April 2, 2004
ARAB LEAGUE SUMMIT: POSTPONEMENT STEMS FROM
over the U.S.' Greater Middle East Initiative (GMEI) caused the postponement.
** Hard-line outlets urge
Arabs to "reject" foreign "dictates" for reform.
** The postponement reveals
"fault lines" within the Arab world.
** Arab summits, even if
held, are just "mere talk and cries for justice."
The Arab world's 'total disarray' made the summit impossible-- Both Euro and Arab papers blamed the
postponement on how Arab governments are "divided into two teams";
some are "very attentive" to reform while others dismiss it as
"Washington's desire to control the region." Euro and moderate Arab writers saw a
"continued abject failure" by Arab leaders to "produce solid
proposals" in response to the GMEI, despite the "desperate need for
reform in the region." Morocco's
leading L'Opinion said only democratic reforms can solve "the Arab
world's humiliating marginalization";
Saudi Arabia's moderate Al-Yaum urged Arabs to "fix their
house from the inside instead of waiting for external advice."
The U.S. seeks to 'impose its policy on each and every Arab
regime'-- Palestinian, Syrian and
Algerian writers blamed "the two enemies, America and Israel" for the
summit's postponement. The
"invisible hand of America" forced Tunisia to shelve the gathering,
thus undermining Arab solidarity and making the U.S. "better able to deal
with Arabs individually in order to swallow and digest them," according to
the West Bank's independent Al-Ayyam.
Algeria's influential El Watan blasted Arab rulers'
"cowardice and subservience" to "their American
masters." Syria's government-owned Tishreen
alleged the GMEI "poses grave dangers to Arabs" because it aims at
"absorbing them and taking their land and wealth."
'The Arab house is burning'--
papers agreed the summit's postponement was an "embarrassing picture"
that "reveals the fault lines of the Arab world." A German observer termed the Arab League
"not even a powerless chatterbox" but rather an "ostrich that
buries its head in the sand" when facing the reform question. According to Italy's centrist Corriere
della Sera, democratic reform is a "deadly time bomb" for the
"Arab dinosaur governments."
Saudi and Yemeni writers bemoaned how Arabs are "incapable of
finding a decisive solution" to current problems; Jordan's mass-appeal Al-Arab
Al-Yawm judged the summit's postponement "conclusive proof that the
Arab regimes are on the edge of collapse."
Arab Summits only lead to 'immense
disappointment'-- Some papers downplayed
the summit's delay, since previous summits were, as the pro-government Times
of Yemen observed, "full of useless talk and denunciations." A Jordanian writer rejected "repetitious
and rhetorical" speeches that turn Arab summits into "farce,"
while Lebanon's moderate Daily Star saw "not much difference
between an Arab summit that convenes and one that is postponed." But some Saudi and Pakistani writers stressed
the importance of holding a summit to "create a united strategy" that
will enable Arabs to face "Israeli arrogance" and "foreign
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media
Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a
representative picture of local editorial opinion. This report summarizes and interprets foreign
editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.
Government. This analysis was based on
70 reports from 22 countries over 23 March - 3 April 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are
listed from the most recent date.
The independent weekly Economist held (4/3): "Given the Arab League's less than
impressive history, is the fracture in its unity now a good or a bad
thing?.... A concerted Arab effort to
acknowledge past failings would be particularly timely. Two admirably candid reports in the past few
years written by Arab academics for the UN's development programme, and
testifying to the link between political repression and economic backwardness,
have powerfully underscored the need to loosen up.... An inability to embrace greater democracy is
not inherent in Islam--witness progress in Turkey, but also in Malaysia and
Indonesia. There is no reason why Arabs
cannot do likewise. But if their rulers
cannot even agree to discuss such matters, outsiders may be forgiven for
querying their proclaimed determination to make their countries worthier of
"Reform On Arab Agenda Despite Cancelled Summit"
Foreign editor Bronwen Maddox commented in the conservative Times
(3/30): "The summit's implosion
illustrated the huge contentiousness of any talk of reform, but it also showed
that this debate has now begun in earnest.
For everyone--the Arab world, its neighbours and the West--that is very
good news.... The league was under
pressure to come up with a coherent response to the U.S. 'Greater Middle East
Initiative", that bland declaration which caused such offence by seeming
to brand changes already occurring as U.S.-inspired.... The row in Tunis [shows] that Arab
governments are now confronting the problems that face them, including Islamic
militancy and their underemployed youthful populations. The temptation is to reject change as a U.S.
imposition, irrelevant while the Israeli-Palestinian sore still festers. But those tendencies are weakening--witness
the energy with which Egypt pledged to hold a summit within three weeks if
Tunisia did not. It shows that some
governments recognise the embarrassment of the summit's collapse, and who their
people will blame."
Left-of-center Le Monde opined (3/30): “The question that was to be central to the
Arab League Summit was the U.S. initiative for the Greater Middle East and its
objectives of democratic and economic development. The plan has divided Arab
regional nations into the 'new' and the 'old' Arab world, similar to the new
and old Europe concept so dear to Donald Rumsfeld. Some, such as the Gulf
monarchies, Tunisia and Morocco, are very attentive to Washington’s advice and
positions. Others, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria are worried about what
they perceive as Washington’s desire to control the region.... The Arab League is in serious need of
revamping if it wants to be credible. Its impotence and inactivity are patent,
while the region’s problems grow.... But
Washington, which is more than ever hated in the Arab world, and its
aspirations to promote democracy are suffering from a lack of
credibility.... President Bush’s Iraq
policy, the support he has given Sharon and his refusal to get involved in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not about to make his plans for reforming the
region popular. But blaming the U.S., or the West, for all of the Arab world’s
problems will not put an end to the region’s misery and frustration. At best it
will maintain the authoritarian regimes in their immobility.”
"Arab League Summit Postponed"
Jean-Pierre Perrin wrote in left-of-center Liberation
(3/29): “Mirroring the image of an Arab
world deeply divided, Arab summits are going from bad to worse. Already in 2003 the Sharm Al Sheik summit
proved that Arab leaders were incapable of finding a common ground. On the aftermath of Yassin’s assassination,
the Tunis summit has not even given Arab leaders the possibility to expose
their disagreements.... The postponement
of the summit, because it reveals the fault lines of the Arab world, elicits
more interest than the summit itself, had it been held, because such summits
are generally marked by a consensus of pure form.”
