Resolving the Gaza crisis

Mohamed Ibrahim Eldawiry
Tuesday 28 May 2024

The international community must insist on the complete cessation of Israel’s war on Gaza and draw up a roadmap for the post-war period as it works to resolve the Gaza crisis, writes Mohamed Ibrahim Eldawiry

 

As the Israel-Gaza war drags on, more and more questions have arisen, and there are no adequate answers to keep up with them. These questions focus on two main points: first, when will the war end, and second, what will the situation in the Gaza Strip be in the aftermath?

A reading of the current situation clearly leads to the conclusion that there are negative developments in terms of the nature of the Israeli military operations in the Strip and positive developments in terms of regional and international movement towards the Palestinian cause. However, it is difficult to say which direction these developments will take, whether towards calm and appeasement or towards more tension and escalation.

A number of developments bear on the current situation, which can be summarised as follows.

Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip are continuing, particularly in the northern area and specifically in the Breij and Jabalia Camps, as well as in the southern area, specifically in the city of Rafah. The Israeli army began to invade Rafah three weeks ago from east to west and including the occupation of the Palestinian Rafah Crossing and parts of the Salaheddin or Philadelphi Corridor. The latter lies entirely within the Palestinian territory, and the Israeli army did not heed the warnings against taking this step.

The US and Israeli positions on the Rafah operation are gradually converging, with this having been facilitated by the displacement of about one million Palestinian citizens from the city of Rafah to the central Gaza Strip. However, the city was not spared the massacres carried out by Israel in the Tel Al-Sultan Camps in Rafah on the evening of 26 May.

There has been an escalation of the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip due to Israel’s occupation of the Rafah Crossing, through which aid enters the Strip. Egypt has refused to accept the fait accompli that Israel tried to impose by occupying the crossing. However, the recent contact between US President Joe Biden and President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has contributed significantly to finding temporary compromise solutions to the humanitarian crisis by bringing in Egyptian aid through the Kerem Shalom Crossing until an acceptable solution is reached to the problem of the Rafah Crossing.

There have been moves towards resuming negotiations between the parties concerned in order to reach a humanitarian truce in the war, especially after the stalemate that these have witnessed over the past few weeks.

The Arab position has attempted to lay some foundations for dealing with the substance of the Palestinian issue, focusing at the recent Bahrain Summit meeting on two main elements: first, the holding of an international peace conference to resolve the Palestinian issue under the auspices of the UN and on the basis of the two-state solution; and second, calling for the deployment of an international peacekeeping force under the auspices of the UN in the Palestinian Territories to protect civilians until the implementation of the two-state solution.

The international movement towards resolving the Palestinian issue is growing and has included actions by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) calling on Israel to stop the war and arrest some Israeli and Hamas leaders and the recognition of the Palestinian state by some European countries.

However, it is clear that these developments have not led to any movement in the wider security and political situation in the light of the following factors.

First, there is Israel’s insistence on continuing its military operations in Rafah until it completes its announced objectives. Second, there is Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian Rafah Crossing, which is one of the main obstacles to achieving the objective of aid and a truce. Third, there is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to continue to head his extremist coalition government despite some signs of internal division. These have not yet crystallised into a real threat to the position of that government, which enjoys a majority that gives it the ability to continue unless elections are brought forward.

Fourth, there is the continued willingness of the US to provide protection to Israel against international pressure, reflecting the extent of the impact of the presidential election year on the US position towards Israel. Fifth, there is Hamas’ continued adherence to its announced positions regarding linking its approval of a new prisoner-swap deal to reach a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

Lastly, there is the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) position on how to deal with rapid changes in the situation, whether in terms of control of the crossings or its role in the post-war phase.

Egypt is one of the most important parties working to end the Gaza crisis, despite some attempts that seek to undermine the effectiveness of its role. Egypt’s conviction that its role goes beyond merely mediating in the present crisis, but also includes its wider role of protecting the Palestinian cause and countering attempts to liquidate it, has led it to overcome some current obstacles and move towards resuming its indispensable role in delivering aid to the Gaza Strip, returning to the truce negotiations, and preparing for the next phase.

We are facing developments in the Gaza crisis that reflect the continuing complexities that stand in the way of finding a permanent solution in the near future. In my opinion, the international community must now draw up two roadmaps: one for a complete cessation of Israel’s war of extermination, and the second being a long-term roadmap focusing on the post-war period so that we will not find ourselves emerging from the war only to slip into a post-war crisis.

US and international support for Egyptian moves and for those of the Arab parties that are moving with Egypt is now essential, as is necessary flexibility from the parties concerned so that we can reach a first stage of calming the present crisis. Then we can focus in the future on addressing the Palestinian cause, which is the most important issue despite the difficulties we will face as we deal with it.

I am convinced that it will be possible to overcome these difficulties if we act now, but it may become impossible to do so at a later stage.

 

The writer is deputy director of the Egyptian Centre for Strategic Studies (ECSS).

 

* A version of this article appears in print in the 30 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Search Keywords:
Short link: