Gaza: Different international and internal constellation compared to the former Gaza „war“
While many commentators believe that Israel will destroy enough Hamas infrastructure and leaders as it did before in the former Gaza conflict or the war with Hisbollah in Lebanon, come to a ceasefire that will hold another 5-7 years until the next round of the conflict occurs, it is worth to read Israeli commentators who point out that the international and internal situation has changed dramatically compared with the former situation:
“Israel is winning battles, Hamas is winning the war – analysis
The IDF is registering great achievements in Operation Guardians of the Walls, but meanwhile the house appears to be collapsing from within.
By TZVI JOFFRE
May 17, 2021 20:31
As Israel battles its way through one of the most intense conflicts the country has experienced in recent years, the IDF is pushing how strongly it is striking Gaza and how far it’s setting Hamas back in Operation “Guardians of the Walls.” But while the IDF is standing strong against Hamas, the country is being torn apart by a war from within.
Despite terrorizing residents of southern Israel, as well as those in the center of the country, Hamas has always been perceived as the underdog. As much as it can disrupt daily life in the Jewish state, Israel has always been able to force Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad into a ceasefire, buying a few months or a few years of relative quiet.
But in this round, no matter how many terrorists or facilities are hit in Gaza, Hamas appeared for the first six days to have the upper hand, sparking chaos on all fronts. It managed to shift the battlefield from the areas within its rocket range to the entire country, with riots shaking all corners of Israel.
This round of fighting seems to have its base in unrest in Jerusalem, with Hamas stressing that it fired a barrage of rockets towards Jerusalem due to planned evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem and Israeli measures surrounding al-Aqsa.
With economic stress from the coronavirus crisis; ongoing political strife and instability in both Israel and the Palestinian territories; and charged rhetoric by both Jews and Palestinians ahead of Jerusalem Day, the groundwork was set for conflict.
While Hamas has often claimed to be defending Jerusalem against what it claims are aggressive Israeli measures and “Judaization” efforts, this time it succeeded in uniting forces with the West Bank and Arab-Israeli communities. Outrage at perceived Jewish assaults on Jerusalem and al-Aqsa, as well as protests against Israeli actions in Gaza, was blown up and used to spark riots in Jerusalem, Lod and Haifa.
The violence quickly spread to other cities. Arab residents assaulted Jews on the streets and in their homes, burning synagogues and vandalizing large areas.
IMAGES AND testimony from the scenes within Israel brought back images of the 1929 riots against Jews throughout the British Mandate, when Arabs across the region committed pogroms against their Jewish neighbors. Those riots, oddly enough, were also sparked by incitement from Muslim leaders, who used al-Aqsa as their political playing card and quickly escalated due to misinformation and incitement. Jews and Arabs also clashed during the unrest in 1929.
In recent days, Jews and Arabs across Israel have gone out to the streets prepared for violence. Jewish extremist groups called on people across the country to go out and confront any Arabs they came across. Some of these groups also threatened to attack the media.
While these Jewish groups portrayed themselves as protecting Jewish civilians, in many cases they were groups of hooligans simply looking to take out their anger on random Arabs. One case in particular in Bat Yam shook the country, as Jewish youth ripped an Arab passerby out of a car and began to beat him mercilessly.
In Jerusalem and the West Bank, rioters have clashed with security forces on a nightly basis in recent days in support of Gaza.
Along the borders with Lebanon and Jordan, protesters attempted to break through the border fence. In Lebanon, what seemed to be a Palestinian terror group even launched three rockets towards Israel.
ON THURSDAY, Abu Obaida, spokesperson for Hamas’s Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, expressed the uniqueness of the current situation well, stating: “What distinguishes this battle is the solidarity of our people in all arenas and their clash with the occupation.”
Hamas has achieved what it has called for in statement after statement in recent years: unity through hatred. It has united communities from Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and even Israel in fear and in rage against the State of Israel. In the meantime, Israel stands divided, torn by political strife, instability and infighting.
Many government officials responded to the situation by calling for stronger force by Israeli security forces. Amid the deep distrust of the government already present in all parts of Israeli society after two years without a stable government, this likely only fanned the flames.
But there are those attempting to lower the flames. Joint Jewish-Arab demonstrations have called for coexistence and peace. Municipal officials from all sectors released joint statements calling for residents to calm the situation and avoid violence. There are many reasons to hope.
But despite the best efforts of activists, city officials and security forces, violence is still ravaging the streets of Israel. Enraged Arabs and Jews are clashing, with the terms “civil war” and “pogrom” thrown around by civilians living with the uncertainty of an unprecedented situation.
So yes, the IDF is registering great achievements in Operation Guardians of the Walls, but meanwhile the house appears to be collapsing from within. Israel is winning battles for sure, but Hamas seems to be winning the war.
In just a week, Hamas succeeded in igniting a civil conflict between Jews and Arabs within Israeli territory and sparking one of the largest conflicts with Gaza in recent years.
WHILE THE IDF will eventually finish up in Gaza as it always does and the violence in the streets will likely eventually die down, what will be the state of the country? How does Israel move on?
And in the face of these great challenges, what tools will we have?
Israel has gone over two years without a stable government. Incitement and sectarianism have plagued Israel for a long time, and this only intensified during the political and coronavirus crises, as all of Israeli society split, and hostile rhetoric from all sides plagued media and politics as officials attempted to garner favor during four rounds of elections.
