CAIRO: The spiraling Middle East crisis has exposed deep divisions within the Arab world and forced its leaders into a frank admission of helplessness. After an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Saturday, the 22-member bloc admitted it was impotent in the face of Israel’s deadly attacks on the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
“Don’t ask me what to do,” the League’s secretary general, Amr Moussa, told reporters after the meeting.
Analysts said the huge rift between Western allies such as Egypt and Jordan and radical states like Syria had proved impossible for diplomats to bridge.
“The main structure of the Arab League is the idea of consensus, so meetings always come up with the lowest common denominator,” said Nadim Shehadi, a Middle East specialist with the London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs.
Saturday’s meeting “was a bit more revealing,” he said. “There are real divisions at this time especially to do with relations with Iran on the one hand and with the United States and Israel on the other.”
Western allies, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have all tempered condemnation of the scale of the Israeli reprisals with criticism of the “adventurism” of Hizbullah in seizing two Israeli soldiers last Wednesday.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned on Friday of the risk of “the region being dragged into adventurism that does not serve Arab interests.” Saudi official media have also used similar language.
But for states like Yemen, the crisis should force countries like Egypt and Jordan to cut all ties with the Jewish state.
“We must take swift steps with sincere intentions to solve the Arab-Arab differences which create an obstacle to reaching a unified Arab position,” Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi said, calling on all Arab states to “end any cooperation with Israel.” At the post-meeting news conference, Moussa pronounced the Middle East process “dead” and called on the UN Security Council to take back responsibility from the so-called quartet of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States. [Daily Star]
I’ve heard this many times before. What always made me wonder was the “what then?” question. If Jordan cuts diplomatic ties with Israel to appease the lowest common denominator, what then? Will it make a difference? It doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference with any of the Arab countries who don’t have those ties. It doesn’t seem to have made any difference that those same countries have the economic powers that can actually put the breaks on the Israeli offensive. It doesn’t seem to have made much difference with nations like Syria or Iran who have constantly threatened Israel with “action” and/or “reaction”.
All across the board the reaction has been inaction. And that’s as expected as a US veto in the UN. So no need to get pissed. The surprise these days would be the unexpected reaction.
It’s funny in a sad way really, because most Arabs complain about the lack of action from the Arab League, and that it’s just talk. But even when they get together to talk they’re still sorting out “a position”.
There’s that old saying that they get together at these meetings to agree to disagree. Well at least this time they agreed on one thing: “impotent” is the right word to describe the organization.
You can thank Amr Moussa and the Arab Foreign Ministers for saying what everyone’s been thinking for years by clicking here.