PLO second thoughts chill Mid-East peace

Arabs are weary of what they believe is a one-sided dialogue with Israel, writes Robert Fisk in Beirut

Yasser Arafat was coming, they said in Cairo last night. It was to be a meeting of both Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, a make-or- break crisis conference to decide the fate of Middle East peace.

Then they said that Farouk Kaddoumi, the Palestine Liberation Organisation's "foreign minister" would not be there. Then they said that Abi Mazen - real name Mahmoud Abbas, the signatory of the White House Declaration of Principles - would not come.

Then there were rumours that the whole conclave would be postponed until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Could anything have more powerfully illustrated the catastrophic decline of the whole peace process - the free-fall into which the Declaration of Principles has plummeted in the past few weeks - than such classic Palestinian indecision? Already, PLO officials around Mr Arafat are saying that a reversion to the terms of the original 1991 Madrid conference - based on implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 425, calling for full Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab land - is the only mechanism that can save the peace of the Middle East. Forget the "final- status" talks, the PLO is now saying; all Jewish settlements must go; east Jerusalem must be the Palestinian capital.

Over the weekend Egypt, Syria and the PLO all independently called upon the United States - a witness but not a guarantor of the PLO-Israeli agreement - to put pressure on Israel to speed up the timetable for Palestinian autonomy and for a total withdrawal from occupied territories.

And each day Egypt's relations with Israel - the "cold peace" as the Israelis and Americans have predictably dubbed this frigid alliance - grows colder. Egypt's demand that Israel sign the nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has elicited threats from the US that Cairo is "marring" Egyptian-American relations, that Egypt's $2bn (£1.2bn) in foreign aid from the US may be cut back in retaliation for its obstinacy.

Even more depressing in the context of a future Middle East peace, Arab Gulf states are so disillusioned by the peace process that they have decided not to fund the regional Middle East development bank, the institution which President Bill Clinton and the Israelis regarded as a cornerstone of future Arab-Israeli friendship. The scheme, to mesh Israel into the Arab economy, has been suspended by Saudi Arabia and its neighbours until Israeli troops withdraw from the occupied territories. Other Arab states will not be fooled by the decision - the Gulf states are fickle creatures that have smelt something disturbing in the wind - but their refusal to move forward with the development bank quietly eliminates one of the principal economic platforms of the Israeli-American settlement in the Middle East.

In Cairo, the Americans are telling the Egyptians that an extension of the NPT is vital to US "national interests", refusing - according to government officials in Egypt - even to discuss Israel's possession of an estimated 200 nuclear missiles. American correspondents with close relations to the State Department are hard at work producing articles on how Egypt is trying to rock the peace-process boat to recover the prestige it supposedly lost when its pivotal role as a mediator passed to Israel once the Israeli- PLO peace was agreed.

Egypt, the Americans have decided, is trying to find a new identity. But in truth, President Hosni Mubarak's decision to delay signing the NPT - with which Syria agrees - is one of the few decisions he has taken in recent years to received almost total support from the population.

Even armed Islamic opponents of his regime have expressed their approval of Mr Mubarak's stand.

News that the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Amr Moussa, indulged in a shouting match with Shimon Peres, the Israeli Foreign Minister, in Washington over the nuclear treaty has been greeted with satisfaction in an Arab world that has grown ever more weary of a "peace" which the Arabs - in their own eyes - were destined to lose.

On the only Arab-Israeli war front still in existence - in southern Lebanon - the Israeli army chief of staff, General Mordechai Gur, has said Israel will retaliate for a weekend offensive by the pro-Iranian Hizbollah in which 16 military positions held by Israel and its proxy South Lebanon Army militia were attacked.

Lebanon is in the throes of an economic recession as investors consider whether the country's reconstruction depends on a peace agreement with Israel that seems to recede almost daily.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam