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ARABS-ISRAEL - Mar. 12 - Dismay Over League's Declaration.

Israel reacts with dismay and defiance to an Arab League statement asking Arab countries to reassess their ties with the Jewish state. Senior government officials say they were also bewildered by warnings from the FMs' meeting in Beirut that Israel could face war unless it made its planned withdrawal from Lebanon part of a broader ME peace settlement. An Israeli political source quotes Israeli PM Barak as telling his Cabinet: "Declarations of such kinds do not contribute to the atmosphere required to advance the peace process, and we do not need any approval from our neighbours". Justice Minister Yossi Beilin calls the position surreal. (In their final resolution, the ministers called on Arab states moving closer to Israel to reconsider ties because of Israeli air strikes on Lebanon and to boycott multilateral talks with Israel until there was progress in peace negotiations.) Danny Yatom, security adviser to Barak, tells army radio: "This declaration is very grave. It reminds us of difficult periods in Israel's relations with the Arab world".

FM David Levy says the "double talk of war and peace casts a shadow on the real intentions of the participants in their relationship to the peace process". Levy says Israeli security would not rest "on the mercy or the decisions of the Arab League". (The semi-annual meeting of the League was moved to Beirut to show support for Lebanon following the Israeli attacks and gave Syria the show of support it had been seeking. It convened after Washington orchestrated a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks later March, but Israeli-Syrian talks remain suspended over the fate of the Golan Heights. Israel's decision a week ago to leave its south Lebanon occupation zone by July with or without a treaty - threatening to weaken Syria's hand in talks to recover the heights - has increased uncertainty over reviving Israeli-Syrian talks.) Former Israeli PM Shimon Peres says the Arab League declaration was "stupid" and damaged chances for peace. Peres says: "If he [Syrian Pres. Hafez Al Assad] wants peace, he must modify his positions, he must compromise, otherwise there will not be peace". As the Arab League meeting convened, Lebanese Pres. Emile Lahoud was quoted as warning Israel against pulling out of Lebanon unless it was part of a wider peace deal.

Lahoud told the London-based 'Al-Hayat' newspaper: "An Israeli unilateral withdrawal will not work. It will lead to another war". Peres says the position was beyond understanding. He says: "In all my life I've never heard of a country ... which wants to put an end to an occupation, being threatened: " Woe betide if you get out of there. Have you ever heard of anything like that in history"? Justice Minister Yossi Beilin calls Syrian logic "the sort of thing that can only be explained, perhaps, with the surrealism of Fellini". (Lahoud's views echo those of Syria, which dominates foreign policy in Lebanon. Syria and Lebanon have made clear they will not guarantee a peaceful border with Israel if it leaves without a broader agreement.)
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Mar 18, 2000
Previous Article:ARAB-AFFAIRS - Mar. 16 - Saddam To Give Lebanon US$10M Worth Of Oil.
Next Article:ARABS-ISRAEL - Mar. 15 - Inner Cabinet Approves West Bank Turnover.

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