Why palming off the Gaza-Israel crisis isn't an option

Arab countries are right to reject suggestions that they act as an enforcer in the war-torn Palestinian enclave

Palestinians fleeing northern Gaza. Saturday's emergency Arab League meeting in Riyadh is an opportunity to hear what Arab governments are saying about Palestine. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

When there is a logical but difficult way out of a complex situation, it can be tempting for some, motivated by what seems expedient rather than what makes sense, to suggest solutions that are simply non-starters.

Joining the discredited suggestion that Gaza’s 2.3 million citizens be forcibly moved to live in Sinai is an idea reportedly put forward recently by senior US figures that, should this latest round of appalling violence end with the destruction of Hamas, Arab states take responsibility for security in the war-torn Palestinian enclave.

The response to this idea was exemplified by Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, who said that floating day-after scenarios for Gaza right now amounted to “jumping in the air”.

“This is not going to be discussed except after the war and the killing are stopped,” Mr Safadi told reporters late on Wednesday. Egypt – which, like Jordan, has a treaty with Israel – has also reportedly rejected such suggestions.

What is plain in such proposals is a western-orientated desire to avoid responsibility for the crisis and to palm it off to regional countries that played no part in its creation. Arab states are right to reject the idea that they act as some kind of enforcer in Gaza, absolving others who have played a much more destructive role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

However, what truly exposes the hollowness of this idea, and others like it, is the absence of Palestinian statehood. Without it, Palestinians – who seek effective, representative and responsible leadership – are treated as people upon whom solutions, no matter how facile, can be imposed.

This is not to suggest that Arab countries have no role to play – they do. The entire Arab world is deeply concerned with the fate of the Palestinian people and land, and that concern has been witnessed in the political statements of many of these countries, in tonnes of aid and other help sent to Gaza, and in the medical assistance being offered to critically ill and injured Gazans across the region. Nevertheless, that does not mean picking up the pieces while one side in the conflict abdicates its responsibilities.

Answers must come from this region – and, of course, that requires the involvement of Israel. However, this involvement must be a clean break from its demonstrably failed policies. It must be genuine and focused on finding a way out of this cyclical conflict, not on jettisoning a security problem to be dealt with by regional neighbours. In the short term, this means a ceasefire and an end to the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians. In the longer term, it means ending occupations and blockades, plus working with Palestinians and regional partners to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state that is robust enough to reject the nihilism of Hamas and that can strike deals that lead to security and stability for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

A humanitarian summit on Gaza in Paris on Thursday and an Arab League emergency summit in Riyadh on Saturday are opportunities to listen and hear what Arab governments and the wider international community are saying on Palestine. It would be much better for Israel and its western backers to listen to the hard truths being spoken by Arab countries – many of whom are international partners of the US – than entertaining threadbare ideas that will help no one.

Published: November 10, 2023, 3:00 AM