As Gaza Truce Talks Fail, Israel Must Turn to UN

It’s not too late for Israel to pursue a UN Security Council resolution that would, in the long run, change the reality in Gaza.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Smoke and debris rise after an Israeli strike hit Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip, August 19, 2014.
Smoke and debris rise after an Israeli strike hit Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip, August 19, 2014. Credit: AP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The collapse of the Cairo talks over a long-term truce in Gaza was a failure foretold. One needed to be extremely optimistic or totally clueless about the diplomatic realities to think that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s most generous positions would meet the minimum demands of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal.

In the end, the way Netanyahu managed the war in Gaza did almost nothing to promote Israel’s diplomatic interests. At the end of a month of fighting, during which 64 soldiers and three Israeli civilians were killed, and another two weeks of talks in Cairo, we are back to square one. Hamas continues to fire rockets, residents of the communities along the Gaza border cannot return confidently to their homes and a million people in the south are once again running in and out of bomb shelters.

Netanyahu’s decision to try to come to an arrangement with Hamas, a track that had failed so many times in the past, was a serious mistake that caused tremendous diplomatic damage. Rather than utilizing the opportunity to recruit the international community to Israel’s side, the rift with the United States has widened. Instead of isolating Hamas, the negotiations bestowed additional legitimacy on this murderous terror organization and weakened Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas even further.

Instead of taking the initiative and promoting a diplomatic process that would advance Israel’s national security, Israel’s prime minister and defense minister were dragged into a process in which Hamas set the agenda. Israel gradually withdrew from vital demands such as demilitarization, preventing Hamas from rearming, and international oversight of Gaza, and was prepared to settle for the lowest common denominator of “quiet for quiet,” just to buy a few months without rockets.

Precisely for this reason the collapse of the talks is good news for Israel. Netanyahu has gotten a second chance to try and forge a diplomatic process that, even if it doesn’t stop the rocket fire, will at least garner Israel some important diplomatic achievements in the international arena. Instead of seeking an arrangement at the Egyptian intelligence headquarters in Cairo, Netanyahu, from Wednesday morning on, must direct his efforts toward the UN headquarters in New York.

It’s not too late for Israel to initiate a resolution in the UN Security Council that resembles Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War. Such a resolution would not just bring an end to the war in Gaza, but also would establish international mechanisms and launch a long-term process to change the reality in Gaza in a way that would serve Israel and its allies and isolate the Hamas and its patrons.

The resolution by the 28 EU foreign ministers last Friday could be a basis for such a UN Security Council resolution. Its principles would be the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip in exchange for an international mechanism to prevent the rearming of Hamas; placement of a larger, stronger and more authoritative contingent of European inspectors at the border crossings, an international demand for the deployment of Palestinian Authority security forces in the Gaza Strip, and a call to remove all rockets from Gaza.

There is no certainty that a Security Council resolution will stop the fire or change anything on the ground immediately. However, it is likely to improve Israel’s global position, provide international support for its security demands, isolate Hamas, and present the group with a difficult dilemma regarding its future. If Hamas continues to fire, Israel will have more international legitimacy than ever to take military action against it.

One more point. The American response to the collapse of the cease-fire was no less than incredible. Deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf perfunctorily addressed the issue in her daily briefing, as if it were some minor border skirmish between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The between-the-lines American message to Jerusalem was: This isn’t our problem anymore. You didn’t want us to intervene. You attacked us and leaked things to the media against us. Now you’re on your own.

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