Gaza: US blocking power eroded; Quartet calls for ceasefire

Back in the 33-Day War of 2006, the Bush administration was able to block the Security Council and the rest of the UN from issuing a formal call for a ceasefire until the point when Israel, realizing its forces were getting into very hot water indeed, started actively pleading for one.
This time, the Olmert government is still very resistant to a ceasefire. And earlier, the position of the Bush administration was, as in 2006, to give Israel carte blanche to do what it liked against its neighbors.
But the international dynamics have changed since 2006.
This evening, Condi Rice agreed to join the principals of the other three powers in the Quartet in calling for “an immediate ceasefire that would be fully respected.” Follow that link for more details of who was involved, how it happened, etc.
The other three members of the Quartet are the EU, Russia, and the UN. Ban Ki-moon was on the conference call in which the call for the immediate ceasefire was agreed.
The global balance between the US and the other 95% of humanity is indeed changing.

25 thoughts on “Gaza: US blocking power eroded; Quartet calls for ceasefire

  1. Alex

    I’ve been away, and I’m just catching up with the frequent posts and comments on Gaza here.
    The thought that I wanted to express, which I didn’t feel able to earlier, and hopefully not repeating what someone else has said, after a quick scan of the posts and comments.
    I wouldn’t want to appear ghoulish, and 360+ Palestinian deaths tears my heart out. In a funny sort of way, I was glad this attack occurred now, and not after the Israeli elections, which Netanyahu has a good chance of winning. Because Olmert and Livni have a much better chance of losing the game than Netanyahu, who, I think, would be much more determined to genocide the Palestinians.
    The “game” indeed seems to be going that way. The Israeli war aims are poorly thought out. Simply bombing, however heavy, and even a land invasion, are not going to turn Gazans against Hamas. International negative reaction, though it started slowly, is gaining pace, and soon Israel may be forced to stop.
    All of that is ideal from a Palestinian point of view. If Netanhyahu had made the attack, would the situation have been the same? It is clear that now the attack has been made, and if it does not achieve its objectives, the ground will have been cut from under Netanyahu’s feet. Repeat the attack by a Netanyahu administration, is not going to be well received internationally.

  2. KDJ

    H,
    I fear of late I spend too much time on this blog and not enough on my dissertation. However, I am curious as to where you situate Ban Ki-Moon’s apparent powerlessness; for days he has called for an immediate cease-fire-that he appears to be completely ignored is worrisome (perhaps not new), however, what is your take on what appear to be shifting power dynamics, where we find the UN’s Top Chief seemingly completely irrelevant?

  3. Shirin

    The global balance between the US and the other 95% of humanity is indeed changing.
    Al hamdulillah!
    If this will be Bush’s legacy, then he was not all bad.

  4. Shirin

    I wonder if Israelis and Palestinians just sat with each other, without US intervention, if far more progress would be made?
    Bet on it!

  5. KDJ

    Shirin, are you being sarcastic or serious? Of course I do not mean to suggest that it would be easy-rather I suggest possibly different.

  6. bb

    Interestingly, when Netanyahu was prime minister of Israel between 1996 and 1999 the number and frequency of Hamas suicide bombings dropped considerably and the economies of Gaza and the West Bank recovered to pre Oslo days. The IDF also quit Hebron. Those were the days.
    Maybe that’s why Hamas incited the Israeli attack this time – which woulld at least make rational sense from the point of view of its objective to stop the two state solution at any cost?

  7. Dominic

    This post of Helena’s is whistling in the dark and wishful thinking, as far as I’m concerned.
    Two years ago the US and Ethiopia invaded Somalia at Christmas time. This year Georgia invaded South Ossetia just at the time of the Beijing Olympics. Now again, during the Christmas holiday, Israel is staging a killing festival in Gaza.
    What is this thing called “International Community”? As far as I can see, all that the international festivals of peace are doing these days is providing a theatrical setting for anyone who wants to do an outrage.
    As for the Security Council, so what if it gets to the stage of “calling for a cease fire”? It has taken more than sixty years for it to get that far. The Security Council is supposed to stop wars and to punish the crime of war, which is the first and main war crime. That is its job. It can’t do it. With or without the particular problems attending the USA’s obstructions, it can’t do it.
    It’s no good just trying to look on the bright side of life. This is a time for disgust and lamentation. Maybe this is a time to pull the plug entirely, once and for all, on the kinds of “Western values” that Israel is fighting for, of which these bogus peace festivals like Christmas and New Year’s are a flagship part, as well as being an occasion for violation.
    That hypocritical whited sepulchre of simultaneous filth and made-uo beauty was not invented by G W Bush and Condoleezza Rice. The hypocrisy is everywhere. A little one-upmanship over the USA in the UN will not affect this general picture at all.

