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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Hughes is hit by a bouncer from Sean Abbott
cricketStephen Brenkley on batsman's tragic flaw that led to critical injury
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

News
people

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

News
The Bounceway, designed by Architecture for Humanity
newsLondon to add 'The Bounceway' to commuting options
Life and Style
Stefan Gates with some mince flies
food + drink
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

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Supervisor / Housewares / Furniture

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital