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‘Abbas Meets Obama at White House; Pan-Arab Plan with Israel Pushed

[Analysis] Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud ‘Abbas’s Thursday White House meeting with President Obama underscores the importance the new American administration places in its efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the entire Arab world. What’s new is the emphasis on “the Arab world” rather than primarily on the Palestinian track, according to analysts at The Media Line. Aides to ‘Abbas say the Palestinian leader will push a pan-Arab plan during his visit with President Obama. Former President George W. Bush moved toward the pan-Arab solution in the final days of his presidency, but almost from the start President Obama has embraced the “Arab Initiative” peace plan which addresses Israel’s relationship with most Arab nations rather than just with the Palestinians. Jordan’s King Abdallah II revealed that in his meetings with Obama, the two leaders talked about tweaking the plan to make it more acceptable to the Israelis and to offer Israel some quick confidence-building perks to show good faith on the Arab side. These were reported to include permission for Israel’s national air carrier to over-fly Arab nations. But Obama was unable to sell the idea to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when the two met on May 18 and it remains unlikely that any Israeli government will embrace the plan as long as it calls for a Palestinian “right of return” and the division of Jerusalem. On his way to deliver a major address to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4, President Obama will stop-off in Riyadh to confer with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and try to enlist his support for modifying the plan. It was launched as the “Saudi plan” in 2002 and was re-launched in 2007 as the “Arab Initiative” with the backing of the Arab League. The sponsors maintain that the plan must be accepted by Israel in its totality, with no changes, revisions or modifications, a position recently reiterated by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.