Understanding the Tensions of the 2022 Arab League Summit
On November 1 and 2, 2022, the 2022 Arab League Summit was held in Algiers, Algeria, where several leaders from across the Arab League met to discuss the current issues in the Arab world and potential solutions to these problems. This was the first Arab League Summit to occur since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and came in the wake of several major world events, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the recent OPEC decision to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day.
The major issue discussed at this year’s Arab League Summit was Palestininian autonomy, and if the Arab League would support the Palestinian’s bid to gain recognition in the United Nations. Not only was this the main topic discussed, but the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general loomed over the event. This is because the current divisiveness in the Arab League that led to many leaders not even coming to the summit is over the issue of some states normalizing relations with Israel. The summit also happened to coincide with the Israeli knesset elections, where Benjamin Netanyahu and the far-right coalition in Israel regained power.
At the summit, leaders avoided the subject of normalization with Israel while reiterating their support for Palestine. There were no final decisions made at the summit regarding new measures to support Palestine, other than a reiteration of supporting an independent Palestinian state, and no formal mention of Israel in any speeches made at the summit.
The other primary issue discussed at the summit was the effects of the food and energy crises caused by the Russia Ukraine war, which particularly affected many Arab countries, such as Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia.
In addition to the food and energy crises, the summit also sought to address the current issues in Somalia, one of the newest members of the Arab League, which is close to a famine brought on by a massive drought in the country.
There were a lot of questions about which leaders would attend the summit, and the attendance at the event itself was a major sign of the divisiveness across the Arab League and the Middle East in 2022, with many leaders refusing to attend the summit either by force or as their country’s personal protest to this divisiveness. Notable absences from the summit were Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Moroccan King Mohammed VI. Mohammed VI’s absence from the summit is no surprise given the strife between Algeria and Morocco since Morocco’s normalization with Israel. Other leaders who missed the summit, largely reflecting the current deep political divisions in the Arab League, were the leader of Bahrain, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, and the leader of the United Arab Emirates, President Mohammed bin Zayed, however, the Emir of Dubai did attend. The Sultan of Oman was not in attendance, but he sent a senior foreign minister.
The leaders in attendance at the Arab League summit in Algiers, Algeria. (Source: Middle East Monitor)
Some leaders who attended the summit were Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Tunisian president Kais Saied, the Emir of Kuwait Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Crown Prince Hussein of Jordan also attended, this being his first Arab League summit, and leaders from Iraq, Somalia, Qatar, and Palestine made appearances.
Earlier in 2022, there was some debate as to whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be in attendance at the summit. Algeria attempted to persuade other members of the Arab League to allow Syria to rejoin the group of Arab nations. Syria was suspended from membership to the Arab League after a series of crackdowns on Arab Spring protests in 2011 that led to the Syrian Civil War. However, Algeria was unable to convince the other Arab nations to allow Syria to regain its membership in the Arab League, so Assad was excluded from attendance to the summit.
The issue of Israel Palestine and the normalization efforts of many Arab states with Israel since the Abraham Accords in 2020, which was the normalization of ties between Israel and four Arab Nations, Morocco, Bahrain, the UAE, and Sudan, played a key role in the political divisiveness of the summit. This is because many states still do not recognize the right for Israel to exist and view the normalization efforts as an affront to the Khartoum Resolution of 1967, which was an agreement among the Arab states to not normalize with Israel in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day war. Algeria, the host of the summit, is one of the most outspoken countries in the Arab League against normalization with Israel, and has cut diplomatic ties with Morocco since the Israeli embassy opened in Morocco’s capital, Rabat in June 2022. Prior to the summit, Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune met with the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and leaders of Hamas. The Israel-Palestine issue was one of a few issues where there was no final decision that came out of the summit, another being the issue of non-Arab states, mainly Turkey and Iran, and their actions in the region, of particular concern to Iraq.
A series of flags for the Arab nations in the Arab League in Algiers, Algeria. (Source: Al Jazeera)
The only two issues that were decided on in the summit was the decision to remain neutral in the Russia-Ukraine War and the League’s unified support on the recent decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce oil production.
The Arab League summit that was supposed to represent “'unity' [has] only emphasized Arab divisions.” The Arab world is extremely divided at its core in 2022, and the League that is meant to hold these countries together will only become more divided if the countries either avoid discussing the important issues at hand or immediately refuse negotiations and diplomatic relations with countries who disagree with them. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still at large, the Russia-Ukraine war is not showing any signs of ending soon, and the debate of Syria’s membership has yet to be resolved. Even more pressing for these countries is the recent wave of protests, starting in 2018, which some scholars are calling the Arab Spring 2.0. The Arab League needs to start showing significantly more unity than they have in recent years and at this most recent Arab League summit, especially if these countries want to avoid the consequences, such as a regime change, of a potential revival of the Arab Spring.