Please allow me to begin my article with asking a general question. A question aimed at the international community with all its different institutions and its big powers that have interests in the Middle East region. My question is as follows: Are the problems, disputes and conflicts witnessed among these countries no longer a threat to this strategic region, hence it's been treated with such a limited amount of attention that does not commensurate to the danger of these problems? If we don’t find an effective intervention to prevent the entire region from slipping into a state of instability soon then it might be even more difficult containing the situation in the future.
Undoubtedly, what drove me to raise this question is the international handling of Israel’s fourth war on the Gaza Strip, which was, to a great extent, just a routine. It didn’t engage with the required seriousness that was to stop this unprecedented destructive war. This war, that started on 11th May, witnessed forced displacement attempts of Palestinian families who had been living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem for decades. In addition to Israeli troops’ storming into the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In this article, I won’t tackle the nature of this war, the reasons or the results, for these were quite obvious and the operations were going on-air. As for stopping the war and reaching a ceasefire between the two sides, whether partial or total, is a matter of time no matter how little delayed. Both sides will agree in the end - through Egyptian efforts as well as regional and international help - on stopping the operations and reaching a set of consensual understandings, like in every previous confrontation between Israel and Gaza since 2009.
Thus, to be practical, we must draw lessons not only from this war but from the entire standpoints throughout the past years. Standpoints that had witnessed stalemate in the peace process as well as the results of three previous wars and ceasefires that were so easily violated. Thus, the ceasefire that will be reached should prevent a fifth or a sixth war from breaking out. This requires that we think about how to start bringing in real change in a way that prevents these events from recurring.
We can say that the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip revealed five main points, which are:
-The solution for the Palestinian cause, in a way that fulfils the aspirations of Palestinian people, is considered the foundation for real stability in the region and without this solution the probabilities that the situation might explode is possible at any time.
- Jerusalem is considered a redline within this cause. The Palestinians, Arabs as well as the Islamic world won’t accept absolutely any infringement on Islamic holy sites no matter what the cost of the confrontation might be or even how Israeli measures are incessant in the Judaising, displacing and the imposing of a fait accompli.
- The Palestinian people won’t accept the current situation to continue forever. Israel is mistaken if it thinks that they are safe and secure while Palestinians, whose lands remain under occupation and settlements, won’t make an uprising to extract its legitimate rights in the way it deems appropriate.
- The Israeli security theory is a relative theory for Israel can’t achieve its security through advanced military and security means only. The only way for it to keep its external security and the integrity of its internal composition represents itself in giving the Palestinians an independent state to live in securely and peacefully on the basis of the two-state solution, which is adopted by the entire international community except the Israeli government.
-The Palestinian side is in dire need to unify its standpoint to be able to move strongly on the political path, where the military operations, whatever their results, move the situation but aren’t decisive in any battle.
In the light of the aforementioned, there is a necessity to move from the current events towards crystallising a real action plan that can change the present reality for the better. In this area, after reaching ceasefire, I suggest that the next move should be made in the following quartet frame:
- Holding an international conference in Egypt for the reconstruction of Gaza and trying to raise funds for this purpose. Perhaps the decision made by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, during the trilateral summit, that took place on 18th May in Paris, with the French president and the Jordanian monarch, to allocate $500 million for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip is a positive beginning for holding this conference.
- Egypt is to lead a regional and an international move aiming at paving the way for Palestinian/Israeli negotiations in order to implement the two-state solution. These negotiations are to start on an agreed upon early date, which I hope won’t be later than next September. I suggest that the opening session of the negotiations be held in Sharm El-Sheikh and be followed by direct negotiation sessions as according to what the two parties agree upon.
- The Palestinian Authorities should take necessary measures in order to end the division with Egyptian assistance; especially that it isn’t just one of the options but it is the only option to return the compass of the Palestinian situation to the right direction.
- Coordinating with the US Administration to practically bring forth its vision for the solution of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict based on its positive stand towards the two-state solution, especially after the collapse of the deal of the century which was refused by Palestinians, Arabs and the international community.
Deputy Director of the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies (ECSS).