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Arab Lip Service to Palestine

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One of the most telling signs that the Arab Spring has lost its reform steam appeared clearly in the latest meeting of Arab leaders in Kuwait. The Arab League's now annual summit witnessed a parade of Arab leaders agreeing unanimously on their support for Palestine.

This lip service has in part delayed any resolution because it gave the Palestinians false hope that they have an Arab nation behind them.

The support for Palestine is a form of escapism, of avoiding dealing with the daunting challenges in each country.

This is not to say that the words and commitments made in Kuwait at the latest Arab summit are totally dishonest. Arab leaders know that the injustice to the people of Palestine has become the hallmark of international acts of solidarity that have changed from support to boycott, divestment and sanctions.

But the problem with this lip service to Palestine is that it does not reflect a genuine policy and is not part of a serious Arab strategy to right the wrong that has become the fate of Palestinians.

Palestinians cannot count on fellow Arabs to provide them with the financial support that would allow Palestinian negotiators to reject unfair political plans conditioned by cutting Western aide. The Palestinian economy is allowed to survive in large part due to support from Europe and the U.S., much more so than from Arab countries.

This is not to say that Arabs have not provided any financial support to Palestine. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did refer to the support from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar in his opening remarks.

The problem has been that the actual money being deposited in the Palestinian coffers is so much lower than the public pledges that are made at various public forums such as the Arab summit.

Naturally, the Palestinian issue is not dependent solely on financial support. What Palestinians need more than anything is political support that can counter the one-sided policies of Western countries, especially the US.

Washington insiders regularly talk about the pressures they face from the pro-Israel lobby, but rarely is the power of the 350 million Arabs, the producers of the world's biggest oil exports, given serious consideration.

A look at U.S. foreign actions (not words), and the continuous political, military and financial support that Israel gets from the US, the UK and others show clearly how this Arab support to Palestine is nothing more than lip service.

What Palestinians would truly like to see is that the Arab world puts its house in order. Empowering the Arab peoples and allowing them to share the political power is the best gift Arabs can give to Palestine.

A truly democratic and free Arab world will ensure that the will of the people, and not the words of their leaders, prevails in all policies.

If and when genuine reform takes place in the Arab countries, Palestinians are certain that this will eventually translate into genuine, serious and strategic support for Palestine.

Internal problems in the Arab region have made concepts such as Arab unity or Arab solidarity so elusive that the idea of supporting Palestine is the safe and unanimous choice of all leaders.

At their Beirut Arab Summitof 2002, the Arab leaders came up with a historic peace initiative that bridges the political gap between Arabs and Israel.

The plan was later adopted by the Organisation of Islamic Conference.

What Arab and a majority of Muslim countries offered to Israel was full recognition and normalisation of relations with 57 countries in return for Israel's withdrawal from Arab lands occupied in 1967 and an agreement to solve the Palestinian refugee problem.

This generous offer was received with apathy and indifference by Israel. No serious Arab effort was done to follow up on this offer. Arab and Muslim leaders left Palestinians to negotiate their own deal with Israel, a situation that is totally disadvantageous to Palestinians.

Verbal support that is given to Palestinians is worthless if it is not followed up by actions on all fronts.

Palestinians do not want their just cause used by leaders who are escaping their internal problems by giving Palestinians this useless lip service.

The coming days will show whether the public solidarity with Palestine is serious. Most Palestinians will not hold their breath.