Arab and Israeli lawmakers on Saturday traded accusations about whether Israel has impeded the peace process during a two-day plenary session of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly ( EMPA), which kicked off in Amman, conferees said, dpa reported.
The wrangling started when the head of the Egyptian delegation, Mohammad Abu al-Ainain, lashed out at the Israeli government for endorsing the construction of 1,600 new housing units in Israel a few days after the Arab foreign ministers backed US-brokered indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Israel's provocative actions and escalations should be responsible for the derailment of the peace process," he said.
He proposed the formation of an EMPA team to visit the Palestinian territories and appraise the possibility of setting up an independent Palestinian state.
Abu al-Ainain's remarks were supported by other Arab delegates, prompting Israeli Knesset member Einat Wilf to respond by describing critics of Israel at the meeting as a "gang."
"The Israelis have suffered a lot at the hands of Europeans and Arabs," the Israeli deputy said.
"Such a description is unacceptable," Jordanian senator Aql Beltai replied, according to delegates.
In a related matter, Wahbah Megalli, the head of the Israeli delegation, accused Egypt of taking part in the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
"How you urge Israel to open its borders with the Gaza Strip at a time when a big Arab country continues to close its frontiers with the Palestinian territory," he said.
The meeting was opened by the speaker of the outgoing Jordanian lower house of parliament, Abdul Hadi Majali, in his capacity as current EMPA president.
Majali underscored the importance of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state "with the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital that lives in peace with Israel."
Barring that, he said, all plans of development and reforms in the region "will falter."
A total of 280 parliamentarians are taking part in the meeting, 140 from each side of the Mediterranean.
In addition to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the conference will discuss the impact of climate change on the Mediterranean region and the possibility of setting up a Mediterranean Bank.