As hundreds of rockets from Hamas militants in Gaza fell on Israel and Israel responded in self defense world opinion was divided largely between US and Western support for Israel and Middle East and Arab backing for the Palestinian side. The international community called for de-escalation as rocket attacks hit major Israeli cities including Jerusalem for the first time. Israel called up 16,000 reservists with authorization given for a further 75,000, amid reports of tanks on Israel’s border raising fears of a ground invasion.
The Palestinian Authority asked the UN to pressure Israel to stop attacks on Gaza City, and an emergency Arab League summit was requested to end the assault.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague called on both sides to work together to end the conflict but stressed that Hamas must stop rocket attacks while affirming Israel’s right to defend itself.
British Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to intervene and visit the region this week for talks with all parties. He cited the two-state solution as the answer, ”The only hope for peace and security for the citizens of the region will be through re-starting the stalled negotiations towards agreeing a two state solution.”
Unicef voiced concern about the effect of the conflict on both Israeli and Palestinian children.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr urged both sides to show restraint.
In Brussels, European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton affirmed Israel’s right to protect its population whilst calling for proportionate response. She reiterated hopes that Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil would, ”…be able to calm the situation.” on his brief visit to Gaza.
An Iraqi official shocked many and provoked anger by suggesting Baghdad, which the US and Allies helped liberate, and Arab states, use oil as a political weapon to pressure Israel and the US.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined the call for a peaceful resolution to the fighting whilst laying the blame at Hamas’ door. ”The federal chancellor calls on the Egyptian government to use its influence on Hamas to push it towards a moderation of the violence,” Merkel’s deputy spokesman Georg Streiter said in Berlin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to support Egypt’s efforts to halt the escalating violence in Gaza.
The Editorial in Saudi Arabia’s daily Al-Watan suggested Israel’s attacks are a warning against the Palestinian Authority requesting non-member status at the UN.
Jordan’s pro-government Al-Dustur media urged renewed efforts to restrain Israel, “It’s high time to get all countries, international organisations and institutions to relinquish double standards when dealing with all international and humanitarian issues, particularly where severe injustices have been going on for decades.”
Turkish media firmly blames Israel and accuses the world of having become so used to Israeli aggression that it simply sits back and watches now.
Twitter has been described as a new front in the propaganda war with all sides providing a virtual real time feed.
BBC News reported, “On Wednesday, the IDF began live tweeting and blogging about its current military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.”
Hamas replied with the chilling tweet, “Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, responded: “Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)”.”
Twitter now finds itself in the position of deciding whether its rules against threats and violence have been breached.
Even collective hacker group Anonymous has been active, targeting Israeli websites, giving the reason, “Anonymous does not support violence by the IDF or by Palestinian Resistance/Hamas. Our concern is for the children of Israel and Palestinian Territories and the rights of the people in Gaza to maintain open lines of communication with the outside world.”
It will surprise nobody that Iranian involvement has been revealed. Reza Kahlili, of the US Task Force on National and Homeland Security, who served in CIA Directorate of Operations, as a spy in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, reveals in WND, that Iran has admitted its role in manufacturing the Gaza conflict:
“According to a source in the Revolutionary Guards intelligence division, Iran has large stockpiles of chemical and microbial weapons and it has armed the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah with them. It also has Quds Forces in Gaza and other Palestinian territories to help Hamas and Islamic Jihad in setting up underground rocket facilities while training and supervising the Palestinians in launching attacks on Israel. The escalation of the Gaza conflict was ordered by the highest authority in Iran, the source added, and rockets targeting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are in fact a warning to Israel that its Iron Dome missile defense system cannot thwart Iran’s ballistic missiles and tens of thousands of rockets and missiles in the hands of Hezbollah.”
While there are various factions involved in producing the crisis, the role of Egypt in the post Arab Spring Middle East has become central. The main power brokers in the international community view Egypt as key to easing tensions.
