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Arab League Meets; Will Decide on Green Light for Direct Talks

At a meeting in Cairo on Thursday, the Arab League will decide whether to green light Palestinian participation in direct talks with Israel under American supervision. President Obama has sent a letter to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reportedly spelling out American assurances described as helpful in encouraging the Palestinians to agree to participate. The letter is apparently the flip-side of an internal Palestinian document reported by the Associated Press earlier this week which says Obama has warned that unless Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud ‘Abbas agrees to move to direct talks there will be no American support for statehood. ‘Abbas, who has steadfastly refused to negotiate directly with Israel until Prime Minister Netanyahu agrees to an absolute ban on building on land acquired in the 1967 war and accepts the concept of pre-1967 borders, said on Wednesday that he did not feel there had been enough progress during the indirect phase to move into direct talks. The Israelis insist on negotiations without pre-conditions. Deputy Prime Minister Sylvan Shalom told Israel Radio that the conditions set by ‘Abbas are “impossible.” Officials close to ‘Abbas have said it would be “political suicide” for him to back-down from his position, but many see the Arab League’s involvement as a cover mechanism for ‘Abbas to change course while claiming the instruction came from the Arab world’s consensus body. The Americans hope the Obama written commitment to creation of a Palestinian state will be reciprocated with acceptance of direct talks.