Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul Gheit said Saturday that Arab countries were waiting for a clear indication from Israel that it was interested in discussing peace with its neighbors.
Speaking to Al-Ahram newspaper, Abul Gheit said an Arab peace-for-land initiative that offers Israel normalization with the Arab world in return for a full withdrawal from land occupied during the 1967 Israeli-Arab war was aimed at establishing a Palestinian state through negotiations.
Abul Gheit said opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu told him during talks in Jerusalem earlier this week that he was not opposed to the initiative. Netanyahu was said to be opposed to the Arab peace plan because he redeemed it dangerous to Israel's security.
"We presented to him the Arab position. Netanyahu focused on the importance of economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians to benefit the Palestinians. We also spoke about the need to revive the peace process," Gheit told al-Ahram.
"In general I can say that Netanyahu does not express opposition to the Arab initiative although he wanted to check some points, especially in relation to the Palestinian refugees. He wanted to know the principles of the initiative. In a general manner he did not rule out the initiative," he added.
He also told the paper the he pressed Israel to release more Palestinian prisoners and lift checkpoints in the West Bank as confidence-building measures.
"There is a sense in Israel that the peace process should be revived. There is an opportunity that we need to cash in on," he said.
Abul Gheit and his Jordanian counterpart Abdullah Al-Khatib will report on Monday to the Arab League about their visit to Israel. "We will update them about our meetings. We will also make a number of recommendations that Arab states can implement," he said.