Forget about Algiers Summit,Think about Khartoum Summit (PART 1/2) [Archives:2005/882/Opinion]

October 3 2005

By Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz al-Tarb
There is a joke related about a drug addict who told his friend in a confused manner that he was not remembering whether he had struck a date at 2 o'clock with one girl or two girls at one o'clock. What happened at the last Algiers Arab Summit appeared as if the participants were in a state of forgetfulness and bewilderment similar to that drug addict, except that the difference between the two cases is more splendid. Participants in the summit were, unlike that drug addict, were having an appointment with the date they themselves had been unable to recall. The Libyan leader's Muamar Gaddafi interruption at the summit might have abbreviated that entire stance, but the participants who more accurately had expressed that fact was the Algerian foreign minister Abdulaziz Belkhadim. During the days of the summit he had refused to journalists' temptations and attempts to draw him to describe that summit that his country hosted, as “historic”.

Whether it is a matter expressive of modesty or concerning political realism, that refusal indicated that there were among those leaders, who had attended the summit, some who admit really that the summit was working beside time and its great changes. Consequently, it had not been historic. Nevertheless, the question is not confined to that summit in particular despite of the clamor that engulfed it then the great frustration it had produced. I had the opportunity to attend summit conferences since 1978 and had seen with my very eyes how resolutions and attitudes taken by he Arab leaders, especially with regard to he Arab-Israeli conflict, were always retreating towards courses opposite the march of history which, was then taking shape in another place of the world. Throughout all those years, Arab summits stands persisted to be mere faded reactions to grave events and steps the other side had taken and soon those reactions become an almost eternal reality too difficult or rather impossible to resist or surpass.

Forty-one years of elapsed since holding the first Arab summit. What has happened during that period and have those summits, ordinary or emergency, produced? The majority of those summits had come out with what they termed as initiatives. They were utterly not so, but completely to the contrary. Meaning, they were merely responses, if not rather retreats and backings down disguised behind drafting abstracts and linguistic evasions. Moreover, the Arabs were forced, each time, and without any grandeur, to swallow failure and uselessness of their initiatives because they used to come too late and fragmentary. They were always outside context of the historic moment. Anyone skeptical about this, he is invited to review those initiatives ever since the two summits of 1964. The first of those summits established the unified command of Arab armies and the second decided drawing up a plan for the liberation of Palestine “sooner or later”. Then there were the reputed “No's” of Khartoum, leading to Beirut's initiative amended version activated in Algiers in March 2005.

Why did Algiers summit fail? It was simply because it had ignored and rather ridiculed the historic moment the Arab world is experiencing and read the region's present reality in a temperamental and topsy-turvy manner. The queer thing was also the display of heroism having nothing to do with reality. Take for instance the activation of Beirut peace initiative that had occupied the larger space of media of Algiers summit in whose closing statement it had highly and elaborately praised it, considering it the most important achievement of that summit. Why the same proposals are repeated while the other side had four years before rejected it, despite the fact tat the strategic equation in the region during that period had got worse in disfavor of the Arabs and at their expense?

How could the Arab summit be blind towards all changes that occurred in the region such as the war on Iraq and its occupation and failure of the Palestinian armed uprising (intifada) and the strategic decision of Hamas and Islamic Jihad of halting their military operations against Israel to join the political process in the wake of Sharm el Sheikh summit and lately Syria's defeat in Lebanon and its withdrawal from there? Indications and evidence on the peace process are not the only indicators that it is inoperable and not functioning and would be like that for some time. All those concerned with the peace process in the Arab-Israeli conflict perceive that clearly and know that there are no negotiations expected in the year 2005, and maybe for other future years. Activation of and renewal of the Arab initiative in the way it was submitted at Algiers summit mean nothing but meaningless talk as long as there is no other part ready and willing to sit to the negotiating table, according to the required equation.

Repetition of the decision of activating the peace initiative was not outside the context of the events and developments in the region and also all the formulations regarding the issues the closing communique had pointed out. The essential issues like the American-Syrian crisis and the situation on Lebanon heralding dangerous developments were totally ignored in compliance with Damascus desire. The stance towards the situation in Iraq came as general and loose, while the topic of political terror was as if present and absent simultaneously. The leaders have denounced it in their speeches and resolutions as being imposed from outside, committing themselves to obscure pledges at Tunisia summit in 2004, by maintaining the course of (developing and modernizing) that did not find their way to implementation. Resolutions with regard to developing the work of the Arab League itself, especially the establishment of non-elected Damascus-based Arab parliament, were evidence on the yawning gap that separate that organization from firstly aspirations of its peoples and expectations and secondly from values of the age, its spirit and changes. Also was the humiliating way with which the Arab League General Secretariat had begged the member states to pay the dues of its financial budget the best proof of non-seriousness of any steps aimed at restoration of the Arab peoples' trust in the League. That trust is the first step required for its reformation and to make worth of being existent.