|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
2 - 8 May 2002
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Shifting windsEgypt believes that world powers are not living up to their promises of achieving peace in the Middle East, reports Nevine Khalil
Ahead of the US-led campaign against terror, Arab and Muslim nations were reassured that neither Arabs nor Muslims would be targeted during the campaign, and peacemaking in the Middle East would be the next priority on the world agenda. Taking these words at face value, Arabs and Muslims pledged their support to US campaign, in the belief that this would be the best way to secure stability in the Middle East. However, as the US continues to comb Afghanistan for remaining Qa'eda elements, the winds of the war on terror have changed, and are now blowing towards the shores of Arab and Muslim countries.
Mubarak consulting with Libya's Gaddafi; and the UAE's Sheikh Zayed
photos: Mohamed Abdel-Fattah
Iraq and Iran were described as "evil" by US President George W Bush; for "not doing enough" to destroy the "Palestinian terrorist infrastructure," Palestinian President Yasser Arafat has been holed up in two rooms for more than a month; Syria and Lebanon continue to be maligned by the US, allegedly for supporting organisations accused of terrorist activity; Yemen was ordered to clamp down on Qa'eda members by Washington while Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are asked to "condemn all forms of terrorism," even if it was resistance against occupation.
The disappointment and frustration of Arabs and Muslims at the conduct of the world powers was expressed by President Hosni Mubarak this week. He revealed that the Arab and Muslim countries were promised a swift and just resolution of the Palestinian problem once the US "war against terror" was set in motion. However, Mubarak said, the anti-terror campaign changed tack and is now being used as an excuse to target and attack Arab rights and sovereignty.
Despite US reassurances that Arabs and Muslims are not being targeted and that the 11 September attacks are not seen as a conflict of civilisations, the reality of this campaign has completely contradicted these promises, Mubarak said during his Labour Day speech on Tuesday. Instead of world powers focusing their efforts on resolving the Middle East conflict, the "sudden change in the path of the war against terror... is now threatening the campaign's credibility and Arab and Muslim public support for it," the president warned.
Mubarak stated that world powers "have focused their attention on security aspects, while neglecting the essential role of political negotiations." He believes that this emphasis implies that the Middle East is the new front for the war against terror. The consequence is political gains for Israel at the expense of the Arab and Muslim countries, and the demonising of the legitimate Palestinian right to resist Israeli occupation. This shift has also "given Israel ground and support in refusing to relaunch direct political negotiations with the Palestinians."<> It is Israel that is "terrorising" the Palestinians "through human rights violations and flagrant refusal to heed international calls and UN decisions to withdraw from Palestinian areas," Mubarak said. He believes that Palestinian resistance will continue for as long as Israeli provocation and occupation continue. "In order for the resistance to end, occupation must end," he warned.
A comprehensive political peace plan proposed by the US and world community is what the president wants. He says both sides must be pressured into implement any plan within a specific time frame, and Israel must be forced to go to the negotiating table with due respect for the Palestinian Authority. "This vicious Israeli campaign against the Palestinians must stop immediately, and it is in no way similar or comparable to the US-led campaign against terror in Afghanistan," Mubarak said, adding that "forceful US interference is sure to bring about real political breakthrough."
To influence the world, Mubarak said that the Arab states must put their own houses in order, close ranks and show their clout. He said that the 11 September attacks in the US "caused root changes" in the definition of international, regional and national security. And now, the events in the Palestinian territories "require us to formulate a new framework of joint Arab national security."
"We need to ask ourselves whether we have the necessary resources to influence world powers, and discuss the matter with honesty and openness," Mubarak told his audience. "We have considerable political power when correctly utilised and streamlined; we have viable economic power in the form of investments abroad which can be used to defend our causes and influence policy; and we have advanced and renewable human resources," Mubarak listed. However, he added, that what the Arabs lack is the ability to communicate effectively with the outside world, either because they are too slow or incompetent in influencing world public opinion.
Continuing his efforts to unify Arab ranks, Mubarak travelled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after his Labour Day speech. He met Sheikh Zayed Al- Nahyan to discuss the continued deadlock in the peace process. Earlier in the week, Mubarak went to Tripoli to meet with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and both agreed that the world community had an important role to play in containing Israel and saving the peace process. During 90-minutes of one-on- one talks on Sunday, the two leaders also warned against attempts to revise the principles of the peace process, especially the land-for-peace formula.
And, while it has agreed to a US plan to end the siege of Arafat's Ramallah headquarters, Egyptian officials remain wary of Israel's continued aggressions and incursions. "Everything that leads to ending the unnatural circumstances is important," said Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, "[But] this is not the end of the road, reports Soha Abdel-Aty. There are still Israeli mistakes and crimes being committed until today." The list of "crimes" includes the ongoing siege of the Church of Nativity and blocking the UN fact-finding mission charged with investigating events during the attacks on the Jenin refugee camp. "No one can deny that the US has great leverage over Israel, and when that leverage is exercised, it can lead to positive results," Maher said. So the ball is squarely in America's court, he concluded.
Recommend this page© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved
Letter from the Editor
|WEEKLY ONLINE: www.ahram.org.eg/weekly
Updated every Saturday at 11.00 GMT, 2pm local time