Hamas saw the situation and used it to its advantage, taking the anger and hurt already simmering across Israeli society and putting it on a high flame. They may have lit the match, but we certainly had the firewood ready.
But politicians aren’t the only ones to blame. While much of the incitement came from above, the citizens of Israel accepted, justified and helped spread it. It is regular civilians who have gone out in recent days, spread strife and lynched their neighbors.
So, when we look to heal these scars, we cannot just look up: We must also look within. Only the general populace will truly be able to fix the damage this conflict has caused. It will take tremendous efforts by all sides in a Herculean show of unity to bridge the widened gaps. It will demand overcoming extreme fear and distrust. This will demand perhaps the largest civil effort in Israel’s history.
Of course, security forces need to respond to the violence and work intensively to keep the peace, but that must be accompanied with intensive efforts on a civil level to understand how such sectarianism can be combated. A balanced approach must be found or we will simply perpetuate the cycle of violence and push off the actual issues.
This will not happen overnight. Deep wounds have been inflicted in Israeli society this past week that will take months, if not years to heal. Israeli society is perhaps more divided than it ever has been.
But the demonstrations of coexistence that popped up despite the chaos and fear show that it can and must be done. Hamas is winning this war– and this time it will take the general populace, not just the IDF, to tilt the scales and win it back.
Despite the blockade of Gaza, Hamas has now the capacity to build modern rockets with an expanded range in Gaza, while its rockets in the last Gaza conflict had a range of 10 kilometers, they now have 150 kilometer, can target Tel Aviv , Jerusalem and try to come to a range of 250 kilometers at the next step. And while Israel is getting international isolated, the Hamas could unite Palestinians in Gaza, the Westbank, Lebanon and in Israel for the first time, the Israeli see also a Hamas victory in the media and propaganda war:
“Israel is fighting an image war and losing – editorial
Israel may be winning the war against Hamas terrorists on the battlefield, but it is again losing support in the court of public opinion as international sympathy tips in favor of the Palestinians.
May 17, 2021 22:30
On May 13, an IAF strike leveled al-Jalaa Tower, an 11-floor building in Gaza City containing the offices of several international media outlets – including The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera – after giving residents an hour to evacuate.
The video of the strike aired around the world elicited wide condemnation, including a statement from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that he was “deeply disturbed” by the Israeli airstrike.
In a briefing with reporters, the IDF said it targeted the building because it had been used by Hamas to house military intelligence and research. The explanation did not suffice.
As Ambassador Arthur Lenk tweeted, “It often takes too long for @IDF to tell its stories during conflicts (Mavi Marmara, Jenin, Muhammad el-Dura, terror tunnels, shooting from schools). In the end, its claims are often proven true but the news cycles have long moved on & images have already damaged Israel’s reputation.”
Israel may be winning the war against Hamas terrorists on the battlefield, but it is again losing support in the court of public opinion as international sympathy tips in favor of the Palestinians. One of the reasons for this is that no person or body is authorized with the overall responsibility of presenting Israel’s case effectively to the media and the world.
In 2002, the State Comptroller issued a harsh report on Israel’s PR efforts, decrying “a lack of an overall strategic public relations conception and objective” and a lack of coordination between the various organizations involved.
Four years later, after the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Israel established a public diplomacy department in the Prime Minister’s Office that was meant to integrate all relevant government agencies and to coordinate among them while deciding on clear talking points and messaging.
Yarden Vatikay, a former IDF officer, was appointed to coordinate Israel’s domestic and foreign media policy and he did so for some time but he stepped down two years ago. No one was appointed to replace him. In 2015, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy was authorized to act against the delegitimization of Israel – but this too was short-lived and ultimately ineffective.
In the current conflict, Israel’s supporters have proudly shared images of the Iron Dome intercepting Hamas rockets before they can kill and damage people and property in Israel. But these are overshadowed by the images of Israel leveling the Gaza media building or a house in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, killing at least 10 members of the Abu Hatab family, most of them children.
After Israel celebrated Jerusalem Day, international audiences witnessed a video of Jewish men singing and dancing at the Western Wall as a fire raged outside the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Such images played into the Palestinian narrative that this conflict centers on Jerusalem, and was triggered by Israeli restrictions on Muslim prayers during Ramadan and the threatened evictions of Arab families in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Hamas is portrayed as the guardian of Palestinians, and Israel – which has justifiably responded to the indiscriminate firing of rockets by carrying out attacks against terrorist targets in Gaza – is unfairly perceived as the aggressor rather than the victim.
While Israel has many eloquent spokespeople, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu down, there was no coordinated effort from the outset to counter these harmful images, which clearly play into the hands of Hamas.
Due to the lack of an interagency body, the Foreign Ministry took charge, improvised and created a task-force to run media operations. This is commendable but it is not enough.
As recent wars with Lebanon and Gaza, including the current one, have demonstrated, Israel needs to take the battleground of public diplomacy earnestly and establish an agency that will ultimately be responsible for presenting Israel’s case.
The agency should be headed by a well-respected and gifted individual, overseeing a team of experienced experts from Israel and abroad. This should be the last war in which Israel is not armed with a first-class public diplomacy team to deftly defend it on the international stage.
It’s time to establish an Iron Dome system for public diplomacy, to fight back and defend Israel in the theater of public perception.
