Israel has learned how sacred Jerusalem is to the Arabs after having "almost aborted" peace efforts with its crackdown on the Palestinians, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in remarks published Friday by state-owned newspapers.
"We have lately achieved the effects of solidarity and unity within the Arab family when the whole Arab nation rose to defend the sacredness of the Noble Sanctuary and to support our Palestinian brothers in the face of Israeli repression, which exceeded all limits," he said.
Around 350 people, mainly Palestinians, have died since an uprising erupted on September 28 after Israel's hawkish opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the "Noble Sanctuary" in east Jerusalem, where the al-Aqsa mosque is located.
The mosque is on the same site as Temple Mount, which is revered by Jews as the site of the Western Wall, the remains of the Second Temple sacked by the Romans.
"Israel now realizes how sacred the Noble Sanctuary is," Mubarak said late Thursday during ceremonies for "Leilat al Qadr," the night of destiny when the prophet Mohammed received the first verses of the Koran from the angel Gabriel.
Israel "had almost aborted efforts for a just and lasting peace," he added in remarks given by Al Ahram and other government newspapers.
Following reports of possible further Israeli compromises on Jerusalem, a new round of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks opened in Washington on Tuesday, the first negotiations since the violence erupted three months ago.
With violence in full swing, Egypt hosted an emergency Arab summit in October where Arab states pledged up to one billion dollars in support of the uprising and threatened to freeze normalization with Israel.
Several Arab countries like Tunisia, Oman, Qatar and others cut off nascent political and economic ties with Israel. Egypt called back its ambassador from Israel in November in protest at an air and sea attack against the Palestinians in Gaza.
Egypt was the first Arab country to have signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, and is a key intermediary in the peace process -- CAIRO (AFP)
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