The loss of another ally

The Arab League Summit reveals the gap between America and the Arab community.

Upon the conclusion of the two-day Arab League Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the leaders of the region not only got a chance to stress the importance of Arab unity, but they conveyed a clear message of hostility toward America.

With the presence of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the summit, Washington had expected an emphatic proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace on behalf of the Arab collective. The summit reaffirmed the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. However, once again the proposal will be refused immediately upon face value because it demands a complete Israeli withdrawal to the armistice lines of 1949 and more importantly, alludes to the right to return Palestinian refugees.

Although the summit reaffirmed the body’s peace offer to Israel, it wasn’t the result Washington wanted. The Arab leaders didn’t feel like further gestures toward Israel were necessary due to Israel’s continued reluctance to take part in substantive negotiations with the Palestinians and the Arab League as a whole. Furthermore, the summit sent a clear message to Americans that the League would no longer put up with the blatant biases defining America’s role in the Middle East situation.

The statements and attitudes of the leaders highlighted the growing disconcert between the United States and the Arab countries. Most apparent were the growing differences between the United States and its greatest Arab ally, Saudi Arabia. Much of this distance can be attributed to the American military involvement in Iraq, which in his summit speech, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia defined as an “illegitimate foreign occupation.” Another remaining cold sore is America’s nonresponsive reaction to Abdullah’s 2002 initiative, which remains for many a valiant and momentous outreach to the Israelis.

If Rice and the United States truly want to make a positive impact in the Middle East peace process, perhaps it is time to start pressuring Israel into meaningful and realistic dialogue. If we continue to focus our pressure on the Arab countries, we will lose our last big ally in the region. Considering the turmoil and hostility that currently defines the Middle East and given America’s direct involvement in the situation, this isn’t a risk worth taking.