But it is not just a question of the media image because the lack of a proper Israeli propaganda and media agency, but mostly the political content and therefore a political question rarely discussed in Israel: After the assassination of Rabin by Israel´s right, the Netanjahu government like Hamas did everything to prevent a 2 state solution. The PLO was sticking to the Oslo agreement, relied on the help of the international community, abolished terrorism, didn´t launch rockets from the Westbank, acknowleged Israel´s right to exist within the borders before 1967. While the Israeli side claimed that the PLO would have demanded the right of Palestinians to return to Israel as a hindrance for a two state solution, it pushed and promoted the illegal settelments and the land grabbing in the Westbank and Jerusalem and the PLO did nothing against it except verbal protests and hoping for the international community which didn´t really care . The right to return to Israel might have been negotiable with the PLO and maybe have had the same status like the demands of German refugee organisations from the former part of the German Reich which were abolished by the 2 plus 4 treaty by defining the borders of Germany. And it is no excuse to expand settlements in the Westbank and kill the two sate solution. That´s the underlying cause of the conflict of which the Islamist terrorist party Hamas can take political advantage. Decades of peaceful efforts by the PLO to realize the Oslo Peace agreement didn´t bring any success, just the opposite. That´s why many Palestinians don´t believe in a peaceful solution anymore and if there were election in he Westbank t is very likely that Hamas could win the elections and build a second terror front against Israel in the Westbank besides Gaza and the Hisbollah in Lebanon. Many German commentators point out that the consensus of democratic Germany was the Israel´s right to exist, but to put it more concretely: The German and international consensus of the democratic West is Isreal´s right to exist within the borders before 1967 and not the right for illegal settlements and landgrabbing and expansion of territiory at the expense of the Palestinians. And the ruling Israeli parties don´t change the settlement policy, but raised the numbers of Israeli settlers in the Westbank from 110 000 in the 90s to 750 000 at present. And this is the political content no better media propaganda agency could ignore and cover up.
The Israelis have now also some sort of selfcriticism, if they raise the question if there intelligence community failed to foresee the coming Gaza conflict and if the prior policy against Hamas has been too weak:
“Did Mossad, IDF intelligence failure lead to Gaza war?
The basis of the policy has been to prevent an economic implosion in Gaza following the PA cutting off its funding to Hamas due to ongoing strife between the groups.
May 20, 2021 07:50
Amid the debates set off by the current Gaza war, many observers are looking at Israel’s intelligence gathering and asking questions.
Among them: Has Mossad director Yossi Cohen’s policy of facilitating Qatari funding of Hamas collapsed, and did the outbreak of the war expose its holes?
With regard to IDF intelligence, did it fail to appreciate the likelihood of a conflict with Hamas surrounding the Palestinian elections, Sheikh Jarrah and Jewish-Arab violence within Israel?
Did it fail to prepare for Hamas’s latest rocket tactics for penetrating the Iron Dome air-defense shield?
The Jerusalem Post has learned that Cohen stands by his policy regarding Qatar, though he would not discuss the future before the smoke clears from the current conflict.
In explaining the rationale of the Qatar-Hamas policy until now, sources say it achieved stability and staved off war at a time when the conflict could have come sooner.
The basis of the policy has been to prevent an economic implosion in Gaza following the PA cutting off its funding to Hamas due to ongoing strife between the two groups.
Absence of war is the best goal, but even delaying it as long as possible is not a small achievement in Cohen’s eyes. This is especially true in light of the fact that no one to date has solved the Gordian knot of how to reduce the long-term Gaza threat.
Any future policy regarding Qatar would be connected to the overall new strategy for how to manage relations with Gaza and the Palestinians more broadly, sources indicated.
However, the Qatar policy promoted by Cohen and his benefactor, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are now under attack from serious security experts.
On Wednesday, former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yoram Cohen strongly criticized the Netanyahu-Cohen policy to facilitate Qatar bringing funds to Hamas.
Hamas must be isolated much more aggressively than it was after the 2014 Gaza war when he was in the security cabinet, he said in an interview with KAN Radio.
Assuming that a “quiet-for-quiet” ceasefire occurs on Thursday or soon after, Yoram Cohen said that only very strictly defined humanitarian assistance, such as food and medicine, should be allowed into Gaza.
In contrast, he said facilitating funds from Qatar gave Hamas too much breathing room and relieved the stress on it, which might otherwise have forced it to change its approach toward Israel.
If Hamas has no Qatari funds and no building materials to rehabilitate Gaza, the endless rounds of fighting to a stalemate might finally be broken, he said.
LIKEWISE, BRIG.-GEN. (ret.) Udi Dekel, managing director of the Institute for National Security Studies, wrote last week: “First and foremost, the current round of escalation illustrates the problematic nature of the current dealings with Hamas – the transfer of money from Qatar, which, along with allowing relief for residents of the Gaza Strip, enables Hamas to strengthen its control and terror-military power, and conduct defiant policies.”
This policy also weakens “the Palestinian Authority, inter alia, by undermining its status as a partner for a deal with Israel,” he said.
“Hamas’s brazenness and our inability to understand its rationale illustrate why Israel should strive for a stable, long-term settlement in Gaza that is not based on blackmail and the actual strengthening of Hamas, but on strengthening the Palestinian Authority,” Dekel wrote.
“In Gaza, dependence on Qatari money has been shown not to be a stable, long-term solution,” he added. “It is better to find other tools to restrain Hamas and allow normal life for the population of the Gaza Strip.”