Josef Joffe argued in center-left weekly Die Zeit of
Hamburg (4/1): "The Greater Middle
East Initiative suffers from one incurable contradiction: Autocrats are recruited to solve the problem,
who are themselves not part of the solution but the problem. The summit of the Arab League therefore
failed before it started.... Only when
Arab regimes negate their hostile image of Israel will they live in
"The Barbers From Tunis"
Rudolph Chimelli noted in center-left Sueddeutsche
Zeitung of Munich (3/29): "The
planned summit failed even before it had begun since the Arab foreign ministers
were incapable of finding a phrase hiding their refusal to accept the appeal
for free and democratic reforms. The
U.S. Greater Middle East initiative is embarrassing Arab leaders, since they
have suppressed its demand for reforms for decades.... It is difficult to find a therapy, and this
will be even more so if this therapy comes from the United States. In the Islamic countries, people measure the
U.S. not against its declaration of
intent but against the things the Americans do in Afghanistan and Iraq, and
even more against the things they do not do in Palestine in particular. The respect of the U.S. power is greater than
ever, but America's moral credit and its credibility in particular as advocate
of freedom is suffering because Washington supports authoritarian regimes
ranging from North Africa to Pakistan whenever they are useful for U.S.
plans.... The European ideas that were
emphasized in the Barcelona process in 1995 are not even taken note of in the
U.S. project. But this process, that was
temporarily dormant and has often been criticized, is much more concrete than
the vague U.S. plans. The EU links
established with the region in trade and migration are much closer, even though
the risks of a destabilization are much greater. The Europeans should sharpen their feelings
for such realities, as long as there is time."
"Avoid Saying Anything"
Andrea Nuesse opined in left-of-center Frankfurter
Rundschau (3/29) and centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin
(3/29): "We can rely on the Arab
regimes. They do not miss a single
opportunity to present themselves as a bunch of nations that are at odds with
each other.... Now those Arab nations,
mainly Syria, feel strengthened that want to discuss political reforms only
when the Middle East conflict has been settled. But Damascus is nevertheless among the
losers. For Syria it would have been
very important to send a positive signal to Washington. But the cancellation of the summit is also a
setback for President Bush. He would
have liked to refer to the Iraq invasion having set in motion the reform
movement.... But the Arab regimes must
blame themselves for the fact that they again failed to make clear their common
position that the reforms of their states and the solution of the Middle East
conflict must be addressed at the same time....
But how can we expect statesman-like skills when foreign ministers
discuss half a day over the issue whether NGOs are necessary for the building
of a civil society. After the
cancellation of the summit, the Arab League offers an embarrassing
picture. It is not even a powerless
chatterbox. It looks like an ostrich
that buries its head in the sand."
Karim el-Gawhary argued in leftist die tageszeitung
of Berlin (3/29): "Once again, the
Arab dinosaur governments have proved to be totally incapable of crisis
management. The Arab world is in an
uncomfortable situation. After reforms
from the bottom could not be implemented for many years, they are now imposed
on them from the outside, mainly from Washington.... It is no wonder that an apocalyptic mood is
spreading in the Arab world.... It is
true that almost all Arab leaders like to use the term 'reform,' but nothing
has happened, since they are faced with an unpleasant dilemma. If they do not initiate reforms, they will be
removed, and if they initiate reforms, they will lose power at the end of this
process.... The cancellation of the
summit resembles another declaration of bankruptcy. The political vacuum has become bigger and
the only question that now must be raised is who will become the bankruptcy
administrator. President George W. Bush
or the Arab inferiors who will call to account their leaders once they have
proved to be self-confident citizens.
But what would happen if the outcome of this process did not correspond
with western wishes?"
"Arab League Splits On Reform And Democracy"
Antonio Ferrari stated in centrist,
top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/29): “The Arab Summit has failed. Even worse, it never began. Tunisia, on a
frantic and dramatic eve, surprisingly decided to postpone the summit
indefinitely. This had never happened
before.... It’s clear that the leaders
of countries who continue to refer to each other as brothers no longer even
care enough to keep up appearances....
It’s a simple truth: the reform chapter is becoming a deadly time
bomb--more dangerous than the Israeli targeted killing of the spiritual leader
of Hamas Yassin.... We must now understand
the meaning of reform. And this is where
things get tough, because in the Arab world reforms have always only aimed to
change as little as possible for the purpose of maintaining the status quo. Bin Laden terrorists and their associates
have every reason to exult. In terms of popularity in the Arab world, Tunisian
President Ben Ali is losing ground, while the Egyptian Mubarak has regained a
good number of his lost points.”
"Arab League In Full Crisis, Tunis Summit
R.A. Segre noted pro-government, leading
center-right Il Giornale (3/29):
“Whether this failed meeting will mark the end of the League, or only a
postponement of the summit, doesn’t matter much now. What counts are the tensions that have been
stirred by the lack of political unity on the Palestinian and Syrian
issues.... Understanding between Arabs
is difficult because they no longer know what role to play in the politics of
the modern world.... After the end of
the Cold War and in the absence of a European role which is capable of
counterbalancing the American one in the Middle East, the Arab States can no
longer ask others to be more Arab than the Arab themselves in order to defend
"Arab World Plunges Into Chaos"
Vladimir Bogdanov wrote in official government-run Rossiyskaya
Gazeta (4/1): "The opinion in
the West is that the aborted summit in Tunis is another major defeat for the
Arab world, which is impossible to piece together. The Tunisian president has confirmed that by
calling off the meeting without consulting any of the Arab League members.
This, when the Arab world is considering democratic projects and cardinal
political reforms. Many analysts
believe that the idea of a united Arab world makes no political sense anymore,
as there is not a single important issue on which the Arabs will agree among
themselves. Arab leaders are incapable
of developing a common stand on ways to reform and update society.... The Arab world lacks a striking, strong
leader. Saddest of all, none of the
current Arab leaders possesses any of Osama bin Laden's charisma."
"No Lost Sleep Over The Postponed Summit"
Danny Rubinstein wrote in left-leaning,
independent Ha'aretz (3/29):
"One factor that has somewhat disrupted preparations for this [Arab
League] summit was the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Most Palestinians derived great pleasure from
scenes of the demonstrations against Israel and the U.S., some of them violent,
which took place throughout the Arab world after Yassin's death. Such demonstrations always become protests
against rulers of the country in which they take place, who are asked to break
off any contact, direct or indirect, with Israel. The Prime Minister's disengagement plan,
which confounded the Palestinians, is confounding Arab leaders, too.... If in the past, Arab summit conferences were
a subject that sparked excitement and enthusiasm among the Palestinian public
and its leadership, today's summit was conceived as a routine, ho-hum
event. Arafat was supposed to give one
of his ordinary speeches, and the Arab spokesmen had prepared a few mutual
verbal barbs. The Palestinians had few
expectations of the summit, and no one is losing sleep over its postponement."
"Failure Of A Family Meeting"
Mohammad Yaghi commented in independent Al-Ayyam
(4/1): "As opposed to the American
reform initiative which was not listed on the agenda [of the Arab summit], an
Egyptian-Saudi-Syrian initiative calling for gradual reforms under the so-called
'chaos prevention' in the Arab world has been developed.... News agencies talked about instructions given
by Washington to Zayn Al-Abdin [President of Tunis] during his visit to
Washington at the beginning of this year, on the need to cancel the summit as a
means to frustrate the Arab reforms project.
The truth is that none of the official Arab regimes has a wish for this
demand [reforms], and therefore the cancellation or postponement of the summit
was the only legal way out of this trouble.
Tunis, more willingly than anyone else, has no interest in carrying out
the needed reforms, mainly after its constitution was modified more than once
to fit the re-election of its president for the fourth consecutive time."
