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Mr. Biden, the destination is Ankara, not Cairo

From his first days in office, President Barack Obama has sought to reassure the Muslim world that the “change doctrine” he brought to the White House supports issues concerning the Arabs, particularly that of the Palestinians. Sadly, it looks as if American “interests” which are sponsored by influential groups have overcome Obama’s early goodwill and managed to bring his “change” agenda to a grinding halt.

Obama’s Vice-President, Joseph Biden, has just been to Cairo on a visit that did not appear on his schedule until after the Israeli assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla; any sense that this was a goodwill visit can, therefore, be ruled out. Mr. Biden made a series of statements that were essentially at odds with Obama’s hints of “change” but were well in line with America’s seemingly everlasting alliance with Israel.

One of the objectives of Mr. Biden’s visit to Cairo was to do something about the repercussions of the Israeli attack on an aid convoy in international waters. His mission was to “consult closely with Egypt and other partners, and discuss new plans to deal with the humanitarian, economic, political and security situation in Gaza”.


However, are we expected to believe that Biden’s visit was to do something positive for besieged Gaza after nearly four years of a blockade endorsed by Washington, and when his boss has done little to ease the suffering during the eighteen months that he has been in the White House? Why did Joe Biden not head to Ankara, the capital of the country whose ships were attacked so brutally by Israel last week?

What has alarmed the United States and Israel is that Turkish anger is not the kind that is likely to fade quickly. There is a realisation that Turkey’s rift with Israel has been growing since the Jewish state’s invasion of Gaza last year.

The world is now more receptive to the dismantling of the blockade of Gaza, thanks in no part to the steadfastness of the Palestinian people. An unintended consequence, for sure, of Israel’s attack last week is that it has created a new momentum around the world to break the blockade. Gaza is back on the agenda. Turkey has a clear vision about this and is moving forward with its plans. Therein lies danger for Israel and the US, because if Turkey is successful there will be little of benefit for the Israelis; it will be the people of Gaza who reap the reward of Israel’s murderous hijacking of humanitarian aid.

It looks as if Mr. Biden went to Cairo in part to dictate to the Egyptians the features of the containment plan in the wake of the attack, in coordination with the Israelis and with the cooperation of their “Arab partners”. Aiming to “alleviate the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza” without easing the pressure on Hamas, Biden hopes to be able to deny all of the resistance factions in Gaza any boost in popularity.

What is absent in all of this is the lack of any meaningful action by the Arab regimes. There is no interaction with this new Turkish “revolution” and no attempt to reach out to Turkey’s leadership despite this being an ideal time to work together to achieve a resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The international climate is at its best for such a solution but opportunities are being missed.

Little of note has been heard from the Arab states, barring a visit by the presidents of Qatar and Syria to Turkey; and a statement from Gaddafi blaming the US for the attack. The Arab League has been virtually silent. There was a hope that the Arab regimes might come up with initiatives to maximize the opportunity to develop European and Malaysian plans to break the siege of Gaza. Even Egypt’s decision to open the Rafah crossing for people only, no goods, looks like a public relations exercise given that the construction of the steel wall carries on apace. An analyst at the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, Emad Gad, said, “Frankly, I believe that Egypt understands the Israeli point of view on this aspect, which made Egypt criticize the Israeli action but fall short of recalling the Egyptian ambassador from Tel Aviv. The government declined to press criticism of the attack on the flotilla in case some of the activists turned out to be close to Hamas.”

In short, the Arab states have done nothing beyond verbal condemnations, remaining weak in terms of concrete initiatives and decisive actions, the very things that the Palestinians need most.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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