Dekel listed a litany of Hamas assumptions and achievements from the current round of fighting.
“Israel must shatter the validity of these assumptions, which drive Hamas’s policies and activities,” including the policy of handouts from Qatar, he wrote.
Although Qatar has been said to be working toward a ceasefire, along with Egypt, at no time has there been an indication that it was able to restrain Hamas from initiating the war or firing rockets at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and central Israel.
Regarding IDF intelligence, there has been mixed messaging about what it did or did not anticipate from Hamas.
On the one hand, the IDF, the cabinet and the country were caught flat-footed by the Hamas rocket assault against Jerusalem on May 10.
Also, the Israeli public was surprised by the number of times Hamas succeeded at penetrating the Iron Dome’s protection.
Hamas’s tactic of firing about 130 rockets at Tel Aviv and central Israel within a period of minutes was not something it had ever achieved before.
During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, it might have fired that many rockets at critical Israeli areas over several hours or a whole day, but not in minutes.
On May 15, IDF intelligence did tell the press it had warned the political echelon that Hamas might act rashly because of the canceled Palestinian elections, the Sheikh Jarrah land dispute, or if the police had placed new barriers at Damascus Gate.
However, Netanyahu on Wednesday said Israel “didn’t expect a wide conflagration” as tensions rose in Jerusalem earlier this month.
With prior reports, before the rocket fire, that both the IDF and the Shin Bet had warned the cabinet about the tense situation, the overall thrust appears to be that there was a warning – but it was not strong enough for the cabinet to see rockets on May 10 as a sudden, concrete outcome.
Rather, the warnings were seen as generic and meant to cool things down from an uptick in tension, not necessarily to avoid a full-scale war.
While the cabinet can be blamed for not heeding the warnings, the IDF probably needed to warn more strenuously – and needs to admit that it missed the depth of the spike in anger on the Palestinian side.
“Ex-Shin Bet chief: No return to pre-war setup, isolate Hamas
Former Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen opposes returning to the same set of understandings that existed between Israel and Gaza prior to the current war.
May 19, 2021 21:09
Yoram Cohen, former chief of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), told KAN radio on Wednesday that he opposes returning to the same set of understandings that existed between Israel and Gaza prior to the current war, and believes that Hamas must be isolated much more aggressively.
Assuming that a “quiet for quiet” ceasefire occurs on Thursday or sooner, he would allow only very strictly defined humanitarian assistance into Gaza, including food and medicine.
Though he would not interfere with fishing and other such aspects of economic life in the coastal enclave, he would block sending in building materials of any kind.
This means he would not only oppose building materials that Hamas might use to rebuild its own bases and tunnels, but would also oppose building material to rehabilitate Gaza more broadly.
Though generally such materials are defined as humanitarian since many Gazans lost their homes, Cohen’s hope would be that this pressure would make Hamas’s rule unsustainable, without it agreeing to new compromises with Israel or the international community.
Cohen slammed the post-2014-Gaza-war process in which he said tens of thousands of international inspectors were supposed to ensure that anything that went into Gaza was not appropriated by Hamas, but the number was reduced to hundreds of inspectors to border crossing cameras and then to cameras that could not even properly oversee the issue.
Next, he said he does not believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was purposely trying to strengthen Hamas at the Palestinian Authority’s expense, but that some of the policies the government has in place had in fact had this effect.
He strongly criticized Netanyahu’s policy to facilitate Qatar bringing funds to Hamas.
The basis of the policy has been to prevent an economic implosion in Gaza following the PA cutting off its funding to the terrorist group due to ongoing strife between them.
Cohen was head of the Shin Bet during the 2014 Gaza war.
He had told The Jerusalem Post he supports a “Palestinian state minus,” including most of the West Bank and parts of east Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods, but with Israel maintaining the right of hot pursuit in Palestinian areas in the event of terrorist situations.
Cohen told the Post he opposed giving Hamas an artificial port off the Gaza coast, an idea that has been supported by some in the Israeli defense establishment.
On the other hand, if there is a final-status deal in the very distant future, he would “not view it as a disaster” if some of the all-Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem “which have no Jewish historical, religious or security value” would be part of a Palestinian autonomous area. He cited Jebel Mukaber, Sur Bahir, Sheikh Said, a-Ram, the Shuafat refugee camp and Isawiya as examples. Cohen is against ceding the Mount of Olives or dividing the Old City.
In the past, Cohen has called Hamas unreasonable, saying that in exchange for a long-term truce, it demands immediate sea ports and airports as well as full access to Israel, completely unrealistic demands as long as the group is armed and committed to Israel’s destruction.
He has explained that any dialogue through third parties shows Hamas is unwilling to be more humane about releasing Israeli captives and captured Israeli bodies, or about what it can realistically expect in the absence of real peace.
Cohen has previously said that if Hamas ever “created a better atmosphere,” Israel could consider allowing “shuttles of Gazans straight to Jordan… through Israel,” without having to go through the West Bank.
When in charge of the Shin Bet, Cohen sent a letter to Netanyahu on March 21, 2013, warning that Hamas was restoring tunnels attacked from the air.
This means that even eight years ago, Cohen was a hawk about stopping Hamas from restoring its military capabilities.
However, the Israelis and their security and intelligence apparatus never question the policy of settlements, occupation and landgrabbing, which they seem to see as raison d´etat, national interest and normalit, but not the root of the cause..
