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  • Writer's pictureMike Lyons

IN SEARCH OF A SOLUTION TO THE ISRAEL/GAZA WAR

Updated: 7 days ago


Jeffrey Sachs Launches His Attacks on Israel


As a former admirer of Jeffrey David Sachs I believe I have earned the privilege of reflecting critically on his published articles condemning Israel’s actions since 7 October. Jeffrey Sachs is an American economist, author and professor at Columbia University. He and his family are Jewish.  Sachs has lost all credibility by spewing this utter drivel.


The Israel/Gaza war has been raging for more than five months. On 13 March 2024, John Menadue’s Policy Journal (Pearls & Irritations) published a transcript of a statement by Sachs in which he said: “Israel has deliberately starved the people of Gaza. Israel is a criminal and is in a non-stop war crime status now. There is a murderous gang in government right now. They believe in ethnic cleansing*”. [*Ethnic cleansing refers to a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violence and terror inspiring means, the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group.]


Only nine days after the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians, Sachs launched his first trajectory saying, “Following Hamas’s heinous attack on innocent Israeli citizens, senior Israeli military strategists are threatening the ethnic cleansing of Gaza”. Sachs did not bother to mention the brutal rape, beheading, burning and killing of innocent women, children and the elderly, nor did he mention the hostages taken by Hamas.


Days later Sachs described “Israel’s war crimes in Gaza, as verging on the crime of genocide”. [Genocide is the deliberate killing of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.] Sachs made no reference to Hamas warnings that they would repeat their attack “again and again” threatening to expel the Jews “from the river to the sea”, nor did he mention the number of times that the Palestinians, on the verge of a peace agreement with Israel had walked away.

 

According to Sachs, “Hamas can be demobilised through diplomacy, and only through diplomacy". He claimed that the Arab and Islamic countries (including Iran) Have once again reiterated their long-standing desire for peace with Israel” and he added that in all of the years of Hamas rule in Gaza since 2007, it had never captured Israeli territory, much less “remotely threatened Israel’s existence or survival”. What is more, “The Arab and Islamic states have repeatedly declared their readiness to normalise relations with Israel within the context of a Two-state solution".


A VERY BRIEF HISTORICAL RECAP


The United Nations Calls for Two States


On 29 November 1947, The UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181 endorsing the creation of two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Jews were disappointed by the small size of the territory allocated to them but decided to accept what was offered. However, the Arabs rejected the offer. Ben-Gurion declared Independence on 14 May 1948. At the time there were only 600,000 Jews in Israel.[i] 


The Arab Nations Attack


Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq immediately attacked the new Jewish state. They failed to destroy Israel, but the proposed Arab state never materialised. 700,000 Arabs were displaced and became refugees. They had lost their land, their villages, and their communities, but they were denied citizenship by the Arab countries to which they fled.


The Arab states vowed to return, saying that the war would be renewed and even if the struggle lasted one hundred years, “The day of vengeance would come”. They failed again in 1967 when Israel won decisively in six days, tripling its size in doing so. Israel had been a Jewish state with no Jewish holy sites before 1967. Most such sites were out of reach on the other side of the border. Israel had defeated Syria, Jordan, and Egypt and found itself controlling territory, which was home to 1,200,000 Arabs. Even then, the Arabs emerged with their infamous “THREE NOS”: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel.


The United Nations Turns on Israel


Since the 1970s, the UN has been a transparently anti-Israel forum, referring to Israel as an Apartheid state*. [*Apartheid refers to the implementation and maintenance of a system of legalised racial segregation in which one racial group is deprived of political and civil rights for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one race over another.]   In 1975, the UN adopted a resolution declaring that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”. The Wall Street Journal warned that the effect of the resolution was “To restore respectability to the dormant irrational hatred of the Jewish people".


The Iranian Threat


Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979 and immediately severed ties with Israel. In 2001 Ayatollah Khamenei said, “It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map of the region”. In 2005 Ahmadinejad reiterated Iran’s absolute opposition to Israel’s existence. In 2012, an Iranian spokesman said, “The Iranian nation is committed to the full annihilation of Israel”. In 2021, the Iranian Brigadier said “We will not back off from the annihilation of Israel. We want to destroy Zionism in the world”. If successful these threats would unquestionably qualify as both “Ethnic Cleansing” and “Genocide”.


Various Israeli prime ministers have pledged that Iran will never be permitted to have a weapon of mass destruction. Israel’s policy is that, if necessary, it will stop Iran on its own. When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the West sent arms, but did not come to Ukraine’s defence. There were no American boots on the ground. The Israelis internalised a critical lesson: no one will come to their defence if it ever mattered. Neither weakness nor pacifism are options for Israel. In a recent paper by Martin Indyk (a former US Ambassador to Israel), he discusses a possible two-state solution and suggests the need for a peacekeeping force to maintain order saying, “To prevent friction with the IDF, the force would need to be led by a US general. But there would be no need for American boots on the ground: Troops would come from other countries friendly to Israel including Australia, Canada, India and South Korea".


