Israeli military is halting its operations in Gaza. According to Tel-Aviv, all the ”Hamas”-built underground tunnels had been destroyed. Army commanders are saying that troops are being out to the outskirts of Gaza and are assuming defensive position. The big powers of the West continue to endorse such actions. Moreover, they are not concealing their uneasiness with respect to deaths of innocent Palestinians but they fail to undertake any action towards protecting Palestinian lives. Turkey is the only regional power that has acted consistently and firmly on the issue. Diplomatic, political or military efforts of others are inappreciable. Thus, the impact of the Israel-Palestine crisis upon the geopolitical processes becomes a pressing matter.
Middle East Geopolitical Labyrinth: Is There A Way Out From Gaza?
World’s political circles showed extremely sensitive reaction to renewed deterioration of Israel-Palestine relations. Experts believe that the recent events will have far more than regional implications. There are some analysts that attribute Tel-Aviv’s unforgiving military response to a change of substance in the global geopolitics. The leading nations of the world have stepped up their effort to reach a diplomatic solution to the problem. Representatives of the U.S., Turkey, Qatar, UK, France, Germany, Italy and the EU met in Paris on 26 July to discuss the issue and exchange views on reaching a ceasefire.
Yet the divergence of opinions prevailed at the meeting. Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that ”Israel’s shores are empty” implying the dire situation for the Jews. In response, the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmad Davutoğlu said ”the shores are not empty, they are filled with corpses of the Palestinian children” (see: Bakan Davutoglu’nu kizdiran sozler / ”Haberturk”, 29 July 2014).
Media viewed this as a manifestation of differences on the issue between the West and Turkey. Behind-the-scenes Western support is said to be the main reason for Israel’s blatantly intensive bombardment of Gaza and the commencement of a subsequent ground offensive. Indeed, the U.S. and the European countries justify Tel-Aviv’s actions in the declarations made. They are claiming that Israel reserves the right for self-defense and that it is compelled to totally eliminate the underground tunnels in Gaza. These aspects were clearly evident in the remarks by Barack Obama, John Kerry, Angela Merkel and other Western leaders.
Astonishingly, Israel is still unhappy about such an attitude of the West. Obama and Kerry are being fiercely criticized for their effort aimed at securing a ceasefire. According to Tel-Aviv, the entire Western world, led by the U.S., must advocate Israel. Washington’s reaction was harsh. While referring to Israeli reproaches during a press-conference State Department’s spokesperson Jen Psaki said, ”this is not how partners and allies treat each other” and ”we were really disappointed” (see: ABD Israil’den gelen elestirelere sert tepki gosterdi / ”Anadolu Ajansi”, 29 July 2014).
Apparently, the contradictions stemming from the dual position of the Western nations have to be taken into account. The point is, when the big powers fail to display resoluteness, trust towards them diminishes. An effort to advocate one side, given the lack of concrete geopolitical and political criterion, provokes many questions. Figuratively speaking, the U.S. tells Israel, ”you have the right to strike” while on the other hand it tells the Palestinians that, ”death of civilians is deplorable”.
Renowned American philosopher Noam Chomsky characterizes this situation with political sensitiveness by saying that, ”the U.S. has betrayed the Muslims yet again… By rendering military, diplomatic, and ideological support to Israel it became an accomplice to the deaths of Palestinians… Turkey was the only country to display strong will and intransigence to such injustice” (see: Chomsky’den Turkiye’ye Filistin ovgusu / ”Haberturk”, 25 July 2014).
UN’s position is fascinating against this backdrop. Organization’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the parties to stop the armed clashes without any preconditions. President Obama reached out to the leaders of UK, France, Germany and Italy and stressed the need to achieve a ceasefire (see: Obama’dan telefon diplomasisi / ”Haberturk”, 28 July 2014). Leaders of all the five nations echoed one another regarding the need to declare an unconditional ceasefire.
At present the decision to impose a 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and the ”Hamas” and the ”Islamic Jihad” movements has been made. In Cairo, the parties discussed the provisions of a more comprehensive agreement. However, after Gaza has already been leveled by Israel it would be difficult to identify conditions that would lead to peace in a true sense of the word.
Strategic Objective: Peaceful Coexistence or Personal Ambitions?
The extent of gravity of the situation cannot be measured by a ceasefire. It is surely a positive development that political leaders are being active to bring peaceful resolution to the conflict. Yet, intertwinement between geopolitical, political, diplomatic and military aspects of the process attests to perplex substance.
Geopolitical and historic ambitions of one state (Israel), global geopolitical dynamics, inter-faith relations, post-”Arab Spring” regional sectarian strife, struggle for influence between the big powers of the Middle East and other factors deserve consideration. When questioning the motives of the Israeli offensive the experts turn to the abovementioned aspects (see: Vittorio Dan Segre. Nelle vie di Gaza c’e in gioco il futuro di Israele / “İl Giornale”, 22 July 2014 and Göktürk Tüysüzoğlu. İsrail Neden Saldırdı? / “TUİÇ Akademi” 20 July 2014).
Number of factors must be highlighted from this standpoint. Above all, the ”Hamas” and ”Fattah” forming the national unity government are seen as one of the reasons. Such a move by the Palestinians is indeed historic. It is underpinned by the fact that after the political fiasco of the ”Muslim Brotherhood” ”Hamas” was left alone on the scene. This situation impelled Hamas to turn to Iran, contrary to the developments of the recent past.
On the other hand, Turkey and Hamas exercise influence over ”Hamas”. This may imply that Muslim organizations are eager to consolidate their efforts – a key topic of concern for Tel-Aviv. Experts argue that Netanyahu’s message ”stop seeking unity government” to the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was a strong argument.
Muslim organizations are known to be engulfed by strife in Syria and Iraq. Their animosity is based on sect and political and ideological affiliation. Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) is the most radical one. It is no secret that this organization recognizes no borders in massacring the Muslims. And it is no ordinary development that the organization claims mulling a ”start of fighting against Israel”. Tel-Aviv deems the establishment of a common ideological front in Palestine as a formation of an ”anti-Israel front”. From the military standpoint, construction of underground tunnels by the Palestinians is considered a threat. Through those tunnels ”Hamas” gains access to Egypt and a chance to infiltrate Israel.
Still, it is not everyone that associates the escalation of Israel-Palestine conflict with the highlighted factors. French ”Slate.fr” writes that ”Israel fell into Iran’s trap” (see: Jacques Benillouche. Gaza: Comment Israel est tombe dans le piege de l’Iran, vie le Hamas / ”Slate.fr”). Namely, Tehran is allegedly testing Tel-Aviv’s capability to defend from Iranian missiles. Italian expert Vittorio Dan Segre believes that, ”this is not an ordinary Middle Eastern conflict; this one is a powder keg that may disturb the world’s balance”.
Apparently, Israel-Palestine conflict has become a significant factor to substantially influence regional and global geopolitical processes. Organizations with religious ideological agenda are gaining firm footing on the political scene in the Middle East. The West is trying to portray them as antidemocratic whereas Israel considers their consolidation an immediate threat.
This signifies new height of geopolitical rivalry in the region. Possibly, political organizations founded on the Islamic ideology are entering a phase of mollification of strife with one another. Even ”Hezbollah” has offered help to ”Hamas”. These processes may change the geopolitical landscape of the region, including impelling of chaos and uncertainty. In the meantime, it would be naive to believe that the big powers are ready to embrace independent activity of the Muslim organizations.