Gaza de-escalation: the tenuous ceasefire

By K N Pandita

At the special session called by the Security Council to discuss the fighting in Gaza, the Pakistani foreign minister strove every nerve to project it a global Islamic issue and tried to invoke the Muslim countries to consider the Israeli attack nothing short of “genocide of Palestinian Muslims.”. He was more vocal than any other delegate and boasted that the “united effort had brought about the desired pressure on Israel to accept a ceasefire.”

For the last two years, there has been a strong movement to project the Islamic cause globally and tell the world that the Muslims were subjected to repression and denial of the right to self-determination. Pak foreign minister had travelled to New York where he hosted a dinner to the OIC members and briefed them rather than exhorted them to act in a manner that Israeli aggression was challenged and aborted for all times to come.

Interestingly he did not take the name of HAMAS or Iran, the country that helped Hamas take over the control of Gaza in 2007 as a result of which Israel blockaded it as a step toward ensuring the security of the country.

One should not take the bragging of Shah Qureshi on its face value. A deeper analysis shows that the ceasefire did not emanate from any pressure from the Muslim world much less the fanatical regimes like those in Turkey or Islamabad. The fact is that Germany, France and the USA all did not find any sense in the continuance of violence in Gaza. They had made behind the curtain efforts in convincing Premier Netanyahu that the eleven-day fighting must come to an end. France had even circulated a resolution imposing certain restrictions on Israel but it was rejected by the US.

Protestors in Germany hurled rocks at the doors of a synagogue in Bonn. Israeli flags were burnt outside a synagogue in Munster. A man chanted slurs when moving with a convoy of cars in North London. Israeli-Palestinian strife is feeding anti Semite sentiments in the European countries.

President Biden did not want the initiative of forcing ceasefire to slip out of his hand. That is the reason why he called Netanyahu and gave him a stern warning that the ceasefire must take place that day in any case. President Biden not only appreciated but even supported the initiative taken by Egypt and ultimately ceasefire became a reality.

Israel made no secret of the fact that it wants the head of the Hamas Chief Deif because it was he who had ordered the firing of nearly 3400 missiles on Israeli territory. Though most of the missiles fired by the Hamas were warded off by the Iron Shield and only some of these could land on the targets.

It has to be remembered that Netanyahu did not make any commitment of ordering a ceasefire when Biden called him. He consulted his general and a unanimous decision of arriving at a ceasefire was made.

Though post-ceasefire parleys are going on and angularities are being ironed out, it is learnt that the Pentagon has agreed to refurbish damages done to Israel’s iron shield considered the most formidable protective shield with any country in the world.

It is amusing that both sides are claiming a victory after eleven days of fighting. The Palestinians have staged a high power celebration and call the ceasefire almost acceptance of defeat by Israel. They have lost more than 200 lives and huge damage to infrastructure and buildings. War is not in any side’s interests but, of course, in the interests of those who want disruption and turmoil in a volatile region.

One is amused how the Pakistani foreign minister wants to make it an Islamic issue and persuade Islamic nations to fall in line against Israel when most of the Islamic countries are either neutral or have non-inimical relations with Israel. Saudi Arabia, the most influential Islamic country, is loath to betray open animosity against Israel and would not object to clandestine trade going on with that country. UAE has very recently established diplomatic relations with Israel. It will be remembered that Iran, the arch-enemy of Israel, accepted weapons and ammunition from Israel (via Pakistan) during the war with Iraq.

OIC, which Pakistan and Turkey want to use as a front against Israel, and also against India on Kashmir, is a paper tiger. Its actions never go beyond passing resolutions which are broken as quickly as these are passed. OIC is a house divided against it. Pakistan, which had been in forefront of ousting Saudi Arabia in Kuala Lampur meet of OIC members, had to eat the humble pie. After suffering humiliation at the hands of the Crown Prince, both the Pak army chief and the PM travelled to Riyadh to acquiesce before the supreme religious authority and beg for pardon for being obdurate in the past. Saudi monarchs know the old saying “a bit to the barking dog”.

The Palestinian issue has been made complicated by external involvement. Iran and the US have let their proxies fight in the region. As long as that state of affairs continues, peace will be elusive. Iran must explain to the world community what right she has to say openly that her ultimate objective is the decimation of Israel? As long as this mindset continues, Israel will go on arming itself not only for defensive purposes but even something more.

The right to self-determination is easy said than done. Communities and nations have political, economic and social constraints. Above all, these are historical entities having value only as part of the regional and geographical entities. No group or community has been able to attain self-determination by stretching its muscle power because in doing so it has to face a stronger, bigger and mightier power. Today’s world is a complicated one and there are interests within interests just as wheels within wheels. The problem with the Muslim world is that it has yet to learn how to live in peace with other religious denominations. Most of its problems stem from that discrepancy in perception. This is true not only about Palestine but also of Yemen, of Syria, and many more spots on the globe.

In this background, the ceasefire in Gaza has been tenuous then and now, and it will be the same in future. World powers will always try to intervene and provide a respite in fighting but they will not be inclined to work out a lasting solution unless the parties themselves want a solution. For the fighting Palestinians, there are many so-called sympathisers among the Muslim countries who will deliver fiery speeches only to see the flames burning wilder. Only the foot knows where the shoe pinches.

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