Assad-Arafat enmity blocking Arab summit


LONDON, Feb. 14 (JTA) — Egypt is believed anxious to convene an emergency Arab summit to discuss the faltering peace process.

But a senior Egyptian analyst believes such a meeting is impossible because of the antagonism between Syrian President Hafez Assad and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Ibrahim Nafei, editor of the semiofficial Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, made the call for an emergency summit over the weekend.

Despite all the high hopes that were vested in the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, wrote Nafei, it has come perilously close to torpedoing the peace process.

Apparently reflecting the Egyptian government’s line, Nafei accused Barak of causing a deadlock in the recent negotiations with Syria by refusing to commit to an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

He also said Barak had maneuvered the Palestinians into a negotiating impasse.

Barak’s behavior, Nafei wrote, “is almost tailor-made to anger Arab public opinion and convince it that coexistence with Israel is impossible.”

The Arab world has a duty to rid Barak of the delusion that he can impose his terms with brute force, he wrote, adding, “The first step in doing this is to call for an Arab summit conference.”

But Egyptian analyst Wahid Abdelmeguid believes there is virtually no chance for convening such a summit.

Writing in the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat, he said inter-Arab differences over how to deal with the peace process are now the primary obstacle.

“The Syrian leadership views the Palestinian leadership as though it has become a tool in the hands of Israel and America, while the Palestinian leadership believes that if Syria had found a way of doing a deal with Israel on its own, it would not have waited for anybody.

“Add to this the Iraqi problem,” wrote Abdelmeguid, “and one can say that the convening of an Arab summit is not in the cards for the foreseeable future.”

Recommended from JTA