Arab leaders gathered in the Algerian capital on Tuesday for their first summit since a string of normalisation deals with Israel that have divided the region. Since the last Arab League summit in 2019, several members of the 22-member bloc — for decades a forum for strident declarations of support for the Palestinian cause — have normalised ties with the Jewish state. The United Arab Emirates went first in a historic US-mediated deal that made the country the third Arab state, after Egypt and Jordan, to establish full ties with Israel. The UAE’s move sparked similar accords with Bahrain and Morocco — and a provisional agreement with Sudan — deepening Morocco’s decades-old rivalry with its neighbour Algeria. This week’s summit, postponed several times due to the coronavirus pandemic, coincides with elections in Israel that could see hawkish ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu return to power with his far-right allies. Algeria remains a steadfast supporter of the Palestinians, even mediating a reconciliation deal in October between rival factions Fatah and Hamas. While few believe the deal will last, it was seen as a public relations coup for Algeria, which has been seeking more regional clout on the back of its growing status as a gas exporter following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This week’s summit is another opportunity for President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to push that agenda forward, despite high-profile Arab leaders being absent from the summit. He has rolled out the red carpet for his guests, including his Egyptian, Palestinian and Tunisian counterparts Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Mahmud Abbas and Kais Saied respectively, as well as Qatar’s Tamim Ben Hamad Al-Thani. The main roads of Algiers have been decked out with national flags and huge billboards welcoming “brother Arabs”, ahead of a dinner hosted by Tebboune. “Algerian foreign policy has gone on the offensive at the regional, African and Arab levels,” said Geneva-based expert Hasni Abidi. But Algeria has also been unnerved by Morocco’s security and defence cooperation with Israel, adding to decades of mistrust fuelled by a dispute over the Western Sahara. The status of Western Sahara — a former Spanish colony considered a “non-self-governing territory” by the United Nations — has pitted Morocco against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front since the 1970s. In August 2021, Algiers cut diplomatic ties with Rabat alleging “hostile acts”. Participants in the summit face the challenge of formulating a final resolution, which has to be passed unanimously. With conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen also on the agenda, sources say foreign ministers are trying to reach consensus on the wording around Turkish and Iranian “interference” in the region — and whether to mention Ankara and Tehran by name or not. “The paradox of this summit is that it’s being billed as a unifying event, whereas each Arab state actually has its own agenda and goals fitting its interests,” Abidi said.