Saturday, July 12, 2008
The French president's project for Mediterranean cooperation has much to do with positioning France next to the US and little to do with Arab interests
By Hassan Nafaa
"........So, I believe it will be quite easy for Sarkozy to sell to the Arabs a French role that stands apart from the American role on the surface only. History teaches us that the French can only play a major part in world affairs if they can operate independently from the Americans. The bipolar order created a window of opportunity for De Gaule to assert a distinct and independent French policy. Such an opportunity does not present itself now, and even if it did one doubts that Sarkozy would seize it in view of how closely he has linked his country with American interests and how committed he is to American and Israeli points of view. Of course, Sarkozy may be driven by his love of the spotlight to do something sensational such as arranging for a "historic" handshake between Olmert and Al-Assad in Paris. But the handshake, if it takes place, will alter nothing on the ground and will only benefit Olmert and Sarkozy.
Arab governments should, therefore, realise that they will be unable to score an achievement of any sort, whether in the negotiating process with Israel or in their relations with governments and regional organisations abroad, unless they put their own house in order, which entails reconciling Palestinian factions first, and then mending other Arab fences. Until they do this in a way that permits Arab governments to act in coordination with each other, no one will take the Arab world seriously. Meanwhile, given the Arabs' current state of fragmentation, Sarkozy will probably be able to sell them his Union for the Mediterranean, which they will grasp only to discover it is a mirage. "