Monday, February 08, 2010

THE ARAB LEAGUE'S 'CLEAR THINKING' SECRETARY-GENERAL


Amr Moussa's missed opportunity


Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa must be frustrated having to spend an inordinate amount of time holding together his fractious membership when, plainly, he’d rather be out bashing Israel.

Lately, to keep Libya as the venue for the March 27 Arab League summit, Moussa has had to soothe Lebanese feelings. Lebanon’s Amal Party holds a grudge against Col. Muammar Gaddafi for his suspected involvement in the disappearance of Musa Sadr, a venerated Shi’ite cleric, who went missing more than 30 years ago in Libya.

Still, over the weekend, the secretary-general made time to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo. The Associated Press quoted Moussa as hinting that a renewal of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations could be near, but he pledged that this time the Arabs would not be taken in by “Israeli trickery” – everything would be written down!

Moussa, who has headed the league since 2001, is a former Egyptian foreign minister purported to be popular at home, particularly for his strident anti-Israel line.

Supporters have put his name forth as the ideal man, in the fullness of time, to replace President Hosni Mubarak. Now age 74, Moussa could be presented as an interim rais when Mubarak leaves the scene – someone with international credentials, political savvy, and no ties to the Mukhabarat secret police or Mubarak’s family.

British journalist Patrick Seale, widely respected in the Arab world, wrote a laudatory op-ed about Moussa in the February 5 New York Times. Seale described Moussa as “tough, affable, plain-speaking” if occasionally grumpy.

Seale’s summation of Moussa’s positions, as we read it, is that the secretary-general would prefer that the Security Council impose a solution on Israel; meanwhile, he opposes a resumption of peace talks until there is total Israeli freeze on all construction over the Green Line; he’d like to see Western countries deal more openly with Hamas, and wants Egypt to lift its blockade of Gaza.

Moussa does not favor a nuclear-armed Iran, but his abhorrence of Israel exceeds his fear of the mullahs.

Seale appears disheartened that “For all his courage, clear thinking and prestige, Amr Moussa lies outside the mainstream of international decision-making.”


MOUSSA’S “clear thinking” was again on display at last month’s World Economic Forum in Davos when he warned that if Palestine is not established soon, the league would give up on the two-state solution.

In other words, if the Arabs can’t have their way – on boundaries, refugees, Jerusalem, demilitarization and their adamant refusal to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people – they’ll “have to resort – and soon... to a one-state solution.”

Moussa’s rhetoric feigns support for peace, though the conditions he sets actually return the Arabs to their classic rejection of Jewish sovereignty anywhere in this land.

Indeed, the league was established in 1945 to unify the Arabs against nascent Jewish independence. It rejected the UN partition of Palestine into two states. After failing to strangle Israel at its creation, the league declared a boycott of Israel, created a blacklist, and insisted that companies doing business with Arab states could not also trade with the Jewish state. By the late 1970s, thanks to US efforts and subsequent peace agreements between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians, plus the globalized economy, the league’s boycott lost its steam.

In 2002, with Moussa at the helm, the league adopted a Saudi-inspired peace initiative at its Beirut summit. It essentially asked the Palestinian Arabs to give up claims for citizenship anywhere outside of “Palestine.”

Of Israel it demanded a pullback to the hard-to-defend 1948-1967 Armistice Lines; a redivision of Jerusalem; and allowing millions of Arab refugees and their descendents wishing to return to their former homes in pre-1948 Israel to do so (or be paid compensation).

The initiative is not open to discussion, even though accepting it “as is” essentially requires Israel to commit suicide. If Israel were to agree, however, the league would “consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended.”

ISN’T IT too bad that the Arab League’s paramount envoy to the outside world, the man some say wants to be president of Egypt, could never bring himself to rise above such gamesmenship and help navigate his organization in the direction of genuine reconciliation with Israel?

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