The Gaza conflict is now aso becoming a power play of the Sinoamerican conflict.
China, Tunisia and Norway have introduced a UN resolution to the house, which is supported by most UN members and reads at the first glance fairly moderately. The US has blocked this, however, on the grounds that it could „backfire“. The US is concerned that they could anger Israel or does not want it because China has imitated it and the US wants to keep the direction behind the scenes .However, the USA and Israel seem to get more and more isolated as most members of the UNO would support the UN statement:
“US blocks third draft UN statement on Israel-Gaza violence, diplomats say
- President Joe Biden’s administration has insisted that it is working behind the scenes, including through a visit to the region by an envoy, and that a UN statement could backfire, according to diplomats.
The United States on Monday blocked — for the third time in a week — the adoption of a joint UN Security Council statement calling for a halt to Israeli-Palestinian violence and the protection of civilians, diplomats said.
The text drafted by China, Tunisia and Norway was submitted late Sunday for approval Monday by the Council’s 15 members, as Israeli jets continued to pound the Gaza Strip and the death toll from a week of violence passed 200.
The United States indicated that they „could not currently support an expression“ by the Security Council, one diplomat told AFP.
The text, obtained by AFP, called for „de-escalation of the situation, cessation of violence and respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians, especially children.“
It voiced the Council’s „grave concern“ at the Gaza crisis and its „serious concern“ regarding the possible eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem, opposing „unilateral actions“ likely to further escalate tensions.
The draft also welcomed international efforts to de-escalate the situation, without reference to the United States, and reiterated the Council’s support for a negotiated two-state solution allowing Israelis and Palestinians to „live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders.“
– ‚Protect civilians, especially children‘ –
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric underlined the importance of taking a consolidated position on the conflict.
„I would really restate the need for a very strong and unified voice from the Security Council, which we think will carry weight,“ he told a press conference.
The UN General Assembly will hold an in-person debate on the Israeli-Palestinian clashes at 1400 GMT on Thursday, assembly spokesman Brenden Varma said.
The Security Council has held three emergency meetings on the escalating violence in the past week, the latest on Sunday, without reaching a common position — with Israel’s main ally the United States accused of obstructionism.
President Joe Biden’s administration has insisted that it is working behind the scenes, including through a visit to the region by an envoy, and that a UN statement could backfire, according to diplomats.
At a news conference in Copenhagen on Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israel and Palestinians to „protect civilians, especially children“ — and defended Washington’s move to block a UN Security Council statement calling for an end to the hostilities.
„We’re not standing in the way of diplomacy,“ Blinken stressed.
The US refusal to endorse a joint Security Council statement has been met with disbelief by its allies.
„We are just asking the US to support a statement by the Security Council that would pretty much say similar things which are being saying bilaterally from Washington,“ one diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.
But China doesn´t seem to be a neutral mediator, but mainly critizise the Israeli counterattacks against the Hamas rocket terror as “Israeli aggression”- in one line with Iran and other Arab and Muslim states.And while Israel had quiet good relations with China and Russia in the past, even delivering China modern weapons and military technology despite US protests, China signed a 25 years cooperation treaty with Iran, wants to become the dominant player in the Middle East besides Russia and Turkey and to promote its Silkroad also in the Greater Middle East and there were also rumors that Russia wanted to allow a Hamas bureau in Moscow.:
Iran’s game plan with China amid Israel-Gaza conflict?
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the US to „adjust“ its position on Israel-Gaza conflict, claiming that the US was „standing on the opposite side of the international community.”
Iran is emphasizing China’s opposition to the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Friday that the US was “standing on the opposite side of the international community.” Her comments were about efforts at the UN to press for an end to Israel’s strikes on Gaza. “What we can feel is that the US keeps saying that it cares about the human rights of Muslims… but it was ignoring the suffering of the Palestinian people,” Hua said.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the US to „adjust“ its position on Israel-Gaza conflict on Sunday. He was speaking to the UN Security Council. „We call upon US to shoulder its responsibilities and adjust its position,“ he said. „The use of force cannot ensure peace, nor can violence bring tranquillity,“ he said, adding it is important that Israel exercises restraint and observe the relevant UN resolutions, stop the demolition of Palestinian homes, and the eviction of the Palestinian people.
On the one hand these statements could be seen as China trying to isolate the US and get back at the US for recent criticism. However Iran’s media has emphasized the comments. Iran and China have a new 25-year deal. While this should bring stability to Iran and possible the wider region through China’s “belt and road” initiative, China is taking a tough line on the Gaza issue. China and Israel have amicable relations but there are controversies because the US wants Israel to distance itself from China. A port deal in Haifa and other Chinese inroads in Israel are a concern to Washington.
Iran’s Press TV says that China’s “foreign minister blasts the United States for choking any criticism of the Israeli regime’s barbarity against the Palestinians at the United Nations Security Council.” It quotes Wang Yi at length. „Regrettably, simply because of the obstruction of one country, the Security Council hasn’t been able to speak with one voice,“ Wang Yi told an emergency meeting of the Council on Sunday.
Iran’s point here appears to be to emphasize that China is playing a larger leading role in the Middle East. In a way China’s statements here are an attempt to undermine regional and international confidence in the US. The by-product is that China appears more reliable and consistent. Iran thinks it will win under this China-led system. Russia, which also works with Iran and wants to see the US influence reduced has sent Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin to critique Israel’s actions.
