With violence in Gaza showing no signs of stopping anytime soon, Russia is coming up with proposals on how to deal with the long-standing conflict. Will the world listen to Moscow?
Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City on July 29, 2014. Photo: AP
The tragic events in Gaza are developing according to a worst-case scenario. On the night of August 1, the warring parties, despite mediation by the UN and the United States, failed to reach agreement on a three-day cease-fire in order to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population. Soon thereafter, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) resumed fighting in the city of Rafah, in the southern section of the Gaza Strip, killing 30 Palestinians. And from the Palestinian side, mortar fire pounded the Kerem Shalom Checkpoint.
Israelis and Palestinians continue to accuse each other of violating the truce. In particular, Tel Aviv claims that an hour and a half after the truce began, Palestinians from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, had attacked Israeli soldiers. Killed during the battle were Major Benaya Sarel and Sergeant Liel Gidoni. Lieutenant Adar Goldin is considered missing, and there is reason to believe that he has been kidnapped. Representatives of the Palestinian factions claim that this happened before the announcement of the truce.
The question of the violation of the rules of warfare is also a contentious matter, with both sides disputing what actually happened. One side insists that Hamas is placing rockets in schools and hospitals, as well as launching them from densely populated areas. The other side accuses Israel of attacking civilian areas of the Gaza Strip, in which there are schools, hospitals, apartment houses and UN facilities.
Since the beginning of the Enduring Rock military operation, nearly 1,500 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip, most of them civilians. Israeli losses, according to various estimates, range from 63 to 100 people (mostly military personnel). In spite of all this, 80 percent of Israel’s Jewish population support this operation and wish that it continues, in order to destroy 70-80 percent of the Palestinian-built tunnels that are being used for unlawful entry into Israel, to detect and destroy the stockpiles of weapons, as well as to the arrest the maximum number of Hamas fighters and those from other Palestinian factions.
It would be wrong to think that the international community is doing nothing to end this conflict. Recently, at the request of the Palestinian side and supported by Egypt and Pakistan, an emergency meeting of the UN Human Rights Council was held. During this meeting, the Palestinians accused the IDF of crimes against humanity, and Israel’s representative countered by saying that his country has the right to self-defense. However, people that are under occupation possess a similar right.
As a result, the Council established a special commission to investigate Israel’s actions in Gaza. A resolution on its creation was supported by 29 of the 47 members of the council, including delegations from the Arab countries and the governments of Latin America, Africa, China and Russia. The United States voted “No” and 17 representatives from Europe abstained. The main task of the Commission is to investigate “all violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.”
In the interest of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Egypt is making significant mediation efforts. Russia is ready to provide full support on this, as Moscow sees the futility of the current status quo and the need to create conditions for the restoration of the negotiation process. The main reason for this is that the Americans blocked the proposed creation in 2002 of the Quartet on the Middle East, in which the European Union, Russia, the U.S. and the UN would participate.
During the year, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to solve this problem independently, but was unable to achieve significant results. Now it is imperative to renew this collective effort to solve this problem, by the revitalization of the Quartet of international mediators and the involvement of representatives from the Arab League, so as to stop the armed conflict on the basis of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and decisions of the Middle East Quartet.
Nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to achieve this for the following reasons. First, despite the apparent condemnations that were made, the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue to covertly support the efforts of Israel to physically destroy the Palestinian factions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Second, the next meeting of the Quartet will be held only in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Third, the Middle East Quartet has very little expertise. Fourth, there is the lack of the necessary public support to stop the armed conflict.
It is obvious that Russia cannot solve the Palestinian problem. But then again, neither can any other foreign player, including the United States. Only by combining common efforts can we try to find a way out of the current Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Moreover, for this, Moscow has certain advantages, as both sides of this conflict could trust it. In the event of achieving success in this area, we can talk about the growth of Russia’s prestige in the Middle East.
However, Moscow clearly understands that the inevitable end to the armed conflict in the Gaza Strip will not solve the Palestinian-Israeli problem. This requires positive changes in the socio-economic development of the Palestinian territories. This is why Russia is proposing the creation of a contact group comprised of representatives of civil society organizations that would make appropriate recommendations.
Thus, the escalation of the armed conflict in Gaza continues. It is possible that this is the end result of American policy, which tried to alone replace the activities of the Middle East Quartet. In such circumstances, Russia is not only trying to achieve the cessation of the military conflict, but also proposing its own plan for the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, based on the revitalization of the Quartet and the involvement of representatives from the Arab League countries.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.