"Between Holding The Summit And Burying It
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (3/30): "In the last few days, holding the Arab
summit has become the main concern of Arab diplomats and officials, as well as
Arab and foreign media outlets.
Meanwhile, Arab citizens throughout the Arab world have lost any
interest in the issue. This is
especially the case because of past experiences of previous summits, which have
all but dashed the aspirations of the Arab peoples, diminishing in the process
their confidence in their ruling regimes....
The Arab masses know that the decision-makers in the Arab world are
under tremendous foreign pressure, which not only defines the course of
political developments in each country individually, but also draws the map of
the entire region, dictates the positions [these leaders] must adopt, and tries
to impose on them reform programs that serve the foreign entity's objectives
and bolster its strategies. Still, the
real problem is not the existence of such pressure, for the Arab regimes have
always been subjected in one way or another to foreign influence. The problem actually lies in the scattered
Arab reactions to this pressure, whether with regard to quality or quantity of
such a reaction.... We want to stress
that even though Arab solidarity and unified discourse will surely support the
Palestinian cause and serve the aspirations of neighboring Iraq in terms of
ending foreign occupation and restoring its lost sovereignty, the prevalent
impression among the Arab people is that achieving such Arab solidarity...has
become unattainable, especially in light of the internal and external givens in
the Arab world. Therefore, holding the
summit or postponing it, or even canceling it altogether, wouldn't have any
"Arabs Must Learn To Remove Their Own Thorns"
Adli Sadiq held in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (3/29): "The Arab summit failed to meet as
scheduled. The contradictions over the
fates of regimes rather than of peoples were the cause of its failure to
convene the summit. The points of disagreement
over priorities reflected differences in viewpoints on the extent of U.S.
involvement in particularities of Arab life....
The Arab dilemma does not lie in agreeing on ways to respond to U.S.
wishes and dictates. Rather, it lies in
the inability of the Arab regimes to find a formula that would reject these
dictates in the first place.... The Arab
regimes have started doubting each other's intentions; they have accused each
other of being catalysts for change in the Arab world and the Arab League itself
in accordance with a U.S. 'catalogue'....
But the problem goes beyond [U.S. pressure on Arab regimes] to become
several detailed questions: Would the regimes allow a democratic social
movement that opens the doors to social trends in the interest of small ruling
parties? Would we see the advancement of
a judiciary system that is revered by everyone?
Would the regimes have the courage to revise school curricula and
history books? Would they respect the
value of solidarity among people, and change their ways of dealing with the
Palestinian cause and resistance?"
"Suspension Of Arab Summit Opens Doors To American
Rajab Abu Siriya wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (3/30): "Some people linked the failure to hold
the Arab summit at its appointed time and place to the argument that occurred
among Arab foreign ministers in their meeting on reforms. Two positions were adopted in the
meeting.... The first called for more
emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a response to the American Greater
Middle East Initiative. The second, led
by Egypt and Jordan, saw in the Egyptian initiative [announced earlier in the
year] an Arab response to the American one, especially after Jordanian FM
Muashar visited Washington and obtained American agreement to withdraw the
Greater Middle East Initiative from consideration at the G-8 summit next June
and instead replace it with an Arab one.
It seems that this Arab initiative would basically be an Arabic version
of the American one, just to save face for the official Arab regimes.... Is the decision to postpone the summit going
to be a first step in opening the door to implementation of the American
"Failure To Hold The Summit Is A Victory
For American Policy"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized
(3/29): "Under the absence of a
unified Arab position, the door will be wide open for the U.S. to impose its
policy on each and every Arab regime--a policy that lacks consideration of Arab
rights and interests while giving much concern to supporting and protecting the
Israeli occupation.... The truth is that
the alleged 'Greater Middle East Initiative,' which the U.S. is trying to
dictate to the peoples and leaders of the Arab region--except Israel--is not to
strengthen democracy and reform as much as to reinforce American control over
"The Official Arab Regime: RIP"
Talal Okal commented in independent Al-Ayyam
(3/29): "Ever since Tunis was
announced as the host of the [Arab League] summit and was hesitant to accept
that [role] until it got a green light from the U.S., it became obvious that
this summit would not be ordinary in terms of its agenda, recommendations and
level of representation. It seems the
American fingers were present when the indefinite postponement decision was announced.... Signs of failure appeared ahead of time
through the Arab foreign ministers' meetings.
Even if the summit had actually taken place, there were not indications
that it would have succeeded.... If the
American interest was to have every Arab country deal with its own reforms, it
wanted the Arabs to say so themselves, and thus it pushed for delaying the
summit, just to show the Arab leaders' failure to their people and to make
Washington better able to deal with the Arabs individually in order to swallow
and digest them."
"Postponement Of Summit, A Crisis That Must Be Understood
Leading, pro-government Al-Ahram
commented (3/29): "The truth is
that the sudden postponement of the [Arab] summit has come at a time when Arab
nations are facing a deadly crisis in the form of increasing Israeli terrorism
to the extent of criminally assassinating Shaykh Ahmad Yasin, and when a great
Arab nation, Iraq, is being surrendered to the occupation.... Israeli joy as shown by the world news
channels and agencies concerning the [Arab summit] postponement, has hit Arab
streets with great frustration, because Israel has seen it as a positive
development for her interests. As far as
Palestinians are concerned, it is an opportunity for Israel to escalate its
aggression and heinous acts against them just when they really need Arab
"Egypt Has Managed To Solve Others' Mistakes"
Small-circulation pro-government Al-Gomhuriya
remarked (3/29): "Egypt has managed
to hoist the flag of joint Arab work and to bear a big burden in salvaging the
process from collapse by solving other [people's] mistakes which were about to
bring down the Arab organization as the enemies wanted. Egypt's hosting of the Arab summit, postponed
in Tunisia, has brought new hopes to the masses of the Arab nation who saw what
happened in Tunisia as a big blow to hopes and aspirations of surmounting
serious challenges, at the top of which is the occupation of two Arab states,
Palestine and Iraq, and the challenges facing other Arab states in trying to
make them abandon their decisions and hand over leadership to others."
SAUDI ARABIA: "On The
Road To The Summit"
Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazira editorialized
(4/1): "Following the postponement
of the Arab summit frustration prevailed at all levels, government as well as
with ordinary people. Phrases such as
'Arabs agreed to disagree' were frequently used in commentaries, demonstrating
a state of desperation that could poison the entire Arab world.... Thus it becomes absolutely necessary to see a
determination for success, only success."
Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum opined (4/1): "Arab leaders, to deal with the current
serious political circumstances, must quickly adopt ways to convene an
alternate summit.... Time moves quickly
and Arabs must establish a timetable for domestic reform instead of reforms
being imposed from outside."
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan contended (4/1): "The meeting of selected Arab leaders in
Egypt is an attempt to repair the breach that was caused by the postponement of
the summit in Tunis. The Palestinian
situation is becoming increasingly worse.
