Dazed and confused


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Great power brings with it great responsibilities.

This adage has been around in various languages since at least the first century BC. The truth of the saying has been recently laid bare by the conspicuous reluctance of the key players to exercise their responsibilities during the current middle eastern crisis.

As we went to press the seemingly eternal issue of the rights of Israel and Palestine to exist as separate states was again surging.

US President Joe Biden, to his credit, quickly embarked upon some shuttle diplomacy to the region. But he appears to have been completely outplayed by Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli president essentially only grudgingly and belatedly gave permission for a trickle of humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, one of the two small enclaves that Palestinians have been largely confined to for decades.

Netanyahu realised that Biden was, regardless of his humanitarian instincts, largely beholden to maintaining its consistent US support over decades to support Israel – currently to the tune of around US$3.8 billion a year. And that Biden was also enmired with poor polls in a tough US election campaign and was very aware of the strong pro-Israeli lobby in the US.

Let me state clearly that the attacks by the terror group Hamas against Israel, which triggered the current conflagration, were appalling and unacceptable.

But I am baffled by Israel’s intemperate response in Gaza. This has in a matter of weeks turned global opinion from seeing Israel as plucky victims, into their being portrayed as genocidal monsters raining down air strikes that have so far killed in excess of 5,000 Palestinians and turned acres of houses throughout Gaza to rubble.

I fail to understand why Netanyahu’s government does not understand that all they are doing is encouraging observers to re-examine the dismal record of – not only Israel and Palestinians – but all parties’ failure to create the long-promised fair and equitable two-state solution.

There is no shortage of historical record on the subject and plenty of blame to go around, including on the part of the backers of both sides. And that goes back to the sad colonial history in which the British Mandate in Palestine was essentially used to carve out a state for Israel and no real avenue was allowed to let the displaced Palestinians function as a people.

The reality is that Israel – especially under Netanyahu’s right-wing government – has essentially created a prison camp for Palestinians inside the small sliver of land allowed to them in Gaza.

And it has increasingly both encouraged and failed to control Israeli settler groups to illegally occupy land supposedly granted to Palestinians in the West Bank of Israel.

Part of this response stems from the fact that Netanyahu, who is dealing with various legal problems, is by no means universally popular in Israel. There is clearly unease within Israel and amongst Israel supporters abroad about blowback on the current course of action.

At least part of the current Israeli government’s response is its attempt to atone for having conspicuously failed to protect Israel from the terror attacks by Hamas, which had arguably been encouraged by Israel to run the administration of Gaza.

Sadly the failures of both sides, and their supporters, are only likely to result in more pain and bloodshed for innocent civilians on both sides of this appalling crisis.

Related: Make your vote count

David Porter
David Porter
THE PORTER REPORT - A monthly update on the business world from David Porter

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