The mouthpiece of the CCP Global Times blames Trump´s action as root of the problem and critizises Biden´s “behind the scene silent diplomacy!” as inaction which would prove that the USA didn´t act as a responsible and major world power anymore as it focuses now mainly at the Asia-Pacific and would only act against China:
“From Trump’s all-out support for Israel to Biden’s no concrete action, the US has ‘undeniable responsibility’ for today’s conflict
By Zhang Hui
Published: May 18, 2021 12:32 AM Updated: May 18, 2021 12:33 AM
When a Palestinian girl wept out her tears in the ruins of her bombed home, asking „why do we deserve this? What did we do for this? They just don’t like us because we are Muslims,“ the US continued to obstruct the UN Security Council (UNSC) to issue a statement on the Israel-Palestine conflict, ignoring the human rights of civilians in Palestine and the international community’s call for a ceasefire.
Chinese observers said US not just fanned the flames of conflict, but also displayed to the world how selfish and hypocritical it is in terms of respecting human rights and shouldering its responsibilities as a major power.
The US is facing mounting calls for greater involvement in solving the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict with hostilities entering a second week. Chinese observers believed the US has an undeniable responsibility for the fiercest fighting since 2014 due to its one-sided Middle East policy serving Israel.
China urges the US to shoulder its due responsibility, take a fair position and support the UNSC’s role in easing the Palestine-Israel situation, rebuilding trust and achieving a political settlement with the international community, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at Monday’s routine media briefing.
As the large majority of the international community is calling to stop civilian bloodshed, the US has not made any statement in support of an immediate ceasefire, criticized Israel’s offensives or sent a top diplomat to the region.
In sharp contrast, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the conflict as „utterly appalling,“ calling for an immediate end to it.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called on Sunday for an immediate halt to what it described as Israel’s barbaric attacks on Gaza and blamed „systematic crimes“ against the Palestinians for hostilities, Reuters reported Monday.
And even the US‘ European allies have been calling on the US to take practical actions. French Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Clement Beaune said on French television that the US must involve itself more effectively. „It’s clear that they are the ones who still have the main diplomatic command,“ Beaune remarked.
What’s worse, US President Joe Biden has been under stronger criticism domestically. Adam Schiff, Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee, urged Biden on Sunday to step up pressure on both sides to end the current fighting and revive talks to resolve Israel’s conflicts and flashpoints with the Palestinians, AP reported on Monday.
The US bore an undeniable responsibility for the Israel-Palestine conflict, and its policy in the Middle East has long been kidnapped by its Jewish community that serves the interest of Israel, Tian Wenlin, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Monday.
Former US president Donald Trump announced in 2017 that the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This overturned decades-old official US policy. And then in 2018, Trump decided to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Palestine has been very dissatisfied with these US moves.
Chinese observers said that what Trump did in the past years has sowed the seeds for the current conflicts and bloodshed.
While Biden has not taken any concrete moves in reversing Trump’s pro-Israel policy, a „spoilt“ Israel had taken its chances which lead to the conflict, Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of the Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Monday.
Chinese observers said that Biden is unlikely to make any concrete moves in de-escalating the confrontation, at most making certain gestures in diplomatic language that do not mean anything, Tian said.
As the biggest influencer to the Israel, the US is pulling out of the region to avoid being involved in affairs other than in the Asia-Pacific so that it can focus on dealing with China and Russia, observers said.
The Palestinian issue is actually a „mirror“ reflecting the US‘ hypocrisy on human rights, Chinese observers said, noting that the US is indulging Israel in the killing and oppression of Palestinian Muslims while criticizing China’s treatment regarding Muslims in Xinjiang, Tian said.
The US has been pressuring Arab countries on Xinjiang-related issues to force them follow the US in criticizing China’s human rights and sabotaging the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, while ignoring its own human rights issues and the civilian bloodshed in Palestine, observers said.
And the US‘ pressure on Middle Eastern countries has not and will not succeed, as many developing countries in the region know that the views of human rights held by the US don’t represent those of the international community, and only human rights views of developing countries such as China should be more listened to, observers said.
During this year’s session of the UN Human Rights Council, many developing countries, including the 21 Arab countries, voiced their solidarity with China, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in March.
Wang Yi said that China reiterates its invitation to peacemakers from Palestine and Israel to come to China for dialogue, and welcomes negotiators from Palestine and Israel to hold direct talks in China when he chaired the UNSC open debate via video link on Sunday regarding the Palestine-Israel conflict in the Gaza Strip.
The conflict in the Gaza Strip has seen 198 Palestinians killed, including 58 children and 35 women, on Monday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
China, as the rotating president of the UNSC for May, has pushed the council to hold two rounds of urgent closed-door consultations on the Palestine-Israel conflict and drafted a UNSC press statement.
As for Wang’s remarks, Zhao Lijian said on Monday that China has been promoting peace talks and staying in communication with all parties concerned to implement State Councilor Wang Yi’s initiative to advance the Palestine-Israel peace talks and push for an early and just settlement of the Palestinian issue.
China has been supporting the resolution of differences between Palestine and Israel through peace talks for years and this time Wang specifically emphasized welcoming negotiators from Palestine and Israel to hold direct talks in China, indicating that China is willing to deepen its involvement in solving the long-standing issue, Tian said.