The situation in Iraq is not in any better shape, especially after Arabs
failed to contain it from the beginning.
Furthermore, when we see U.S. pressure on this country and others we
realize how much the Arab world is internally divided. Arabs today should look back at their past
mistakes and apply the lessons they learned to future plans. Despite the difference in time and values,
there are certain things that remain constant.
A reality check tells us that Arab leaders should put their differences
behind them and concentrate on the things that unite their countries."
"A Summit To Overcome Differences"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (3/31): "Whether the summit is held in Tunis or
in Cairo, the fundamental issues must remain at the top of the agenda. The leaders have an obligation to resolve
these issues at a time when our nation faces vicious and serious dangers. We are confident that wise Arab leadership
will foil the enemies’ chance to harm this nation. They will do that by overcoming their
superficial differences and devoting their attention to the main issues. We need to reach collective solutions that
reflect our unity and coalition."
"Fixing The Arabian House From Within"
Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum declared (3/31): "Because of the difficult political
situations in the region, there is an urgent need for Arab nations to discuss
their unresolved issues, mainly the Palestinian question and occupied Iraq.... Arabs must fix their house from the inside instead
of waiting for external advice.... In
light of international economic cooperation and development, Arab nations
desperately need to achieve economic integration.... Arab leaders must reschedule an alternate
summit that addresses all Arab issues, and be determined to solve them."
"Rescheduling The Arab Summit"
Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazirah maintained (3/31): "The Arab region has succeeded in
overcoming a serious crisis following the indefinite postponement of the
summit. The latest developments show the desire of Arab leaders to reschedule
the meeting at the earliest time, regardless of venue. They have also showed
willingness to resolve the differences that have emerged over several key
issues. The postponement gave them the opportunity to review the situation from
all aspects. Arabs have begun to realize that taking decisions only is not enough.
The decisions should be followed by action."
"Bilateral Move To Save The Summit"
Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad opined (3/31): "The Saudi-Egyptian move to save the
Arab Summit comes at a critical time.
This initiative aims at unifying the deteriorating Arab coalition. Arabs are going through tough times, and are
living in a period where bilateral and regional cooperation has become more
valuable than the national efforts of individual nations. Crown Prince Abdullah indicated that we need
to overcome obstacles and look ahead rather than look back."
"Who Is The Cause?"
Abd-al-Rahman al-Rashid contended in London-based pan-Arab Al-Sharq
al-Awsat (3/30): "The clamor
that raged due to the postponement of the Arab summit and the dispute on where
and when to convene it demonstrate no doubt that the Arab summit is extremely
important. This is a good sign.... This
postponement will widen the gap not only due to the controversies that raged
regarding its topics but also regarding its participants, hosts, and stands of
the countries about attending it....
Regarding the Tunis summit, there are those who are implicitly putting
the blame on the Saudi side. They are holding it responsible for aborting the
summit.... Saudi Arabia's absence will
definitely weaken the summit for several reasons. One of the reasons is that
Saudi Arabia was behind two of the most important papers that will be presented
to the leaders. It was Saudi Arabia that proposed the only peace plan that was
adopted at the Beirut summit and that the conferees generally wish to
resurrect. It was also Saudi Arabia that is behind the second paper calling for
political reform in the region.... This
idea gained more importance after the Americans embarrassed the Arab
governments by proposing a plan to develop the region on the political level.
Thus, the reform paper became a collective need to offset external ideas and
drove five Arab countries to present similar positive ideas. With the approaching implementation of the
promised plan--the Arab common market--Saudi Arabia is pushing to give it
priority. I do not really know how a summit would be held without the
attendance of the side that proposed the principal plans, although this is not
an excuse to put the blame on it. The absence of principal leaders from
conferences is not something new."
"Solidarity Is the Priority"
Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazirah editorialized (3/30): "The recent crises raised from the
indefinite postponement of the Arab summit threatens the solidarity of
Arabs.... Israeli remarks about the
postponement were very frank, and made it clear that Israel is supportive of
any resolution that would encourage disunity among Arabs.... Any kind of solidarity is enough to remind
Israelis that their country is not free to do whatever it wishes.... A little solidarity would go a long way to
support the Arab cause. Solidarity will
help Arabs face Israeli arrogance, foreign hegemony, and be more competent to
handle international developments."
"A Summit Now"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina declared (3/30): "Before deciding on the location and
date for a new summit, Arab leaders should work on the factors that would
guarantee the success of a summit. Serious negotiations must precede the summit
so that there is at least an agreement among the participants on a cohesive
vision for the future. The leaders must
agree on commonalities and avoid the differences that waste their time, exhaust
their strengths, and ruin any images of dignity. If the American initiative, which no Arab
country has yet seen in its final and official form, has really exhausted the
negotiators, perhaps it would be better if they devoted the time to finding an
Arab reform plan. Having differences is
not a sign of weakness; it just means that there are diverse opinions, which
should be a source of strength. The
issue was not whether we should have reform or not. Different people just had different views on
its timing, strategies, and mechanism.
Diversity should lead to more dialogue and discussions until a resolution
Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum held (3/30): "Arabs should not become frustrated with
the suspension of the Arab Summit, since nothing can block them from dealing
with their concerns. The difficult situation
in the Palestinian territories, the unstable condition in Iraq, and the issue
of internal reform at this critical time, will obligate Arab leaders to set a
new place and time for their next summit. Arab leaders must satisfy their
people, and they are capable of dealing with all crisis and unresolved
"Postpone And Save"
Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad editorialized (3/29): "Postponing the summit in Tunis saved
the dignity of Arabs. Arabs are
incapable of finding a decisive solution for the issues of today such as the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict, the occupation of Iraq, and the continuous threats on Syria. Delaying the summit saved Arabs from
revealing the true depth of their disarray.
The Summit would have had to issue a statement to condemn the killing of
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Such a statement
would have carried no weight at this time."
"The Scene In Tunis"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina declared (3/29): "Another summit might be a solution, but
there are no guarantees. Arabs must
prove that they are seriously willing and ready to enter into the future of a
new political system. This requires critical
assessment of current systems and norms of the new international political
structure. The question that should be
answered is: Are we ready to become part of the future, and not just reminisce
about the past?"
‘Invisible Hand’ Behind The Cancellation Of Arab League Summit"
Top-circulation French-language influential Le Quotidien d’Oran
maintained (3/31): "It is the first
time since its creation in 1945 that the Arab League Summit has been postponed
without the approval from all its member countries. What are the real motivations behind the
cancellation of the Arab League Summit?
And what then compelled the Tunisian president to postpone this Summit? Several Arab political analysts believe that
the ‘invisible hand’ of America may be behind Tunisia’s decision to postpone
the Arab League Summit. This not only
makes Bush and Sharon become the exclusive beneficiaries of this action, but,
for Israel, it is ‘a positive sign illustrating that the Arab world is
constantly changing.’ Maybe the
‘invisible hand’ has done such a good job that Arab leaders will soon turn
their backs on each other, making their uniting cause seem superficial.”
