The Arab League summit which has just ended in Algiers was hailed by Algerian officials, pro government media and commentators as a success despite all of its shortcomings manifested in the absence of leaders of key countries such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco who were represented by their respective foreign ministers. Those who claimed that it was successful argued that the fact that the summit convened at all was a success. They also point out that the summit’s final communique is in line with the overall theme of the meeting, which called for Arab solidarity and the promotion of the Palestinian issue as the league’s top priority.
Algeria had its own internal and regional political reasons for hosting the summit to mark its return to the diplomatic scene after years of absence due to its own domestic issues. In advance of the summit, Algiers succeeded in convening Palestinian factions to agree a comprehensive reconciliation plan and elections, in both besieged Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as soon as possible. Algerian officials wanted Arab League leaders to endorse the newly-agreed Palestinian document, which in turn endorses their own success.
They certainly got that, but the summit, by any other measure, was hardly a success even in terms of supporting the Palestinian cause as the league’s central issue and main summit objective. Clause two of the summit decisions, for example, says that Israel must end “its occupation of the Palestinian and Arab lands” as a condition for peace. However, the Algiers Declaration dashed that completely by not openly reminding countries like the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco that they should not be normalising relations with Israel for the simple reason that to do so is a blatant violation of their obligations under previous Arab League summits. Israel now knows that, despite all Arab League decisions, it can still enjoy warm ties with some Arab states. Moreover, the occupation state knows that the league is not at all serious about what its leaders decide.A success of the summit at this point would have been to highlight the fact that the Arab League completely rejects any attempt by “normalisers” to form any kind of pro-Israel lobby within the organisation itself. However, such a lobby is now an established fact and it will force future summits to steer away from any condemnation of normalisation, in direct contravention of the Arab League’s founding charter. Article seven of the charter says that all “consensually agreed decisions” are “obligatory” on all member states and the centrality of the Palestinian cause is indeed a commonly agreed Arab position and binding obligation on all members.
Furthermore, this collective position has been reinforced and reinstated in almost every Arab League meeting over the past several decades, even before the Palestine Liberation Organisation was accepted as the sole representative of the Palestinian people in the 1970s.
The most damaging single act done to the Palestinian cause between the 2019 Arab League summit and the one that has just ended is the policy adopted by one third of the organisation’s major members to welcome apartheid Israel with open arms. All members, the leaders of normalising countries especially, know that such a policy contradicts all publically stated league positions, including the so called Arab Peace Initiative adopted at the Beirut summit in 2002.
The Algiers Declaration once again promoted Palestine to the top of the league’s agenda, but actually demoted the issue by offering the Palestinians nothing but empty words, while ignoring what some members are doing with Israel.
The problem with almost all Arab League summits is that they have evolved over the years into a talking shop of leaders discussing the same issues over and over again without offering any solutions. Once the summit ends, all decisions are forgotten about and little is done to follow up their implementation. Meanwhile, more common problems accumulate until the cycle is repeated at the next summit.
It is ironic that on the same day that the Algiers Declaration was adopted by Arab League leaders, the main enemy of peace, Benjamin Netanyahu, was effectively returned to power in the latest Israeli General Election. Netanyahu completely rejects not only the league’s offers of peace, but also won’t even discuss any such offer made by a third party such as the UN. He enjoys wide support among tens of thousands of illegal Israeli settlers who also reject the two state solution and deny the very existence of the Palestinian people, let alone their legitimate right to an independent state and to live in freedom under their own elected government.
Apart from the fact that the Algiers Declaration avoided any mention of normalisation between any Arab League member and Israel being wrong, it contravenes the organisation’s own decisions, making the document contradictory and meaningless. Contradictory in the sense that it prioritises Palestine as the main Arab cause, while at the same time failing to stop or censure its own members who disrespect their obligations under the league’s charter and international law, which categorises much of what Israel does as illegal, particularly its theft of Palestinian land, home demolitions and apartheid imposed on the people of occupied Palestine living under its brutal military occupation. The declaration is meaningless in the sense that, like many other previous summits, none of its decisions will ever be implemented.
This all makes a mockery of the Arab leaders simply because they do not live up to their peoples’ expectations. Even seven decades after the Nakba, the masses still support their Palestinian brothers and sisters and hope to be able to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque under a Palestinian flag one day.
The only way that the Palestinian cause was promoted in this latest Arab League summit was with Algeria’s pledge to lead efforts to have the State of Palestine admitted as a full member of the UN. Algerians will certainly try to deliver on their promise, supported by league members, but it is unlikely to bear fruit given the US veto in the Security Council ready and waiting to kill such an attempt in order to protect Israel and allow it to continue to act with complete impunity.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.