VIDEO - "The winds blowing in the region now are winds of peace," President Shimon Peres said Wednesday during his meeting with Jordan and Egypt's foreign ministers at his Jerusalem residence.
The Egyptian minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit congratulated Peres on his election.
"We were invited as representatives of the Arab League in order to advance the Arab peace initiative.
This is a time of opportunity," he said.
His Jordanian counterpart, Abdel Ilah Khatib, added, "This is an important effort, an initiative approved by the Arab nations and the Arab League. We hope we can create a momentum to advance the process between Israel
and the Palestinians, Syria
Aboul Gheit asked Peres how he was accommodating to his new role, and the president replied, "I feel like a bird in a golden cage."
Addressing the situation in the Palestinian Authority, Peres said, "I have a lot of appreciation for Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) and (Palestinian Prime Minister) Salam Fayyad. They are our partners for peace.
|Peres with Arab FMs (Video: Reuters)|
"Only if Hamas
changes its policy from the core, reality will change, but the situation now is intolerable. Hamas fires missiles, the world transfers money and the Palestinian population pays the price. Israel will always prefer to sit around the negotiations table than to be in the battle field."
Peres with Aboul Gheit (R) and Khatib (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO)
The Egyptian foreign minister reiterated the details of the Arab League initiative, saying, "We are offering you peace for territories. It's an easy arrangement. All we need to do is progress. There is a real demand on the Palestinian street to see acts for peace.
"Let's stop with the declarations and start acting. We missed out on 12 years in attempts to bring peace to the region. We must bolster the moderates and work for economic cooperation in order to advance diplomatic processes in the region."
As he left the meeting, Aboul Gheit told Ynet, "This was a very constructive meeting. We went through all the issues and explained the details of the Arab initiative. We were pleased to hear the Israeli president's opinion on this matter."
The Jordanian foreign minister told Peres, "We want to implement the economic model by dealing with the diplomatic issue on the one hand, but pushing for acts on the economic level on the other hand.
"There is a problem with the crossings and the closures imposed on the Palestinian population. We need your energy, your initiative and your involvement so that this window of opportunities for peace is not closed."
Peres' office said in a statement that the three-way meeting was held in "a pleasant atmosphere." The president listened to the contents of the Arab plan and presented Israel's stance, which supports the Saudi initiative in its original version, without the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Before arriving at the President's Residence, the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers met with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the King David Hotel in the capital.
Netanyahu told the visitors that he rejected the Arab initiative.
"The withdrawal from Gaza
two years ago proved that any Israeli withdrawal – particularly a unilateral one – does not advance peace, but rather establishes a terror base for radical Islam. I am in favor of economic cooperation and advancing regional initiatives. Economy will be a leverage for peace," the opposition leader said.