Does the Hope for Arab Solidarity Still Exist?

By Bilal Hassen

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 

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 

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. 

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