"The Arab League Summit Is A Failure"
Influential French-language El Watan asserted (3/29): "The cowardice and subservience of Arab
leaders have no limit. In order to not
offend their American masters, they decided to postpone the summit scheduled
for March 29-30, in Tunis and to hold it in...Cairo. And yet, there is an emergency. The Arab house is burning. Israel decided to increase the violence in
Gaza and the West Bank by assassinating Hamas leader Sheikh Yassine. In addition, Iraq is being colonized by a
coalition led by the United States. This
organization (the Arab League) is totally obsolete, it serves American
interests more than those of the Arab world.
Now it is time to pose the question: How does Algeria benefit from
belonging to this league? Algerians are
wasting their time in this league that does not even fight for the emancipation
of its own (Arab) people.”
"Inability And Sterility"
Top-circulation Arabic-language El Khabar opined
(3/29): "The postponement of Tunis’
summit demonstrates the inability of Arab leaders to deal with the dangerous
situation in the Arab world. It also
expresses the sterility of their regimes....
Nevertheless, most of these leaders are rushing to please America and
Israel, not in the aim of settling the existing conflicts in the Arab world,
but of ensuring the continuity of their regimes, which are threatened by
democratic reforms (Greater Middle East Initiative).”
"Why Did They Make It Fail?"
Yaser Za'atreh stated in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour
(3/31): "The conference of wasted
dreams, the conference of oppressed people, the conference that was and then
was not. We do not claim that the Arab
people had pinned big hopes on that Arab summit conference, for frustration is
prevalent. However, the Arab people felt
that this conference must take place, even if it was out of courtesy...and even
if it was for show, so as we are belittled in the eyes of the enemies.... Why did they not meet? Who 'shuffled' the game? Who is the mastermind and the saboteur? Why was the truth not told to the people? Who
dictated, was it America or Israel? Yes,
it is the two enemies, America and Israel.
They are the ones capable of directing events and turning things in
their favor. They are not above
anything. After all, the person who
assassinates, arrests, destroys, drops missiles on peaceful people, would it be
beyond him to conspire and cancel a conference for the Arab leaders? Why did the summit conference fail? Were they (the Arab leaders) afraid of embarrassment,
of the repercussions, of facing America?
Whatever the reasons, what happened is shameful, and the proof is
Israel's comment that it is a positive thing, meaning that there is no Arab
consensus on enmity for Israel."
"Why All This Crying Over The Arab Summit?"
Bater Wardam noted in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour
(3/31): "I am baffled by the
reactions of the Arab media outlets and the Arab politicians to Tunis' decision
to postpone the Arab summit. It is a
reaction characterized by much wailing and crying, as if the Arab nation has
lost a one-time historic opportunity to fix everything.... A state of pessimism and sarcasm had
prevailed among Arab politicians and media people prior to the summit. Then suddenly, it switched to all this wailing
and crying and accusing the U.S. of working to abort the summit. If the summit had really reached a level of
posing a threat to the U.S. policy, so much so that Washington would work on
aborting it, then that would be a great thing.
I tend to believe Colin Powell's denial of having exercised pressure on
the summit and it would be in the best interest of America to have the summit
convene, because at the end of the day, it will bring nothing new.... The summit may be held in Cairo and I can
already anticipate what the draft final statement would say. But the Arab summit and the institutional
Arab action were dealt a massive blow that would not be salvaged by Arab
leaders meeting in Cairo or even in Baghdad.
The Arab world is still far from institutional action, and we thank
Tunis for exposing the truth."
"The 'Folkloric Tradition' Of Convening
Urayb Rintawi asserted in center-left,
influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (3/29): "For the past twenty years, the writer
of these lines has had the opportunity to witness a large number of Arab
summits--comprehensive and small-scale ones, ordinary and emergency ones--only
to get a feeling of suffocation towards the folklore of these summits and their
traditions. In addition to the same old
faces at every summit--not only with respect to rulers, but also with respect
to ministers, counselors, and media delegations--there exists a repetitious and
rhetorical address that has no effect on anyone anymore. It neither brings harm nor benefit.... And when the summit fails to provide complete
and comprehensive answers, we--the masters of the Arabic language--as usual,
resort to beautiful prose along the lines that the mere convening of an Arab
summit is a national gain not to be underestimated."
Basem Sakijha contended in center-left,
influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (3/29): "The farce that is trying desperately to
get the audience laughing will not find a place to convene. The landowner does not want it to take place
on his own land, and he has every right to do that. Tunis, which embraced the Arab League when it
temporarily left Egypt, does not want to be the place where the coup de grace
is administered to the horse that never won a race and was always behind. Why would an Arab summit convene when it is
already known that the level of representation would not be summit-level, that
core issues would not be discussed, and that a clear stand followed by a clear
action vis-à-vis the issues that are facing the Arab nation could not be
adopted? It is a summit doomed to fail
even as it opens. The Arab countries
evaded the responsibility by pointing an accusing finger at Tunis because of
its bold decision--typical of the Arab habit of coming up with conspiratorial
explanations. But this will not harm
Tunis, the only country that agreed to embrace the Palestinian resistance when
it was kicked out of Lebanon."
"The Tunisian Event"
Chief Editor Taher Udwan concluded in
independent, mass-appeal Arabic-language Al-Arab Al-Yawm (3/29): "The decision to postpone the summit was
exceptional in the history of Arab summits because it was a unilateral decision
issued by the host country and without any consultation with the Arab leaders. This leads to the conclusion that the Arab
regime, as represented by its highest-ranking institution, namely the summit
institution, has become frail and is collapsing.... The number of those who are crying the demise
of the summit will shrink in number, because what happened is difficult to fix
and because it is conclusive proof that the Arab regimes are on the edge of
collapse and that what history destroyed cannot be fixed."
"Convening The Summit Is A Pan-Arab
Center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour
editorialized (3/29): "We do not
need to list the dangers that would evolve around us if we display our
helplessness in creating a stand vis-à-vis the Israeli measures against the
Palestinian people and against the peace process and vis-à-vis the situation in
Iraq, and even vis-à-vis the reform project that is being planned externally,
or if we come to believe that the Arab League and its pan-Arab programs are
over and done with. We view what
happened in Tunis as merely a passing problem, since the Arabs have become
aware of the need to work towards convening the summit as soon as
KUWAIT: “Amr Moussa,
Dr. Ayed Al-Mana’a wrote in independent Al-Watan
(3/29): “The postponement of the Arab
summit in Tunisia is a clear indication of the failure of the present General
Secretariat, headed by Amr Moussa, in reconciling various Arab appeals on the
necessity of reform of the Arab League.
Moussa must understand that since the escalation in tensions between the
US and the Iraqi regime eighteen months ago, confidence in the Secretary
General has been waning. This is due to
his eagerness to protect the former regime from the U.S. hammer, and his
justification that foreign intervention would create havoc in the region.”
