Pacific Dialogue
Might makes right?
By Liang Xiao  ·  2023-10-23  ·   Source: NO.43 OCTOBER 26, 2023

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the No.1 powder keg in the Middle East, has once again exploded in a most tragic way. Facing a potentially out-of-control situation, United States President Joe Biden paid an emergency visit to Israel on October 18 at the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Prior to his trip, Biden had reiterated the American support for Israel, its most important ally in the region. He further emphasized in an interview that the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, also known as Hamas, the Sunni Islamist political and military organization that governs the Gaza Strip of the Palestinian territories, should be completely eliminated.

Biden, however, did add that "it would be a mistake for Israel to reoccupy Gaza" and denied that the U.S. plans to start a new war in the Middle East.

For the U.S., the sudden escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas seems to have come completely out of the blue.

Since taking office, the Biden administration has been committed to promoting the historic reconciliation between Israel and key countries in the Arab world, attempting to reshape the geopolitical order in the region, so as to shift the U.S. strategic focus from the Middle East to Europe and the Indo-Pacific, ignoring the legitimate concerns of the Palestinians. However, in the early morning hours of October 7, when Hamas launched the largest rocket attack on Israel in recent years and armed attacks against civilian targets, Israel decided to retaliate with equally brutal action, imposing a complete blockade on Gaza while carrying out airstrikes, resulting in a large number of civilian casualties and triggering a serious humanitarian crisis.

The current conflict between Israel and Palestine has been decades in the making. Apart from historical and ideological factors, the Hamas hostility toward Israel is reinforced by Israeli actions such as military operations, settlement expansion and the blockade of Gaza, which restricts the movement of goods and people in and out of the territory. 

The blockade, in particular, has had severe humanitarian consequences for the people of Gaza. It has limited access to basic necessities such as food, medicine and fuel, and hindered economic development. The lack of infrastructure development and high unemployment rates exacerbate the already difficult living conditions in Gaza. However, supporters of the blockade argue that it is necessary for security reasons, given Hamas has launched attacks against Israel from Gaza. They further argue that the blockade helps prevent the smuggling of weapons and materials used in hostile activities.

Despite the attempted justification for the blockade, most people in Gaza, and the world at large, perceive the type of containment as oppressive and unjust, further fueling resentment toward Israel among Palestinians.

Peace right now remains a promise proving very difficult, borderline impossible, to be fulfilled. At the same time, almost every Hamas loyalist living in Gaza has had family members and friends killed or injured in the conflict with Israel and this kind of deep-seated hatred is difficult to quell. The American push for reconciliation is seen by Hamas as a sacrifice on the part of the Palestinians, and therefore must be resisted at all costs.

That is why, as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointed out on October 12 in a telephone conversation with Celso Luiz Nunes Amorim, chief advisor to the Brazilian presidency, which holds the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council in October, the Palestinian issue is the core of the Middle East issue. And the crux of the matter is that justice has not been done to the Palestinian people.

"China calls for an international peace conference with greater authority and impact to be held as soon as possible to build a broader international consensus on the basis of the two-state solution, and to formulate a timetable and roadmap to that end."

At present, many international organizations and world powers, including the UN, the European Union, the U.S., the UK, China and Russia, are all calling for the implementation of the "two-state solution," which means the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty based on the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. But the Israeli side has repeatedly declined the idea of returning territory in exchange for peace.

For the state of Israel, which since its proclamation in 1948 has faced the enmity of almost the entire Arab world, as documented by no fewer than five Arab-Israeli wars, the thinking goes that it has built this land of survival for its people with blood, sweat and tears. Today, it is the leading military power in the Middle East, supported by the U.S., the most powerful country in the world.

Right after the most recent conflict erupted, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the USS Eisenhower carrier strike group to join the USS Ford carrier strike group in the Eastern Mediterranean to deter other countries in the region that are deemed hostile to Israel.

To some, might makes right, and what is lost on the battlefield, cannot be gained at the negotiating table. Perhaps this kind of thinking is what's responsible for the continuing turmoil in the current international situation.

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon

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