LONDON (Reuters) - The United States is promoting a peace plan for the Middle East involving a “57-state solution” in which the entire Muslim world would recognize Israel, Monday’s Times of London quoted Jordan’s King Abdullah as saying.
“We are offering a third of the world to meet them with open arms,” the king said. “The future is not the Jordan River or the Golan Heights or the Sinai, the future is Morocco in the Atlantic and Indonesia in the Pacific. That is the prize.”
But he warned: “If we delay our peace negotiations, then there is going to be another conflict between Arabs or Muslims and Israel in the next 12-18 months.”
The newspaper said the king had hatched the plan with President Barack Obama in Washington in April. Details are likely to be thrashed out in a series of diplomatic moves this month, including Obama’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington next week.
“What we are talking about is not Israelis and Palestinians sitting at the table, but Israelis sitting with Palestinians, Israelis sitting with Syrians, Israelis sitting with Lebanese,” said the king.
While Palestinians seek a state in their long-running conflict with Israel, Syria wants the return of the Golan Heights, seized by Israel in a 1967 war. Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah fought a war in 2006.
“I think we’re going to have to do a lot of shuttle diplomacy, get people to a table in the next couple of months to get a solution,” Abdullah said.
The Times said that, after Obama’s meeting with Netanyahu in Washington on May 18, the peace initiative could form the centerpiece of his major address to the Muslim world in Egypt on June 4.
“The critical juncture will be what comes out of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting,” Abdullah said.
“If there is procrastination by Israel on the two-state solution or there is no clear American vision for how this is going to play out in 2009, then all the tremendous credibility that Obama has worldwide and in this region will evaporate overnight if nothing comes out in May.”
The Times said that, as incentives to Israel to freeze the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Arab states may offer to let the Israeli airline El Al fly through Arab air space and grant visas for Israelis.
A White House spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the report.
The Obama administration backs the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of the solution to the Middle East conflict. Netanyahu has yet to endorse the idea.
Netanyahu has been vague in public about the scope of any future peace talks. His main right-wing and ultra-Orthodox coalition partners oppose negotiations on the so-called core issues — the borders of a Palestinian state as well as the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.
Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party criticized then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s decision to restart talks on core issues at a peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland in November 2007.
The talks bogged down last year and broke off after Israel went to war in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in late December.
Editing by Charles Dick