China, as a responsible major country, has offered help in solving the ongoing confrontation and would like to provide a platform for the ultimate way out of the Palestinian issue, Liu said.
But both Tian and Liu said that China’s role remains limited, and resolving the conflict depends on the two parties involved.
In the past few years, China has become more involved in the Palestine-Israel issue, showing an increased willingness to help solve the conflict through dialogue and the two-state solution and strengthening friendly relationships with countries in the Middle East, Chinese observers said.
China had successfully invited both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to visit China in 2013 to work with the international community and play a positive and constructive role in the settlement of the Palestinian issue.
In March 2021, Wang visited six Middle Eastern countries in seven days including Saudi Arabia and Iran, setting a record for the Chinese foreign minister visiting the most Middle Eastern countries in one single trip.
In 2020, trade between China and Arab countries reached nearly $240 billion, making China the largest trading partner of Arab countries, and China imported 250 million tons of crude oil from Arab countries, accounting for half of China’s total imports in the same period.
Compared with the US, Tian said, China’s biggest advantage in solving the conflict lies in that it supports justice and fairness and has maintained friendly relations with both parties.
China does not set any preconditions in its efforts to promote peace talks, and China’s participation in Middle Eastern affairs is not for the purpose of obtaining economic dividends as a peaceful Middle East benefits the whole world, Liu said.
„It’s also worth mentioning that China’s role in helping resolve the hostilities is limited, and whether China’s invitation will end up having good results is not reliant on China, but at the center of the conflict concerning Palestine and Israel,“ Liu said.
„But what China has been doing in pushing for peace talks in the region is not to act as a challenger to the US in the Middle East, but to play a constructive role and shoulder the responsibility of a major power as well as the rotating presidency of the UNSC for May,“ Liu said. „
While Russia, China and Iran are trying to take advantage of the conflict, similar voices come up in Turkey. The Jerusalem Post reports about a programmatic article in a Turkish right-winged magazine which it perceives as „trial balloon“ by Erdogan´s ruling AKP to redefine the borders in the Mediterrean and the Middle East:
“Turkey media threatens Israel with ‚Libya model‘ of water grab off Gaza
The concept pushed by the Turkish media, likely with support from the government, argues that Turkey can sign a deal with the Palestinians and increase support for them by sea.
May 17, 2021 14:42
Turkey’s far-right Yeni Safak newspaper argued on Monday, with a frontpage story, that Turkey might implement a “Libya model” for Israel by signing a deal with Hamas-run Gaza to get access to water and energy rights off Israel’s coast. The model is based on an agreement Turkey pushed on the embattled government of Libya in 2019 which resulted in Turkey sending Syrian mercenaries and drones to Libya in violation of an arms embargo.
The concept pushed by the Turkish media, likely with support from the government, argues that Turkey can sign a deal with the Palestinians and increase support for them by sea. This would put Israel and Turkey on a military collision course. Turkey hosts Hamas leaders and supports Hamas. Its potential plan to link Turkey and Gaza by sea would harm Israel’s gas pipeline plans with Cyprus and Greece.
The goal for Turkey was to ignore Greek and Cyprus claims to exclusive economic zones and blocks of undersea areas for energy exploration, to create a Turkish “blue motherland” grabbing all the Mediterranean around Cyprus, Greek islands and now near Israel. Turkey’s sea-grab has no precedent in international or maritime laws and norms. Nevertheless that has not stopped Turkey, empowered by the previous US administration, of sending its navy with “research vessels” to conduct energy exploration in areas usually claimed by Greece.
To understand Turkey’s goal, it is that Turkey will draw a line from the Turkish coastline directly to Gaza, ostensibly dividing the sea and creating a corridor. This would cut off Israel from Greece and the East Med pipeline that Israel, Greece and Cyprus want to build. Turkey argues that Cyprus does not exist and that Greek islands have no maritime rights around them. Greece and Cyprus view things differently, arguing much of the Mediterranean around Cyprus and Greek islands is linked to them. Cyprus has deals with Egypt and Israel and Greece and Egypt have deals and good relations.
Turkey illegally invaded Northern Cyprus in the 1970s and now wants a “two state” solution for Cyprus, potentially trying to create a second country on the island of Cyprus based around Northern Cyprus, which Turkey recognizes. This would complicate the claims at sea. But Turkey’s novel approach to the Palestinian issue takes this a step further, suggesting it could sign a deal with Hamas or the Palestinian Authority and grab control of the water off Israel, putting Turkey and Israel on a collision course. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is one of the world’s leading anti-Israel voices. He compares Israel to the Nazis and has sought sanctions against Israel during the recent conflict. His goal is to isolate Israel. He threatened the UAE against signing a peace deal with Israel. He hosts Hamas leaders with a red carpet in Istanbul and Ankara. He recently phoned Iran’s President and discussed joint work against Israel.
The “Blue Homeland” idea at sea was published by a far-right paper as a trial balloon. In Turkey all media is pro-government and critical journalists are imprisoned or have to leave the country. So this article had the stamp of approval of the ruling AKP party. It quotes Rear Admiral Cihat Yayci, the “architect” of the current Turkish Mediterranean policy. The article argues that an agreement like the one in Libya, but with the Palestinians would “increase Palestine’s international recognition” and enable real support for the Palestinians.
