The 27th Arab League summit just ended in Nouakchott and the final statement reflected a far smaller focus on the Palestinian issue than in years past.
As summarized at the conference website, “The Declaration emphasized the centrality of the Palestinian issue in the joint Arab action. In this regard, the Arab leaders commended, in their declaration, the recent Egyptian efforts to push the peace process and welcomed the French Initiative that calls for the convening of an international peace conference.” The specific statement mentioned “supporting the Palestinian people’s steadfastness in the face of systematic Israeli aggression” and called on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines with the West Bank, Syria and Lebanon and an end to settlement activity in the context of an international conference.
What is more interesting is what was not said.
Comparing this year’s statement with the 2012 Arab League statement in Baghdad, the differences in emphasis are striking. The 2012 conference included six paragraphs dedicated to the Palestinian issue, including condemning “continuous Israeli aggression on them, their lands, sacred places, and heritage…and the continuation of Israeli settlement activities,” “reaching a just and agreed-upon solution for the problem of Palestinian refugees including the Right of Return”,”expressing our solidarity with the prisoners detained in the jails of the Israeli occupation” and calling for an international conference to release them.
Earlier summits included other resolutions that have disappeared over time, such as supporting the Palestinian Authority, lifting the blockade on Gaza, calling on the UN to send observers to “protect” the Palestinians.
In short, previous Arab League conferences rubber stamped whatever the PLO told them to say. This year those demands were largely ignored. Nothing about prisoners, nothing about “Right of Return,” nothing about protecting holy places from supposed Israeli aggression, nothing about the “blockade” of Gaza. Asserting the “centrality” of the Palestinian issue is understood to be window dressing for the fact that the issue has gone way down in the priorities of the Arab world.
These omissions are a stunning loss of prestige for the Palestinian Arab leadership.
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