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Arab Leaders Approve Saudi Plan

The plan, proposed by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah, also calls for the creation of an independent Palestinian state and a “just solution” for the estimated 3.6 million Palestinian refugees.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa of Egypt told reporters the proposal was unanimously adopted during a closed session of the summit.

Palestinian representatives, present for Thursday’s session after a protest walkout on Wednesday, welcomed the group’s decision.

“It’s a new call for peace,” Palestinian Authority planning minister Nabil Shaath told The New York Times. “I hope nothing will be done in the next few days to dim those chances.”

Israeli leaders received the plan with cautious optimism, with the foreign ministry calling it a “very important and interesting initiative,” but saying the proposal’s refugee recommendations might be problematic.

“What we are saying is that we welcome it,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Amira Oron told Reuters. “But we are not going into the details of it without looking at the details first.”

But earlier, another foreign ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nachshon, said the Saudi plan was a “non-starter” in its current form.

“The Saudi initiative as it was presented by the summit of the Arab League represents a non-starter,” Nachshon told Reuters. “We cannot accept on the one hand to have negotiations for the creation of a Palestinian state, an independent Palestinian state, and on the other hand have all the Palestinians come into Israel. This means the destruction of the state of Israel and obviously we cannot agree.”

Oron said Israeli officials find it “very hard” to consider peace talks after a suicide bomber killed at least 20 people and injured 130 in an attack on a hotel in the Mediterranean resort town of Netanya. The militant group Hamas has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We hope time will make it easier for us,” Oron said. “But we are under a cloud from these terrorist actions. As long as terrorism persists, we can’t go somewhere [toward a peace deal]. First of all, we must stop this terrible violence.”

But Ismail Aabu Shanab, a Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, dismissed the Saudi plan, saying Israel would never agree to its concessions. He said Arab leaders should instead support the ongoing Palestinian revolt.

“We do believe that the only way to end the occupation in our land is resistance and holy war, or jihad,” he told the Associated Press.

At least 1,106 Palestinians and 377 Israelis have been killed since the recent violence flared in Sept. 2000.

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