An Editorial in The Independent stated:
“What is different this time is that the latest spasm takes place in a region reshaped by the Arab Spring. Under Hosni Mubarak, Egypt was an ally of the US committed to peace with Israel; now its government is led by a member of the same Muslim Brotherhood that counts Hamas among its affiliates. Of the many tests that Egypt’s first democratic President has faced since his election in June, the conflict in Gaza is perhaps the most hazardous. Mohamed Morsi is under pressure at home to stand up for beleaguered Palestinians, reversing Mubarak-era policies widely considered unduly supine. But regional instability will hit Egypt hard, and its ailing economy needs Western aid.”
The Editorial highlights the toxic balancing act Morsi is juggling as he tries to portray himself as a moderate to the US and the West, but a firm supporter of Hamas and Islamic extremists to Egypt and surrounding Arab states. His ‘moderate’ balancing acting is visible because “…he has not offered Hamas military support, or threatened action against Israel…Egypt wants the US to restrain Israel; the US is calling on Egypt to put pressure on Hamas.” Diplomats hope that somewhere in the midst of this political tug of war lies a solution.
The harsh realities of needing foreign aid is a bargaining tool the US can use with Morsi. Egypt’s government gets about $2 billion in aid from the US annually. This includes $1.3 billion in military aid.
Even some newly governing Egyptian Islamists see the need to maintain ‘balance’, “The Islamists now have to live up to their decades-old opposition to Israel but balance that with the realities of running a nation by avoiding escalating tensions on the border or angering Washington, a major benefactor to Egypt’s army.” Marwa Awad’s Reuters article is worth reading. Nonetheless, Egypt’s current pro Palestinian and pro Hamas stance makes a mockery of the aid package it receives.
Anugrah Kumar in Christian Post offers the insight that although Morsi tries to walk a fine line between extremist and moderate, he may, ironically, be the lesser of two evils, ”Morsi appears moderate if compared with the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, who said on Thursday that Israel was “the project of the devil.” Hamas itself is an offshoot from the Muslim Brotherhood and the affinity between the two is clear.
Although Morsi has stated his support for the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, this may now be at risk as Muslim Brotherhood hardliners will want to renegotiate this.
Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood can no longer be considered a reliable friend to the US and the West, “One pan-Arab paper says that Egypt is restoring its dignity in the post-Mubarak era by taking a firm stand against Israel.”
However, even some within the Egyptian government believe Egypt must guard against severing ties with Israel and drawing the region into a war.
Morsi sent his Prime Minister to Gaza partly in response to pressure from Obama to do everything to help ease tensions but also to show Egyptian support for Hamas and the Palestinian people. This plays well with Egyptian citizens who are emboldened by their open support for Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, something which overthrown ruler and previous US ally Hosni Mubarak held in check.
In a dramatically altered Middle Eastern politico-religious demographic, the newly ‘democratic’ Arab Spring nations are clearly backing Hamas.
“…the changes in the region have opened up new possibilities for Hamas, by strengthening Islamists across the Middle East and bringing new found recognition to the militant group shunned by the international community because of its refusal to renounce violence against Israel.”
Nonetheless, it seems the best hope for a resolution to this current conflict may be Morsi’s shaky ‘moderate’ position. While playing to the regional pro Hamas crowd, his need of US aid can be a bargaining tool to restrain Gaza’s militant groups.
“Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said diplomacy to “reach a truce” was one of the main tracks Egypt was following. ”Egypt is following several paths to end the violations and aggression of Israel on Gaza. At the forefront is intensive diplomacy involving the most effective countries in the Arab world and abroad…”"
One thing is certain, that in the midst of the turmoil there will be extensive political and diplomatic dealings in the background and Christians ought to pray that God would guide these to produce a peaceful resolution.
It is also worth remembering that there are still those who reach out in peace from opposite sides. Communications between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews continue and you can read of this from Jerusalem based reconciliation ministry Musalaha here.