Gaza: Recurring tragedies and changing policies
Every time a crisis occurs, we shouldn’t blame the average Arab citizen for just sitting and watching as if it were a movie. In fact, it is the same old movie over and over again, and he is watching in the hope that the results of past defeats will change. Gaza today has been hit as it was yesterday, so should we give up hope? The cries of the Palestinians have been heard across the world, but their fortunes have not changed. This time Hosni Mubarak is gone and Egypt is being ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood, but the result is still the same.
At the time of writing, Israel has pledged to return to the 2005 agreement if Hamas promises to act as Israel’s policeman inside the Gaza strip; reining in all the Palestinian factions that have launched missiles towards Tel Aviv. Later on, this agreement could pave the way for an end to the long nightmare and misery of Gazans. There is also hope for a cease-fire, and the possibility that political and military dealings in Gaza might change, with Hamas allying itself with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah without the need to return to joint rule. The result of this would be two Palestinian entities with two presidencies, but united under one policy and with Egyptian support.
Of course, the current scene on the ground doesn’t foretell the change I am talking about; everything is still the same. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhom is again reiterating the same thing he said four years ago: “These raids are massacres against the Palestinian people”. It is the same news as in 2008, but under different names. The US President Barack Obama has contacted President Mohammed Mursi, his Egyptian counterpart, to discuss ways to stop the conflict. Ismail Haniyeh is calling for the same thing he called for in 2008; an Arab summit. Sheikh Hamad of Qatar has already held a mini summit in Cairo in support of Hamas, attended by the Prime Ministers of Turkey and Egypt. In 2008, a similar event was held in Doha, attended by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Israel is still giving its military operations theatrical names. In 1982, its attack on south Lebanon was dubbed the “Finger of Galilee”. Four years ago, the Israeli assault on Gaza was termed “Operation Cast Lead”. Now, Israel is calling its current aggression the “Pillar of Cloud” operation, suggesting that the Israelis are being guided by a divine sign to carry out their punishment against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The United Nations Security Council recently held a meeting, but without any announcement. In 2008 the Council also assembled, but did not pass any resolution. Hence we are seeing the same old events, but will a different result emerge from this crisis?
Militarily, the results won’t be any different because the balance of power is in Israel’s favor. As for the balance of political propaganda, the Arabs will not admit defeat but the people often discover the truth. We can all remember how Hezbollah claimed to have been victorious in its 2006 war against Israel. Yet at the time it concealed from the people that it had agreed to withdraw its militias so that they only covered approximately one-third of Lebanon, away from Israel’s borders. Indeed, all those who lived in the area knew that the river had become off-limits for Hezbollah, at least during that period.
The one new factor in today’s Gaza war is that Hamas has lost its important allies Syria and Iran and has now gained a more significant one, namely the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Personally, I think the new Egypt could change the rules of the game. It could serve as a guarantor for Hamas in the face of the Israelis and their promised agreement, the outlines of which were recently announced. Now it is also easier for Hamas to accept an agreement without being accused of betraying its cause, as long as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt supports the new understanding.
Many people in Washington and the Arab world now want to know if Hamas and Cairo are ready to engage in broader peace talks, so that Gaza can become an open gateway instead of the besieged Gaza Strip.