Editorial: The elephant on the negotiating table

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Tuesday 9 Jan 2024

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken today concludes his fourth regional tour in three months with no concrete results regarding a ceasefire to halt the genocide Israel has been committing against the innocent Palestinian population of Gaza for over 90 days.


Practically speaking, this means the Biden administration continues to grant Israel the green light to carry out its daily war crimes in Gaza, exposing calls for protecting civilian lives for the lip service they are.

Blinken stopped in Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, ending his trip in Egypt. His declared priority is to prevent Israel’s war in Gaza from exploding into a broader regional conflict, with Lebanon witnessing escalating confrontations between Hizbullah and Israel, and Houthi rebels targeting ships heading towards Israel and causing havoc in the vital commercial naval routes of the Red Sea.

The irony of all Blinken’s statements is that he repeatedly warned against the expansion of the conflict without admitting that the way out of all such threats and tensions is to end the conflict itself, i.e. stop Israel’s vicious, indiscriminate bombing of Gaza and save innocent human lives that have been lost in skyrocketing numbers.

At the start of the fourth month of Israel’s war not so much on Hamas militants as on the civilian inhabitants of Gaza, 23,000 people including 10,000 children and 7,000 women have been killed. Thousands more are feared dead under the rubble that has turned into graveyards as Palestinian civil defence forces not only lack the basic equipment needed to save people and lift the dead, but are themselves being targeted themselves by Israeli missiles while carrying out their risky job, along with medical staff, journalists and UN workers. Nearly all of northern Gaza’s buildings have been levelled, together with 60 per cent of southern Gaza’s, including neighbourhoods that the Israeli occupation army announced were “safe zones” for the nearly two million Gazans made homeless by the bombing.

According to the humanitarian group Save the Children, at least 10 Palestinian children have either one or both of their limbs amputated each day. Worse, doctors who perform the amputations lack both the equipment and the anaesthetics to carry out operations painlessly. The organisation said children were seven times more vulnerable to severe injuries compared to adults because their skulls and organs are softer, and cannot endure the impact of the heavy bombs. Perhaps that explains the staggering number of deaths among children, besides the indiscriminate routine bombing by the Israeli forces whose aim is to collectively punish Palestinians in revenge for the 7 October attack by Hamas.

Blinken, who visited one of the UN centres preparing urgently needed food aid for Gaza in Jordan, is certainly aware of all these figures, as well as statements released by all respected human rights groups and nearly all countries stressing that Israel’s mass murder in Gaza has by far exceeded its right to defend itself against any future attacks by Hamas, and that it should have stopped not yesterday, but many weeks ago.

Yet, he continues to ignore the core reason behind the escalating tension in the region, and the unimaginable human losses Palestinians suffer, reiterating instead the need to facilitate the entry of human aid to Gaza, the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas, arrangements for “the day after” the war, as well as the long-term, clearly hard-to-achieve goal of a two-state solution.

Indeed it was a positive development that the US State Department rejected as “inflammatory and irresponsible” statements made by extremist ministers in Israel’s current right wing government on the need to forcibly deport Palestinians in Gaza to other countries. Nevertheless, that would remain a half-truth if Biden’s administration fails to recognise that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself supports what Israeli officials ridiculously described as “voluntary emigration.”

The Israeli press quoted Netanyahu telling Likud Party parliament members that the problem was finding countries that would agree to host Palestinians, and not the policy itself. The Israeli premier seems to be prioritising his own survival even if that it comes at the expense of Israeli hostages who will never be freed if a long-term ceasefire is not reached, was quoted by Israeli newspapers.

Even when Blinken expressed his sympathy in a news conference in Doha with Al-Jazeera Bureau Chief in Gaza Wael Al-Dahdouh, for losing his eldest son, Hamza, in an Israeli aerial attack on Sunday, after already losing his younger son, six-year-old daughter, wife and one-month-old grandson in an earlier attack in late October, the US secretary failed to name the culprit who killed Wael Dahdouh’s family in what clearly amounts to a determined policy of targeting journalists and their family members in Gaza. According to Palestinian sources, at least 110 journalists were killed since Israel launched its revenge war. The object is clearly to impose a blackout on the crimes the Israeli army has been committing against civilians, belying Israeli and much Western propaganda. After all, it was those horrific images transmitted by brave, martyred journalists that have turned worldwide public opinion against the war and prompted the demand for an immediate ceasefire.

Blinken’s efforts are welcome but they do not absolve the current US administration from the charge of being complicit in Israel’s crimes in Gaza as long as the war continues. It is the US and Israel that are risking expanding the war, and a regional turmoil that would be difficult to control if all hell breaks loose.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 11 January, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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