The Arab League can't keep up

The Arab League is senescent and unable to keep up with events, writes an Arabic-language columnist. Other subects today; a new phase in the Arab-Israeli struggle; the quest for Qaddafi, and the Syrian regime's state of denial.

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Arab League is out of step with Arab Spring

"The Arab League has grown way too old," Mohammed Al Rumaihi, a columnist with the pan-Arab Asharq Al Awsat newspaper, commented yesterday. "It is over 65 and running out of breath, hopelessly trying to catch up with so many developments.

"If developments at hand are colossal, the Arab League's approach to them is bureaucratic, hesitant and inconclusive."

Using double standards in dealing with Arab states is the latest manifestation of the pan-Arab body's ineffectuality, the writer went on.

Consider its handling of the Libyan uprising, on the one hand, and the Syrian protests on the other.

The same Arab League that was relatively quick to suspend the membership of Col Muammar Qaddafi's Libya, because the regime was killing civilians, is failing to take any measure against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's regime, which is doing the same.

On Saturday, a diffident statement from the pan-Arab institution fell short of representing the feelings of the Syrian people and many other Arabs. "What might have turned out so badly last Saturday if the [Arab foreign ministers] had issued a strong statement condemning the killing of innocents in Syrian towns and villages?"

It is high time the Arab League replaced its "hollow rhetoric" with some substance.

Palestinian-Israeli struggle, with a twist

Middle East observers agree that the Arab-Israeli struggle is entering a new phase. But the whole picture is still blurry, wrote Ahmed Youssef Ahmed, director of the Cairo-based Arab Research and Study Institute, in the opinion pages of the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad.

Two main developments give substance to this forecast. First is the spectacular political changes happening in two of Israel's key Arab neighbours, Egypt and Syria. Second is the Palestinian Authority's stated intention to file a motion with the UN General Assembly this September, demanding full recognition of statehood based on the 1967 borders with Israel.

The PA's move, even if it achieves success, will only yield symbolic results for now. "In other words, Israel will still maintain effective control over the Palestinian occupied territories," the writer said.

"But at least the conflict between the two parties will be rewound to the pre-Oslo Accords stage (1993), and with a twist. This time, Israel will move from being a country claiming to have liberated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from Arab occupation (the argument being that these two territories are part of the land of Israel) to being a country that is effectively occupying another country's territories and usurping its sovereignty."

This is what irks Israelis about the PA's bid for statehood.

Too early to declare victory in Libya

After the Libyan rebels entered Col Muammar Qaddafi's Al Aziziyya compound in Tripoli there was growing speculation about the deposed leader's whereabouts, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi noted in its editorial on Monday.

The speculation was fuelled more recently by the Algerian authorities' confirmation that Col Qaddafi's wife and three of his children were on Algerian soil.

If Col Qaddafi and his combatant sons have indeed decided to stay in Libya, the only thing that would justify such a decision would be that they have decided to "fight to the end", as they have vowed before, the editorial said. The chairman of the Libyan Transitional National Council seemed to be wary of this probable outcome when he said at a Doha conference this week that Qaddafi still poses "a threat to Libya and to the world".

Indeed, the presence of Col Qaddafi on Libyan soil is a destabilising factor, the newspaper said.

"The man said he will stay in Libya and will fight to the death … His warnings must be taken seriously because his past record bears proof of how obstinate and vindictive he can be."

Besides loyalists who continue to fight on his side in Sirte and Sabha, Col Qaddafi still has the proverbial nerve of war: money. And money can make a guerrilla war last a long time.

Syrian regime suffers from chronic denial

A regime like Bashar Al Assad's in Syria cannot reform itself, because doing that would spell the end of it, according to columnist Ilyas Harfoush in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

In the beginning, the Syrian leadership was in complete denial, as if the protests for reform were not even happening. Then it started to consider protesters as foreign "vermin".

And when European pressure increased with the rising death toll of Syrian civilians, Syria's foreign minister said his country would no longer consider Europe to exist on the map.

"Yet there were more vermin on the streets, and Europe is still a continent on the planet," the writer said.

This week, it was time to deny something else: the statement of the Arab foreign ministers, which called for "the exercise of reason before it is too late".

The Syrian leadership decided to deal with this even-handed statement, issued under the umbrella of the Arab League, "as if it had never come out".

That was the official Syrian response.

"This policy of self-blindfolding … will no longer fly," the writer noted, "especially now that the regime is running out of narratives about 'armed groups' and promises for reforms."

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi