ARAB LEAGUE: GROUP WITH A LONG HIS­TORY OF SUP­PORT FOR THE PALES­TINIAN CAUSE

The National - News - - NEWS - NASER AL WASMI

In 1946, Egypt’s young ruler King Farouk de­clared in an emer­gency meet­ing of re­gional lead­ers – ef­fec­tively the pre­de­ces­sor to the Arab League – that the Jewish in­sur­gency in Pales­tine was a pan-Arab is­sue.

More than 70 years later, six of the coun­tries that at­tended the emer­gency meet­ing in Cairo were joined on Sun­day by 15 other Arab states to dis­cuss the same con­cern at the 29th Arab League Sum­mit.

Saudi Ara­bia’s King Sal­man an­nounced a US$200 mil­lion (Dh734.6m) com­mit­ment to the Pales­tini­ans – $150m for the main­te­nance of the re­li­gious ad­min­is­tra­tion that over­sees the Al Aqsa Mosque com­pound and $50m for the pro­grammes of the UN re­lief agency for Pales­tinian refugees.

King Sal­man’s do­na­tion to the Pales­tini­ans is a step in the right di­rec­tion but it is un­likely to be enough to com­bat Is­rael’s grow­ing foot­print in Pales­tine.

Since that first meet­ing, the Is­raeli pres­ence in Pales­tine has de­vel­oped from an in­sur­gency to full-blown oc­cu­pa­tion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Part of the Arab League’s re­ac­tion has al­ways been re­luc­tant tol­er­ance of Is­rael’s flout­ing of UN sanc­tions.

For decades, Is­rael has had lit­tle re­gard for agree­ments or accords that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has passed in at­tempts to hold it to ac­count.

If it con­tin­ues to ig­nore hun­dreds of UN res­o­lu­tions con­demn­ing its poli­cies, it is un­likely to con­cern it­self with state­ments from an in­ter­na­tional sum­mit com­prised mostly of coun­tries that do not even recog­nise its ex­is­tence.

None­the­less, the Arab League has served as a con­tin­u­ous re­minder of the Pales­tinian cause on the in­ter­na­tional stage.

The first of­fi­cial Arab League sum­mit was held, again in Egypt, in 1964, con­vened by Ga­mal Ab­del Nasser, then Egyp­tian pres­i­dent and god­fa­ther of Pan-Ara­bism.

At that meet­ing, the Arab League for­mally ap­proved the es­tab­lish­ment of the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion, a cause dear to the for­mer Egyp­tian gen­eral’s vision of a uni­fied Arab state. Three years later, it con­vened again af­ter de­feat to Is­rael in the 1967 war, es­tab­lish­ing the pol­icy that fa­mously stated: “No peace with Is­rael, no recog­ni­tion of Is­rael and no ne­go­ti­a­tions with Is­rael.”

Since that meet­ing, the sit­u­a­tion in Is­rael and Pales­tine has chal­lenged the sta­tus quo of what be­came to be known as the “Three Nos”.

Of the 22 na­tions in the Arab League, three recog­nise Is­rael. Re­ports of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Arab coun­tries and Is­rael have also been his­tor­i­cally doc­u­mented.

The pol­icy of the “Three Nos” would change fun­da­men­tally in 2002. The league adopted the Arab Peace Ini­tia­tive, a Saudi-led pro­posed resolution to the Arab-Is­raeli con­flict that sought to nor­malise re­la­tions be­tween the sides of the con­flict.

This was a far cry from the ini­tial Arab League char­ter of 1951 that com­mit­ted all mem­bers to treat acts of ag­gres­sion on any mem­ber state as an act against all.

As Is­rael has be­come more en­trenched in the re­gion, so too have Pales­tinian ex­pec­ta­tions of their Arab part­ners in re­gard to the con­flict.

The onus of ad­dress­ing Pales­tinian con­cerns, to­day more so than ever, has been pulled to the fore­front of Arab po­lit­i­cal con­cern. Ac­cord­ing to the lead­ers present at the meet­ing in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran, the Arab League could be used as a plat­form to fi­nally re­solve the is­sue.

Whether that is a two-state so­lu­tion, or a boy­cott of Is­rael, the 22-na­tion bloc finds it­self in an awk­ward po­si­tion where it needs to take ac­tion.

A fund to help the daily lives of Pales­tini­ans is a start. But more im­por­tantly, as the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian is­sue un­rav­els into a deeper po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic stand-off, the weight of the Arab coun­tries must be thrown be­hind its Arab neigh­bour.

To­day, al­most ev­ery leader of the 21 na­tions at the sum­mit con­demned Wash­ing­ton’s de­ci­sion to move the US em­bassy to Jerusalem. Whether that dec­la­ra­tion has any ef­fect on the move re­mains un­likely.

King Sal­man pledged $200m to Pales­tini­ans at the lat­est meet­ing of the pan-Arab body

Saudi Press Agency

Troops on pa­rade in Saudi Ara­bia at the con­clu­sion of the Com­mon Gulf Shield Ex­er­cise 1

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