The EU is Showing its First
Cracks. Could the Arab League Be Next?
By Moshe Arens
June 27, 2016
The European Union, once acclaimed
as the triumph of reason over nationalist sentiment, is showing its first crack.
Britain, its second most important member, is leaving. Will there be a domino
effect, with others following? The inability of the EU to develop a common
policy regarding the flood of Middle Eastern refugees to Europe seems to be an
indication of weakness when it comes to dealing with really tough issues. The
refugee problem may have given the edge in the referendum to those in Britain
who advocated leaving the EU and will, no doubt, continue to open fissures in
the EU in the months to come.
On balance the EU has been a
success in dealing with economic problems, but when dealing with political
problems its record is far from perfect. There is a feeling in Europe that the
EU bureaucrats in Brussels have over the years assumed prerogatives on political
matters that rightly belong to the democratically elected leaders of the EU
member nations, and the results have not all been good. An example is the
confrontation that has developed in recent years between the EU and Russia.
Brussels kept pushing the EU eastward, with NATO following, without considering
Russia’s sensibilities and fears. When they reached Ukraine, which Vladimir
Putin considers Russia’s backyard, the Brussels bureaucrats had dragged the EU
too far, and an inevitable Russian reaction ensued. The EU, rather than being a
force that relieved tensions, created unprecedented tension in Europe by
initiating economic warfare against Russia.
In dealing with the Middle East
the EU’s record is even worse. The mass killings there these past few years
have brought about the flood of refugees that is the cause of the current crisis
in Europe. And yet the EU has simply ignored the massacres in Syria, the
fighting in Libya and Yemen, the rise of the Islamic State organization and the
human tragedy of the people living in the area. It has, on the other hand,
repeatedly focused attention on Israel, the region’s sole democracy and only
anchor of stability. Doing little to alleviate the Palestinian refugee problem,
the EU obsessively criticizes Israel for not following its preferred
“solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The latest example of the
EU’s approach to the Middle East was providing Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas with an opportunity to address the European Parliament. There he accused
rabbis of calling for the poisoning of the Palestinians’ drinking water and
insisted that worldwide terrorism would be eradicated if only Israel withdrew
from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. These statements were greeted by
enthusiastic applause by European parliamentarians.
It looks like the European Union
is going to be around for a while despite Britain’s decision to leave. Another
international organization, the Arab League, which never achieved the same
degree of coordination and integration among its member states as the EU did
among its member states, is defunct, in practice existing almost in name only.
The anarchy that has seized Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen has left little to
coordinate, and the Sunni-Shi’ite divide might prevent the Arab League’s
revival in the foreseeable future. And yet the opposition in Israel clings to
the idea that this phantom organization actually exists and that the so-called
Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 — a 10-sentence proposal calling for full
withdrawal from the “occupied territories” (including the Golan Heights and
East Jerusalem) and a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee problem
based on UN Resolution 194, in return for normalization between the Arab region
and Israel — should be taken seriously by the Israeli government.
Of greater relevance at this time
is Israel’s ongoing security coordination with Egypt and with Jordan, and
presumably also with Saudi Arabia, based on the perceived assistance Israel can
contribute to bolstering the ruling regimes in these countries. But these
regimes care little for the Palestinians and have almost no influence on them.
Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is hardly their first priority.