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Reappointment of Arab League chief proves its hostility to Arabs

Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit chairs the Arab Foreign Ministers 153rd annual meeting at the Arab League headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on March 4, 2020 [MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP via Getty Images]
Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit at the Arab League headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on March 4, 2020 [MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images]

Arab Foreign Ministers have reappointed 78-year-old Egyptian diplomat Ahmed Aboul Gheit as the Secretary-General of the Cairo-based organisation during its 156th meeting. Aboul Gheit was first elected to the post in March 2016, when some of the League members criticised his election due to his age at the time. On this occasion, he was re-elected unanimously and without any criticism, only expressions of hope that he will help to resolve some of the serious issues facing the Arab world.

The re-election of Aboul Gheit for a second term gives us a clear idea of what the future of the 22-member bloc will look like. A clue: it has been absent from the major issues faced by the Arab world during the five years of his first term. The League has been sleeping and knew nothing about the crises which have hit the Arab countries. Indeed, it only felt Turkey's assistance to the Syrians, Libyan, Somalis, Iraqis, and Qataris during the blockade imposed by member states, and called this meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries.

In order to know what we might expect during Aboul Gheit's new term of office, we have to look at his achievements. He was an advisor to the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who signed a peace deal with Israel at Camp David in 1979. That deal was condemned by the Arab League, which cancelled Egypt's membership and moved its HQ from Cairo to Tunis. The peace deal was the starting point that normalised the Israeli occupation of Palestine, which has become an accepted part of the Arab region, with some Arab leaders respecting it more than Palestine and its people.

READ: Turkey rejects 'baseless' Arab League decisions

After a year or so of the Israeli-led, Egypt-supported, blockade of the Gaza Strip — in January 2008, to be precise — Palestinians in the besieged territory broke through the border and headed for the Egyptian city of El-Arish to buy food, medicine, and other basic necessities. Aboul Gheit told the media that he would break the legs of the Palestinians if they entered Egypt again.

Later that year, in December, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni vowed to strike the Palestinians in Gaza; she was standing alongside Aboul Gheit in Cairo at the time. That basically started "Operation Cast Lead", the Israeli military offensive which killed at least 1,400 Palestinians and wounded more than 11,000 others, in addition to causing massive destruction of homes and civil infrastructure, including water pipes, the electricity grid, telecommunications, and the sewage works.

Arabs 48 described Aboul Gheit as Israel's friend and said that the occupation state welcomed his appointment as the Arab League chief. According to the news website, which is run by Palestinian citizens of Israel, he has good relationships with many senior former and current Israeli officials, who have invested time and effort in their relationship with him.

Following the 2011 ouster of the late Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Aboul Gheit described the Tunisian velvet revolution as "empty talks" and denied that it represented the choice of the Arab nations. The latter then ousted him before he was reinstated when the then General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi led the coup against the first freely-elected Egyptian President, Dr Mohamed Morsi.

Military coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi in Egypt- Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Military coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi in Egypt- Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Moreover, Aboul Gheit has defended the Arab dictators who have killed their own citizens, including Al-Sisi and Syria's Bashar Al-Asad. During a conference in Egypt last year, he refused to describe the Arab revolutions as the "Arab Spring", and refused to attribute the killing of thousands of Syrians, displacement of millions, and the demolition of complete towns and villages to the violent regime crackdown on the revolution. "This should not be called a spring, and I am responsible for my words," he said.

During the 154th meeting of the Arab League, Aboul Gheit hailed the normalisation of ties between member states and Israel. During his first term, he said that the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative offers a "just" solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps he should be told to explain how much land the Palestinians should have for their own state in order to give them a just solution. According to the Arab Peace Initiative, more than 13 million Palestinians in Palestine and the diaspora would have less than 10 per cent of historic Palestine, leaving 90 per cent for 6 million colonial settlers.

It was in his first term that the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital and relocated its embassy to the occupied holy city, so what did Aboul Gheit do? The Arab League under his leadership only condemned the American move. Member states have since bent over backward to be the first to bow down to Israel and normalise relations with it. Israeli settlements have increased in terms of size and population, with complete Palestinian villages being erased from the map.

"Choosing Aboul Gheit to head the Arab League at this time is the best choice because he is Israel's friend at the time that most of the Arab regimes are leaning towards Israel and consider the Palestinian resistance as terrorism," said former Egyptian diplomat and professor of international law, Dr Abdullah Al-Ash'al. Speaking to Al Jazeera.net, Al-Ash'al added that the current situation in the Arab countries produces people like Aboul Gheit in order to lead the "Arab-Israeli League". The League's chief has been, and remains, a defender of Israel's occupation at the expense of Arab dignity and Palestinian rights, said Prof. Al-Ash'al.

During his new term, therefore, Ahmed Aboul Gheit is not going to adopt a new set of values that put the interests of the Arab people over the interests of Israel and the Arab leaders who are the enemies of their people. The Arab League is not working to serve the Arabs, but their enemies.

READ: Arab League head gets unanimous approval for second term

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

AfricaArab LeagueArticleEgyptInternational OrganisationsIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestine
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