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Forget the pronouncements on an Arab peace plan with Israel at the Arab summit this week in Beirut. This is the Saudi gesture toward the Bush administration to justify continued U.S. support for the kingdom that has sponsored al-Qaida.

Arab diplomatic sources said the real issue for the summit is the extent of Arab aid to sustain the Palestinian war against the Jewish state. And a driving force behind the unofficial agenda is Iran and the Hezbollah.

For Arab leaders meeting under unprecedented security in Beirut, the choices are clear cut: They can either reach out to Israel with a feasible peace plan, or they can take up a kitty to send hundreds of millions of dollars to escalate the Palestinian war against the Jewish state.

The diplomatic sources doubt the first prospect. What is more likely is that Iraq, Libya and Syria will pressure other Arab League members to increase funding to continue the Palestinian war. They said the Arab agenda drafted by Iran and its Lebanese-based Hezbollah ally is to maintain attacks on Israel until Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government falls. At that point, the Palestinians will declare an independent state without making any concessions to Israel.

Hezbollah will not be represented at the summit. But the movement has clearly set the tone for the discussions. Hezbollah was the first to oppose the hesitant Saudi normalization idea, a move that led to opposition from a range of other Arab states, including Egypt. The result is that Riyadh has pledged not to submit the proposal for discussion unless all the Arabs grant prior approval.

How much money could the Palestinians get? The sources said some countries, including Saudi Arabia, are considering proposing an Arab League pledge to grant another $1 billion to the Palestinians.

The message to Arab leaders is that they don’t have to directly help the Palestinians. What is required is that such countries as Egypt and Jordan should not stop military help to the Palestinians. So, Jordan is being pressed to release Hezbollah detainees captured trying to smuggle Katyusha rockets to the West Bank. Egypt is being urged to allow suicide bombers to enter the Gaza Strip from the Sinai Peninsula.



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