Will Gaza truce lead to Hamas-Israel-US meet in Cairo?
Does the 72-hour ceasefire in the three week long conflict in Gaza brokered by the UN and US advance peace? Just as I write this comes news that the Palestinians have captured an Israeli soldier. Has the ceasefire collapsed? I am keeping my fingers crossed.
Even though the UN's credibility is bruised, UN agencies are gamely trying to do their bit. The UN Human Rights Council by condemning Israel last week for "disproportionate use of force in Gaza" must have embarrassed the US. It was the solitary country which opposed the resolution. Even its European allies abstained. India voted with the 29 members supporting the resolution.
US Secretary of State John Kerry was in New Delhi talking to External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj when the humanitarian ceasefire was announced. Even while talking to his Indian counterpart, he kept half an eye on the critical situation in Gaza.
In the current "Operation Protective Edge", Israel and its backers are facing a peculiar problem. The Western media, which fudges issues in favour of Israel, is not carrying as much credit with the audiences globally.
The reason for the diminishing credibility of the mainstream media is the exponential growth of social media. The sanitized version of events that was dished out to US audiences, for instance, of what their country (or Israel) was doing in various theatres of conflicts is now being replaced by the real time narratives of the parallel media, the new web sites, blogs.
Israeli bombardment of Gaza has been brutal. But if you watch the main TV channels, the effort is to focus on Ukraine, Ebola virus, Boko Haram and the shooting war in Tripoli. When it becomes impossible to keep away from Gaza, appears Wolf Blitzer with explanatory discussions tilted one way.
Bring into focus that blood soaked child or women buried beneath the debris of the school which was their shelter, and the anchor cleverly shifts the guilt onto, well, the "blame game". Which means that the rockets fired from the vicinity of a school invited a massive Israeli retaliation which killed 16 sleeping children, or even the very people leading the humanitarian response. But it is Hamas rockets, after all, which invited Israeli bombardment.
The story is thus balanced. In this "balance" is the fudge which is beginning to pall. Alternative narratives, which reveal quite the opposite, are gaining in credibility.
Not a good time for the US image anywhere in West Asia.
Remember Hillary Clinton waving her hand in February 2012 asking Bashar al Assad to "get out of the way". Assad is still around. Again, her variation on Vini Vidi Vici - "I came, I saw and he died" in Tripoli. This statement of her's was accompanied by brutal images of Qaddafi being gored to death.
Even accepting that was a moment of American triumph, how does one square the boast with the murder of the US ambassador in Benghazi? Or the endless conflict now centered around Tripoli?
The Islamic state of Iraq and Syria, the Caliphate being declared by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in the Sunni parts of Iraq, contiguous with parts of Syria: is this the trophy of the US invasion of Iraq?
Even on the "war of choice" in Afghanistan, there is no demonstrable American grip on the situation. No one quite knows how the audit of votes will be conducted to satisfy the contending candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. In any case, the date of US departure from Kabul has already been advanced to 2016. In other words, US troops will eventually depart only on the next US President's watch.
This is the general state of play when Kerry has immersed himself into the latest Israeli-Hamas spat. The Egyptian peace proposal of July 15 was rejected by Hamas because the Palestinian group was not consulted by Cairo. The proposal urged Hamas to stop its rockets being fired at Israel. But it did not address Hamas demand for ending the Israeli blockade.
Why has Hamas accepted the latest ceasefire? Because this UN proposal is without conditions. During the 72-hour respite from Israeli bombardment and Hamas' teasing rocketing, delegations are being assembled by the Israelis, Hamas and Fatah to congregate in Cairo to discuss a more durable peace.
Hamas will ask: what has Fatah done to deserve an invitation? William Burns, the US Deputy Secretary of State, and Frank Lowenstein, Kerry special envoy for West Asia, are on their way to Cairo. There is speculation that Kerry himself may join the discussions. Difficult to believe that an abrupt peace is possible.
(A senior commentator on political and diplomatic affairs, Saeeq Naqvi can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed are personal.)
(Posted on 01-08-2014)
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