Change on the horizon in Gaza?

Hussein Haridy
Thursday 16 Nov 2023

There are signs that the Biden administration may at last be moving towards calling for a ceasefire in the Israeli war on Gaza.


The administration of US President Joe Biden has been a steadfast supporter of Israel’s aggression against Gaza from day one on 7 October.

The US president travelled to Israel in the early days of the unrelenting Israeli onslaught on Gaza to show unequivocal support to warmongering Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extreme-right government that includes ministers who publicly call for the annexation of the entirety of the West Bank.

The visit, regardless of how the US administration sees it and tries to sell it to some Arab leaders, was a clear US encouragement for Israel, giving it a free hand in conducting its war of aggression against 2.4 million innocent Palestinians for the last five weeks. Throughout this period, more than 11,000 Palestinians, among them 4,000 babies and children, have perished without the Biden administration calling for a ceasefire.

At a press conference on 8 November in Tokyo, where he was attending a meeting of G7 foreign ministers, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “all of us want to end this conflict as soon as possible,” adding that those calling for an immediate ceasefire “have an obligation to explain how to address the unacceptable result it would likely bring about, that is, Hamas left in place with more than 200 hostages” and with the capacity and “stated intent” to repeat the events of 7 October “again and again and again.”

It is a good question, and it behooves the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Arab governments to try to find a convincing answer to it. In the meantime, Hamas leaders should come out into the open and stress that they are willing, with the Islamic Jihad Movement, to operate under the umbrella of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), which recognises Israel and signed the Oslo Accords in 1993 in Washington during the administration of former US president Bill Clinton.

The late assassinated Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed for Israel, and the late chairman of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, also signed the accords. The historic handshake between the two men remains in the world’s memory.

In a statement released by the G7 foreign ministers meeting in Tokyo, the word “ceasefire” was nowhere to be found. It included a call for “humanitarian pauses,” stressing the “need for urgent action to address the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” It added that the foreign ministers at the meeting “support humanitarian pauses and corridors” to facilitate needed assistance, civilian movement, and the release of hostages.

In the meantime, the member countries of the G7 have pledged, according to the statement, an additional $500 million for the Palestinian people, including through UN agencies and other “humanitarian actors.” They welcomed the 9 November Paris Conference on “humanitarian issues” in Palestine, which saw participating countries pledging one billion euros in assistance to the Palestinians.

In his press statements, Blinken outlined for the first time since the war in Gaza broke out last month the parameters of the US position on the future of the Strip. Two days earlier, Netanyahu had told the US network ABC News that “Israel will for an indefinite period have the overall security responsibility [in Gaza] because we have seen what happens when we don’t.”

Blinken said that Israel “has repeatedly told us that there is no going back to 6 October” and that the US fully agreed with this. He added that “the only way to ensure that this crisis never happens again is to begin setting the conditions for durable peace and security.”

He emphasised that the US believes that the key elements to achieve these two objectives should include no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, “not now and not after the war” has ended. The second element is that Gaza should not be used as a platform for terrorism. The third is “no reoccupation of Gaza” when the war ends. The fourth, which is very significant, rejects “attempts to blockade or besiege Gaza.”

Blinken said that in order to reach a “sustained peace,” the Palestinian people’s voices and aspirations should be at the centre of “post-crisis governance in Gaza.” This must include “Palestinian-led governance in Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.” He said that the time to start the conversation about the future was now “because identifying the longer-term objectives and a pathway to get there will shape our approach to addressing immediate needs.”

Needless to say, in order to begin the long quest for peace and security for the Palestinians and the Israelis the US must call for a ceasefire in the present conflict. What Blinken outlined last week in Tokyo could be a sign that the Biden Administration is approaching the crucial moment for calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

It is interesting to note that the US newspaper the Washington Post said on 12 November that the US has been warned about its “global standing” as the Gaza suffering persists. It pointed out that Arab leaders have admonished Blinken, telling him that the US will be deemed to have been complicit in the civilian deaths in Gaza caused by the Israeli aggression.

It is high time for the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for a ceasefire that should be allowed to pass without the Biden Administration exercising its veto power, as it has done so far when draft resolutions, one by Russia and one by Brazil and the UAE, were put to the vote.

It is still too early to speak seriously about the two-state solution, but this was the position adopted at the G7 ministerial meeting in Tokyo early this month. The foreign ministers present stressed in the statement released after the conclusion of their meeting that their countries are “committed to working closely with partners to prepare sustainable long-term solutions for Gaza and return to a broader peace process in line with the internationally agreed parameters.”

They concluded by underscoring “that a two-state solution which envisions Israel’s and a viable Palestinian state side by side in peace, security, and mutual recognition remains the only path to a just, lasting, and secure peace.”

Let us hope that the US and the G7 will muster the sustainable political will and determination to carry out this vision.


The writer is former assistant foreign minister.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 16 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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