Americans who are not entirely familiar with the abundant activities of the League of Arab States, more informally termed the "Arab League" by western media, consider it to be principally a forum for Arab nations and are perplexed with the League's performance. Actions and policies are usually constrained by disputes between the represented states and confused by accommodating the various viewpoints in the Arab nations. One example is the League's reaction to the attack on Gaza, which seemed chaotic.
At a recent meeting in Doha, Qatar, the League was unable to achieve a quorum and lacked participation from two key states -- Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The League of Arab States is usually unanimous in acknowledging the importance of providing solutions to the never-ending crises, but often cannot agree on the most suitable methods to resolve them.
Regardless of the faults and impotence of the Arab League, its Secretary General, Amr Moussa, demonstrated he is not the problem. Amr Moussa conducted himself with aplomb and intelligence in an on-the-record interview at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Wednesday, February 25. David Ignatius, associate editor of the Washington Post, who still showed signs of slight ego bruises after his encounter with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Davos conference, conducted the interview.
Most politicians say only what they want to say -- no matter the question. Amr Moussa said what he could say, and he had much to say. Naturally, much to his chagrin, questions focused on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. On that subject Amr Moussa spoke frankly.In a scathing rebuke to the Bush administration, he stated that the conflict "needs an honest broker, which it hasn't had in several years." Present Middle East envoy George Mitchell received plaudits as a "personification of an honest broker."
The dispute between Hamas and Fatah received a positive spin. "Hamas and Fatah talk with each other when alone. They know they both will lose if their strife continues," Amr Moussa said. Hamas is not as intransigent as supposed. Hamas will accept two states, and has stated publicly it accepts the notion of a two-state solution. Amr Moussa's crushing comment was -- "But why is Hamas the only consideration? Why keep asking Arab groups about acceptance? After all, Israel has never shown it will accept a two-state solution."
The Secretary-General countered the constant chatter of having to reinvent the wheel for finding Middle East peace. "There was never any wheel. Annapolis failed and we don't have to start again. One problem is that the map changes each day because of the settlements. The negotiations produced exactly nothing."
Amr Moussa then recited a conversation with Palestine Authority President Mohammad Abbas, who told him that talks with Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were only words. "Olmert refused to reduce anything to writing," Abbas said. Amr Moussa's conclusion is that "we are not ready for a similar peace process and should not give Israel time to continually proceed with settlements. The Palestinians have had proposals for everything. We should ask Israel if it is willing to accept those proposals. But the simple fact is that Israel does not want a Palestinian state or peace."
A calm Amr Moussa mentioned one his more frustrating experiences. The Arab League went to the international Court of Justice (ICJ) and had unanimous opinions that the Separation Wall is illegal and the settlements violate UN covenants. Nevertheless, "despite UN Assembly votes of 160-2 contradicting Israel's constructions, nothing has been done to halt them. Israel feels it has immunity against International law."