Some Arab leaders are attempting to capitalize on the rage generated by Israel's attack on the Iraqi reactor earlier this month to overcome the host of inter-Arab feuds and galvanize the Arab world into a new united effort to confront Israel.
Those efforts have been blunted, according to Arab and Western analysts here, by the strong U.S.-supported condemnation of Israel by the United Nations Security Council Friday.
Nonetheless, the Israeli action has given new impetus to the Arab drive and called into serious question the future of the American-backed process for a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arabs.
Arab leaders from all ends of the political spectrum are calling for some joint, Arab retaliation, primarily against the United States for providing the warplanes that made the Israeli raid possible. And even Washington's closet allies in the Arab world are questioning the likelihood of really ever making peace with Israel.
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who took a bold gamble in becoming the first Arab leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel, now says the raid dealt a "bitter blow" to his strategy.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud Faisal, has warned that the Israeli ction will have a "tremendous impact" on the peace process.
"It is not Israel that has to be secure," he said in a recent interview on American televison. "It is the Arab countries that have to feel more secure if they are to maintain their thrust toward a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian problem."
Newspapers and political commentators throughout the Arab world are portraying the Israeli raid -- which was in the Arab viewpoint unprovoked -- as a turning point in Arab-Israeli relations. They are comparing it to the worst Arab defeats suffered in various wars with Israel and the "catastrophe" of Egypt making peace with Israel. Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat has been melting with other Arab leaders to try to reconcile feuds and promote an Arab summit.
"We are on the verge of a new era in the Middle East," said one Palestinian official in an interview here. "It's a new era in the sense that Israel has gone much further than just protecting its own security to the point where it wants to have its say in all things going on in the Middle East."
The official, who had just seen Arafat after his trip to Morocco, said even King Hassan II, a close U.S. ally, was shaken.
"Not a single Arab leader is sleeping peacefully these days," he said. "The question is how much more the Arabs can take of this."
Yet, for all the humiliation, anger and exhortation to renewed Arab unity, there is scant evidence that most Arab leaders are about to set aside their multiple feuds and join hands in a new militant front against Israel.
There are reports that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and King Hassan have tried to set the example by making up and renewing diplomatic relations. Qaddafi has also announced his readiness to make peace with Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan with which he has been at odds most recently over the Iraqi-Iranian war. Qaddafi went against most other Arab interests and supported Tehran.
Qaddafi's chief assistant, Maj. Abdel Salam Jalloud, arrived in Baghdad today carrying a message for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as part of the Libyan campaign to close Arab ranks. He has already visited Damascus, Syria, and Amman, Jordan.
PLO chief Arafat and Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, are reported here to be trying to mediate a longstanding personal fued between Saddam Hussein of Iraq and President Hafex Assad of Syria, who are leaders of rival wings of the Baath Socialist Party.
The Iraqi stand and the U.N. resolution, reportedly the strongest ever backed by Washington against Israel, appear to have taken the wind out of the sails of those seeking to get the Arab world to take a more militant, unified stand against Israel and the United States.
"Judging by initial Arab reaction," the respected Beirut-based Middle East Reporter said, "the news of the [Iraqi-American] compromise was like pouring cold water on the Arabs. All talk of a U.S.-Arab confrontation appeared to have fizzled out.