By Habib Fowzi
The most important question, which has preoccupied the international public opinion in the few days that have passed since the beginning of the bloody war in Gaza is whether this is just a normal state of affairs and a sequel to all other wars, which have been already fought by Palestinians and the Israelis over the past 60 years, or it has been started on the basis of a predetermined plan and tactic by one of the two parties to the conflict? If the latter case is true and this war is just part of the political game played by certain political players, then who is to benefit from it and which group will take the brunt of the subsequent threats and its negative consequences?
To answer this question, it would be necessary to reflect on the positions taken by each and every regional and international political player which is currently involved in the ongoing conflict. In this way, a relative answer could be given to this question by offering a clear picture of what every involved party is looking for. Unlike past conflicts, the current war in Gaza has evolved into considerable dimensions in international forums.
Almost a week after the beginning of the war in Gaza, the conflict is gradually turning into a major ground for disputes and differences between regional states, on the one hand, and Western political players, on the other hand.
The first signs of a new political deployment over the current crisis in Gaza have come to the surface in the past few days when the Obama administration, despite its past differences with Tel Aviv over Iran’s nuclear energy program, openly supported Israeli army’s destructive aggression against Gaza. On the other hand, some regional countries, including Russia and Turkey, slammed certain states, which had encouraged Israel to resort to violence against the Palestinians.
The existing evidence shows beyond any doubt that the current war on Gaza, like the crisis in Syria, has led to a new arrangement of political forces in the Middle East. In the new political arrangement, the governments involved in the crisis have been divided into three groups. The first group consists of such countries as Russia and Egypt as well as the rest of new revolutionary governments in the Arab world which have been taking steps to establish ceasefire in the region and contain the war. The second group comprises traditional allies of Israel such as the United States, Britain and certain other European countries. Since the beginning of war, they have formed a united front against the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas and spared no time to show their support for Tel Aviv by claiming that the attack on Gaza was the natural outcome of Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself. The third group of countries includes those states, which are still in some kind of political limbo. Many Arab governments, which are known to have conservative leaders, have done nothing yet. They are just waiting to see the result of this bloody conflict and in view of their opportunist nature, firmly believe that any form of support for the Palestinian nation or negative reaction to Israel’s attack on the coastal enclave would amount to a political risk.
This general picture provides an overall description of the positions taken by three groups of governments and political players on the war in Gaza.
Conservative Arabs: The war in Gaza is an effort to save [the Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad and a protective umbrella for Iran’s nuclear energy program
During the past two or three decades and in the instance of every war between Palestinians and Israelis or between Lebanon and Israel, the conservative Arab states have made recourse to the theory of caution and waiting. This idea of caution and silence went so far in the event of the 33-day war in Lebanon (2006) and later on during the 22-day war in Gaza (2008) that the conservative Arab states indirectly took sides with the aggressor, that is, the invading Israeli army; thus, withholding their support from the Palestinian resistance.
At that time, the united front of the conservative Arab states formed a triangle whose three sides were made by three major governments with great financial and geopolitical influence on the dispute of Palestine: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt.
An important development, which has characterized the new political arrangement of conservative Arab states in the region during the current Gaza war, is the change in Egypt’s position on the issue of Palestine, especially the situation in Gaza, following the fall of the country’s former dictator, Hosni Mubarak. As a result, one side of the said triangle has fallen apart only to be replaced with a new state: a small, but wealthy and ambitious country called Qatar.
At present, the position taken on Gaza by the triangle of conservative Arab states are affected by a bigger policy, or in more accurate words, a bigger coalition which these three governments have formed with the American side in order to go through the existing crisis in the Middle East. The first stage of that coalition took shape during three major regional crises in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain. According to an unwritten deal, the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar have agreed on a certain form of division of labor with the European countries and the United States.
For this conservative Arab bloc, the Gaza and what is going on in Palestine, is not a priority because they have invested all their capacities in conquering another stronghold, namely Syria. Therefore, it is quite natural for them to consider the war in Gaza and any other incident, which may interfere with their project to overthrow the Syrian government or even overshadow it, a major challenge.
Thus, it is no wonder that mass media belonging to Saudi Arabia or Aljazeera TV network, which is run by Qatar, have announced from the beginning of the conflict that the current war between the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement and the Zionist army is just an Iranian – Syrian tactic. They have been claiming that the new war in Gaza is like a parachute for the falling Assad and it is enough for this war to challenge the security depth of Israel. In that case, neither the United States, nor Europe can think about management of other crises like the one in Syria, or stopping Iran’s nuclear energy program.
Western Partners of Tel Aviv: Forgetting “Obama – Netanyahu” Differences when Israel’s Security is at Stake
This time, in spite of the US President Barack Obama’s all pacifist gestures and slogans, the United States did not lose any time to lend its support to Tel Aviv’s dangerous decision to attack Gaza. In doing so, the US president even made a phone call to the person whom he had been trying to keep at a distance up to a day before the attack; that is, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to the statement issued by the White House, the president of the United States underlined Washington’s full support for Israel’s right to defend itself while expressing regret for Israeli and Palestinian civilians killed on both sides. It is rumored that Netanyahu, for his part, has greatly thanked the US president for having provided Israel with the Iron Dome missile defense shield. Of course, contacts between Tel Aviv and Washington have not remained limited to that call. According to the Western media, as the Zionist regime of Israel was escalating its threat of ground invasion against the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak put a phone call to the United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in which the American side promised more support for Israel in its aggression against Palestinians. On the other side, in Europe, there seems to be a duality among European allies of Israel as they apparently look upon the ongoing war from different standpoints.
