(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Those in Israel and the United States who had hoped that the Arab summit
meeting in Dhahran would expose fractures in Arab leaders' stand over the
Palestinian cause were aptly disappointed. In their opening speeches, the
outgoing president, His Majesty King Abdullah, and the current president and
host Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, both underlined the centrality of the
Palestinian issue for all Arabs and Muslims, while denouncing the US decision
to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Coming from two close US allies,
the commitment to the fundamental principles governing a just resolution of
the Arab-Israeli conflict was reflected in the summit's final communiqué.
This was perhaps the most important message that Arab leaders wanted to send
to the rest of the world: That unilateral actions, even if they were adopted
by a superpower such as the United States, aimed at changing the legal
status of occupied territory would not stand. The parameters for a just and
lasting solution remain the same: UN resolutions and the Arab Peace
Initiative (API), whose implementation embraces the two-state solution
allowing for the creation of the Palestinian state along the 4 June 1967
lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Symbolically and equally significant, the Dhahran summit was appropriately
named the 'Jerusalem summit'.
This unanimous Arab position debunked allegations that some Arab states were
open to other proposals that would derail the two-state solution and cede
Arab sovereignty on East Jerusalem. This is a strong message to the Trump
administration, which is reportedly putting final touches to a new
initiative that abandons, in substance and spirit, previous commitments to the
two-state solution and forces a one-sided settlement to the conflict.
Aside from the unified position on Palestine, Arab leaders were in agreement
on rejecting foreign intervention in their affairs. Iran's meddling in Yemen
and its support of the Houthi rebellion were denounced by the leaders. King
Salman reiterated that a political solution to the Yemeni crisis must be
based on the Gulf Cooperation Council's initiative and the outcome of the Yemeni national dialogue.
Arab states condemned the launching of ballistic missiles on Saudi cities by
the Houthis with Iranian help.
But, while the leaders approved a national, security document that outlined a
counter terrorism strategy; an important benchmark for common Arab action,
there were areas of difference. Syria, which was targeted by US, British and
French missiles only a day before in retaliation for an alleged use of
chemical weapons by the regime in Douma last week, revealed fault lines in
Arab positions. While the trilateral attack was not on the summit's agenda,
Arab leaders stressed the need for a political resolution to the seven-year
civil war along the Geneva process and relevant UN resolutions.
Arab states had differed in their reaction to the coalition attack on Syria,
with some supporting it and others warning of its repercussions. While
condemning Turkish military presence in Syria and Iraq, the summit
underlined the commitment to preserving Syria's territorial integrity and
Other files where Arab leaders were in agreement included the need to find a
peaceful solution in Libya, fighting terrorism, supporting UNRWA, the
Palestinian Authority and Arab residents of Jerusalem, reforming the Arab
League and implementing recommendations of the Arab Economic and Social
Council. Many of these resolutions were carried over from previous summits;
some are still waiting for implementation.
The elephant in the room was the Gulf crisis and the spat with Qatar, which
was not on the agenda. Conditions were still not ripe for this controversial
file to be opened and discussed.
It is hoped that much needed momentum will be created now that Saudi Arabia
is heading the summit. Riyadh has the political and economic weight needed
to push for a sound implementation of most of the summit's resolutions. The
Arab world finds itself facing unprecedented political, economic and social
challenges. The entire system of pan Arab cooperation and coordination is in
a state of disrepair. This is one reason why regional players, such as Iran
and Turkey, are moving in to fill the void. Foreign intervention in Syria,
Yemen, Libya and Iraq underscores a dysfunctional Arab League that has been
unable to confront regional flashpoints.
While attention was given to crises in Palestine, Yemen, Syria and Libya,
little mention was made of the endemic problems of youth unemployment,
poverty, failing infrastructure and corruption that have plagued entire
countries. The future of this crucial part of the world depends on
empowering its youth and unleashing their potential. While political
challenges have consumed leaders for decades, it was at the expense of
generations of Arabs. Thus it is no secret that the gap between leaders and
citizens has widened and trust in pan Arab institutions has waned.
It is hoped that the Dhahran summit will set new parameters and goals and
that Saudi Arabia, which is going through a historic phase of social and
economic transformation, can make the necessary push to open a new chapter
in pan Arab cooperation, where slogans can become a reality.
Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.