Nabil Amr
Palestinian writer and politician

The Jeddah Summit and the Future Middle East  

For decades, the Middle East brimmed with crises like nowhere else in the world. It was a breeding ground for wars and conflicts and a region that constantly drew external interventions, which were often made under utterly illogical slogans totally removed from reality.

The peoples and countries of the Middle East were split into progressive and reactionary, revolutionary and conservative, and democratic and tyrannical - schisms that engendered military coups, conflicts between countries, and civil wars. As a result, the region squandered its energy and wealth, hindering its growth and turning it into the most backward and violated region on the planet.

The Arabs are the largest of the Middle East’s families. They occupy the most geographical space and are more numerous than any of the others. It is the only one with the components needed to make up a world that shares characteristics and particularities like language, culture, and heritage. Deeper than this, the Arabs have a deep sense of unity; just think of the sentiments of togetherness on display at the World Cup in Qatar.

Some parties and alliances established in our countries have raised the slogan of unity.

However, they concealed their authoritarian agendas beneath these slogans, using them as pretexts for their coups and furthering their personal interests. At no point were the countries of the Arab world more divided and plagued by turmoil than when the slogan of unity was at its height.

In the 1960s, summits emerged as a framework for advancing unity. There, Arab officials would regularly meet, and several experiments with unity, all of which failed, were born through these summits. Modern history attests to the fact that the Arab nation has never fought a war that it did not end up losing it. It never won a war (even then, it would win only marginally) without squandering the victory by failing to translate it politically, thereby adding new schisms and calamitous conflicts.

The previous Arab summits achieved one thing: they preserved what was called the Arab system, whose function was signaling to the world that the Arab unity had a framework and an official institution, the Arab League. However, this framework was symbolic and ineffective. The countries of the Arab world did not benefit from it, the world did not approach it as a viable institution that it could work with, and the Arab peoples did not see it as a body that could credibly resolve intra-Arab disputes.

We recently saw the 32nd summit of the Arab League being held amid exceptional regional and international circumstances. Several parts of the Arab world are in flames, as are other places (though to divergent degrees) in the countries of the Middle East.

A combination of crises, wars, epidemics, and earthquakes came together to weigh on the region and allowed non-Arab countries (Iran, Türkiye, Russia, the US, and Israel) to interfere in Arab affairs. And before the fires of the Middle East could be out, another engulfed Ukraine. The entire planet has suffered and continues to suffer from its immediate repercussions.

The idea that a new world order is taking form has become increasingly widespread since the Ukrainian-Russian war broke out. Indeed, the war has solidified China’s position as a global pole competing with the US after Russia lost that status with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

These regional and global shifts pose a crucial question to the Arabs: What is your place in all of this; what are your options for the future? Where is the Middle East? What status will it occupy, and what will it play in this new world order?

While their final outcomes remain obscure, the developments rapidly unfolding across the globe have carved out enough space to allow for the emergence of a Middle East. It is now capable of launching new projects and occupying a different position in the world. The grip that superpowers have traditionally had over the necks of the Middle East’s states and regimes, which had been dependent on them, has loosened. They now have the chance to assert their independence and shape their policies in accordance with their interests.

This state of affairs diverges sharply from that seen during the Cold War, which polarized the entire world. It is different even to the era of unipolarity and the period in which the Chinese began making inroads as its need for energy and markets grew, and its security of commercial interests ballooned.

Amid the situation we find ourselves in today, there are material reasons to believe that the Arabs and their Middle East have more opportunities to augment their presence, firstly in the region and secondly in the world that needs them more and more every day.

The Jeddah Summit should not be a typical meeting or a copy of the mundane summits that preceded it. Elaborate preparations were made before it was held, with the aim of cooling the hotbeds of conflict in the Arab world and the region. Given these efforts, we must set a new course for the states of the Arab world and the region.

The location in which the summit was held allows for paving this new course. The times demand it, as does our central cause, the “Palestinian” cause, and all the other causes of the Arabs.