opinion : Opinion| US bolsters Israeli defence with new arms package after extraordinary Arab Summit

Thursday 13 June 2024 10:48 PM

Nafeza 2 world - The 33rd Arab Summit convened in Manama, Bahrain, marking its first session in the city, concluded under extraordinary conditions. A recurring theme since the first Arab summit in 1946 is the notion of “exceptional and complex circumstances,” and this session was no different. The focal point of concern was the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip, which has now reached an eight-month impasse with no immediate resolution in sight. The situation teeters on the brink of a drawn-out war of attrition, with repercussions that could ripple across the region, affecting Arab nations both directly and indirectly involved in the conflict.

Amidst the summit, the US administration disclosed to Congress a new one-billion-dollar arms package for Israel. This revelation came shortly after Washington’s warning to withhold certain armaments from Israel over concerns of an assault on Rafah. Despite some domestic opposition, the arms deal received approval, with significant backing from the Republican Party, reinforcing Israel’s military capabilities. This development opens up several scenarios, including a potential green light for Israel to initiate operations in Rafah or as leverage for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider an attack on Rafah, a critical Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip. Historical precedents suggest the latter is more probable. For example, during the 1973 disengagement talks with Egypt, Israel held off on agreement until the US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, guaranteed compensation for wartime losses and provided advanced weaponry not previously accessible to Israel, even from NATO allies. A similar situation occurred after the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict, which de-escalated following a substantial US arms offer to Ehud Olmert.

Nonetheless, this arms deal is not the sole complex element in the Arab-Israeli conflict matrix during these extraordinary times. What demands reevaluation is the Arab stance on this enduring conflict, now in its 75th year, marked by persistent strife and negligible benefits from Arab summits. Our annals are filled with summits dating back to the 1940s, each intersecting with pivotal historical moments. Arab nations have had varied responses to these summits; while some have led to decisive actions that effectively addressed crises, others have not transcended beyond rhetoric. Since the inception of the League of Arab States in 1945, Arab leaders have held 48 summits, including 32 regular and 16 emergency sessions, with the recent Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh among them.

Curiously, the League’s official records omit the inaugural “Anshas Summit” of May 1946, convened by Egypt’s King Farouk I and attended by the seven founding members of the Arab League. The summit’s primary aim was to express unity with Palestine, leading to critical resolutions, such as recognising Palestine as an integral part of the Arab world and addressing the Zionist threat to all Arab and Islamic nations. Similarly, the “Arab Solidarity” summit of 1956, which supported Egypt against the tripartite aggression and upheld its sovereignty over the Suez Canal, is also missing from the list of regular summits. This oversight necessitates a comprehensive reassessment of our priorities and understanding of key issues.

Time has marched on from the Anshas to the Manama summit, and the adversary of past resolutions is not the same as today’s. The conflict’s dynamics have shifted, resulting in diverse Arab viewpoints on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Some advocate for a total resolution and the restoration of all lands, while others call for compromise and practicality to prevent further territorial losses. The protracted conflict has allowed external forces to capitalise on Arab divisions for their expansionist agendas, as seen in the civil unrest across the region.

The divergent perspectives among Arab leaders have led to a perception that resolutions from Arab summits are often contradictory. Officially, they condemn the “usurping entity,” yet many also engage with it as a trade and economic ally. Most Arab League members have formalised relations with this entity, while others maintain discrete connections. This evolution, shaped by current circumstances and power dynamics, is not entirely unforeseen in politics and international relations. However, the concern arises when conflicting ideologies are imposed on the populace, sowing confusion and casting doubt on national issues, rather than directly confronting the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Manama summit, despite its exceptional backdrop, highlights the pressing need to redefine fundamental concepts related to one of the most critical Arab issues. It is imperative to identify the true adversary, beyond religious or political lines, rather than fixating on the summits’ exceptional nature. After nearly 75 years of the Arab-Israeli conflict, witnessing close to 48 Arab summits, and enduring significant human and economic tolls, a paradigm shift is essential. We must forge new, relevant concepts to navigate the evolving Palestinian crisis, grounded in candid responses to critical questions that demand attention. Must we resign ourselves to an endless war? What are the real gains and losses from the conflict with Israel? If Israel is indeed the Arab nation’s primary foe, how do we rationalize internal conflicts in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, and Lebanon?

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