  8. Alex

    Re: Dominic, at December 30, 2008 10:57 PM:
    The problem with the cynics in regard to US policy, including Dominic, but many others, is that they essentially agree with a basic plank of NeoCon foreign policy, that the US is omnipotent and is free to do what it wants.
    Me, I entirely disagree, I think that the US is very constrained. They may have been free in 2003, but they are not now.
    The US may be forced or not to agree to a Security Council cease-fire on Gaza (but they will agree in the end), but it is not of their volition.

  9. Dominic

    Alex, you have misread what I wrote. Did you do so deliberately? Only you know.
    I am precisely saying that the challenge of the current Israeli blood-orgy in Gaza cannot be met by adjustments in the behaviour of the USA. That is because, among other things and in your terms, the USA is “not omnipotent”.
    That the USA is destined to lose its position as the single dominant face of Imperialism is not in doubt.
    The question now, to borrow some words from Captain Beefheart, is: “”What about after that”? My question is about the generally internalised imperialism, globally institutionalised, including in hypocritical international festivals.
    For example, we are going to have the (association football) World Cup, the biggest sporting jamboree of all, here in South Africa in 2010. What monstrous atrocities will be mounted in the shadow of that event?
    In our world, the polite boulevard life of Tel Aviv is purchased with the agony of the Gazans. In this regard, Tel Aviv stands for all cities, and the Gazans stand for all of the oppressed. Historically, these substitutions have arisen because Israel is the last colony. It came into being exactly when, with the liberation of China and India, the great sweeping away of most colonialism began. Isreal is the one contradiction of that huge historical sweep.
    Israel stands as more than a warning or a threat. It is a promise, that we can and will be colonised again.
    Israel/Palestine is the apparent front line, but we, the righteous, are not winning there. I’m saying: Maybe we need to open a second front in the boulevard itself, not as so-called “terrorists”, but as serious and overwhelming iconoclasts.
    It is in the boulevard (and that is all the boulevards, not just the Israeli and US ones) that the demand for slaughter arises. So it is in the boulevard that we must turn the whole thing over.

  10. Shirin

    Kevin, I am serious. I believe very strongly that U.S. intervention has been toxic to the process, and I believe that the parties would be more likely to reach agreement without the U.S. involved.

  11. Dominic

    Alex, you have misread what I wrote. Did you do so deliberately? Only you know.
    I am precisely saying that the challenge of the current Israeli blood-orgy in Gaza cannot be met by adjustments in the behaviour of the USA. That is because, among other things and in your terms, the USA is “not omnipotent”.
    That the USA is destined to lose its position as the single dominant face of Imperialism is not in doubt.
    The question now, to borrow some words from Captain Beefheart, is: “”What about after that”? My question is about the generally internalised imperialism, globally institutionalised, including in hypocritical international festivals.
    For example, we are going to have the (association football) World Cup, the biggest sporting jamboree of all, here in South Africa in 2010. What monstrous atrocities will be mounted in the shadow of that event?
    In our world, the polite boulevard life of Tel Aviv is purchased with the agony of the Gazans. In this regard, Tel Aviv stands for all cities, and the Gazans stand for all of the oppressed. Historically, these substitutions have arisen because Israel is the last colony. It came into being exactly when, with the liberation of China and India, the great sweeping away of most colonialism began. Israel is the one contradiction of that huge historical sweep.
    Israel stands as more than a warning or a threat. It is a promise that the oppressed can and will be colonised again, blatantly, immorally and irrationally.
    Israel/Palestine is the apparent front line, but we, the righteous, are not winning there. I’m saying: Maybe we need to open a second front in the boulevard itself, not as so-called “terrorism”, which opposes like with like, but as serious and overwhelming iconoclasts, making a cultural onslaught on a cultural institution, opposing unlike with unlike.
    It is in the boulevard (and I mean all the boulevards, not just the Israeli and the US ones) that the demand for slaughter in Gaza arises. So it is in the boulevard that we must turn the whole thing over.

  12. Frank al Irlandi

    Shirin
    With two parties as bitterly opposed as the Israelis and the Palestinians who don’t trust each other, you need a mediator.
    Bill Clinton sent Senator Mitchell to Ireland to help sort that one out.
    Sadly the US has lost its credibility as an honest intermediary by its actions over the last ten years.
    The question arises who the new intermediary might be.

