The Arab summit that will be held in Libya at the end of this month is still in a waiting mode. Will it convene or will it not convene? If it convenes, will it be attended by the Arab kings and heads of state? Who are likely to boycott it? Whose absence will set the level of this summit and its ability to do something? If it is attended by men of the first tier or by whoever attends it, will its resolutions be effective and positive? Or will its resolutions be nothing out of the ordinary and avoid delving into the required critical issues?
This picture about the summit highlights how big and numerous the Arab differences are. It lacks a mechanism to confront these differences and possibly surpass them from a mechanism of amicable greetings and friendly meetings to a mechanism that recognizes that the differences stem from the absence of a unified and strong political Arab vision that gathers around Arab interests and tells the others enough you have exceeded your limits and the matter now requires international resolutions that deal with Arab interests seriously. We are telling you seriously these are the Arab interests. They stem from Palestine and from your softhearted treatment of Israel’s aggressiveness. Arab interests stem from Jerusalem and from the Zionist undermining of Jerusalem in a provocation of historic proportions that angers the Palestinians, the Arabs, and the Muslim world. If there is a need for a clear, firm, and united Arab stand on international policies that ignore Arab demands, there is also a need for a second Arab stand resulting from the differences among the Arabs themselves on regional policies. There is a clear division in the Arab vision on how to deal with Iran’s policies, Turkey’s developing policies, and an Arab role within the framework of these regional policies. Perhaps this is the hardest issue that faces the Arab summit. So far, there is no climate or indications or initiatives toward searching for such a role and dealing with it. Without Arab preparation that debates these issues prior to the summit and that puts forward proposals on how to deal with them, the coming Arab summit will be unable to accomplish anything.
This state of affairs necessitates an Arab dialogue that is lacking. Saudi Arabia recently held its 25th Al-Janadiriyah Festival sponsored by King Abdullah Bin-Abdulaziz. The main topic of this festival was dialogue in its various forms of domestic dialogue, interfaith dialogue, and dialogue between civilizations. For this dialogue, an intellectual forum was held and attended by prominent Arab and international figures. The participants recalled King Abdullah’s initiative at the Kuwait summit last year when he called on the Arab rulers, starting with himself, to rise above divisions and differences and to accomplish reconciliations that would steer Arab affairs toward solidarity and cohesion. Also recalling King Abdullah’s initiative, a call rose within this Al-Janadiriyah Festival to establish an institution that would delegate itself to carry the king’s initiative toward actual implementation. There is a need for reconciliations and for what is even more than reconciliations. There is a need for formulating a political vision that would unify the Arab vision in order to solve problems and form a solid foundation for the required reconciliations. Perhaps the Arab summit is the best occasion to debate and take decisions about this issue. With directives that are inevitable, the summit would crystallize such a vision and set the bases of Arab interests and how to deal with the current problems so that this aspired institution would succeed in performing its mission. Many people hope that this idea would be implemented.
Hence, the problem is primarily political. It should tackle concrete issues most prominent of which are the following: First, there is the issue of the current negotiations with Israel. We are now facing insolent Israeli policies that deny Palestinian rights and violate international law by continuing to grab the Arab and Muslim heritage. In violation of international law, Israel continues to impose geographic changes on the ground through its settlement construction activities. It continues to impose demographic changes by seizing more land and erecting isolationist walls. Israel’s brazen policy does not stop talking about transferring the Palestinians of 1948 in order to implement the slogan of the Jewishness of the State of Israel. This Israeli policy comes parallel to an international policy that begins in Washington and in the Quartet that ignores the transgressions of Israel’s policies and deals with these transgressions with excessive kindness and sympathy. This international policy resorts to political deception by openly criticizing Israel’s policies but not taking any practical measure to stop these policies. Then comes the Arab stand with its appeasement and indulgence when the situation requires a clear and firm Arab pressure and stand.
Second, there is the stand on regional policies, particularly the policy of Iran that constitutes a major cause for Arab division. At this point, what is required is not simply to say or be content to say that we are for or against Iran’s policy. What is required is the crystallization of a regional Arab policy that says this is what we demand, this is what we want, and this is what meets our interests in order to crystallize a regional solidarity that places the Arabs in the center of the regional equation. In such a case, the other sides in the region will be forced to take the Arab views into consideration. However, in the absence of an Arab vision that expresses our interests and is not content with merely rejecting or criticizing, all the regional parties will continue to operate as they wish and based on their interests. The criticism of Iran’s policy and the confrontation of rejected political stands can only be accomplished through an Arab stand, a public Arab stand that embodies itself on the ground.
By pondering these two points and deciding on them firmly and clearly and with the intention of drawing up an Arab policy that expresses Arab interests and that does not criticize one axis in order to lean toward another, Arab policy can move from one position to another and the call for Arab solidarity can forge ahead toward implementation. Only then would an Arab institution stemming from the Arab summit and seeking to implement King Abdullah’s call for dialogue, reconciliation, and solidarity be able to succeed in changing the current Arab state of affairs.