Calling All Arab Leaguers

The Arab League summit kicks off in Libya today, so that means it’s go time for a U.S. administration attempting to get Arab states on board with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The hope is that the Palestinians can be convinced to not walk out on the talks even though Israel let a moratorium on settlement construction to expire (something PA President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said would be a deal breaker). If the Arab League supported the talks, Abbas would potentially have enough political cover to engage with Israel without an extension of the settlement freeze. Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and envoy George Mitchell have been on the phone this week with various Arab leaders. Clinton spoke to Abbas yesterday, and Mitchell and his team have spoken to officials in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Oman and Kuwait.

Some headway may have been made already. Yesterday, the Palestinians said that they would accept a U.S. proposal that Israel freeze settlement construction for two months. Israel meanwhile has admitted that Washington has been offering “incentives” to entice the country to extend the moratorium. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also seems to be taking steps at home to satisfy hard-liners, perhaps in preparation for having to extend the freeze, like agreeing to a loyalty oath to go along with citizenship applications.

A lawsuit against Defense Secretary Robert Gates was made public yesterday. In the suit, a former Guantanamo detainee accuses Gates and other officials under both President Bush and President Obama of being responsible for “the human rights violations he has suffered.”

And yesterday in Washington, Secretary Clinton and Cherie Blair, wife of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, launched an initiative to provide mobile phones to women in third world countries. The program is called mWomen and aims to bridge the gender technology divide in order to empower women. About 300 million more men in third world countries have cellphones than women.