06/03/2009

New deal in the Middle East

This week, the new U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton visited Israel. Unsurprisingly, she recalled the commitment of the United States to the US-Israeli friendship. However, which is notable after eight years of « Bush administration », she reminded the Israelis their duties and criticized the government’s violations of international law. At a time when Israel seems ready to get a government that combines the hard right to the extreme right, the U.S. administration seems to be more concerned with peace and the Palestinians. This new discrepancy could lead to Israeli-American tensions that B. Netanyahu would have the difficult task to overcome unless the United States acts as a sort of « moderator » on the new Israeli government.

Another event that would lead to believe in a possible improvement of the Middle Eastern situation: the launch of the Russell Tribunal for Palestine aiming at « pronouncing moral judgments in cases where existing laws do not consent to trial and normative judgments » . This form of court arises from the indignation of personalities and civil society towards the impunity of States or individuals guilty of war crimes. Such an initiative demonstrates the result of a collective awareness of the harms the Israeli government committed and a desire to stop closing the eyes on a middle-eastern reality which is increasingly present in the media but also within European societies.

Thence to see in this new combination of governments and the refusal to let the Hebrew State unpunished after its operation « Cast lead » a hope for Palestine, there is a gap that is still far from being crossed. Indeed, if the donors’ conference in Sharm-El-Sheikh this week has amassed $ 4.5 billion for the reconstruction of Gaza, this amount will not be allocated to those who are now in control of Gaza: Hamas. The limits of international powers’ “good will” seem to reside in this repeated refusal to deal with the party elected in 2006 after democratic elections promoted by these same powers. This additional « quarantine » of Hamas in Sharm El-Sheikh obviously exacerbated Hamas / Fatah tensions. The return of Hamas as an effective actor on the Palestinian and international political scene through the possible establishment of a national unity government will not happen easily, outside powers being interfering in this Palestinian reconciliation.

Between the Western support for Fatah and the Iranian support for Hamas, between the widespread moral and declaratory support for Palestine and the real support for Israel, the losers remain as usual the Palestinians.

Luce Ricard