Catastrophe in Gaza has deep roots

“The question that routinely comes up regarding US foreign policy these days is: What in the world were they thinking?” says The Wall Street Journal. The latest “puzzlement” came over the weekend, when the US secretary of state, John Kerry, “blundered” into the three-week conflict in Gaza, promoting a ceasefire floated by Turkey and Qatar that was close to the terms being demanded by Hamas.

President Obama didn’t endorse the plan per se, but talked of the strategic imperative of an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now” and leads to a deal based on the November 2012 ceasefire. But that “is the one that let Hamas rearm”.

Many of us wish America would “voice impatience” with Israel a little more often, but the “abandon with which Israel’s opprobrium was expressed”, specifically towards John Kerry, was “astounding”, says The Independent on Sunday.

Kerry’s push for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians, that fell apart in April, was seen by many as doomed, partly because Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, isn’t willing to wind back controversial Israeli settlements.

And the current “catastrophe” in Gaza essentially stems from the refusal of Israel to negotiate in good faith to let the Palestinians have a proper state, says The Economist.

It’s a lot more complicated than that, says David Brooks in The New York Times. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is no longer a “self-contained struggle”. The whole region is in turmoil: Sunni-Shiite rivalry is at “full boil”, as is Sunni-Sunni rivalry, Saudi-Iranian rivalry and that between Arab authoritarians and Islamists.

Look at the roots of this crisis. It was because Egypt’s military rulers closed off the tunnels connecting Egypt to Gaza, where their opponents, the Muslim Brotherhood, had an offshoot that had gained power (Hamas).

Hamas couldn’t strike Egypt, but it reckoned that if Arab TV screens were filled with dead Palestinians, public outrage would force Egypt to lift the blockade. “Like every conflict in the region” this has to be seen as a piece of a larger war: “a clash within Arab civilisation, over its future”.

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