Mideast peace efforts focus of Sisi’s Amman visit
CAIRO - With Egypt, Jordan and Gulf countries preparing to be part of the US-proposed Middle East Strategic Alliance, this is the time for Arab states to pressure Tel Aviv and Washington to accept a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, analysts said.
“This is the right moment for action in this regard with Washington working hard to hammer out the new bloc,” said Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University. “Arab countries can finally get a satisfactory deal with the Americans and the Israelis if they can put enough pressure on them in return for being part of the new alliance.”
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict featured highly in talks between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordanian King Abdullah II January 13 in Amman. The two Arab leaders underscored the need to resume peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis on the basis of the two-state solution, the Egyptian presidency said.
The talks should conclude with a fair and comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, one that protects the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and allows it to establish its state within the June 4, 1967, borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, Egyptian presidential spokesman Bassam Radi said.
Sisi’s visit to Amman was shortly after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrapped up a trip to Cairo, which was part of a tour that also took him to several other Middle East capitals.
At the heart of Pompeo’s talks with Arab leaders was US President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw from Syria and hand over greater regional responsibility to the Middle East Strategic Alliance.
In Cairo, Pompeo said the Trump administration would press for a real and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. However, the US administration, analysts said, would not consider a fair settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict a priority, unless the Arabs pressed very strongly to ensure that.
“The Arabs are running out of options, especially after the United States took the decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem in May last year,” said Taha al-Khateeb, a Palestinian political analyst in Cairo. “The United States cares little about the Palestinians, which is why this is a good time to bring Palestinian rights back on the table.”
The issue might be part of the agenda of an Arab summit in March in Tunis.
Iran’s destabilising role in the region is expected to be part of the agenda of the meeting, with Cairo taking measures to demonstrate its willingness to play a bigger role in the region.
Last November, western Egypt was the venue of unprecedented military drills in which troops from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan participated.
The drills, which involved all military branches of the participating countries, were believed to be a step on the road of forming a NATO-like Arab force that could deter Iran’s intervention in regional affairs.
Iran, which has a physical and military presence in four Arab countries — Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon — has become the nemesis of many Arab states, part of a conflict that includes sectarian, political and economic interests.
Arab countries on the front line against Iran, analysts said, might have objections to the US pullout from Syria and Washington possibly playing a smaller role in countering Tehran. At the same time, the formation of the new alliance allows for greater regional cooperation, strengthening the Arab bloc not just against Tehran but also its negotiating position with Israel and the United States
“True, the planned alliance will serve the best interests of Arab countries but this alliance serves Israel’s interests, too,” said Tarek Fahmi, a political science professor at Cairo University. “This is why this alliance should be part of a package for ending regional problems, including the inability of the Palestinians to establish their own state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”