Siege of Gaza – what next?

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(By Dr Cyriac Maprayil)

Hamas’s sudden and unannounced brutal attack on Israel and Israel’s equally brutal and well-coordinated retaliatory actions, including the ongoing siege of Gaza, call for a radical new approach to resolving the perpetual hostility and tension between the two nations of Palestine and Israel that has persisted since they came into existence in 1948.

The decision to create the two nations was taken by the UN in the aftermath of the Second World War. It was imposed on the Palestinian Arabs, ignoring their protest.

Initially, the British Government’s commitment and support for establishing a “national home” for the Jewish people in Palestine was announced through the so-called Balfour Declaration of 1917. It was explicitly approved by the League of Nations through its mandate to Britain to administer the area and, in the process, put into effect the Balfour Declaration, “National Home for the Jewish People”, alongside a home for the Palestinian Arabs who formed the vast majority of the local population.

Any new initiative must be preceded by a serious and significant de-escalation process, which the United Nations Secretary-General should ideally guide.

Declaration of Ceasefire

There are compelling humanitarian and legal reasons for Hamas to release all the hostages they took and for Israel to completely lift the Siege of Gaza. The fact that most of the permanent members of the UN Security Council have instantly and unconditionally declared their support for Israel and Israel’s retaliatory actions, to a large extent, undermines the potential role of the UN in resolving the crisis.

Naturally, the Arab nations are instinctively drawn closer to the people of Gaza, who are under siege and deprived of everything. By now, European nations, including Italy, Germany and France, must possibly be regretting the speed with which they jumped on the US bandwagon without putting any conditions on their support.

The European Union could step in to support the UN’s mediation efforts. It might be more effective than the US or Israel’s Gaza-friendly Arab neighbours.

The failure of the Israeli Government to recognise the elected administration in Gaza means there is no conventional mechanism for interaction between Gaza and the Government of Israel. This contributes to the level and intensity of the frustration of the people of Gaza vis-a-vis Israel, under whose shadow and mercy the Palestinians as a whole live.

Both Palestine and Israel were creations of the UN, and it is the UN that must take the initiative to resolve once and for all the conflict that has existed ever since they came into being.

(To be continued)