Mohammed Musaed Al-Saleh held in independent Al-Qabas
(3/29): “Disagreements between ministers
or even presidents is quite a healthy phenomenon, which must be
encouraged. It appears that internal
reforms are the reasons behind the problem and the indefinite postponement of
the summit. Usually, leaders who attend
summits inherit their positions, or win elections designed for the nomination
of a sole candidate; therefore they have no intention for reforms. As a result, not holding a summit will not
have any effect, because decisions are just ink on paper.”
“The Limited Options And Not The Complexity Of The Location”
Rafiq Khoury commented in centrist Al-Anwar (4/2): “The question (of holding the Arab Summit) in
the end is not about the place or date but is about the decisions to be
made. America has succeeded, regardless
of its intentions and regardless of opposition to the Greater Middle East
Initiative...in imposing its agenda on all parties: From Europe to the Middle
East. No one can ignore the issue of
reform. Refusing the so-called reform
from the outside cannot continue to be the pretext for abstaining from
introducing internal reforms....
Escaping reform is the last thing Arab regimes can do now.... In the past it would have been possible for
summits to succeed because then the request was to have decisions that did not
have any effective change. But now, the
minimum request is for change.”
“The Official End Of Arabism?"
Nassif Hitti opined in pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (4/1): “If we remember the real atmosphere
surrounding the (Arab) Summit...we would say don’t fret because all events are
ultimately for the better as we hope that this sudden postponement...will wake
up the Arabs and prevent rotational summits that produce routine
decisions.... Not holding the summit
might be a dangerous matter for the future of Arab cooperation and evidence of
the state Arab to Arab relations have reached.... We are before a situation in which not
holding the Summit might be viewed as failure.
But holding the Summit does not necessarily mean success.... What is required is a Summit that would
express Arab anger regarding some issues, but which would also bring about
policies that lay down the basis for dialogue and interaction with
international players that are active and influential on the issues. A Summit whose title is joint enrollment in
international politics that are of importance to the Arabs and not just a
rejection of certain stances.”
“Conflicting State Of Arabs”
Ali Hamadeh observed in moderate anti-Syrian An-Nahar
(4/1): “The Sharm Al-Sheikh meetings
that followed the cancellation of the Arab Summit in Tunis is an effort by the
‘Arabs of the Center’ namely Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to reorganize...the
Arab line after rebellions by Arabs on the sidelines. What is giving small countries more weight
than ever, is that the big countries are being subject to unprecedented
American and internal pressures.... The
three countries of the center are facing a rebellion from the (smaller Arab
countries) that see in direct contact with America compensation for their size...and
historical weight and relation to regional conflicts.... The Americans have become their partner in
maintaining a balance in the face of the Arabs of the Center. Not much time will pass before we see a new
partner come forward through the American door to offer himself as a local
guarantee of the stability of small countries and their balance with big
ones. And we mean by that Israel.”
“Death Of The Arab League”
Munir Al-Khatib concluded in independent Al-Balad
(4/1): “The failure of the Tunis summit
did not come from no where. And it was
surely not a sudden Tunisian decision.
The director might have been Tunis, but the decision was without any
doubt a joint Arab decision. The corpse
was lying before the foreign Ministers, but no one bothered to burry it. The ministers enjoyed toying with it once
under the pretext of reform and once under the excuse of the proposals of
resistance and confrontation.... The
Arab League might have failed in administering Arab differences but announcing
its death and burial today is a real catastrophe, because it is the last
possible hope for Arab cooperation and it remains despite all its disadvantages
the only frame for the institution of Arab summits.”
“Reasons For Canceling The Tunis Summit?!”
Aouni Al-Kaaki remarked in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq (3/29): “Arab regimes have divided into two teams:
one with the U.S. and one against it; however, the majority of the Arab people
are against the U.S. Perhaps this
reality gives an answer, even if it is not satisfactory, about the reasons that
lead to the collapse of the Arab Summit in Tunis, particularly since Arab
leaders have nothing to talk about except the failures they’ve been
encountering on all levels.... What
could the Tunis summit say? Would it
have been able to support the American presence in Iraq for example or would it
have called for the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq?.... Would it have been able to denounce the Bush
Administration’s complete bias towards Israel at the expense of Arab
rights?.... There are great pressures to
stop Arabs from cooperating and collaborating.... So we ask, is the cancellation of this summit
a result of American pressures?.... It
is very important to contain what happened, a summit should be held very
“The Fired And Chased Summit”
Talal Salman maintained in Arab nationalist As-Safir
(3/29): “No, we cannot accept
this...position which was taken by the Tunisian Ruler who dealt with the summit
as if it is one of his administrations....
No one can accept this insult of the Arabs.... We want to confirm that Arabs, as human
beings, did not assume that this summit will achieve miracles...in fact, they
were afraid that it might end up in presenting additional concessions to the
Israeli enemy...however, some thought that it might, at least, try not to give
Sharon a bill of innocence.”
"The 'No Summit' Of The Transparent
Independent Al-Balad editorialized (3/29): “Between the Arab world and the Greater
Middle East Initiative the Arabs reached a ‘no summit.’ Ministers of Foreign Affairs returned empty
handed except for additional problems....
One thing is sure...no reform can take place within Arab States before
there is reconciliation between the Arabs themselves, and no summit can be held
without a real Arab will to hold it....
There is one benefit though, at least this time Sharon will not have the
chance to mock Arab resolutions and decisions."
"Some Summits Are Worthy Of
Postponement--For A While"
The moderate English-language Daily Star
declared (3/29): "The hectic pace
of events around the would-be Arab summit last week culminated Sunday in the
gathering's postponement.... The many
pressing crises and challenges in this region demand action, preferably
collective and firm action. Iraq, Palestine, Sudan, reform, Algeria, the
economy, education, water and other issues cannot wait for a more propitious
climate in which Arab heads of state might actually hold a scheduled meeting,
make some sensible decisions and actually follow through on them.... There is not much difference between an Arab
summit that convenes and one that is postponed. In the end neither results in
any practical action. That may be too
harsh a judgment, but it is also a common one.
There are times when it is better to postpone a meeting rather than to
gather for no measurable purpose. We
will know in the coming days if this was the case here, and why this summit was
postponed. The preparatory meetings in
Tunis revealed major differences among the Arab governments in their attitudes
to American, Arab and European proposals for political reform, and also to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel's
assassination a week ago of the Palestinian leader and Hamas founder Sheikh
Ahmed Yassin somewhat reshuffled priorities and expectations.... The unfortunate corollary is that we have
lost some of the impetus for a common move forward on Arab political, economic
and social reforms.... The differences
that surfaced during the foreign ministers' preparatory meetings were expected
and genuine, and therefore were also a constructive prelude to reaching
agreement on a broad regional reform agenda.
Arab summitry has never been a very good instrument for down to earth
joint action--but it has always offered a useful forum to air differences and
identify convergences in views and goals. This is a moment that desperately
requires minimum agreement on regional challenges."
