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Arab countries are no longer interested in issuing a strong condemnation of Israel
by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 12:57 PM
The debate over whether to hold an Arab summit, which was proposed this week by Yemen, is far from being resolved. The Yemeni proposal was discussed Tuesday at an Arab League meeting at the level of permanent representatives. Only nine Arab countries (Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon, Palestine, Qatar, Djibouti, Kuwait and Mauritania) gave their initial approval to the proposal. A two-thirds quorum of the 22 Arab states is required to secure the possible convocation of an extraordinary Arab summit.
It was during the Arab foreign ministers' meeting at the Cairo headquarters of the Arab League on Saturday that Yemen decided to propose the convocation of an extraordinary Arab summit to allow for serious decision-making on collective Arab reaction to the Israeli aggression on Gaza and Lebanon.

However, for many Cairo-based Arab diplomats, including those whose countries had given an initial nod of approval to the proposal, there is not much point in holding an Arab summit now. There is wide enough recognition within Arab diplomatic quarters that there is nothing that the summit could present in view of the many disagreements over the real causes and possible consequences of the current situation. Many diplomats speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly on the fringe of and after the ministerial meeting argued that the level of disagreement demonstrated among foreign ministers was already too high.

According to informed sources, neither Syria nor Saudi Arabia seem to be particularly interested in the convocation of the Arab summit at the moment. Syria would not want an Arab summit that does not declare full support for Hizbullah and reaffirms the right of resistance -- an untenable objective at the moment.

For its part, Saudi Arabia does not want to be forced to speak against the role and performance of Hizbullah, which it has been doing for a week, at the level of its monarch.

As for Egypt, according to press statements published yesterday, President Hosni Mubarak said he believed it more pragmatic and effective to hold a limited summit for the countries directly involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 12:58 PM
Egypt dotted the I's and crossed the T's on how far it is willing to support Hamas and Hizbullah

It is no secret to the leaders of either Hamas or Hizbullah that Cairo has for long been impatient with what it perceives as their radical approach in handling relations between Israel on the one hand and Palestine and Lebanon on the other. It is a well-known fact, for Hamas, Hizbullah and many concerned international and regional forces, that Cairo has very little faith in the ability of the resistance groups to conduct any meaningful negotiations with Israel. "It is our firm belief that Arab rights can only be attained through negotiations. We need to get all the parties to sit around the negotiations table," commented a senior Egyptian diplomat.

Speaking to Dina Ezzat as the Israeli assault against Lebanon and Gaza continued unabated, the official attempted to defend what was publicly rejected as a weak Egyptian reaction to the Israeli attacks which have left hundreds killed and wounded and have eliminated the civilian infrastructure in Gaza and Lebanon.

The official argued that the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers by Hamas and Hizbullah might be legal from the point of view of international law that acknowledges the right to take prisoners of war, but it is not so from the point of view of the balance of power on the ground, not to mention "the international political scene that is not at all sympathetic with Hamas or Hizbullah."

According to Egyptian diplomatic sources, Cairo did not need to think twice before adopting the official stance it declared earlier in the week in relation to developments in Gaza and Lebanon. Sources say that Cairo, "at very high levels," was disturbed by the news of the kidnapping of the soldiers and thought it was counterproductive.

On Friday, following their talks in Cairo, President Hosni Mubarak and visiting King Abdullah of Jordan issued a joint statement lamenting the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza but put much blame at the doorstep of Hizbullah and Hamas for the current state of affairs. The statement referred to "uncalculated adventures that do not serve the interests of the region".

by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 12:59 PM
Israel calculated that the conditions were ripe, including the tacit ascent of Arab governments, to take down Hizbullah. So far, it appears vindicated, writes Emad Gad*

On 12 July, Hizbullah launched a combat operation against Israel leading to the death of three Israeli soldiers and the capture of two. In the course of the Israeli pursuit, Hizbullah forces succeeded in destroying an Israeli Mercava tank and killing four soldiers. Following the operation, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah announced his conditions for releasing the two Israeli captives. This would be to release Lebanese and Arab detainees in Israeli prisons, which would be arranged through indirect negotiations via a third party, as occurred with German mediation in the past. From Nasrallah's tone, it was obvious that he was very confident that this is what would happen. Israel might retaliate at first with a couple of raids against Hizbullah locations in Lebanon, but once it vented its anger it would plump for negotiations to secure the release of its soldiers.

Israel did not act as expected. To the Israeli government, the Hizbullah strike was of an entirely different order to the attack on 25 June by a unit comprised of members from three Palestinian resistance factions (Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committee and the Army of Islam) against Israeli military locations near Karem Abu Salem passage, leading to the death of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of a third. Whereas this took place in the context of an open military engagement, the Hizbullah strike, from the Israeli point of view, was an unprovoked attack by a foreign power on Israeli territory.

In addition to the blow to the prestige of the Israeli army, a number of factors contributed to the Israeli decision to launch a full-scale war with the aim of changing the political and military equation along its northern border with Lebanon. One was the position of the less than three-month-old Israeli government. Prime Minister Olmert, who initially stepped into the post as the result of Sharon's sudden stroke, has no military expertise and is not a particularly charismatic leader. His minister of defence, Amir Peretz, a civilian who had set his sights on the Ministry of Finance but was handed this portfolio instead, is equally bereft of military expertise. Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, by contrast, is a career military man and a reputed risk- taker. As none of these figures could politically afford to look weak in the face of repeated raids to capture Israeli soldiers -- especially from inside Israeli territory -- a strong and decisive response was in order.

The situations inside Lebanon, in the Arab world and internationally helped Israeli leaders make up their minds. Inside Lebanon the question of disarming Hizbullah had come up on the negotiating agenda and Hizbullah was evading it. Lebanese society, according to the Israeli reading, was strongly divided over the issue and, therefore, would not stand unified behind Hizbullah in the event of a showdown between it and Israel.