What’s the Point of All the Calls For a Cease Fire in Gaza? When the Key Player in the Game is Idle

Imagine, for a second, the following scenario: British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, calls on Israel and Hamas to cease all hostilities in Gaza and both sides respond immediately. They figure that they better listen to Mr.Brown, a world statesman, who has, as he said himself, singlehandedly saved the world from total financial meltdown.We have to stop at once, the Israeli generals would think. If Prime Minister Brown calls on us to cease fighting, we’d better do as he says. Or the consequences for us and for the whole world could be unpredictable.

And the Hamas leadership would think along similar lines. Brown, they would think, is not someone you can simply ignore. He is an international heavyweight. He’s got that man, Peter Mandelson, working for him now. And you do not mess with Mandelson. So we’d better cease all hostilities.

Such a scenario would not really sound plausible, would it? I mean, who the hell would listen to Brown anyway? And yet, the British Prime Minister found the time yesterday, December 31, to actually publicly call on Israel and Hamas to cease fighting. Did he actually think for a moment that his words would give more weight to the calls by other world leaders and the international community as a whole for the hostilities in Gaza to stop?

These calls always come too late, don’t they? Shouldn’t the European Union and the United Nations have been doing something before the guns started talking in Gaza, as they say? Like sending somebody, who knows how to help resolve the acute economic and social problems faced by the Palestinians, instead of dispatching former British Premier, Tony Blair, as an envoy of the so-called Quartet on the Middle East – US, Russia, EU and UN – to do his thing.

Blair up to now did absolutely nothing to resolve the crisis faced by the Palestinians. He screwed up, just like he had screwed up when he was at 10 Downing Street for ten long years. How on earth could anyone have even thought of appointing this man – responsible for launching an illegal war in the Middle East that has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of people – to try and sort out the social aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The Arabs do not trust him and never will. Plus, Blair is too preoccupied making money on the lecture circuit so he does not really have much time to devote to his travels to the West Bank and Gaza. As far as I know, he has never been to Gaza at all. Tried to get there once, but was warned that he would be whacked by the ungrateful Palestinians, so he simply turned back.

It is highly hypocritical of the EU and the UN and all those pompous world leaders to pretend that they suddenly feel passionate about the fate of the inhabitants of Gaza. Didn’t they know that the situation was getting tense in and around Gaza? Were they caught off guard again, like on so many occasions in the past? Don’t they receive any intelligence from the Middle East, or from anywhere else for that matter? Or maybe they are just too busy to read anything that is put on their tables? You know, fighting for their political survival, looking after their young spouses or trying to resolve a long running constitutional crisis?

Didn’t they know that it was just a matter of time before a full scale war breaks out in Gaza? Sure, Israel has caught everyone by surprise by launching bombing raids against Hamas in Gaza during the Christmas break, but it was not as if such a scenario could not be predicted. And the Arab League that held an emergence meeting yesterday in Cairo could have done more too, instead of getting all concerned once the crisis blew up in their faces and not really doing anything specific.

President George Bush’s Administration carries, of course, most of the blame for what is happening in Gaza. That is the same Administration that was predicting last year that peace would be established by now between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Peace and harmony and love and friendship would reign, they said. And an independent Palestinian state would be emerging from the mess of the eternal conflict.

I remember some people telling me then that they thought at the time that President Bush looked like a man, who fell off the wagon when he was talking about resolving the Middle Eastern conflict. And his foreign policy chief, Condoleezza Rice, also seemed to be living in some fantasy world when she was promising to deliver spectacular success in the resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

There has to be some totally new arrangement created in terms of international mediation to move the matter forward. At the moment the United States are not showing any real desire to do anything and the only hope is that the incoming President, Barack Obama, will change that. Russia has no place in the Quartet because it longer has any influence anywhere around the world, apart from some countries with authoritarian regimes, like Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela and Belarus. So Russia’s presence brings nothing into the effort.

The UN has always been hopeless in resorting international conflicts. Its disgraceful role in the Balkans, where UN officials were involved in the most blatant corruption, and its shameful previous track record in dealing with Ruanda, Iraq, Sudan, Burma, Zimbabwe – you name it and the UN blew it – proves that it is simply useless.

The EU with its overpaid bureaucrats has no serious foreign affairs credentials and if it prides itself on supposedly helping to resolve the crisis between Russia and Georgia last year then it is simply ignoring the real state of things: both the Russian and Georgian leaderships needed a war to distract the attention of their own people from the appalling state of their respective economies and they were prepared to be ‘convinced’ by international mediators to stop hostilities because they could not really afford a long running conflict. French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, who presided in the EU until yesterday, can stop thinking that he is a natural peacemaker. He is not. I think he doesn’t have what it takes to be a good diplomat.

So the ball rests in the American court. Nothing will be achieved in the Middle East until Washington starts getting serious and practical about its policy there. Up to now it has done neither of these things.

BOLA TANGKAS