- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

From combined dispatches
JERUSALEM Arab leaders set to meet in Lebanon plan to offer Israel peace in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands and a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees, according to a draft text seen yesterday.
A senior Palestinian official made available to Reuters news agency a copy, received by the Palestinian Authority, of the text of a Saudi-initiated peace plan, due to be presented for approval at an Arab summit in Beirut on Wednesday and Thursday.
Summarizing the text, the Palestinian official said Arab leaders would assert that peace is a "strategic option" for the Arab world and would urge Israel to make a similar commitment.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed over the weekend to attend the summit and to discuss the plan, making the offer first in a newspaper article published Saturday and expanding on it during a Cabinet meeting yesterday.
The idea was ridiculed in Beirut, where Mr. Sharon is best remembered as the Israeli defense minister who led an invasion up to the edge of the Lebanese capital in 1982.
"I tell Sharon that he knows how Beirut dealt with him, and how it usually deals with people like him, therefore we don't advise him to repeat what he did," said Marwan Hamadeh, Lebanon's refugee affairs minister.
In Saudi Arabia, press reports quoted Crown Prince Abdullah, the author of the peace plan, as saying he believes Mr. Sharon has already rejected the scheme.
"I found out that everyone wants this proposal except for one person, and that's Sharon," the prince was quoted as saying by Al Watan daily.
"If [the Israelis] don't accept it, then we will have exposed them and shown all the world that Arabs and Muslims are the ones who want peace, and that some, not all, Israelis don't want peace," he was quoted as saying.
According to the draft text, Arab states would offer Israel a peace treaty in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian territories seized in the 1967 Middle East war.
The Arabs would demand a "just and agreed solution that conforms to United Nations Resolution 194" for the problem of some 4 million Palestinian refugees mostly descendants of Palestinians displaced by Israel's creation in 1948, it said.
The 1948 U.N. General Assembly resolution calls for the repatriation of Palestinian refugees to their homes and providing compensation to those who do not wish to return.
Palestinian officials said that under the Saudi plan the principle of settling thorny issues like the right of return of refugees would be based on international law, but practical solutions would come via direct negotiations between the sides.
Israel has said it would not allow Palestinian refugees to return because they would eclipse its Jewish majority and undermine national security.
Mr. Sharon has expressed interest in the peace initiative but has said it could not replace U.N. resolutions that Israel has interpreted as allowing it to retain some of the occupied Arab lands for security reasons.
The draft text shown by the Palestinian official said Arab leaders would offer Israel "an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict and to draft a treaty to establish that between [Arab states] and Israel" after the Jewish state agreed to the terms.
The draft communique included the following demands:
"Complete withdrawal from the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including full withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and the remaining occupied parts of south Lebanon to the June 4, 1967, lines.
"To accept to find an agreed, just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees in conformity with Resolution 194.
"To accept an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian lands occupied since June 4, 1967, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and with Jerusalem as its capital in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1397.
"To declare an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict and to draft a treaty to establish that between [Arab states] and Israel."


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