RIYADH, March 25, 2009 – Saudi King Abdullah called for Arab and Palestinian unity in the face of Israeli “aggression” as he opened the new session of the kingdom’s Shura (consultative) Council on Tuesday.
Speaking a week before an Arab League summit in Qatar, Abdullah told the 150-member appointed body that differences among Arab and Islamic countries had been exploited by Israel and contributed to a “dark atmosphere” in the region.
But he added that the deep rift between Palestinian factions was even more serious than Israeli policy as a challenge to Arab unity.
“The challenges that face your nation, at the domestic level and the level of Arab and Islamic nations require twice as much responsibility in countering them as they emerge one after another, including Israeli aggression that creates mischief in the land,” he said.
Particularly concerning was “the Palestinian dispute between brothers which is more serious in jeopardising our just cause than Israeli aggression,” the king said, also pointing to “Arab and Islamic differences that thrill the foe and pain friends.”
Israel’s deadly 22-day onslaught against the Gaza Strip at the turn of the year deepened the rift between the territory’s Hamas rulers and Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
It also created a split in the Arab world between governments like Qatar and Syria which voiced support for Hamas, and Saudi Arabia and Egypt which sided firmly with Abbas.
The Saudis have since pushed hard for Arab reconciliation, hosting the leaders of Syria, Egypt and Kuwait for a March 11 mini-summit in a bid to settle differences ahead of the Arab summit set for March 29 and 30.
The kingdom has also called repeatedly for the Islamists of Hamas to mend fences with the Palestinian leadership.