Abdelmouneim Dilami noted in French-language business-oriented L'Economiste
(3/30): "The Arab world is in total
disarray.... The main argument
paralyzing the Arab world is the American proposal for the Greater Middle East
Initiative to reshape the region. In fact, one of these jokes of history is
that the plan to reshape the Arab world is not facing any open resistance. Arab
governments are divided into two groups; those who immediately caved in and
those who are trying to negotiate their caving in.... The American plan is a real earthquake, a
real declaration of intent to control the region, to reorganize it
ideologically and politically. The first targets are the existing regimes,
which are considered inefficient, even harmful to American interests.... But for the Arabs themselves, what has been
proposed may not be any better than what they already have."
"Why Has Tunisia Cancelled The Arab Summit?"
Mohamed Tazi argued in Istiqlal party-run Arabic-language Al
Alam (3/30): "If it had been
held, the Arab summit participants would have been obliged to take three major,
frank and pragmatic positions to silence Arab and Muslim anger: First,
condemnation of flagrant U.S. intervention in Arab countries' internal affairs
by presenting the Greater Middle East project, which clashes with every
country's special characteristics. Second, calling upon all Arab countries with
relations with Israel to lower the level of those relations and return to
negotiations with the Palestinians for implementing the roadmap. Third,
condemnation of the U.S. veto that killed the Arab resolution at the Security
Council and thus gave Israel the green light for pursuing its terrorism against
the Palestinian people."
"Vital Need To Tighten Arab Lines"
Professor Sedrati maintained in French-language, leading L'Opinion
(3/30): "But, no harm will have
been done if the postponed Summit’s agenda includes the crucial reforms coming
from a source outside the Arab world--is it not judicious to discuss them,
ignoring their origin, and focusing on the gist and the validity of their
contents? Is it by sticking our heads in the sand that we will solve the major
problem of the Arab world’s humiliating marginalization on the chessboard of
world policy, where the Arab world practically has no say?.... In politics, as in everything, there are
important matters and there is what matters most. Presently, it is the unity of
the Arab ranks where the lack is most keenly felt, because it is this breach
splitting Arab ranks that the Zionist enemy exploits, as do all the other
hegemonic powers, to...defeat us one by one, in a state of weakness...and on every
"They Are All Responsible And All Regretful"
Istiqlal party-run Arabic-language Al Alam observed
(3/30): "All Arab foreign ministers
are responsible for the delay of the Arab summit expected to take place
yesterday and today in Tunis.... Although
they are all regretful, they may be relieved to have shirked off strong
external pressure against having the discussions be focused on the daily
repetitive massacres in Iraq and the ugly daily massacres in Palestine, most
recently the shredding of Sheikh Yassin's body by missiles.... They are all responsible and regretful. They
have abandoned the content to discuss the form: Will the summit be held in
Cairo, or in Tunis? We Arabs feel regretful for this delay, although we did not
expect the summit to be successful."
OMAN: "The Challlenge
For Arab Foreign Ministers"
Government-run Arabic-language Oman editorialized
(3/23): "By assassinating Sheikh
Yasin a few days before the Tunis Summit, Israel presented the Arab countries
with a tremendous challenge. The
challenge increased further after the failure of the UNSC to reach a resolution
condemning Israel due to the American veto.
The veto will give the green light to Israel to continue its criminal
operations. Arab foreign ministers are
thus confronted with a complicated situation in which they have heavy
"No Alternative To Joint Arab Action"
Izziddin Darwish observed in government-owned Tishreen
(4/1): "Joint Arab action is the
destiny of Arabs and their only option....
Any observer sees that foreign occupation and intervention in the Arab
region have become so humiliating....
The Greater Middle East Initiative poses grave dangers to Arabs, the
least of is the destruction of pan-Arab ties, separating them from the rest of
the Moslem world, then absorbing them and taking their land and wealth.... Settling the summit issue should not take so
long. The venue is not important; time is what counts.... The summit should rise to the level of
dangers.... It is true that there were
difficulties that blocked the summit, but these differences are not
substantive, rather they are ordinary and inconsequential. They should be
overcome by true will and real effort."
"The Upcoming Summit: A Raised, Not A
Mahdi Dakhllalah, Chief Editor, wrote in
government-owned Al-Ba'th (3/31):
"After the Tunis shock (i.e. the postponement of the summit), Arab
public opinion has raised the level of expectations of Arab demands. If anyone
suggests lowering Arab demands below those of the Beirut Initiative, then he
will be in full confrontation with the Arab street.... Since the Beirut initiative, the situation of
unprecedented escalation in the terrorist mechanisms of the Zionist state, as
well as the occupation of Iraq and proposals circulating in the Arab black
market behind the back of Arabs has become more complicated (i.e. the Greater
Middle East Initiative) has become more complicated."
"Fragmenting The Arab League, An Israeli
Ahmad Hamadeh commented in government-owned Al-Thawra
(3/31): "In the first reaction to
postponing the Arab summit, Israeli officials claimed that 'the Arab world has
started to change,' and that Arab hostility to their Zionist entity is no
longer a common denominator uniting Arabs....
The Israeli entity is delighted when Arab countries fail to carry out
the 'annual summits', and when Arab actions are trapped in a circle of
emergency and Arab resolutions become knee-jerk reactions.... Arab leaders today must support all efforts
to contain what happened in Tunis....
The so-called controversial issues raised at the summit were natural.
Containing them is natural, too. But what is unnatural is to spread the idea of
'substantive differences.' It is unreasonable for Arabs to have differences on
positions such as supporting the Palestinian cause and Iraq and the necessity
of reform and common development."
"A Postponed Summit, The Lesser Of Two
Chief Editor Mahdi Dakhllalah commented in
government-owned Al-Ba'th (3/29):
"Apparently it was too difficult to raise all the issues on the
Arab summit agenda in light of bad regional and international
developments.... The Arab system today
suffers from a double crisis: the pressing issues of development and the
negative impact of international developments, including the concentration of
hegemony and increasing Israeli terrorism....
Heavy pressures might generate more enthusiasm and energy, but
regrettably they might (also) lead towards frustration and retraction.... Adjourning the Arab Foreign Ministers meeting
was less bitter than it would have been to adjourn the summit while in
“The Machrek And The Maghreb?”
Senior editor Hajer Jeridi asserted in independent French-language
Le Temps (4/2): “The issue of the
postponement of the Arab League Summit continues to arouse passionate
debate. Between the supporters and
detractors of the Tunisian decision, we have the impression that there exist
two Arab worlds.... And even if these
two worlds have always existed, perhaps in a less pronounced way, they are now
emerging in strong confrontation.... On
one hand we have the Machrek that claims the genesis of Arab-nationalism and
prides itself on having a historic impact on the whole Arab world. On the other hand, we have the Maghreb--of
which Tunisia is a part--which gives the impression of being more rooted in the
West.... The only similarities that the
Arab countries share are a political and democratic decline that they are going
through, despite their timid attempts to catch up with the rest of the world.
