The Gaza ceasefire appears imminent… so what now?
Olmert has declared a “unilateral ceasefire” in Gaza which involves a continued occupation for some time, the negotiations for this ceasefire have included assurances from the US and EU that they will assist with blocking further arms shipments to Hamas by helping police the area around the Rafah border and the system of tunnels that has so far supplied Hamas with the weapons they have been using.
Some doubt exists however, there has been some defiance from Egypt over how this will play out:
But tonight Egypt’s foreign minister dismissed a US-Israeli agreement aimed at cutting off weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip, raising questions about how effective it would be in preventing arms from reaching Hamas.
The US and Israel can “do what they wish with regard to the sea or any other country in Africa, but when it comes to Egyptian land, we are not bound by anything except the safety and national security of the Egyptian people and Egypt’s ability to protect its borders”, Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters. [Guardian]
The global push for an investigation into war crimes, highlighting in particular the IDF’s hit on a UN compound and its alleged usage of white phosphorous under potentially illegal circumstances. Though I personally don’t think anything will come of these investigations, because Israel is not a signatory to the treaty that bans white phosphorous so the legal grounds for war crimes sound shaky to me but an investigation, I think, would send at least some sort of message.
I personally think the main outcome of this war has been the large swing against Israel in public opinion. Apart from within the Arab world (on the street not in the government offices), such opposition has not been seen in the past, particulary popular opposition on the Western street and from Western Governments (not including the Bush administration of course). Although images of children dying being beamed around the world via satellite news is nothing new, the intensified development of Web 2.0 has also seen a propaganda war playing out on many major forums, Facebook groups, twitter feeds and whatnot over hearts & minds. From what I’ve witnessed, staunch support for Israel has seemed beleagured and belligerent whereas support for Gaza/the Palestinian cause has been far more strong. Although most people are not well informed on the history and the details of the situation, I have seen many strong opinions formed on the situation regardless. Israel has definitely lost the propaganda war and has come off looking like a bloodthirsty bully.
It’s important to remember theat amid all this, the elephant in the room you could say, is the Obama Administration’s plans for the conflict and his impending inauguration as the 44th President. Obama has already said made out engagement of “the Muslim world” as a priority and his stated intention to make a speech in a prominent Muslim capital within 100 days of taking office. Tony Karon has already written an interesting piece for the National on what this speech should and should not entail. My take is that in order to be successful at winning hearts & minds Obama will need to tap into the Arab/Muslim psyche. It is a psyche deeply wounded by the callous actions of the Bush administration and deeply estranged by the consistent and unwavering support Israel has enjoyed from the international community. Combine this with the ‘war on Terror’ which, of course, to many, seemed like a War on Muslims – complete with racial profiling and excessive airport security checks – and you can sort of understand what Muslims are thinking.
The advent of Obama has ushered in a rare glimmer of hope, a hope that has taken a deep hit with his continued silence on the Gaza situation (which I have already explained, I totally agree with), now that he is actually going to wield power, he needs to get the right message across. I personally think the first code for the new Obama message should be simple – be honest. Muslims are not stupid, if Obama can honestly explain to them the challenges that his Administration faces in creating change, they will understand. Secondly, Obama needs to engage on a personal level as that is his number one drawcard, the sense of “he’s one of us” that he has instilled in so many people from all over the world since his meteoric rise last year. And thirdly, Obama needs to be bold and pragmatic but, above all, he needs to make sure that he does not make empty promises. Muslims the world over have had enough of those.