The Arab masses, which have never accepted Israel’s right to exist, continued yesterday to create obstacles to diplomatic efforts to calm the Middle East.
With Arab anger providing the backdrop, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Mussa said that any move by President Clinton to visit the Middle East for a summit with Palestinian and Israeli leaders would not be welcome at this time.
A recent survey of Lebanese, Jordanians, Palestinians and Syrians concluded that the vast majority viewed the peace process as a temporary truce not a real acceptance of Israel.
“The conflict suggests that the reconciliation … like that between the French German people after World War II has not happened,” said Patrick Clawson, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“The majority seemed convinced that Israel would disappear sooner or later” and said their distrust of Israel led them to support continuing cross-border attacks into Israel, said Mr. Clawson.
Nearly 1,900 Arabs participated in the survey, which was conducted last year, said Hilal Khashan, a professor at the American University of Beirut.
Mr. Mussa yesterday also issued a veiled threat to Israel after 13 days of clashes with Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and in Israel itself.
“I said before, and I repeat now, any [Israeli] action will have the appropriate reaction. The threats cannot frighten Arab countries,” said Mr. Mussa while on a visit to Damascus.
Mr. Mussa was reacting to a series of ultimatums from Israel of harsh military steps if Palestinian President Yasser Arafat fails to halt an uprising that has claimed more than 80 lives.
Egypt has now pushed up an Arab regional summit to Oct. 21 or 22 a meeting expected to back up Palestinian demands and possibly fuel the conflict.
The Clinton administration has tried to remain a neutral mediator between Palestinians and Israelis, but key lawmakers on Capitol Hill have begun to accuse the Palestinian Authority for fueling hatred toward Israel.
“The Palestinians are mounting a concerted international campaign to justify the violence by blaming Israel,” stated a House resolution introduced last week by Reps. Benjamin A. Gilman and Rick Lazio, both New York Republicans.
Even Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright has said Mr. Arafat has the means to control the rioters.
That places Washington at odds with much of the Arab world, where daily demonstrations back the Palestinians with growing fervor, even in those states such as Jordan and Egypt that have already made peace with Israel.
With Palestinian Arab youngsters shown bleeding and dead on television screens across the Middle East from Rabat to Amman, moderate Arab leaders have little choice but to support the Palestinians.
Mr. Arafat for decades has benefited from a split in the Arab world between the elite who are often pro-Western and willing to accept the existence of Israel as a reality and Arab masses who still dream of destroying Israel.
“The [violent] events have decreased confidence in the other side and stirred up the old feelings of primordial dislike if not hatred,” said Mr. Clawson. “There is not a lot of empathy for the other side.”
David Hirst contributed to this article from Beirut.