Gaza Flotilla: What Message Does the West Send to the Arab and Muslim World?

Posted in Broader Middle East , Israel / Palestine | 23-Jun-10 | Author: Ruba Zinati

Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu as he attends a Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee meeting at parliament in Jerusalem June 21, 2010

Looking at the political scene for both the Palestinians and the Israelis, one would find it very much similar and at the same time very much different. The similarity between them lies in the fact that both, the government of Hamas and that of the coalition government of Netanyahu were democratically elected. However, their differences are visible in the way the international community deals with them and in their route to power. Hamas was elected for its social credibility; it was considered the better choice and the party which was more capable to defend the rights of the ordinary people who have suffered frustration after frustration in the course of everyday life due to the Palestinian problem as a whole; whether it was the unfulfilled promises of the Oslo Accords or over the whole deteriorating security situation with the Israeli forces, Hamas decided to meet Israel's escalation of military force with a military response of its own. Hamas won the elections with landslide victory, which was faced by Israeli refusal and hard measures against its members as well as against the people. The situation became worse when Hamas was cornered in the Gaza Strip by the Israelis and the entire western world labeled Hamas a terrorist group for their military response inside Israel and against the Israelis. In addition to the blockade which was imposed on the Strip following the August 2005 Israeli unilateral withdrawal that left the Strip in a state of vacuum of power. Moreover, economic sanctions were inflicted by Israel, the US and the EU with a considerable part of the international community, against the Strip. Although, Hamas began to negotiate its ideological rejectionist policy of its charter as it rose to power and came into terms with the two-state solution, a national unity government was formed in 2007 between Hamas and Fatah expressing their willingness to negotiate long-term ceasefire with Israel. But Israel refused to negotiate with a government that includes Hamas, in short Hamas was never given a chance to prove their right from their wrong.

The Israeli coalition government was also elected democratically in February 2009 after the war which Israel launched against Gaza as a whole, against both Hamas and the civilians, in which the power asymmetry was more than obvious. This war was launched for many reasons mainly to hit Hamas hard to the point that its leaders will be subordinated to the Israeli demands for employing a ceasefire in accordance with the Israeli terms. In doing so scoring high in the chart of toughness in dealing with the Arabs and regaining the Israeli army's reputation after the 2006 military campaign in southern Lebanon, thus, affecting the Israeli public opinion to elect the toughest, and at the same time altering the situation in Gaza from a case of independence to an exacerbating humanitarian case.

The Israeli coalition government headed by Netanyahu has been pursuing a settlement building policy in the occupied Palestinian territories of 1967, particularly in East Jerusalem in defiance of the international legitimacy. This policy has instigated among the people in the Arab and Muslim world a feeling of great resentment of the helplessness of the international community in dealing with the Israeli breaching of international law. Most recently Israel took the choice that harmed all parties involved including Israel and its allies to attack a civilian ship carrying humanitarian supplies to the people in Gaza, in the high seas killing civilians from different nationalities including a US national. These behaviors and policies not only cause frustration and a sense of bitterness among the people of the region and the Muslim world and jeopardize the credibility of the west in the region and the Muslim world, but also the future security of Israel is becoming at stake, as the idea of coexistence and normalization of relations between Israel and its neighbors is being more and more rejected. Such policies might be seen by the leaders of the coalition government as a patriotic policy that is serving the well being of the state of Israel and its security, but on the ground it serves the extremists' agendas on both sides and keeping the peace away from this region.

It is constantly the responsibility of the stronger and more powerful to step forward to break a peace deal, a just one in order for everyone to share, and employ security as the security for one is the guarantee for the security of the other. Therefore it is important to take the initiative to do so before it is too late, as history taught us particularly in this part of the world that power holders are not always the same and the wise whom strategy not only counts for the present but for the long run too. The path to peace is becoming narrower; therefore it's better to walk it before it disappears.