The Arab Summit: How to cure our ills?


During an Israeli terrorist operation in Gaza in 2002, an American politician asked me: “If we were to stand by the aspirations of the Arab people and provided future generations with democracy, freedom and development, would you forget about our support for Israel and accept us as true friends?”

At the time, statistics where showing that most Arabs believed that the US and Israel were their worst enemies. Anger was growing and demonstrations were filling the streets of Arab capitals against both states. The US government seemed worried about its “destructive” project of “creative chaos” to remake the Arab world into a safer neighborhood for the Zionist state and friendlier to America.

I told him: “If you had a toothache, would you be able to concentrate on a food menu, no matter how delicious it might be? For us, Palestine is in the heart of every Arab and Muslim, and the pain is so great that no matter how tempting your McDonald’s offering is, we cannot even look at it before the pain is dealt with.”

I thought of that dialogue as I followed the 30th Arab Summit in Tunisia. The last summit held in Saudi Arabia in 2018 was called the “Jerusalem Summit,” as it convened after the US recognized the holy city as the capital of Israel. This year’s summit also came after another American blunder. The Trump administration has just recognized the Syrian Golan Heights as part of Israel! Again Arab leaders had to confront America, including its best friends and allies.

As expected, Arab countries were united in their support of the Palestinian cause, and in their rejection of the new American move. King Salman was loud and clear in reassuring Palestinians that we will never abandon them, and proposed $100 million a month to the Palestinian Authority, above the $150 million the Kingdom gave them after the last summit. An Arab delegation will lobby the United Nations, the European Union, the International Court of Justice and other international organizations to take a stronger stand against unilateral US actions.

I really do not understand why the leader of the free world, the “beacon of justice” and enforcer of world order would take such a biased stand that will hurt Israel as much as its neighbors, deepen their differences and prolong the search for peace. The only reason I can think of is that it is meant to provide the far-right Israeli prime minister with a symbolic win during the Israeli election! Meanwhile, America loses its peace-broker status, and allows its competitors, such as Russia, to fill the gap.

To be fair, US policies are not all wrong and illogical. It was the Trump administration that realized early on the danger Iran’s hegemony, support of terrorist groups, involvement with drug cartels and interference in Arab affairs posed to world peace and security. It was Mr. Trump who took the lead in exposing the faults of the nuclear agreement with Iran, and how US leniency with Tehran gave the mullahs a free hand to spread havoc in the Middle East, develop an outlawed missile program and continue to improve its underground nuclear preparation for the day when its deal expires — a few years from today!

In comparison to the Obama administration, this administration is wiser and more effective. Ideology-driven Iran is the source of all evil in this world. Its destructive, irresponsible behavior has cost us half a million causalities in Syria, caused the worst ethnic cleansing since the Holocaust, and forced the highest mass migration since World War II. Its Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah’s terrorist, drug and money laundering activities cover five continents: Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America. Meanwhile, a third of the Iranian population lives under the poverty line. The recent natural disasters - earthquakes, flooding and storms - demonstrated how poorly equipped, unprepared and negligent the government agencies are.

US support for its traditional allies in the region has reinstated its century-old doctrine. The steadfast alliance with the Arab Alliance in Yemen, the war on Daesh in Syria and Iraq, as well as, the cooperation with Arab and Muslim countries against terrorism are great strategies that deserve our gratitude and appreciation.

All in all, I believe the Arab Summit in Tunisia has shown solidarity and unity of purpose on a wide range of issues: From the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya, to the public protestation in Sudan and Algeria, and from the civic reconstruction in Somalia and Comoros to the financial and economic needs of Lebanon and Palestine. The leaders agreed on unified stands on all these challenges, and drew a plan, albeit sketchy, on how to deal with them.

Now that we have agreed on what we face, need and aim for, we must establish a mechanism to achieve our goals. Our ills are specified. Our medication is prescribed. What is left- as always - is to decide on an action plan to cure them. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait for future summits to do so!

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah.

He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @kbatarfi