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Birth Pangs of a New Mideast Ceasefire

Richard Silverstein [1]
Nov 21, 2012

Day 8: Gaza death toll 140 Palestinian dead [2], 1,000 wounded.  5 Israeli dead [3].

In the title, I deliberately echoed Condi Rice’s infamous saying from the last Lebanon war, in which she offered Israel free rein to reshape Lebanon in its image (an attempt that failed miserably and left Hezbollah firmly in the political driver’s seat there).  The ceasefire cobbled together by Egypt, the U.S. and others on behalf of Israel and Hamas was supposed to go into effect by midnight local time.  Due to last-minute reservations expressed by Israel, it has been postponed till at least tomorrow.

I tried to determine what those reservations might be.  My Israeli source says the fact that two Israelis were killed today plus an apartment building in Rishon Lezion suffered extensive damage, which prevented Barak and Bibi from wanting to be seen as accomodating Hamas.  I do so love it when Israeli Jews talk about the “Arab mentality” and things like honor or “saving face.”  Those phenomena don’t affect Israel’s Ashkenazi Jewish leaders, do they?

All this maneuvering and counter-maneuvering is why I’ve likened this ceasefire to a difficult labor (I was going to call it “hard labor,” which is another thing entirely, but also apt).  I also wanted to evoke the deja vu nature of the current predicament.  We’ve seenceasefires come and go [4], mostly broken by Israel at will, whenever a human target of opportunity comes along.  Why does anyone think this one will work when it appears to be in neither side’s considered interest?

Interestingly, an unnamed U.S. official calls [3] says of the Gaza war, “this nonsense can’t go on,” while Robert Fisk calls it the “garbage war.”  Just about right, I’d say.

Yet another anonymous “senior” U.S. official makes this dubious statement about Egypt’s interests.  In noting that Pres. Morsi is between a rock and a hard place in terms of his people’s deep anger at the Israeli massacre, the former says:

…”If he responds fully to public opinion, he risks what we have been trying to do for peace and stability in the region…”

What specifically has the U.S. been trying to do for peace and stability in the region?  How have these efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict borne any fruit?  What precisely can Obama point to as indication of a success or even prospect of success, that would draw Morsi to the U.S. vision?  Our branding Hamas “terrorist” and refusal to deal with it has been a winner.  The siege too has really shown those Gazans who’s the boss.  And our refusal to recognize a Palestinian state, that’s made us golden in the eyes of the Arab world.  What more could anyone expect us to be doing for peace and stability in the region?

Here’s yet another example [5] of the “constructive” role the U.S. is playing in the midst of this crisis.  Russia sponsored a Security Council statement that condemned the conflict between Israel and Hamas.  Apparently, the statement was insufficiently sympathetic to Israel and didn’t call for an end to rocket fire from Gaza.  So the U.S. vetoed the resolution without so much as an attempt at compromise.  Next, Russia plans to table a stronger resolution that would also likely force a U.S. veto.  Have you noticed that the most positive, constructive resolutions proposed in the UN concerning Israel-Palestine all end up vetoed by the U.S.?

They used to call the Soviet ambassador to the UN Mr. Nyet.  Maybe it’s time to start calling Susan Rice Ms. No.