The Arab Summit in Bahrain and the Palestinian cause

Mohamed Ibrahim Eldawiry
Wednesday 15 May 2024

A great responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Arab leaders during this summit to deal with the Palestinian cause differently to the extent possible, both in form and substance, from previous Arab summits.

 

It is certain that the 33rd Arab Summit, which will be held in the sisterly state of Bahrain on 16 May, will be significantly different from previous Arab summits, especially in terms of the issues that will receive priority for discussion and the decisions expected to be taken, including the Palestinian cause in general and the current Israeli war on the Gaza Strip in particular.

As for other issues, with all due respect for their importance, they come second.

One of the positive things to point out is that the Arab Summit will be held on schedule despite the multiple disturbances that sweep the region.

The importance of this summit emerges from the current exceptional circumstances, amid attempts to liquidate the first central Arab issue and an unprecedented war of extermination and systematic destruction on the Gaza Strip for over seven months. However, the world stands by as a spectator and observer, confirming it still adopts a policy of double standards.

Thus, responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Arab leaders and the other leaders in the summit to deal with the Palestinian cause differently this time.

They are obligated to make decisions that add to the cause and stop dealing with it routinely, as the current Israeli war on the strip and the extremely harsh policies that Israel applies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are unprecedented.

From here, I see that the leaders participating in the summit must consider the following main determinants.

- It should be a summit for the Palestinian cause, even in terms of its name, for this pivotal issue to receive the necessary attention and focus.

- The events in Gaza should not be separated from the solution of the Palestinian cause as a whole, as the two are directly linked to each other.

- A comprehensive review, even a self-reflection, of the Arab countries’ positions on dealing with the Gaza conflict from its inception to the present day is important, to lay the necessary and effective foundations for dealing with this crisis which may continue for a long time.

- Making decisions similar to those of previous summits should be avoided; what is needed is making the least number of decisions with the greatest possible effectiveness.

- Arab countries should not demonstrate any division in opinion concerning the Palestinian cause, as their consensus at this summit is of great importance amid the current circumstances.

In light of these determinants, the Arab Summit is called upon to do the following.

  • All Arab countries participating in the summit without exceptions should have a unified position on the Gaza events, as one man. No matter what this position is, the mere existence of Arab consensus in this field will be a strong message to the world that the Arab position is united against this unjust war.
  • Israel, particularly, should feel that the current events are a turning point in Arab-Israeli relations; realize that Arab countries can make decisions that affect it; and know that it is time to stop its war of extermination against Gaza.
  • This summit must be a turning point in the political path to resolve the Palestinian cause. Therefore, Arab countries must have a realistic vision for resolving the issue.

Here, I propose two options: first, to re-propose the Arab Peace Initiative that has been on the table for more than 22 years and has not yielded any results yet; second, to explore the possibility of crystallizing a new political vision with clear implementation mechanisms that emphasize Palestinian constants and can be marketed regionally and internationally (the possibility of forming a committee to crystallize the new vision and finalize it within a month at most).

  • It should emphasize Arab consensus on the need for the Palestinian Authority to return to the Gaza Strip after the end of the war and reject any proposed solutions that would have any other forces or parties take over the administration of the strip, based on the principle that Gaza and the West Bank are the two wings of the awaited Palestinian state.
  • The issue of humanitarian aid entry into the strip is an Israeli and international responsibility that must be resolved within days, with a discussion of the feasibility of forming a temporary Arab committee to deal with this issue as a whole.
  • It should emphasize that 2024 is the year of the Palestinian cause so that steps could be taken during it to implement the two-state solution.
  • An Arab committee should be formed to lay the foundations for the reconstruction process of the Gaza Strip after the war ends.
Conclusion
 

This summit represents a new test for the Arab position and its seriousness and effectiveness in dealing with the Palestinian cause and confronting attempts to liquidate it.

The Arab countries are certainly the only side qualified to play this role. This issue should not be left to external parties to deal with it from a security or humanitarian perspective only that does not achieve anything but their interests.

Finally, the Arab summit should express its thanks, appreciation, and support to Egypt and its political leadership for the efforts it exerted since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza.

While acknowledging the important roles played by some other countries, including the sisterly state of Qatar, Egypt still bears the brunt of this crisis from all sides. Still, it stands guard against attempts to displace the Palestinian population into Sinai.

 

*The writer is the deputy director of the Egyptian Centre for Strategic Studies (ECSS).

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