x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Arab League must be remade, not renamed

The Middle East quorum needs to re-examine its philosophy and create a framework for enforcing its mandates.

According to the Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the summit that was held earlier this week in Tripoli and attended by Iraq, Egypt, Qatar, Yemen and Libya, reached a preliminary agreement to rename the Arab League, wrote Waleed Nouweihed, the managing editor of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat. The proposed new name is: "The Federal League of Arab States". Yet the crisis facing the Arab League has nothing to do with its name. This will change nothing about how things stand in the pan-Arab institution, the editor said.

"The problem is rather philosophical. The role of the Arab League must be redefined and its apparatuses restructured." The Arab League has no constitutional powers to hold states accountable if they fail to implement recommendations that the member states agree upon unanimously. "There are a number of splendid resolutions that came out of Arab League summits during its 60 years of existence ? but none of them have been carried out despite being approved by all member states."

Some Arab countries actually hide behind the Arab League to evade pan-Arab obligations, because the institution's decisions are not binding. A binding constitution is far more appropriate now than a name change.

Abdelbari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi, wrote: "The relationship between Egyptian authorities and Hamas is at its worst and it is expected to only worsen, in view of the mutual accusations by both parties - especially during the past few days following the failure of the reconciliation efforts in Palestine." The truth is, the Egyptian authorities have no love for Hamas. They don't want Hamas as their neighbour in Gaza for more than one reason: Egypt's government, since the signing of Camp David Agreements, has become fully committed to the safety and security of Israel. Therefore, it is against any Palestinian resistance movements. Egypt views Hamas as a direct threat to its interests since it represents the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest opposition block to Mr Mubarak's rule.

In addition to that, Egypt has fully joined with the US in its fight against Islamic movements in the Arab World, of which Hamas is a major player, under the guise of a "war on terrorism". As Egypt's efforts to bring Hamas down have failed and backfired, it finds itself in a state of frustration. It lost its influence in the Palestinian Territories and is forced to deal with a movement that would not yield and does not respect it.

Rajeh al Khoury, in a comment piece for the Lebanese daily An-Nahar, discussed King Abdullah's visit to Washington and the talks he held with Barack Obama. An official at the White House described the meeting as a "pivotal summit". "The White House described the talks in such superlative terms to confirm the strength of relationships between the two nations ? but that does not mean that Saudi's voice is any louder this time around than before", wrote al Khoury. King Abdullah was adamant that the US president do more to coerce Israel into a just and comprehensive settlement on Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.

The King pointed out that the status quo was unsustainable. He claimed it was eroding the chances of a settlement and undermining Mr Obama's prestige. He also said the Arab Peace Initiative that he had proposed in 2002 would not be offered indefinitely. He wanted a firm commitment from the US president on a two state solution. The talks covered several issues, including Iran's nuclear programme, Afghanistan, the Iraqi government and the Lebanese government.

"The importance of this pivotal summit is that it grants Mr Obama greater leverage to exert real pressure on Mr Netanyahu who will arrive in Washington on July 6," concludes the writer.

In his article for Emirati daily Al Khaleej, Hussam Kanafani wrote on the movement in Lebanon supporting civil rights for Palestinian refugees living in the country. The MP Walid Jumblat had proposed improving the living conditions of thousands of refugees dispersed in camps throughout Lebanon. That was swiftly aborted by parliament on the grounds of defending the refugees' right to return to Palestine. The controversy surrounding the issue continues, "but it confirms how the fragility of political alliances will continue to constraint debate in the future". For the first time in five years, leaders of all the Christian parties aligned in one position: refusing to grant Palestinian refugees their civil rights. The civil rights issue is once again at the forefront and it has reorganised the Lebanese political landscape, not according to political alliances but on narrow sectarian interests who consider the 400,000 refugees as a threat to the brittle demographic equilibrium in the country.

"It seems that the Palestinian rights once more will be lost in the Lebanese political whirlwinds." * Digest compiled by Racha Makarem @Email:rmakarem@thenational.ae