The Guardian • Issue #2104

Palestine: US roadblock to peace

Photo: Matt Hrkac – flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

The slaughter in Gaza goes on. Since the United Nations Security Council resolution of a three-phase ‘peace plan’ the death rate in Gaza has significantly risen. Hamas has been repeatedly accused of placing obstacles to peace. US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has consistently pushed these allegations and Israel has remained steadfast in continuing its aggression. Peace seems a long way off and the truth is being buried.

The three-part peace deal is clear enough. First there would be a six-week period that would see a prisoner and hostage exchange. This would include an immediate and complete ceasefire. The second phase would see a permanent end to hostilities, the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and the release of any remaining captives. The third stage would see the reconstruction of Gaza.

Hamas immediately accepted the terms of the deal.

Significantly, the UN resolution claims that Israel is supportive of the process, despite so many contrary statements from Netanyahu and his spokespeople. Netanyahu has insisted that the ‘war’ would not end until Hamas is completely defeated. He has stated that Israel would not engage in what he described as “meaningless” negotiations with Hamas.

Israel’s UN representative made it clear that Israel will “ensure that Gaza doesn’t pose a threat to Israel.” She went on to stress that the war would not end until Hamas “capabilities were dismantled” and accused Hamas of using “endless negotiations … as a means to stall for time.”

When Blinken set off on his most recent sweep through the region and spoke with negotiators, he claimed that Israel had accepted the proposal and that the problem lay with Hamas for not doing so. It was a clumsy attempt at a sleight of hand, but he has stuck to the line that Hamas was “the only obstacle” to a ceasefire.

Not a day has passed when our media has not repeated the line that Hamas has proposed amendments which are, in part, “unworkable.” A Hamas spokesperson has denied this, stating that “all we did was to reaffirm our commitment to what was presented on 5 May by the mediators. We did not discuss any new ideas or proposals.”

Blinken keeps saying that Hamas is the problem: “I think it will be clear to everyone around the world, that it’s on them and that they will have made a choice to continue a war that they started.”

Palestinian political analyst Hussam Al-Dajani made the point that Blinken’s visit “evaded real issues and aimed to pressure Palestinians. It is merely a reaffirmation of US support for Israel.”  The problem at the heart of the matter is Washington’s lack of neutrality. This is being seen as undermining any realistic role it might play as a mediator in the conflict. Those voices are being far too polite.

Talal Okal, from the Beirut-based Institute for Palestinian Studies, noted that Israel did not immediately support Biden’s ceasefire proposal nor respond to the Security Council resolution. He also repeated what is becoming increasingly obvious, that the US-sponsored resolution might not be enforced. Such a situation, of course, can and will be manipulated by Israel and the US as being evidence of Hamas intractability.

Eyal Zisser, vice-rector of Tel Aviv University pointed out that Israel’s fundamental goal is to destroy Hamas, both militarily and as a political force in Gaza. He made the sober assessment that the conflict is unlikely to end until this ‘goal’ is achieved.

Israel appears happy to allow things to  drag on. It suits its purpose to present Hamas as presenting objections that are not there. The USA makes no attempt to clarify these issues. On the contrary, the US President and his Secretary of State repeat the line that the problem lies with Hamas. As a leading Hamas spokesperson recently commented, the problem lies with Blinken.

THE REAL PROBLEM

That very ‘problem’ is being shown on a daily basis, both in Gaza and the West Bank. The bombs and tanks do their work but, as Carl Skau of the UN World Food Programme says, one million displaced people in southern Gaza are “trapped without clean water or sanitation … the level of destruction is shocking.” His comments came after a two-day mission to Gaza. Humanitarian workers are facing challenges “like nothing I have ever seen … From the south to the northernmost tip of the Strip, people are traumatised and exhausted … People want a ceasefire, and they want dignity back.”

Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour said the Palestinian authority welcomed the deal as a “step in the right direction,” but made the obvious point that it was up to Israel to implement those measures. “We want a ceasefire,” he said, adding that the burden is on the Israeli side to implement the resolution. “We will see who are the ones who are interested to see this resolution become a reality and those who are obstructing it and want to continue the war of genocide against our people.” These comments were made soon after the UN Security Council resolution was passed. Any optimism that might have been felt has rapidly dissipated. What we have now is a deliberate campaign, led by Blinken to give the false impression that Hamas is anti-peace plan, while Israel is standing for a just settlement.

Meanwhile the killing goes on.

Conditions in the West Bank also continue to deteriorate. The World Health Organisation has warned of an escalating health crisis in the West Bank. They have documented 480 separate attacks on healthcare facilities since October.

G7 HYPOCRISY

The recent G7 meeting included a statement on Gaza. The final communiqué from the conference declared that the Palestinian refugee agency of the United Nations (UNRWA) must be allowed to work unhindered in Gaza: “We agree it is critical that UNRWA and other UN organisations and agencies’ distribution networks be fully able to deliver aid to those who need it most, fulfilling their mandate effectively.”

The statement also called for the “rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need in Gaza, particularly women and children … Securing full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access in all its forms – consistent with international humanitarian law and through all relevant land crossing points, including the Rafah crossing, through maritime delivery routes, including through Ashdod Port – throughout all of Gaza remains an absolute priority.’

The G7 leaders referred to the “unacceptable” number of civilian casualties. They called for a ceasefire and an end to the violence in the West Bank. While these words were welcomed by Palestinian supporters and the international aid community, there was a certain hollow ring to them. These same G7 states, representing the richest and most powerful political forces on the planet, have been consistently criticised for allowing the genocide to continue, for arming Israel and for turning its collective eye from the devastation.

Charity group Oxfam correctly made the connection between Israel and its backers among the rich, the powerful, the imperialist powers, and called for Israel and the G7 to “move from words to action, implement their proposals, remove Israeli forces from Gaza, and end the occupation,” adding that, “Hopes must become reality, the time for talking is done.”

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