Just hours after the UN Security Council met in New York to adopt a new resolution calling for “an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza”, the Israeli government decided to continue its military operation in Gaza, citing continuing rocket fire from Gaza.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, according to a statement circulated by his media adviser, that “The State of Israel has never agreed that any outside body would determine its right to defend the security of its citizens. The IDF will continue operations in order to defend Israeli citizens and will carry out the missions with which it has been assigned in the operation. This morning’s rocket fire against residents of the south only proves that the UN Security Council Resolution 1860 is not practical and will not be honored in actual fact by the Palestinian murder organizations.”
The new UN SC Resolution, while calling for an “immediate, durable and fully-respected” cease-fire (apparently meaning it should be all three things), in fact also recognized that efforts to conclude a cease-fire are still underway.
So, it isn’t over yet — not the fighting and the fear and the dying, and not the diplomacy, either.
The just-adopted Resolution 1860 called upon “Member States to intensify efforts to provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a durable ceasefire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained re-opening of the crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel; and in this regard, welcomes the Egyptian initiative, and other regional and international efforts that are under way”…
Libya’s representative at the meeting, Abdurrahman Shalgam, who had pushed for SC action, admitted that “not all of the [Arab] Group’s proposals and demands had been met, including the desire for a mechanism to ensure a quick resolution to the crisis”.
And, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who went to NY and stayed for three days to negotiate this resolution, called the new Resolution 1860 a “basis” for the resolution of the situation, and “a step towards the collective goals reflecting the desire of all for sustainable peace in the region. While much remained to be done, much work was under way … Many tasks remained to be addressed, including rooting out the causes of the hostilities, tackling the smuggling and provision of weapons, securing crossing points in line with the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, and providing security for the Israeli people and a better life for the people of Gaza”, according to a UN summary press release. ‘
Rice also said “We must establish an international consensus that Gaza must never again be used as a launching pad for rockets against Israeli citizens, because it is important to remember how this crisis began” … She said that “Hamas had refused to extend the ‘period of calm’, and its continued armament was a root cause of the current situation”
Rice explained that she abstained in the vote — but allowed the resolution to pass – because “the United States thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation efforts in order to ‘see what this resolution might have been supporting’.”
Everything now apparently depends on the Egyptian-French initiative.
The problem is, this effort, too, wants to convince Hamas that it has lost.
Some analysts say that Hamas has avoided direct engagements with the IDF inside Gaza. Some say that, should the IDF Operation Cast Lead continue, Hamas will be trying to lure the IDF into a trap.
But that is far from clear.
If Hamas has any card left in its hands, it would be IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured near Gaza in a cross-border raid in June 2006
The newly-adopted resolution encourages “tangible steps towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation including in support of mediation efforts of Egypt and the League of Arab States as expressed in the 26 November 2008 resolution, and consistent with Security Council resolution 1850 (2008) and other relevant resolutions”.
That earlier UNSC Resolution 1850, adopted on 16 December, declared its support for the Annapolis process of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which it said was “irreversible”, and it called on both parties to fulfil their obligations under the “Roadmap” — and to refrain from any steps that could prejudice the outcome of the negotiations.
But, it very importantly also called on all states and international organizations to “support the Palestinian Government that is committed to the Quartet Principles … and respects the commitments of the PLO” — which is an explicit call to support the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. At the same time, this wording implies the de-legitimization of Hamas.
The new UNSC resolution 1860, adopted hours ago, repeats this position.
After the vote in the Security Council meeting, Rice said, significantly, that “There would need to be a principled resolution also of the political challenges in Gaza that re-established the Palestinian Authority’s control, including over borders; facilitated the normal operation of Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings; and, in time, the opening of other crossings”. And she stated yet again that “the United States supported President Mahmoud Abbas as he carried out his responsibilities towards the establishment of a State of Palestine”.
Abbas, who had been in New York for several days, very diplomatically left the day before the vote and went to Spain, then to Cairo, to discuss the situation in Gaza. Hamas has said it will not recognize Abbas’ term in office after midnight on 9 January.
Meanwhile, the AP has reported that “Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the U.N. failed to consider the interests of the Palestinian people. ‘This resolution doesn’t mean that the war is over’, he told the al-Jazeera satellite television network.” The full AP story can be found here .
But, in an Op Ed article published in Haaretz today, Bernard Avishai (an Israeli) and Sam Bahour (a Palestinian-American) — both businessmen — argued that “Israel cannot make Hamas surrender – it cannot ‘win’. Meanwhile, the carnage will help Hamas, and other Palestinian military factions, make their case – not only in Gaza, but across the West Bank too … It should be clear by now that Hamas’ appeal only grows when Israelis attacks Palestinians. It increased when Israel insisted that occupied territory was merely ‘disputed’, ignoring its obligations under international law, and tried to dissociate its unilateral ‘disengagement’ from Gaza from the continuing occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Hamas appealed to circles upon circles of Palestinian youth, who, grieving for friends or relatives killed in clashes with occupation forces, or appalled by iron-fist policies, succumbed to rage or survivors’ guilt. Its appeal increased in the absence of any concrete progress toward peace, indeed, when the peacemaking process seemed endlessly stalled. Hamas’ appeal spread, finally, when Palestinian economic life seemed futile, or inevitably corrupt – when a fight to the last martyr seemed the only chance at a meaningful life – or death. Give Gazans open borders, relief from grinding poverty, and business opportunities with West Bank and foreign partners and, over time, this will win over Hamas-controlled tunnels and smuggling every time. The Palestinian private sector, centered in Ramallah, has begged Israel and the international community for 18 months to allow it access to Gaza, to build new businesses. Israel refused. Tragically, many who have been killed this past week were not Hamas militants, but rather Palestinians who worked in Hamas-run ministries or institutions because they had no choice if they wanted to feed and clothe their children. The critical point, surely, is that one cannot do in two weeks with force what you need to do over a generation with reciprocity. Even as it worked toward an overall solution to the conflict, Israel could have respected international law regarding occupation, observed the Geneva conventions, helped build Palestinian civil society, stopped settlement construction, invited international monitors, and allowed Palestinians to compete non-violently, politically, economically and socially. It could have, in short, allowed for unity and rationality in Palestinian politics. This is not, well, rocket science”. This OpEd piece can be read in full here .
The same message, of course, could also be addressed to the United States and to the Quartet (composed of the USA, the Russian Federation, the EU, and the UN) that it set up to support the Bush Administration’s vision of Middle East diplomacy.
In a separate development, the UN Human Rights Council has begun an emergency meeting in Geneva to consider the situation in Gaza, with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, saying that while the harm to civilians in Israel caused by Hamas rockets is unacceptable, Israel must nevertheless abide by international humanitarian law. The High Commissioner — who will have previously taken the pulse of the Human Rights Council — reportedly called for an independent investigation of possible war crimes in Gaza and in Israel. This would also put Hamas on the spot.
Also Friday, the Foreign Press Association informed its members that, according to its lawyers, “The State has clarified that as soon as the situation permits they are aware of the fact that the media have to be permitted to enter Gaza and as soon as possible will permit pools to do so”.