Beyond the political intrigue and conflicting, complex interests at play in the efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement in Gaza, let’s turn to what is really at the heart of the events in Gaza. These events have gone beyond the intentions, plans, and constraints that govern the conduct of all parties alike, exposing a historical dynamic with broad implications, and one that will not stop at a deal for “de-escalation,” whatever its form may be. Indeed, history’s major junctures do not happen through “de-escalation,” but by violent conflicts and grand bargains.
25 July, 2014 al-Akhbar English
The confrontation in Gaza, in itself, has revealed how fragile Israel is. This brings the Arab-Israeli conflict back to history’s agenda, so to speak, in multiple unexpected forms and along multiple unanticipated tracks, including military, security, political, cultural, and diplomatic ones. In the end, this will lead to a bargain in the context of rearranging the political structure of the region, which has been exhausted to the point of mass suicide.
First of all, since the US intervention in Iraq in 1990, it started becoming clear that using Israeli military power for the purpose of imperialist intervention in the region was politically impossible. In truth, Israel was asked at the time to remain outside the war to secure support for it, something that happened again during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Then during the Arab Spring, imperialism and its reactionary Arab allies again realized that Israeli military power could not be used in wars to destroy countries, topple regimes, and disassemble or reassemble the region. Consequently, takfiri hoards were used as a military and security instrument for the imperialists and reactionaries. In other words, Israel’s position and role has declined in favor of the reactionary Gulf Arab regimes and extremist Islamist groups, and it is no longer possible to say that Israel is a forward base for imperialists, or that while it indeed may be one, it is for all intents and purposes now out of order.
Israel sought to play a role in the war on Syria by trying to establish a buffer zone in the Golan Heights in collaboration with the Syrian opposition and Amman. However, the plot failed politically and on the field, as well as locally, regionally and internationally. Even in Syria, there was no room for Israel except in intelligence matters. The same goes for the war in Iraq, and even [Israel’s] relationship with the autonomous Kurdish North has to go mandatorily through Turkey.
Let us remember also that Israel is not part of the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program and on Iran’s regional role, while Iran has been recognized at the international level as a major power that can no longer be sidelined in regional affairs.
And regardless of the Israeli vision for the shifts in Egypt, Israel remains outside the picture even there. Those shifts have come to their conclusions now, and regional developments, including terrorism in Sinai and the invalidation of the Camp David agreements regarding the peninsula have turned out to be in the Egyptian army’s favor. This is while Cairo has chosen Riyadh – not Tel Aviv or even Washington – as its main ally that can secure its share of Gulf oil riches and help restore its broad regional role.
Even the Jordanian regime, the weakest among regional powers, has turned its back on Israel three times so far – in the negotiations with the Palestinians, when it demanded taking into account Jordan’s interests in any settlement; in rejecting the project for a buffer zone in the Golan; and in refusing to accept the Israeli offer to protect Jordan from terrorism.
Second, against this backdrop the tug of war over de-escalation in Gaza has shown that even disputes and negotiations over a ceasefire do not involve Israel, but essentially take place between Arab, regional, and international powers, in that order. Let us stop and think about this political fact that Cairo, Riyadh, Doha, and even Ankara are aware of, as evident from their attitudes and approaches in locally and regionally managing negotiations, where even the U.S. role is limited and restricted by regional dynamics to a large extent.
Third, what remains of Israel, save for its brute military strength? It is mighty, yes, but after its defeat at the hands of the Resistance in Lebanon in 2006, its strategic scope of work became confined to Palestine, if not a small part thereof, that is; Gaza.
Fourth, in Gaza, the relative improvement in the – limited – rocket capabilities of the Palestinian Resistance has highlighted a hitherto obscured geostrategic fact, namely, Israel’s lack of the geographical depth needed to guarantee its “national security.” This raises a realistic and relevant question about the effectiveness of the so-called world’s fourth strongest army against rocket forces from Gaza and the West Bank, no matter how primitive and ineffective they may be. Israeli civilians have been forced to remain in shelters, while Israeli deterrence is more or less focused on bombarding Palestinian civilians, all while Israel is now isolated from international civilian air traffic.
Fifth, in the context of a possible – though challenging – restoration of the Palestinian people’s political unity in their historical land (5.5 million people are now divided into West Bank residents, Gaza residents, and Palestinian-Israelis) under a unified leadership with a secular program that is inclusive of Jews of course, we can have a liberation movement of a new kind. Such a movement would put the Israeli entity in a continuous crisis internally and internationally, and would draw in support from more and more Palestinian segments that had practically been neutralized from the conflict, including Palestinian refugees abroad, Arab masses, and anti-imperialist forces around the world.
I realize, of course, that there are serious difficulties impeding this bid, because divisive forces control Palestinian decision-making, and because of the existing political forces’ acceptance of the two-state solution according to pre-1967 borders.
This solution divides the Palestinians, politically and geographically, into four parts, the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and the Diaspora. Yet this solution – which is no longer viable anyway because of settlements – is still being championed by Fatah’s bureaucracy to guarantee its control over the Palestinian Authority and its resources. But even Hamas and other factions operate in the framework of the two-state solution despite their slogans, with a view to replace Fatah, get a slice of the pie, or for reasons of their sheer powerlessness.
The two-state solution is now a thing of the past. The slogan should now be the unity of the Palestinian people and their political rights in Palestine, and the implementation of UN resolution 194 affirming the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Israel wanted, through its new assault on Gaza, to end its deepening isolation, and reverse the decline in its strategic status. Instead, it has been exposed for those who want to see it: Israel has not endured on account of its own abilities, but on account of the political relations between and among Palestinian, Arab, and regional forces. Even the international dimension is on the decline, and is more and more subject to local and regional dynamics.
In conclusion, Israel’s fate is in our hands, and it will be determined by the final outcome of Arab and regional conflicts.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.