Portuguese / Spanish / English

Running out of options

Israel's inability to crush the Palestinian resistance in Gaza has triggered renewed efforts to end its war. While Britain and France spearhead a European initiative to obtain a UN Security Council resolution, Egypt is making yet another attempt to "mediate" a ceasefire. Whichever way the pendulum swings, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must feel encouraged. Israel holds the record for the highest number of Security Council resolutions vetoed in its favour, thanks to the US.

Now Egypt, under the former military chief Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi is, like Israel, equally committed to defeat the Islamic resistance movements in the embattled enclave. Had it not been for an accident of geography it's hard to imagine any significant role for Egypt in the current impasse. Many in the region, including Hamas spokesmen, often make patronising statements about its importance, which may have had some relevance in days gone by. Sadly, the Egypt of today has different priorities and Palestinian freedom is not among them.

One of the great ironies of Egypt's "mediation" role was highlighted last week when a court postponed the trial of deposed president Mohamed Morsi on charges of espionage on behalf of Hamas. This was presumably done to allow the current negotiations to continue. Having declared Hamas to be a terrorist entity, no one thought that the time would come when the same officials who took that decision would welcome senior Hamas personnel in Cairo.

Try as they might, it is clear that regional and international actors cannot sidestep the resistance and achieve peace in Gaza without talking to Hamas. Even the US, which claims that it does not do business with "terrorists", have had to open up channels of contact, albeit indirectly through third parties. In fact, throughout the previous rounds of negotiations, US officials were coming and going from Cairo in quick succession.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu's political options have been decreasing as fast as his military choices. His grovelling praise for Israel's Arab allies are hardly worth the effort since none of these, including Egypt, is in a position to fulfil his immediate need, which is to restore a sense of normality to Israeli society.

Netanyahu's worsening relations with Washington, and President Barack Obama in particular, are no secret. US Secretary of State John Kerry's scornful outburst on a hot mic in July revealed the level of dismay in Washington when he mocked Israel's killing of four little boys playing football on the beach as, "A hell of a pinpoint operation".

As for Obama, the memories of his November 2011 exchange with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy are still fresh and relevant. When Sarkozy described Netanyahu as a compulsive liar who he couldn't stand, Obama lamented, "You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day." If that was his position three years ago one can only imagine what it is today after all the lies and broken promises made to Kerry during the negotiations.

The more the Israeli leader becomes isolated and estranged from his western counterparts the more outrageous his claims become. The assertion that there was somehow a link between Hamas and ISIS was as ludicrous as it could get, but there was more to come.

He has claimed that Israeli intelligence has prevented a Hamas plot to stage a coup in the West Bank. It doesn't take much to work out that this was timed to influence the outcome of negotiations in Cairo. For all its stupidity it was undoubtedly intended to create friction between Hamas and Fatah and undermine their unified stance at the talks. Indeed, Israel would dearly love to see a repeat in the West Bank of the bloody in-fighting that took place in Gaza in 2007.

The notion of a plot to stage a coup in the West Bank, though, actually beggars belief. Normally coups d'état are carried out against real governments to acquire real power, not against entities that are under occupation. There are simply no incentives or benefits to be accrued by a Hamas coup in the West Bank. Moreover, if the PA's President Abbas should be wary of anyone it should be Israel, not Hamas. It was the Israelis who, ten years ago, incarcerated the late President Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah compound until his death in suspicious circumstances. No wonder Abbas has moved his family to Jordan and spends more time abroad than usual.

If it was intended to be a distraction, Netanyahu's coup d'état claim has failed to divert attention away from Gaza. As the search for a truce continues, on what basis will it be formulated? For sure, both the Security Council and the Egyptian "mediators" will seek a formula based on containment and stability, which is code for returning to the status quo in place prior to Israel's attack. This, however, is hardly a formula for the Palestinians who seek freedom from a brutal military occupation. They simply cannot and will not be contained any longer. There is, accordingly, one option left for the mediators: lift the blockade and end Israel's occupation.

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

ArticleCommentary & AnalysisIsraelMiddle EastPalestine
Show Comments
International perspectives on apartheid and decolonization in Palestine
Show Comments