Blinken’s fourth visit to the region

Mohamed Hegazy
Tuesday 9 Jan 2024

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken must help to extricate the region from the disastrous Israeli war on Gaza that threatens regional stability and global security on his current regional tour, writes Mohamed Hegazy



he fourth visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region over the last three months comes at a critical and perilous juncture and serves as something of a last resort for both the US and Israel.

It aims to prevent the outbreak of a regional conflict in the Middle East, reduce tensions, and present a vision for Gaza after the Israeli war. It is now time for the US secretary of state to address the failure of the Israeli government in managing the crisis and to extricate it from this disastrous confrontation that threatens global security, regional stability, and worsens with each passing day.

The current visit holds out the hope of putting an end to the Israeli government’s failure to reach a ceasefire, facilitate further prisoner exchanges, manage the Gaza Strip, and promote a unified Palestinian vision with the West Bank. It also emphasises the reconstruction of Gaza and sets the stage for a political mechanism leading to a two-state solution. A proposal to achieve these things, set out by Egypt, is currently in circulation.

The visit, with its suggested perspectives and ideas, carries the hope of rescuing not only Israel, but also the entire region from a destructive and unethical path. Furthermore, it could also contribute to the success of US President Joe Biden’s presidential election campaign. If he plays a role similar to former president Jimmy Carter in achieving the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Agreement in the 1970s, it will add to his credit domestically and internationally, helping him to gain international trust and support his electoral goals.

Washington has provided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with time, logistical support, military assistance, and unprecedented diplomatic backing at the UN. However, Netanyahu has failed to achieve his goals, whether related to the release of the Israeli hostages or eliminating the resistance movement in Gaza.

The US understands that its strategic interests are now threatened in the region. Blinken’s present Middle East tour aims to present a vision leading to de-escalation, a ceasefire, further prisoner exchanges, and the preparation of the ground for a post-conflict government in Gaza. It aims to discuss the future of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian issue, and, most importantly, thwart any forced or voluntary displacement plans of Gaza residents.

However, we must be aware that Netanyahu aims to complicate the situation further and to perpetuate the war. He knows that his fate will be sealed the day the war ends and that he faces legal charges both domestically in the Israeli courts and potentially also at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The international community’s disgraceful silence towards Israel’s atrocities in Gaza must not continue.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague will hold hearings from 11 to 12 January regarding the case filed by South Africa against Israel for “acts of genocide against the Palestinian people” in Gaza. This case, supported by legal evidence and international witnesses, underscores the gravity of Israel’s actions.

The military failure to eliminate the resistance in Gaza and to release the prisoners has led to internal turmoil in the Israeli government, with various cabinet members blaming each other. This suggests the impending collapse of the internal situation in Israel under the weight of unmet military goals amid divisions and mutual accusations.

The economic pressures due to the prolonged war, which cannot be sustained by the Israeli economy, coupled with the disruption caused by the military reserves system and the impact on various sectors within Israel, indicate that Netanyahu’s government cannot endure a long war. Meanwhile, the resistance’s missiles continue to reach Israeli cities, inflicting ongoing losses and the loss of morale.

It is time for the Israeli government to adopt a more rational approach, especially as the regional situation is poised to explode after the assassination of the deputy head of Hamas’ political office in Beirut. The Middle East is heading towards more tension, especially with the open confrontation between Israel and Hizbullah and the bombings in Iran, both of which could have unintended consequences for the region.

Egypt will continue its efforts to achieve peace by presenting ideas to both sides for a sustainable ceasefire leading to the exchange of hostages. Through dialogue among the Palestinian factions, a joint Palestinian administration for the West Bank and Gaza under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority could be established. This would address the ongoing humanitarian crisis, initiate the process of reconstruction, and assist the people of the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian political leadership should carefully handle the challenges of this phase, keeping the resistance as an asset for the Palestinian state. If the intention to proceed with a two-state solution is sincere, dealing with this issue becomes possible, with a unified Palestinian administration leading the political process and reconstruction efforts. Politicians must address the burdens and challenges of this stage wisely.

I will conclude by highlighting Israel’s failed attempts at the forced displacement of the Palestinians, credited to Palestinian resilience and Egypt’s steadfast stance against such plans. Attempts to bring about “voluntary displacement” will also prove futile, and these constitute a war crime that is universally unacceptable.

While acknowledging the ongoing nature of this scheme, recent events signify a departure from mere retribution towards strategic planning and emphasise the need urgently to rebuild Gaza. The call for a comprehensive political vision for a viable two-state solution, adhering to international agreements and binding commitments for Israel, has been underscored.

The current scene, both harsh and futile, serves neither Palestinian nor Israeli interests, and it exacerbates the suffering of both populations and deepens international divisions. It sheds light on the weaknesses of UN institutions and poses the risk of unchecked crimes. All these things must be addressed by the international community during Blinken’s visit to the region.


The writer is former assistant to the foreign minister.

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

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