Once upon a time, any military confrontation with Israel was a guaranteed way to unite the Arab world.
Not this time. As Operation Cast Lead wears on, it is becoming more glaringly apparent that a second campaign is concomitantly underway among regional neighbors — and the enemy is not Israel.
While protesters on the streets of Lebanon, Jordan, Ramallah, and Cairo are united in the very public outcry against the Israel machine, concurrence among Arab political leaders has been a scarcer commodity. So scarce that calls for an emergency summit to address the Gaza situation has landed Arab world leaders in a stalemate. They can’t agree on how or where to convene.
Instead of presenting its standard unified anti-Israel front, tensions are rising among Arab world leaders as a full throttle blame game gets underway.
On Tuesday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah spread alarm throughout the Arab world by threatening to launch a renewed South Lebanon campaign if Israel launches a ground campaign in Gaza. Two days earlier, the outspoken sheikh had accused Egypt of serving as an accomplice in the “Gaza crime.”
Egypt fired back a day later during a press conference in Ankara, Turkey. Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit asserted, among other things, that Nasrallah is fostering chaos in the region.
Those are fighting words.
The region, says Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies & Diplomacy chair Professor Yoram Meital, falls into three distinct camps in the current climate: political agendas, timing, and history all play a part in who and where the players slot in.
In the first camp: Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, both of whom are coming under increasing fire for perceived complicity in the current Israel campaign and for vocal condemnation of Hamas. For its part, the Egyptian government is being driven by the threat of instability neighboring Hamas-controlled Gaza presents, and the Iranian hand behind it. Press statements by Egyptian government figures openly blamed Iran’s president for Nasrallah’s incitement.