Why can Israel and US not agree on the basic principles of diplomacy?

For Israel to stop killing the Palestinians, the first step must start with something we all do every day

By Michael Jabri-Pickett/Editor-in-chief

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Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip on Salah al-Din Street in Bureij, Gaza Strip, Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. Photo: AP
Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip on Salah al-Din Street in Bureij, Gaza Strip, Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. Photo: AP

Published: Mon 13 Nov 2023, 2:06 PM

Last updated: Tue 14 Nov 2023, 7:47 AM

The job of the world’s superpower is to lead by example and to encourage its allies to seek engagement and to find resolutions. Opposing sides talk, enemies communicate, parties negotiate. All agree on nothing except the need to stop the killing and to start the talking – unless, it seems, if it’s Palestine against Israel.

The lack of dialogue in this conflict flies in the face of stated US policy and it shows America’s hypocrisy.

“Negotiations are how diplomats from different countries find solutions to, or compromise on, contested issues,” said Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State, in a June 2023 video from the National Museum of American Diplomacy.

Agree with it or not, talking is how diplomats attempt to bridge the gap to improve the lives of those most deeply affected by war, famine, and poverty.

Of course, the sentiment in the Arab World today is that we are beyond talking. But the first step has to be dialogue. That might be too simplistic an approach and it is not the ideal solution – nor will it fix everything – but it must never be too late to start talking.

In the most complicated situations, the starting point is the most obvious solution. The US knows this. The White House, for instance, spoke with the Taliban to agree on how America could best extricate itself from Afghanistan.

And two weeks ago, on October 29, when referring to the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, the US State Department said both sides should “approach the talks constructively” as they try to settle the issues that have engulfed the African nation in a six-month civil war.

When looking at the situation in Gaza, talking must involve the key players, not just US-Israeli spy chiefs speaking through a third-party intermediary, as has been reported in the past few days. The combatants must engage in a dialogue.

Diplomacy works because the more powerful combatant recognises its position and reaches across the battlefield to acknowledge the other side.

And Israel is definitely more powerful.

Israel receives $3.8 billion annually in military aid from the United States; and, about 10 days ago, the US House of Representatives passed a plan for an additional $14.5 billion in military aid to Israel. The bill has been sent to the Senate for approval.

A U.S. News & World Report in October found that American administrations have given Israel a quarter of a trillion dollars in military and economic aid in the past 75 years.

Conversely, a CNN story published on its website on October 13, said that Hamas has homemade rockets and modified AK-47s. “Many of the weapons appeared to be altered Russian or Chinese firearms, presumedly left behind on the battlefield in decades past that eventually made their way into the hands of Hamas.”

This is the reality of the situation.

Israel – with prodding from the United States – must acknowledge that whatever it wants, it must start with talking. Bombing hospitals is not going to give Israel the security it says it so desperately desires.

Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations Lana Nusseibeh speaks during a Security Council meeting on the Israel-Hamas war at United Nations headquarters on October 30, 2023, in New York City. Photo: AFP
Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations Lana Nusseibeh speaks during a Security Council meeting on the Israel-Hamas war at United Nations headquarters on October 30, 2023, in New York City. Photo: AFP

When Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s ambassador to the UN, spoke at a Security Council meeting on Saturday, she said just that.

“There can be no doubt that the attacks by Israel in pursuit of its security are disproportionate, they are cruel, and they are inhumane, and we condemn them. Also, they will not bring Israel security.”

She began her statement by saying the following: “As we called for this meeting yesterday, little did we know that by the evening, a terrifying barrage of targeted attacks would be launched on schools and hospitals.

“Here’s what that actually means. Babies, children and the elderly, who are seeking refuge and care in those facilities ‒ are also under attack,” she said.

“There are over 110,000 patients, including children, suffering from burns to their faces so severe that they are suffocating – with no access to antibiotics or burn cream.

“Women are giving birth in the most unsanitary conditions known to mankind, without medicines, and C-sections are being performed without anaesthesia.

“The perverse reality of the situation in Gaza is that wounds inflicted by the most technologically advanced weaponry of the 21st century are being treated in conditions that are reminiscent of medieval times.”

At the moment, the White House is supporting daily, four-hour long, “humanitarian pauses” and pushing for humanitarian aid for the Palestinians in Gaza. On Thursday, Israel finally agreed to these pauses.

But with more than 11,000 Palestinians killed, 40 per cent of whom are children, a 240-minute pause every day is far-too little and way too late.

The oppressor has responsibilities. War – as contradictory as it sounds – has rules.

“We are witnessing the making of a lost generation of children and youth, physically and mentally scarred by these experiences,” Nusseibeh told the UN Security Council. “Indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian objects are prohibited by the laws of war. This simply cannot be part of any military strategy, defensive or otherwise. There is no state that would be condoned for conducting a military operation under those terms.”

If war indeed has laws that must be adhered to, then the most basic principle of humanity must also be followed: stop the killing. The best way to make that happen is to start the talking.


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