It would enable Turkey to contest Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Back in 2010 Turkey sent far-right Islamist IHH activists aboard the Mavi Marmara to try to break the blockade to Gaza. An Israeli command raid resulted in the deaths of ten Turks aboard the ships. Turkey would like to send its navy to Gaza. Israel is acquiring new Sa’ar 6 Corvettes to defend its Exclusive Economic Zone.
Meanwhile Hamas in Gaza has tried to build unmanned submarines and use rockets to attack gas rigs at sea off the coast of Ashkelon. This is clearly an economic war and one designed to challenge Israel’s energy goals. The article argues that Turkey signed an agreement in 2011 with Northern Cyprus. It argues that Turkey can sign deals with governments that are not recognized by the international community. This likely means Hamas. The article specifies Gaza as an entity and compares it to Taiwan.
“A position like in Libya can also be created. Here, the Israeli factor is not an obstacle to the agreement. If Palestine can become a member of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (East-Med), it can also sign an agreement with us. East-Med membership is an indication that Palestine is an international unit in its own right with a coast in the Eastern Mediterranean. Such an agreement could turn the game….in our favor. It will be a strategic chess move for us.” Turkey thus proposes using Palestinian membership in the gas forum to frustrate Israel’s relations with Greece and Cyprus and achieve Turkey’s goal.
However, Erdogan-Turkey is becoming one of the main rivals of the anti-Israel camp and there are even voicesfor an anti-Israel alliance an to sperate Jerusalem from Israel:
“Turkey’s anti-Israel obsession reaches new heights
Among the recent statements include a demand by Turkey to separate Jerusalem from Israel.
May 19, 2021 19:04
Turkey’s anti-Israel rhetoric has rapidly increased during the past eight days of fighting. The rhetoric targeting Israel and Jews has reached such heights that the US has condemned Turkey’s president for antisemitic comments.
While the US works to bring an end to the Hamas war against Israel, Turkey is fanning the flames.
Among its recent statements is a demand by Turkey to separate Jerusalem from Israel. The latest comments by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were to demand a “separate arrangement” for Jerusalem.
Since 2020, when Turkey turned Hagia Sophia into a mosque, the Turkish religious and political leadership of the AKP Party, which supports Hamas, has sought to “liberate” al-Aqsa Mosque and claims it will take over Jerusalem.
Turkey has condemned Austria for supporting Israel and flying the Israeli flag. Erdogan said Austria was “trying to make Muslims pay for the Jews they subjected to genocide.” In short, the argument was that Austria was somehow punishing Muslims for the Holocaust.
Ankara then called Israel a “terror state.” In 2019, Erdogan compared Israel to Nazi Germany. At the time, the pro-Turkey stance of the Trump administration and the US State Department, some of whose officials were pro-Turkey, did not condemn the comments.
The current US administration is different, and Ankara does not get the green light to host Hamas and bash Israel as much as it used to.
Another of Erdogan’s comments was to call on the world to stop the “aggression on al-Quds,” a reference to Jerusalem. If the world did not stop Israel, then this “brutal mentality” would harm others tomorrow, he said.
The US on Tuesday strongly condemned the recent comments emanating from Turkey. State Department spokesman Ned Price said: “We urge President Erdogan and other Turkish leaders to refrain from incendiary remarks, which could incite further violence. Antisemitic language has no place anywhere.”
He did not specify which Erdogan remarks the US considered antisemitic.
The comments by the leadership of the AKP are also represented in far-right media in Turkey. Yena Safak, a newspaper that caters to the populist Right in the country and is close to the regime, argued for Turkey to lead an Islamic alliance to attack Israel.
The alliance would include Turkey, Iran, Qatar, Malaysia and Pakistan, countries that either back Hamas or are close to the Muslim Brotherhood. Ankara had consulted with Tehran last week about how to confront Israel, and Turkey has called on the pope and others to encourage sanctions against the Jewish state.
Compared with Turkey’s rhetoric against Israel, Iran’s has been relatively muted. Turkey has become one of the most anti-Israel states in the world, and its constant anti-Israel rhetoric, fed through its state-controlled media that run the most outlandish articles about Israel, fuels antisemitism in Turkey and abroad. Turkish flags can be seen at many antisemitic rallies in Europe.
This is a relatively new phenomenon, as Ankara encourages its European diaspora to play a more aggressive role. At one rally in Vienna, when a man shouted, “Shove your Holocaust,” there was widespread cheering among the men and women present, including a man with a Turkish flag.”
But it remains to be seen if Erdogan will take this provocative game changer step at the moment. as he is at the time demanding a Turkish cooperation with the European military cooperation PESCO. But it cannot be ruled out that Erdogan changes his mind, if the power constellations are worsening for the West. The military, political and economic power relations have already shifted to the advantage of the geopolitical rivals of the USA, the EU and Israel and the question is if a new Iran deal will stop Iran´s expansion and development of nuclear weapons. It also remains to be seen if the conflict will be limited to the Greater Middle East or if Hamas, Hisbollah and other Islamist will bring the conflict in the centers of the Western world and if the protest remains limited to peaceful or militant small demonstrations or grow to mass demonstrations of annoyed Muslims and new terrorist attacks. Maybe Hamas and Hisbollah will also revive old forms of PLO terror by hijacking airplanes, terrorist attacks like Olympia 1972 in Munich or use bombs, assasinations and suicide attacks. The West should get prepared for this, even as many hoped that those times might be over after the 20st anniversary of 9 11 and the partly victory against the Islamic state.