Mar 28,2017 – JORDAN TIMES – Hasan Abu Nimah
I wrote this article two days before the convening of the 28th Arab summit, due to start in Amman today.
How do I predict a positive effort well before the outcomes are known?
The answer is simple: the meeting in itself is an important, timely, step. It would have been a disaster if the Arab leaders could not meet at this crucial phase of Arab history, when so many crises are happening around with no signs of improvement on the horizon.
The summit will have a heavily packed agenda that will include Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the situation in Palestine, the refugee problem, Iran, Somalia, terrorism, trade and economy, and undoubtedly a host of many other issues.
Will the summit be able to come up with final solutions for all or any of them? Let us hope it will.
Nevertheless the Arab leaders had to meet to put all issues on the table.
Even if the short meeting may end up with no more than generous good-will statements aspiring at a peaceful and prosperous problem-free future for the Arab world, it may somehow help create a new climate conducive to follow up discussions.
The fact that so many Arab heads of states will be attending is a significant and encouraging sign. But of particular importance is the early arrival to Jordan of His Majesty King Salman Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia.
It is clear that the Saudi monarch is combining his attendance of the summit with a separate visit to Jordan to hold bilateral talks with his brother King Abdullah.
Jordanian appreciation has already been demonstrated in the very warm and special official reception where His Majesty King Abdullah was at the head of the welcoming party at the airport.
The spontaneous Jordanian crowds that lined the streets from the airport to the Royal Palace to express their welcome as well are proof of the depth of the relations between the two kingdoms.
All that will undoubtedly reflect positively on the Arab leaders’ deliberations, and it will further buttress the Jordanian-Saudi relations and cooperation.
The striking reality, however, is that solutions for most of the ongoing crises are not easy to reach, definitely not in one session.
The other reality is that some of the raging conflicts are of inter-Arab nature. That means the conflicting parties are the same ones that are expected to come up with the solutions.
No doubt the summit will declare the need for a political settlement of the Syrian crisis guaranteeing the territorial unity and integrity of Syria, freedom and dignity for the Syrian people, a representative government, peace, return of refugees and reconstruction of a nearly totally destroyed country.
That would only be perfect if the summit would agree on an implementation plan.
But what about the details within which more than a devil would hide? Will it be easy to separate the legitimate Syrian factions whose battle with the regime was justified as a purely national reform movement from the many intruders, the externally supported, armed and financed fighters and the outright terrorists?
Still, that does not mean that a practical and workable plan would be impossible to agree on if there is sufficient political will to do so.
Perhaps the time for that is yet to come.
Let us hope the summit will surprise us with amazingly good results.
The Arab leaders have all the means to put an end to the Syrian crisis. The Arab League could easily regain the initiative it has long abandoned to the United Nations where the future of Syria was pushed into an unfair, biased and barely authentic international arena.
That applies to the many other Arab crises in Yemen, Iraq and Libya.
Drastic Arab solutions are very possible once determination and political will is exercised, at the summit or in the Arab League’s follow up work.
The Arab leaders could agree on immediate plans to end the many Arab crises and that is the only way to restore Arab peace and regional stability, essential prerequisites for prosperity.
That will be the only way not only to put an end to the illegitimate ambitions and the troubling interventions of other regional powers, Iran specifically, in Arab affairs, but it will also regulate and normalise relations with such countries for larger regional peace, normalisation and political uniformity.
Even the much more complex issue of Palestine can be successfully dealt with. Not by recycling the long-expired peace formulas, not by a ritual repeat of so many outdated and worn out schemes that Israel is so much used to, to the point that it will be relieved if the summit’s final statement reaffirmed them.
It is time the Arab leaders demand a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in its entirety on the basis of international law and United Nations resolutions: full withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied in 1967; removal of all settlements built on occupied Arab lands; the full implementation of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, in accordance with UN resolutions.
Ambiguous citations such as peace process, Madrid, two-state solution on the basis of 1967 borders and land swap, got the situation to steadily worsen.
Clear and legal language is now required. It is peaceful, it is fair, it is compatible with international law and it is absolutely right and moderate.
There might be no need to even mention a Palestinian state because once the occupation ends to the last inch of the 1967 border, including from East Jerusalem, no one has the right to question the Palestinians’ decision to establish their state without Israel’s approval, let alone its restrictions.
For a future Palestinian state to live in peace with Israel, it does not have to be unarmed. Israelis, and not Palestinians, have always been a threat to peace.
The guarantee for any future peace is the strict abidance by the rule of law and agreed-upon peace terms. Israel has always been the violator of the law and terms, not the Palestinians.
Israel will definitely reject any such Arab approach, accusing the summit of radicalisation. So what?
Israel never agrees to anything anyway, not even to the most generous and conciliatory Arab offers that were specifically designed to accommodate Israel’s worst requirements.
For any future negotiations to be serious, they have to be based on clarity and strict insistence on full recovery of legitimate Arab rights.
Reciprocal compromises can happen during negotiations, but no more as we have been witnessing: one side constantly lowering the ceiling and the other demanding more.
This is the only way for Israel to detect Arab seriousness and to start to give due consideration to the Arab position, rather than take it lightly.
Under all circumstances the summit remains a necessity.
Jordan deserves credit for hosting the summit and preparing well for it.
Success or failure should not be measured only by the summit’s ability to resolve chronic problems. Success can be incremental, invisible and a good base for building upon.
At least the meeting will add one more layer to the slow, but hopefully constructive, Arab motion in the right direction.
Let us hope the Amman Summit will mark the beginning of a brighter Arab era.