Senior officials of the European Union have been repeating the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s claims in their positions on Gaza. The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton has emphasized that Israel has every right to defend itself and its people against missiles fired from the Gaza Strip into the occupied territories. She has alleged that the Hamas movement is the main reason behind the current crisis between Tel Aviv and Palestine because it continues firing missiles into the occupied territories. Ashton, however, has tried like former heads of the European states to pose as an advocate of peace and reconciliation between the two sides of the conflict. Therefore, while expressing regret over the loss of civilian life on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the conflict, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, has also expressed her deep concern about escalation of violation between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
New Defenders of Hamas and Gaza: From Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to Turkey’s Erdogan
Unlike past Israeli aggressions, this time, Gaza is not alone. On the contrary, it has got powerful supporters and allies. The new group of supporters of Gaza includes revolutionary states and movements, which have achieved power through popular revolutions and are currently advocating the cause of Palestine. As a result and for the first time in many years, instead of heading to Tel Aviv, Egypt’s representative ended up in Gaza. Although Obama tried to make the world believe that the visits to Gaza by Arab ministers and diplomats have been carried out upon his initiative, in reality, however, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is pursuing its own goals in this destructive war, which are different from Obama’s goals. It would suffice to say that during his recent visit to Gaza a few days ago, the Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, who was also accompanied by the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, clearly announced that all bloods shed in Gaza belong to the Arab world, which cannot remain silent toward them. Elsewhere, he said that he had gone to Gaza in the name of the Egyptian nation and president to prove Egypt’s commitment to defending the right of the Palestinian nation and Gaza. Kandil added that the Palestinian nation was still suffering and “we saw just a few minutes ago how Palestinian children and civilians are killed in Israeli attacks because they seek to achieve their right to freedom.”
As announced by Morsi’s envoy, Egypt seeks to put an end to hostile measures taken by the Zionist regime as soon as possible by mounting pressure from Arab countries and international community on Israel.
In fact, the trip to Gaza by Kandil and the high-ranking Egyptian delegation sent a clear message to Tel Aviv to let Israeli officials know that Cairo will no longer remain indifferent in the face of the theory, which seeks to either annihilate, or totally isolate Hamas.
The revolutionary government of Tunis has adopted a similar approach to Gaza. Under the secular rule of its former President Zine El Abidine Bin Ali, Tunisia had nothing to do with political equations in Gaza for many years. Now, Tunis is taking steps at the highest level by sending its foreign minister to declare the Arab country’s support for Gaza in its faceoff with Israel.
This time around, Turkey is also very concerned to see the end of this bloody game. According to Turkey’s media, Ankara looks upon the bloody war in Gaza from the same viewpoint as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes that this war may prove the undoing of his hope for the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood (to which Hamas is a tributary) and even keep Ankara’s plan for Syria in a state of suspension. Therefore, Turkey is using all political means at its disposal to stop the war. In doing so, Turkish officials have resorted to Russia and non-Western powers at the United Nations Security Council. According to the latest reports, Erdogan has had a phone conservation with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he has emphasized on the necessity of stopping the violence in the Gaza Strip.
Also, based on the information released by the Kremlin’s media office, the phone conversation has been done on Turkey’s initiative. With all this information in mind, it is clear that the critical situation in Gaza is now the main focus for the political leaders of Russia and Turkey because after the escalation of situation in Gaza and the beginning of extensive air strikes by the Israeli army against the coastal enclave, which have elicited retaliatory missile attacks from Palestinians in Gaza, a great number of civilians have been either killed or wounded.
International Community Put to Test in New Middle East
For the international community, however, the ongoing war in Gaza is a real test. The United Nations is taking on the case of a new conflict in Gaza after all mediation initiatives by the European countries and even the United States to take the Middle East peace talks back to life have run aground due to intransigence of Tel Aviv. As admitted by global observers, no other state has ever taken the UN role in the Middle East so lightly as the team of radical politicians who are currently running Tel Aviv. The role of the United Nations has been so seriously undermined by Netanyahu’s government that even the most primary requests from the world body for the suspension or even postponement of building Zionist settlements in the occupied lands have fallen on deaf ears inside the Israeli regime. In its latest, and the most unprecedented, threat against this international organization, Netanyahu sternly warned the UN against any attempt to allow the Palestinian Authority to be accepted as a member to any international body.
Therefore, for the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the new wave of military confrontation in Gaza may prove to be a tough test. The secretary-general is well aware that the new Middle East has totally changed. As a result of those changes, new political currents and movements have come to power across the Middle East – from Egypt to Libya – which are not ready to accept a compromise over the interests of Muslim nations, including Palestine. It is quite clear that the new Middle Eastern nations and rulers will not accept the United Nations’ silence toward or support for the Zionist regime at this stage. Therefore, a repetition of the UN’s past policy of following suit with the Western players on the issue of Palestine will not be without substantial risks and consequences for the international standing of the United Nations, especially its secretary-general.