formally rejected on Sunday a proposal by the Jordanian king that would have revised Arab conditions for normalizing relations with Israel, sinking a plan that had won Israeli praise only hours earlier.
The original plan by Jordan's King Abdullah II had dropped the traditional Arab call for recognizing Israel in exchange for the Jewish state's withdrawal from land it has occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Nine of 22 Arab League countries assembled for the summit which begins on Monday had objected to the proposal on Saturday, and league Secretary-General Amr Moussa declared it dead a day later.
"If Israel implements all its commitments, all the Arab countries will be ready to normalize relations with Israel. We are not going to move even 1 millimeter away from this," Moussa told reporters after a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in the Algerian capital.
Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem concurred with Moussa, telling reporters the summit, which begins Tuesday, "will not be the summit of normalization."
Perhaps in a kiss of death, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom praised the Jordanian proposal on Sunday as he welcomed the newly installed Egyptian ambassador, ending a diplomatic freeze that lasted through most of the last four years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
"We are very satisfied by the Jordanian initiative. I think we can make progress with other Arab countries," Shalom said, adding the very fact that Jordan had put such an initiative to an Arab forum indicated a change in the diplomatic climate. It showed moderate Arab states were "testing the water," he said.
"I would like to believe that after the Arab League (summit) will take place, it will be easier for some of those countries to make a move toward a better understanding with Israel," Shalom told reporters.
Besides the return of the Egyptian envoy, Israeli government officials have said in recent days that Morocco was expected to renew low-level ties with soon.
On Sunday, Shalom said no date had been set with Morocco, or any other country, but that talks were at an advanced stage with a number of Arab and Muslim states.
Asked about reports that Morocco was going to recognize Israel, Moussa said: "This will be a reason for a lot of indignation, and if what Shalom is saying is correct, I think Israel doesn't deserve it."
Algeria's Belkhadem said the diplomats drafting the summit resolutions were working on a text to "revive and reaffirm the Arab peace initiative (a Saudi proposal issued in Beirut three years ago), according to the priorities which are spelled out in the initiative, so that people will know that there is no interpretation."
The Arab peace initiative, endorsed at the Arab summit in Beirut in 2002, said Arab states were prepared to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for Israel's full withdrawal from occupied Arab territory, the creation of a Palestinian state, and a settlement of the Palestinian refugee issue.
The Jordanian proposal had drawn quick and strong criticism from other Arab countries, who saw it as giving too much to Israel for too little gain.