  13. Dominic

    Frank, with respect, and apologies to all for so many posts (but the doubling is not my fault) on this topic.
    Frank, why expect a different result from the same kind of process? Negotiations can only take place between parties who are in some sense equal. The mediator can actually spoil it all by making them unequal again (as with Thabo Mbeki, for example, ganging up with Zanu-PF against the MDC right now). But the mediator cannot make the parties equal, when there is no kind of equality at all.
    Negotiations cannot be concluded by making the weaker party concede when it has already lost. There is therefore no basis for negotiation between Israel and Palestine at present. All you can say about such a process for now is that jaw-jaw is arguably better than war-war. But even this much is not certain.
    Those of us who in good faith would wish for negotiations in Palestine must work to equalise the two sides in one way or another. We have not been able to do so up to now. New tactics are needed. I am saying that the I/P situation is embedded within the global resurgence of neo-colonialism in reaction to all the liberation struggles that took place since the anti-fascist war; and that therefore the balance can only be tilted more in the Palestinians’ favour (hence making negotiations possible) if the problem is dealt with at that level.
    Down with neo-colonialism, down!

  14. Shirin

    Frank, the last thing the parties need is a “mediator” who is on the side of the victimizer and doesn’t really care about the victim. The next to last thing the parties need is a “mediator” whose mediation is largely if not entirely self-serving, particularly when said “mediator” considers the stronger, oppressor party to be a “special friend”. That kind of “mediation” is worse than useless, and they are more likely to reach a resolution on their own.
    And I would go a step farther and say that in a case where there is a stronger party oppressing and victimizing a weaker party, even neutrality is not acceptable. I hate quoting the odious hypocrite Elie Weisel, but he really did say it best when he said “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

  15. Anonymous

    Savage violence against Palestinian civilians goes back at least to 1938. In July 1938 nearly one hundred Palestinian arabs – at least half women and children – were killed and hundreds more wounded in bombings of markets in Jerusalem and Haifa, by the Irgun, and scores more at least killed in ‘Special Night Squads’ attacks on villages. This violence has never stopped, only paused from time to time. It is how the Arab revolt was put down. Turned against the British it drove them out of Palestine. It is how Israel was established. It is how Jewish ‘ownership’ of Palestinian land increased from 10 percent in 1947 to 80 percent today.
    Savage violence. And taking the very long view.
    Read Jabotinsky.
    The Likud is the child of the Irgun. Google ‘Irgun emblem.’ The map exceeds mandate Palestine. It includes the Golan, as well as of course all of Jordan. Read Harkabi’s ‘Israel’s Fateful Hour,’ and for an update, Gershom Gorenburg’s piece ‘Rebel Prince’ at the American Prospect.
    Millions of cluster bombs in the last hours of the Lebanon war were no aberration. The Hebron settlers are no aberration. The slaughter in Gaza is no aberration.
    Israel needs to be saved, but as Harkabi argued, not from the Arabs.

  16. Dominic

    Shirin, well said.
    I have heard a few people saying “the Arabs should do so and so” or “should have done such and such”. As if to say that the Palestinians are separate from us and if they don’t find a way of prevailing against the brutalities of the Israelis, then it is sad but not our fault, and what can we do?
    The matter must be put otherwise. I have been thinking about it, while seeing notices of inadequate demonstrations, and reports of ineffectual diplomacy, and rationalisations about the butchery being to do with cheap calculations about the coming elections in Israel.
    I think that this particular matter must be raised to another level, much higher than that of “international solidarity” as we have known it in the past.
    It is as if the whole world is tied by strings to the one point, what was once called the Holy Land, and all those strings are being twisted into a bunch, tightening them, and pulling us towards a horrid hell of a slaughter, a wound to the world that never heals and can’t heal and more and more threatens us all.
    It is as if all the struggles that we have had are reprised now in this small one that still manages to threaten the entire world, and for this, we are all called to action to save our past triumphs of liberation or lose them again all at once, and maybe forever.
    I wonder if others have sometimes ignored certain struggles, as I have? Rwanda? Yugoslavia? There have been others again, but often it has been this one, the struggle of the Palestinians, that was ignored. But it tears at me. This is an anti-colonial struggle. How can it be lost? It’s impossible! It would be a mockery of our whole lives. The one thing that has come out of the last 60 years that is good on the world scale is colonial freedom.

  17. Salah

    from Bethlehem Governor Salah Tamari:

    “Israelis are paranoid because of their past, while Palestinians are paranoid because of their present. But we are doomed to live together or blessed to live together, depending on your point of view.”

  18. picard

    Pithy discussion here folks.
    Watson gets to the core of the blithely one-sided US media reporting with the simple question — what battle? (indeed)
    And nice to see Harkabi referenced; I have that one here on my desk — and will check the suggestions…
    As for Elie Weisel,…. “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
    Weeeoo.
    THAT’s so “unfair”…. :-} It’s like quoting those bible “prophecies” about Israel being known for it “justice” and “blessed are the peacemakers” to your neighborhood Christian Likudist….
    Then again, for the US TV media, neutrality would be an improvement.

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