Israel-Gaza conflict: The suffering continues for lack of a peace broker

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure for an escalation of the ground war

Share

Last Sunday, five days before the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, but when the Palestinian death toll had already reached 160, Barack Obama and David Cameron spoke. The subsequent communiqué said the two leaders discussed Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq and the nuclear talks with Iran. There was no mention of Gaza.

Maybe the subject came up but was kept private. But the omission of any mention of the conflict already dominating UK and US headlines, somehow symbolises Western inertia about the plight of Gaza's 1.8 million inhabitants, one that was intense even before the horror now unfolding in the territory.

That inertia has largely prevailed since 2006, when Hamas unexpectedly won free elections sanctioned by the Bush White House and was then boycotted by the US and its allies; through the siege that demolished Gaza's productive economy, which was imposed by Israel after Hamas's seizure of control in the brief civil war in 2007; through Egypt's closure of the smuggling tunnels that were the main lifeline for Gazans; and through the recent formation by Fatah and an increasingly isolated Hamas of a "unity" government which the West did nothing to promote in the teeth of determined Israeli opposition.

The taboo on Hamas, which the US says is a terrorist organisation, explains why Washington has not helped Qatar to fund the payment of 43,000 public servants. It's also why the US--and the EU--can be ruled out as a mediator – a job left to Egypt. But Cairo, which wants to see Hamas – an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood – neutralised as much if not more so than Israel, is not delivering: its ceasefire proposal was rejected by Hamas for not meeting its demands.

This conflict is therefore at a crossroads. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure from the even harder right for an escalation of the ground war which they imagine could eradicate Hamas's military capability, and might mean a full-scale occupation. On the other hand, a ceasefire would allow Israel to say it had achieved its objective of destroying tunnels and degrading other Hamas capabilities. This would mean a return to the relative calm under which Hamas largely halted rocket fire, including by wilder groups than itself.

To judge by Hamas comments yesterday, it will not halt the rockets without getting something beyond an end to the killing. Neither side can want the conflict to run past the start of Eid al-Fitr, on 28 July, though if a rocket hits – say – an Israeli kindergarten, the chances of a ceasefire will be all the slimmer. Israel is, anyway, surely not going to meet Hamas's demand for the release of prisoners arrested in the West Bank after the murder of three Israeli teenagers. Any further efforts may have to find ways of paying public servants but more especially easing Gaza's collective imprisonment, probably by opening the southern crossing at Rafah. Israel – and Egypt – are likely to insist that this be manned by Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority security forces. Which could only be accepted, if at all, by Hamas under the auspices of the "unity" government.

But who can pull this off? Gazan distrust of Egypt as an honest broker now extends to circles beyond Hamas itself. Neither Egypt nor Israel want it to be Turkey or Qatar. In such unpropitious circumstances, Ban Ki-Moon is heading for the region. No one would normally bet on the UN Secretary General as a mediator, least of all in the Middle East. But right now he may be the best hope there is.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has reiterated his pre-election promise to radically improve the NHS  

How can we save the NHS? Rediscover the stiff upper lip

Jeremy Laurance
 

Thanks to Harriet Harman, Labour is holding its own against the Tory legislative assault

Isabel Hardman
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada