The Arab summit and the future of the Middle East
By: Salim Nazzal*
The vast majority of the Arab editorials which covered the Arab 22th summit held in Sirt, Libya stressed the wide distance between the Arab leaders and the Arab masses. This view is well expressed by Muamar Al Qaddafi of Libya who stated said that the Arab masses no longer trust their leaders.
Furthermore, as the Summit ended on Sunday, the Arab leaders did not bring positive options for the best interest of the Arab people, according to most Arab political analysts except to repeat the same rhetoric. This fact is also expressed by the Arab TV Al Jazeera, which broadcasted some speeches from past summits to show that the same rhetoric is being used at each summit. Al Jazeera also interviewed ordinary young men and woman from Palestine, Egypt and Syria and most interviewed expect very little from the Arab summit.
The Arab League which was founded in 1945 is perhaps the oldest regional organization in the world, but its achievements compared with its age are very little. This question too has been taken and various proposals were made to do some structural reform for the Arab League.
The agenda of the Sirt summit was too big that even if Arab leaders were serious about solving it, they will not be able to finish it in one summit. There are too many problems from Palestine, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia.
As for the question of Jerusalem which is subjected in the time being to a Zionist campaign to evict its native Palestinians to replace over sees Jews instead, Arab leaders did nothing more than to allocate 500 million dollar for Jerusalem. The question of Jerusalem and the sufferings of its native Palestinians has been the focus of the Arab media lately to the extent that calls to declare Jihad against the Zionist state has been uttered. The residents of Jerusalem are facing the monster of the Zionist settlements alone, working actively to demolish thousands of years of Arab culture in Jerusalem which includes the Aqsa mosque and the Church of Divinity just to mention the most known Arab Muslim and Christian cultural heritages.
What was perhaps new is the call of the Arab League secretary to establish an Arab, Turkish, Iranian bond with the hope to establish a new Middle East based on the three nations.
But this call sounds late, as George Samaan states in the Hayat paper since Turkey and Iran have become effective in the region due to the Arab weakness, and they do not require an invitation. The speech of the Turkish PM Ardogan that the fate of Istanbul is linked to the fate of Cairo, Damascus and Jerusalem has been seen by most Arab observers as a strong move from Turkey towards a more effective role in the region. But it is difficult to know at this moment how much Turkey will be involved in the conflict, and it is also difficult to anticipate the Iranian response to this involvement. However, the relationship between Turkey and Iran has been improved lately to the extent that Israel fears a change from Turkey, which has kept a discreet relationship with the State of Israel
The Arab Summit has also witnessed the traditional confrontation between the trend which consider the peace with Israel a strategic choice, and the trend which argues that this position is weak and that Israel has not taken the Arab peace initiative seriously at the 2002 Summit of Beirut. The Summit in Beirut adopted what is known as the Arab peace imitative. Accordingly this trend argues that all choices must be considered to oblige Israel to respect the UN resolutions 181,194,223,383 which if applied might put an end the cycle of bloodshed in the region.
Arab observers pointed also to the absence of big promises in the final communiqué which is yet another evidence that Arab leaders knew that their power to exert change has become limited. Those observers believe that Arab leaders have become too weak to promise anything.
This consolidates the view that the Arab Summit which has undoubtedly revealed the fact that Arab countries or Arab leaders has become too weak to solve the problem. In the view of Jordanian political analyst most of these countries are overloaded of its own problem which makes it unable to stand to face the challenges in Palestine or in other places. Most of these countries are drowned in ethnic or religious splits and many of these regimes belong to the pre cold war time and are unable or unwilling to reform itself which might give fresh blood to the radical movements which seek to change the status quo.
* Dr. Salim Nazzal is a Palestinian-Norwegian historian in the Middle East, who has written extensively on social and political issues in the region. - firstname.lastname@example.org