By Femi Mimiko, mni
With the US veto of the UAE draft resolution on humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, it has become clear that the solution to the current conflict in the territory may not lie with the UN. This is not a surprise, though, as it had become evident soon after the world body was created in 1945 that it would only be effective in resolving conflict situations when the five veto-holding member-states – US, USSR (now Russia), UK, France, and China – were in agreement. The implication of the US veto of the UAE draft resolution is that the carnage in Gaza, which started October 7, 2023, may continue unabated.
Lest we forget, the primary objective of the Israeli government in invading Gaza is the complete annihilation of Hamas. But the truth is that Hamas is not just a mere organisation, which can be so easily isolated and taken out by force of arms. It is also an idea, which has context. It draws life from the reality on ground in the Middle East – i.e., denial of the aspiration of the Palestinian people for a homeland of their own, on parts of the territories occupied, either wholly or partially, by the State of Israel. It is thus obvious why the objective of stamping out Hamas, desirable as it may seem or sound, will not happen. It will, at best, remain a mere façade to justify the continued destruction of innocent life and infrastructure in Gaza by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). The foregoing has made it imperative for the world to find alternative pathways to stopping the expanding scope of this war, the humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip, and the disruptions and killings underway in the occupied West Bank.
In the circumstances, recourse to some form of ‘eyeball-to-eyeball diplomacy,’ the type of which was employed to end the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, may have become inevitable. On each occasion, the now defunct Soviet Union, under Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev in 1956 and 1973 respectively, forged the pathway to peace by simply issuing, each, a firm ultimatum, to end the conflict. Khrushchev’s ultimatum was on the tripartite alliance of Britain, France and Israel, to halt their joint invasion of Egypt, designed to seize the Canal and depose Egyptian leader, Gamal Abdel Nassar; failing which Moscow would consider a nuclear attack on Western Europe! The three parties complied almost immediately. US failure to fully back the tripartite expedition, it must be noted, was also quite helpful in this regard.
Embarrassed by the possibility of Israeli liquidation of columns of Egyptian troops in the Sinai, the Soviet leader, Brezhnev, on October 24, 1973, wrote to his US counterpart, President Richard Nixon, threatening unilateral intervention in the war – ostensibly to stop the fighting forces – if the IDF failed to immediately end its encirclement and planned destruction of the Egyptian troops, and further advancement into Egypt. By the second day, the war, which had started on October 6, 1973, came to a screeching halt!
The USSR was able to act as a countervailing force in 1956 and 1973 because it had the power and influence requisite for commanding compliance. It is doubtful if Russia, the main rump, and successor nation to the former Soviet Union, is appropriately positioned to do as the predecessor nation did in 1956 and 1973. What is more, Russia is currently comprehensively engaged, nay, bogged down, in its war in Ukraine. China, another power with a veto vote in the UN that could credibly fill the void, is obviously not inclined to gamble on Gaza, where it presently has no direct interest at stake. No core member of the Western alliance, including veto-vote holders, Britain and France, is going to go this route either. That leaves Turkiye as a possible candidate for redeeming the increasingly desperate situation in Gaza.
Turkiye does not have a nuclear weapon, as yet; or at least nothing contrary has been announced. But the country has enough clout and credentials in the Middle East, for decisive action; as it was the core of the defunct Ottoman Empire, which held suzerainty over the entire region up until the First World War. In addition, Turkiye, like most Palestinians, is wholly Islamic; and has the second largest military in NATO, after the US. Ankara has also really never stopped being militarily engaged in the region. Besides, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, head of the Turkish state, is a very strong leader, a maverick, not known to fret about making tough, even if risky and unpopular decisions.
Though this may sound a little farfetched, if not awkward, but obtaining the acquiescence of nuclear holding North Korea, may actually serve the purpose of making such a Turkish ultimatum on Israel to stop the killings in Gaza, quite credible. The US, and indeed, Israel – in spite of its bravado – may not want to gamble on a possible escalation of the Gaza conflict; especially, such as may be ignited, for the US, by a fellow NATO member-state.
An unorthodox and definitely delicate ‘eyeball-to-eyeball diplomacy’ of this nature may actually hold the key to halting the carnage in Gaza and, ultimately, becoming a starting point in the solution to the Palestinian question. I had broached this idea in my presentation at a webinar, organized by the Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA), on November 21, 2023. It may be time now for the regional actors, with the requisite agency, to examine these possibilities, as the world figures out how to bring ongoing destruction of Gaza, including of children and women, to an end.
The October 7, 2023, invasion of Israel; massacre of 1,200 innocent Israelis; and taking into captive of more than 300 others by Hamas, were horrific and stand condemned. But even these can hardly continue to provide justification for the killing of 17,000 Gazans, and still counting! Yet, Hamas – which extermination Israel seeks – does not look like anywhere near liquidation. The world cannot continue to sit idly by, or helplessly watch. All options must be on the table to stop the Gaza carnage.
Dec. 9, 2023.