Hamas was founded in 1988 with the aim of liberating Palestine from Zionist occupation, claiming the land “from the river to the sea” and vowing to wage jihad against Israel. In 2007, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah and began firing thousands of rockets at Israeli cities leading to full-scale warfare. Hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis would die. Sinwar, known as the “Butcher of Kahn Younis” became the Hamas political leader in Gaza in 2017. In the days after 7 October, he warned Israel that the massacre was “just a rehearsal".

 

Peace Plans


Rabin was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1992 believing that peace was possible. The parties agreed a basic framework for the Oslo Accords in 1993. The PLO would recognise the State of Israel and abandon violence while Israel would recognise the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. Arafat, Rabin, and Bill Clinton shook hands at the White House. The first Oslo Accords never got off the ground, but Oslo Two followed in 1995. However, the Muslims would never accept the deal. Instead, Hamas and other Islamist groups carried out suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians. Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a Jewish fanatic.  Ehud Barak became Israel’s prime minister in 1999.


Barak, Arafat, and Clinton met at Camp David. Barak offered Arafat 92% of the West Bank and sections of Jerusalem for a Palestinian state. Arafat refused to even consider the proposal. In December 2000 Clinton proposed a Palestinian state to include 94-96% of the West Bank and he added the Gaza Strip. However, Clinton left the White House without succeeding in settling the conflict and he warned George Bush not to trust a word Arafat said, saying that believing Arafat “was the biggest mistake I made in my presidency”. Barak continued to offer concessions to Arafat, but Arafat would not budge. Arafat died in 19 November 2004 and was succeeded by Mahmood Abbas.


Prime Minister Sharon was succeeded by Ehud Olmert who declared his intention to hand over the majority of Palestinian territory in the West Bank to the Palestinian authority. However on the same day the Palestinians elected Hamas which declared that they would neither recognise Israel nor negotiate with it. Peace negotiations ended.


The USA Turns on Israel - 2024


The Senate Majority Leader, Charles E Schumer (D-NY), (Described as “the highest ranking Jewish elected official in the US government”) said that Israel risked becoming an international “pariah” if Netanyahu remained in power. Biden added, “I think he expressed serious concerns shared not only by him, but by many Americans”.  Netanyahu’s Likud party reacted furiously saying “Israel is not a banana Republic but an independent and proud democracy”. Casting doubt on Netanyahu’s wartime leadership is how the US once treated enemy dictatorships, not allied democracies! There is a dawning recognition in Israel that perhaps the US can no longer be relied upon.


On 19 March 2024, The Wall Street Journal wrote that American foreign policy is now seen by Israel only as “domestic politics” – how else to explain Biden’s and Schumer’s language if it were not a USA election year. However, Netanyahu has made it clear that no international pressure would stop Israel from realising all of its goals: Eliminating Hamas, freeing all hostages, and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to Israel.


On 21 March, Al Jazeera reported that the US had put forward a new draft resolution “supporting ongoing international diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages". Unsurprisingly, it was dismissed by Al Jazeera’s Diplomatic Editor as “ambiguous”.


Only the Middle East Can Fix the Middle East[ii]


A major reset of relations is emerging among Arab nations in the Middle East where a realistic prospect is developing for Middle Eastern leaders, working with Israel to arrest the spiral of violence and to move the region in a more positive direction. American credibility in the Middle East is at an all-time low and the process will not be helped by US intervention.  


A major diplomatic breakthrough is more likely to come, not from America, but from the region itself. Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Jordan followed in 1994. The UAE and Bahrain followed in 2020 with the Abraham Accords and then came Morocco and Sudan. There has been a reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran (brokered by China, not by America).


Arab governments including Saudi Arabia are developing proposals for a post-war peace in the Middle East which would depend upon the release of all hostages and an irrevocable path to a Palestinian state. Resolution of the Gaza war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if led by a Middle Eastern initiative would be much more credible among the Arab nations and would have much greater prospects of succeeding than any efforts by the USA.


"AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM" - HEAR THE OTHER SIDE!

____________________

[i] Much of this commentary stems from Impossible Takes a Little Longer by Daniel Gordis and from A History of Jerusalem by Karen Armstrong (She spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun in the 1960s, leaving the order in 1969. She became a world authority on the three monotheistic faiths and devoted her life to writing and teaching on religious affairs).

[ii] By Dalia Dassa Kaye and Sanam Vakil (Foreign Affairs March 2024).

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