The Mediterranean Union - and its founding sponsor France - have been dealt a severe body blow as Egyptian intransigence has caused the cancellation of a meeting in Lisbon next week of foreign ministers from the 43 member countries comprising the Mediterranean Union.
The reasons given vary.
According to Ha’aretz (27 October) Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, that Egypt would not attend the conference with Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Sources close to the conference organizers said the Egyptian minister was adamant.
“I’m not coming if Lieberman is there,” he told Kouchner. “Forget it. I won’t sit at a table with him, or even be seen in the same room.”A different reason emerges in Y Net (27 October) which reports a meeting having taken place between Israel’s Vice Premier - Silvan Shalom - and Egypt’s Ambassador to Israel - Yasser Reda - when Reda told Shalom:
“At the moment the conditions are not ripe for convening such a conference. They may mature when the talks with Palestinians begin.”Given that Israel is a world leader in programs such as the Mediterranean Solar Plan - a project of the Mediterranean Union to install concentrating solar power in the deserts for the benefits of its members - the cancellation of the meeting in the face of global warming represents a severe set back in world moves to counter the effects of carbon dioxide emissions.
This is the second time in 18 months that France has suffered a serious diplomatic debacle in its efforts to get the Mediterranean Union up and running because of Arab intransigence.
France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy previously was forced to eat humble pie after his ground-breaking plan to establish the Mediterranean Union on 13 July 2008 failed to reach an agreed final communiqué because of the opposition to its wording by the Palestinian Authority (PA) - the only non-state member present.
President Sarkozy’s efforts in bringing Israel and 9 members of the Arab League - including Syria - to that inaugural meeting of the Union promised to introduce a ray of light for Israeli-Arab co-operation and an end to regional turmoil.
The images of President Sarkozy, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Mr Olmert smiling and enjoying a three way hand shake would have encouraged President Sarkozy into believing that he would be able to achieve the diplomatic breakthrough that had eluded President Bush’s Road Map for the previous 5 years.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner however had sounded a word of warning when he bluntly told European News (12 July 2008):
“Being around the same table with people you have fought is the beginning of something, it is the wind of hope. I’m sorry to say that the talks between the Israelis and Palestinians are not part of this wind of hope”Little did Mr Kouchner - or President Sarkozy - imagine that the fundamental disagreements between Israel and the PA would be used by the PA to undermine the grand design of President Sarkozy to bring the nations of the Mediterranean and the European Union together in a new spirit of co-operation and joint venture.
The unfriendly wind Mr Kouchner had felt was shortly to blow away any hopes of an agreed summit position when the PA objected to the wording of the summit declaration.
Why the PA thought it necessary to incur the wrath and displeasure of President Sarkozy by importing the Middle-East conflict into the formation of the Mediterranean Union was puzzling. Quibbling over a few words in an otherwise agreed document remained a mystery - until the PA tried to explain the significance - and insidiousness - of its objection.
PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters according to Xinhua news agency (15 July 2008):
“The Israelis insisted on the inclusion of the words - “state for the Jewish people” - something we are categorically opposed to. It was out of the question for us to accept this wording. We wanted to ensure the final statement was very clear on this point.”The Israeli delegation had a different take on what had happened telling Xinhua that
"Israel was in agreement with everything that has been adopted in the declaration because it was done by consensus”Mr Kouchner was more forthcoming on what had actually occurred to spoil President Sarkozy’s party.
He told Xinhua that the standstill had been caused by the use of the expressions:
“nation state, national state, and democratic state”.This had resulted in:
"a last minute deadlock between the Israelis and the Palestinians which meant that the final text had to undergo some little changes. The use of the expression “national state” implies difficulties in ensuring the return of refugees to the Jewish State or non-Jewish, Palestinian State.”How the PA could ever hope to succeed in getting the Mediterranean Union members to unanimously agree to wording in the summit declaration that would support the entry of millions of Arabs into Israel and deny the Jewish people its own State is unbelievable.
These two non-negotiable demands of the PA have long been the sticking points in ensuring that the creation of a 22nd Arab state between Israel and Jordan will remain incapable of fulfillment.
Now these demands had been brought to France by the PA to embarrass and undermine President Sarkozy’s vision - the establishment of the Mediterranean Union.
The supine French reaction to these untenable and badly mistimed demands was entirely predictable.
President Sarkozy could have told the PA to take a cold shower or to re-apply for membership of the Mediterranean Union when it had received international recognition as the governing authority of a sovereign and democratic state. Alternatively he could have suggested the PA be given observer status at the Mediterranean Union until statehood was achieved.
Mindful that any such action would have provoked an Arab walkout, President Sarkozy bit his tongue and chose the diplomatic path - sending the hapless Mr Kouchner on an appeasement journey to ease the frustration President Sarkozy must have felt at this upstart non-state thwarting mighty France at the very moment of what was to be one of its greatest achievements.
Mr Kouchner was left to tell Xinhua (July 15) :
“At the last moment we failed , perhaps for half an hour, to advance due to one word”That one word was “Jewish”.
It will take more than half an hour and more than one word before these nations are disavowed of their evil intention.
The Arab campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State was once again exposed as it continued in earnest in Paris at the birthplace of the Mediterranean Union.
One Jewish State on this planet remains an anathema to most of the 21 Islamic Arab States as they continue resisting it and calling for its destruction wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.
Mr Kouchner fooled no-one as he bent the French knee in 2008 in deference to this racist alliance that has actively opposed the existence of the Jewish State in its ancient homeland since its establishment 60 years ago.
France’s humiliation again at the hands of Egypt this week serves to remind us that continuing appeasement of the Arabs comes at a great price - in this case the welfare and advancement of all 43 members of the Mediterranean Union - including the Palestinian Authority.
France should insist on the Conference going ahead. To back down is a recipe for disaster and will hold the Mediterranean Union hostage to the demands of any member at any time.