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The Arab League represents nothing but missed opportunities

Arab League members at the 28th Arab League Summit in Amman, Jordan on 29 March 2017 [Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency]
Arab League members at the 28th Arab League Summit in Amman, Jordan on 29 March 2017 [Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency]

More than 20 of the world's most powerful men have come together in Amman for the annual Arab League summit. On paper, these kings, emirs and dictators have the authority to use their influence and petro-billions for the betterment of the Arab world; indeed, of the whole world. Expectations, though, are low that anything worthwhile will be accomplished in the Jordanian capital.

The uneasy truth is that these largely self-appointed leaders are too busy preserving the future of their dynasties to care very much that the Middle East is on fire, having been set alight by their friends in the West. What's more, their own neglect has fanned the flames.

It is a damning indictment of all of these Arab leaders that nearly 70 years since Israel was created on their land, the vast majority of Palestinians are still living as refugees, either in squalid camps in neighbouring countries and the occupied territories, or in the growing global diaspora. As these leaders do little but spout meaningless rhetoric, Israel continues to steal more Palestinian land and pushes on aggressively with illegal settler housing programmes while maintaining one of the world's most brutal military occupations.

Read: Palestinian NGOs call for Arab League to impose sanctions on Israel

The Palestinian "issue" was, of course, more or less created by the West, and with the 100th anniversary of Britain's infamous Balfour Declaration coming up in November it is easy to point the finger of blame. However, the problem could have been resolved if the Arab League had some backbone and had been prepared to stand up and defend Palestine and its people with more than words. The organisation and its members certainly have the influence to wield power in the West, where money talks. Their undeniable influence could change Western perceptions if the Arab League was really serious about bringing peace and unity to the Middle East.

With the notable exception of Qatar, the Arab leaders meeting in Jordan regard running a country as a job for life, since none of them seem prepared to make way for younger talent or, perish the thought, allow their people to choose a leader through an open and fair democratic process. And where are the women in leadership positions? They represent more than half of the regional population and gave birth to the other half, but nowhere are they represented in government at any senior level. Until this cycle is broken, I really hold out little hope for progress in the Middle East.

Furthermore, as long as the Palestinians rely on Arab League members for handouts, their future will never be resolved. There's no new peace plan or initiative on the table and certainly nothing fresh from the deeply unpopular Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who presides over one of the most corrupt regimes in the region.

Read: No plan to change the Arab Peace Initiative

If the Palestinian people want to realise their dream of having their own state they are going to have to find a way to bypass the self-serving, self-interest of the Palestinian Authority and the jaded Fatah officials who control it. Moreover, if the Arab League wants to become more than a talking shop, the leaders are going to have to care for the Palestinian refugees living in their countries with more respect and compassion.

Apparently, one of the few topics up for discussion at the summit in Amman is the fight against terrorism. As we have seen in Syria and Egypt, this is all too often used as an excuse to crush any dissenting voices in order to preserve the status quo. The truth is that the Arab leaders will never be able to agree on what to do about Daesh until some of them actually stop funding the extremist group.

It is a shame to say this, but the latest Arab League summit is going nowhere and doing even less. As one Israeli diplomat once said, "The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." Arab League summits prove this to be true; the organisation represents nothing but missed opportunities.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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Arab LeagueArticleInternational OrganisationsIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestine
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