DEAD SEA - "If Israel continues not to accept solving the Palestinian issue on the basis of a two-state solution, then the other option before us is one democratic state in which Muslims, Christians and Jews live side by side enjoying the same rights," Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa said on Sunday.
Musa's remarks were made during a World Economic Forum (WEF) session titled, "The Future of Peacemaking". He added: "The situation in this region is unstable and dangerous and US President [Barack] Obama should properly address the Arab-Israeli conflict and, in particular, the Palestinian issue. There must be a viable Palestinian state and a comprehensive peace that should involve Syria and Lebanon."
Musa pointed out that freezing settlement construction is the answer rather than dismantling the settlements built inside the occupied Palestinian territories.
"Even the Israeli supreme court has considered several settlements as illegal, the Israelis have to start dismantling these illegal settlements. I cannot imagine how the negotiations can resume and at the same time, the Israelis are building more settlements. In fact, it was our mistake that we accepted to go to negotiations while the settlements were being built," Musa said.
Prime Minister Nader Dahabi, who participated in the session, stressed the importance of the US administration's role in the peace process and the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel normal relations with 57 Arab and Muslims countries, stressing that the Israeli settlements are a major obstacle to peace in the region.
"The US should exert pressure on Israel to seize the building of new settlements in the occupied territories and improve the living conditions of the Palestinians. The Israelis must know that time is right to go ahead with negotiations, no more process but negotiations," the premier said, adding that this is in the national interest of the US and an international interest of the entire world.
Dahabi added that the US should invite all parties to Washington, including the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Lebanese and the Israelis on a bilateral or multilateral basis to reach results that show the end of the way.
"His Majesty [King Abdullah] said that we don't want a new process; we would like to go directly into negotiations, sit down together, rule out our differences, define what we want, which, from our side, is a viable Palestinian state," Dahabi said, adding that in return, Israel's security will be guaranteed by all parties besides normalisation of relations with Arab states.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad emphasised that concrete steps need to be taken by each side regardless of how the upcoming plans of the peace process would be, adding that it is of paramount importance that focus be given on what should be done immediately by the Israeli side.
"Regardless of the approach, Israel has to be in full compliance with the requirements and obligations under the roadmap peace plan in terms of a complete and comprehensive freeze of the establishment of settlements, stopping incursions into areas under Palestinian control and ensuring the freedom of movement and free access," Fayyad said, adding that before negotiations can continue, it is important that focus is given to what must be done now to give credibility to the peace process.
US Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA) said the issue of enhancing the economic conditions of the Palestinians is important but it is not enough.
"We must have an independent and viable opportunity for the Palestinians to have their own state and at the same time a complete seizure of settlement construction." However, he added, while the US will push Israel to stop building settlements, among other things, "you have to assure your neighbour that their security is assured... by denouncing rocket attacks and denouncing those who say we should wipe Israel off the face of the earth".
Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Middle East and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Alexander Saltanov agreed that "we can't talk about security in the area without a Palestinian state".
Tackling the Israeli-Palestinian issue must be part of a comprehensive approach addressing the wider Arab-Israeli conflict, nuclear proliferation, extremism and social problems, Saltanov told participants, adding that "we must understand that security of the world and the Middle East is indivisible".
Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who urged the US to respect its promise to withdraw from Iraq in 2011, said the nuclear situation is an integral part of regional security.
He said that there has been an anti-US movement in the region because of the US policy in Palestine, Iraq and other Arab and Muslim countries, adding that addressing all sensitive issues in the Middle East, including the Palestinian cause, will be beneficial to all partners of the US and enhance its image in the this region.
With regard to Iran, Musa called on the US to establish as soon as possible a dialogue with Iran, adding: "But as we talk about a world free of nuclear weapons, the US should bear in mind that there is a country already possessing nuclear weapons. We need a fair and positive deal in this question by the US. Do not talk about Iran while leaving Israel outside the talks."
Dahabi said this part of the world is entitled to have access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and not for military purposes, adding that at the same time, "we have to tell everybody that this part of the world has to be clear of nuclear weapons; everybody has to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty".
Israeli President Shimon Peres welcomed the prospect of a new US drive for a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement during a visit Sunday to Jordan, Agence France-Presse reported.
"I think it is a very encouraging and timely proposition. Time has come to depose war, hatred and terror and come to real business - how to assure the life, the safety and the future of our children," Peres told a session of WEF on the shores of the Dead Sea.
"We were negotiating with them [the Palestinians] for quite a while. I think the gap was narrowed and I do believe it is a bridgeable gap. With... a little bit of fresh ideas, it can be bridged."
King Abdullah met with Peres yesterday. His Majesty, according to a Royal Court statement, stressed to Peres that peace means the creation of a Palestinian state side by side with Israel.