In all other areas, the Arab countries defy categorization. There are those
countries that have a high GDP rate thanks to oil resources, while others are
sinking into underdevelopment, with an increase in the illiteracy rate, and a
handicapping poverty. Other countries, thanks to their focus since independence
on developing education and women’s’ rights, are doing a little bit
better. So who has the right to claim
any kind of leadership among these different kinds of countries? It seems that the ones who are arguing their
historic claim on the Arab nation are the ones responsible for the successive
failures of this region. Leadership
can’t be inherited it should be deserved.”
"Prior Consultations Should Have Been
Rachid Khachana, Editor-in-Chief, held in pro-opposition
Arabic-language Al-Mawkif (3/30):
"It is regrettable that this happened when Arabs should respond to
three major challenges: the killing perpetrated by the Israeli government, the
Iraqi occupation and the reform of the Arab League. Even if the Chiefs of State
could not come up with satisfactory decisions on these three issues, the
holding of the Summit in itself could have, at a minimum, proved that the Arab
World is still alive and able to resist external challenges. I think that prior
consultations with the main countries could have minimized the divergences
mentioned in the statement made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Senior editor Hajer Jeridi remarked in independent French-language
Le Temps (3/30): “The Arab unity
has always been an illusion--only a symbol waved in speeches. The reality is
something else; it is made of disagreements, division and deep
divergences.... Hence, the postponement
of the Tunis Summit is just a revealing illustration of the situation in the
region.... Now the most urgent question
is not where to hold the summit. The essential is rather to respond clearly and
directly to the following questions: What are the tangible and pragmatic
measures that result from such a Summit? How can we rationalize existing rigid
systems, resistant to any change, with an emergency need for reform and
modernization?.... We are currently
facing a status-quo of failure full of lessons to be learned. First, it teaches us the limit of the Arab
League system that shows signs of fatigue.
It reveals that the Arab countries turn their backs to any hope for
modernization and that they are not ready to work together to become
"A Summit That Was Not Attained"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf
News maintained (3/29): "The
"indefinite postponement" of the Arab League summit, due to open
today, is an immense disappointment. There were hopes for progress in reforms
but, in the end, it was the reform proposals that caused disunity and, fearing
disagreement, a deferment by Tunis. This
goes to the very heart of the continued abject failure of the Arab League to
produce solid proposals. While
intentions may be good on the part of some nations, others in the Arab world
will not attend meetings which are not a foregone conclusion and the results
presented to the delegates as a fait accompli.
This is reflected in the Arab League and other regional bodies where
progress is either non-existent or staggeringly slow, thus depriving such
organization of any purpose. It was
hoped that the summit would discuss important points such as a relaunch of a
peace initiative that Israel might agree upon, as well as various human rights
issues and reforms. Reforms were
proposed in a report prepared by the U.S., which has caused consternation in
the Arab world, as many believe that such matters should come from within. Yet, given the opportunity to produce reform
proposals, the Arab world--this time in the guise of the Arab League--falls
before it has even got to the first hurdle.
There is a desperate need for reform in the region; leaders cannot
continue to thwart the ideas presented to them by their citizens. They must lend a sympathetic ear to them,
with a view to their implementation, not rejection. As the youth of the Arab world become more
educated and more aware of the rights that are afforded to them under such
charters as the UN, so the demands will increase volubly if they are ignored.
The leaders owe it to their people to be alert to such demands."
"Symbolizing Weakness And Humiliation"
The English-language pro-government Times of
Yemen held (3/29): "The Arab
Summits...have nowadays turned to symbols of inability and helplessness.
Looking at Arab summits held in the recent past, one would easily find that
every time Arab leaders meet in any Arab city, all they end up with is mere
talk and cries for justice. They condemn
or denounce the occupation of Arab land, while doing nothing to change the
reality.... What more can we expect from
those summits? Perhaps more humiliation
and embarrassment? As a nation, we have
reached the most vulnerable time in our history. It wouldn’t surprise me to see another Arab
nation attacked and occupied without any action by other states because we are
all in a stage of complete stagnation....
On an individual basis, each of the Arab regimes of today do not believe
that their people will stand with them in case of confrontation with the enemy,
whoever that enemy is. This is obvious
because Arab regimes are generally oppressive and still hold a mentality of
dictatorship and total domination and control of the people and the country’s
resources.... This year’s Arab Summit is
expected to be like many others, full of useless talk and denunciations, and
empty of any agreement or real action.
We just hope that those leaders will look into their people’s affairs
and stop wasting money on traveling and spending time in useless meetings that
are concluded with no concrete action."
CHINA (MACAU SAR): "U.S. 'Greater Middle East Plan' Puts
Off The League Of Arab States Summit Indefinitely"
Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked
(3/31): "In early April, U.S.
President Bush put forward the 'Greater Middle East Plan' to promote the
implementation of western-style democracy and capitalism in the Middle
East. The plan was immediately
criticized by many Arab countries.
Egyptian President Mubarak was the first to object.... Many Arab countries supported his
stance. There is a simple reason for the
resistance by the Arab world to the 'Greater Middle East Plan.' The plan affects the fundamental interests of
all Middle Eastern countries. Once the
reform is implemented, the positions of a majority of Middle Eastern leaders
will be threatened.... The democratic
reform issue was on the agenda of the League of Arab States meeting because
Tunisia is under the influence of the U.S.
The Tunisian leader knows that there is no use in compelling others to
do something. Rather than wasting time
holding a meeting about an issue that could not be resolved, Tunisia decided to
call the meeting off. From this angle,
the postponement of the summit is not only a failure of the League of Arab
States but also a failure of the U.S. 'Greater Middle East Plan.'"
"Arab Summit Chaos"
An editorial in Karachi-based center-left
independent national English-language Dawn read (3/31): "The summit cancellation was due to
differences over President George Bush's Greater Middle East Initiative, but
the holding of the conference could have demonstrated Arab unity in the wake of
Sheikh Yassin's murder.... Washington
must see to it that this occupation comes to an end, and the Palestinians have
a sovereign state of their own. Without
addressing this basic issue, Washington should not expect its reform initiative
to make any headway. As a prelude to
this, Washington must pressure Israel to end its reign of terror in occupied
territories and renounce murder as a state policy."
"Arab League Summit"
The centrist national English-language News declared
(3/30): "When the Arab world cannot
even converge and come up with a united stand at this critical juncture--when
the Palestinian issue is threatening to become a matter of life and death for
it, the talk of a Greater Israel and redrawing of the map of the Middle
East. Sadly the much-needed unity, whose
need couldn’t have been more critical today, is missing with the divisions
within the Arab world increasingly becoming pronounced.... Only a united strategy and stand would enable
the Arab world to face this challenge and the sooner they realize this the
better it is for them...and also for us."
KENYA: "Islam, Terror
And Middle East Crisis"
Mohammed Omar Maluki, of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims,
asserted in the independent pro-business Standard (3/31): "Under strong American pressure, the
leaders of the world have pretty much found it easier to forget about
Palestinian rights and from the grand notions of the still unimplemented UNSC
resolutions 242 and 338.... Palestinians
have seen their dispossession and oppression multiply.... The truth of the matter is that Muslims are
fighting themselves in petty issues while our enemies are killing our brothers
in every corner of the world.”