Gaza’s pain prolonged by unrealistic goals
Firstly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal should get real and quit being rigidly uncompromising. They are sitting in air-conditioned offices in Jerusalem and Doha respectively, while people they are duty-bound to protect are dying, losing their loved ones, their homes and possessions.
Israel now demands the demilitarization of Gaza, which, according to Israeli spokespersons, would allow the Strip to morph into the Middle East’s answer to Monaco (I know, try not to laugh!). That’s not going to happen because the Palestinians will not divest themselves of the right to resist under international law and won’t accept being ‘good victims.’ And if Israel continues with an operation to what it terms ‘mowing the grass’ it risks economic boycott, diplomatic marginalization and rising anti-Semitism that is beginning to infect some European capitals.
Hamas insists on the siege of Gaza being completely lifted simultaneously with a cease-fire. That’s also not going to happen when Israel has been astounded by the fact the gnat biting at its heels as turned into a lion with longer range rockets, an extensive underground tunnel complex reaching into Israel proper and fighters who have had the benefit of Hezbollah’s guerilla training and now present an effective disciplined force, which was not the case in earlier conflicts. Israel used to cry wolf over the threat to its citizens from Hamas; now those cries are grounded in reality. Moreover, Egypt will not open up Rafah 24/7 unless the crossing is marshaled by Fatah’s security forces in cooperation with Egypt’s; a condition Hamas does not accept.
There has to be a realistic middle way amid the volcano of mistrust and raw emotion that is coloring wise judgment. This could entail an immediate unconditional cease-fire backed with guarantees by Washington, Brussels and Cairo that following a period of calm, say three months, the siege would be lifted in sequential phases.
Secondly, the usual Israel-first suspects, the US, the UK, France and Germany should cease promoting a moral equivalence between the two camps and quit giving Israel a get-out-of-jail card with statements that the Jewish state has a right to defend itself. Of course, every country has that right but we should not forget that Israel triggered this by falsely accusing Hamas of abducting and killing three Israelis, arresting hundreds, demolishing houses and punishing the people of Gaza. Perhaps, I’m being unrealistic here because generally public opinion that translates into rallies and posts on social media only rarely has sway over government policies. If you remember, in the run up to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, some four million went to the streets of the UK to protest, but that war proceeded regardless. If the leadership of Hamas is counting on public opinion to make a difference, that is severely naïve, especially when the Israeli government is solely concerned with Israeli public opinion which right now remains in favor of the IDF finishing the job — separating Hamas and Islamic Jihad from their arsenals and destroying their tunnels.
Human rights groups and pro-Palestinian activists are promoting the Twitter hash tag ICC4Israel. This is another example of fighting windmills. Not only is Israel almost never taken to task under international law thanks primarily to the US veto in the UN Security Council (UNSC), it has utter disregard for human rights conventions. Hauling Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague is a pipe dream when neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority is a signatory to the Rome Treaty.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is believed to be mulling applying to accept the ICC’s jurisdiction but that route is fraught because the US and Israel has threatened him with ‘dire consequences’ should be proceed; and secondly, Hamas would be equally vulnerable to prosecution for its firing of rockets. In any event, Israel would refuse to cooperate with an ICC probe and its officials and would decline to attend court hearings. The only other route is via the UNSC but as long as Washington and its friends continue vetoing binding resolutions, that’s dead in the water.
This is the bottom line: The ICC can only exercise jurisdiction under the following circumstances:
l Where the accused person is a national of a state party (to the ICC).
l Where the alleged crime was committed on the territory of a state party.
l Where a situation is referred to the Court by the UN Security Council.
Ultimately, a solution rests with the warring parties and their backers which are acting irresponsibly. The US should warn Israel of serious consequences for its intransigence in terms of aid and weapons. Qatar, the prime funder of Hamas since the group’s relations with Iran cooled over Syria, should do the same. Any ‘victory’ extracted from prolong the agony to win points, is pyrrhic; or, put simply, no victory at all.
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