The international community's split over the current Gaza and Lebanon crisis is an indicator of changing patterns of involvement regarding the political process in the Middle East
ReViews is a product of the Re'ut Institute which gathers quotes from different sources in the context of a political issue which is of long-term strategic significance.
In this issue we have gathered reactions of prominent players within the international community to the current crises in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
The statements can be divided into three general positions: (1) unqualified condemnation of Israel; (2) condemnation of both Israel and Hizbullah and call for restraint; (3) support of Israel's actions.
The Re'ut Institute notes that the current division of positions within the international community may be indicative of two parallel trends:
A decline in US status as the principal neutral mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict and political process;
The emergence of new local Middle Eastern actors that can be perceived as "mediators".
US Support for Israel's Actions – Still the Sole Mediator?
The American unrestricted support of Israel in the current crises in Gaza and Lebanon may signify a change in its traditional role as the sole mediator in the Israeli-Arab conflict and political process (see also: Is there an International Coalition against Hamas?)
American President George W. Bush has reiterated on several occasions Israel's right to defend itself against aggressions, and refused to call Israel to halt the military operations. "Our message to Israel is defend yourself but be mindful of the consequences, so we are urging restraint," he declared. (REUTERS, 16/07/06) Additionally, the US vetoed a Qatar-sponsored resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an immediate halt of Israeli's operations and describing Israel's use of force as "disproportionate." (Associated Press, 13/07/06)
Condemnation of both Israel and Hizbollah – Emergence of New Mediators?
The European Union, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have condemned both Israel and Hizbullah, and called for an immediate halt of hostilities.
It should be noted that Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan have all normalized their relations with Israel, and Saudi Arabia is the initiator of the Arab Peace Initiative, which is based on normalization of Arab-Israeli relations.
The relatively moderate position taken by these countries has been accompanied by continuous attempts to play the role of mediators in Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and also in the current crisis with Lebanon.
Furthermore, these countries are considered the major US allies in the war on terror, and have an interest in preventing the rise of a Syrian-Iranian regional hegemony, and in dealing with strategic threats such as Iran's proxy, Hizbullah.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the G8 to pressure the UN Security Council to issue a cease-fire. "If the abduction incident in Palestine is negative, responding to it with disproportionate force is worse," he stated (TurkishPress.com, 15/07/06) Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II issued a joint statement warning against "irresponsible" escalations, and "dragging the region into 'adventures' that do not serve the Arab issues and interests." (PETRA News Agency, 14/07/06) Saudi Arabia emphasized that "It is necessary to make a distinction between legitimate resistance [to occupation] and irresponsible adventurism adopted by certain elements within the state." (The Daily Star, 15/07/06) The President of the European Union, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Jacques Chirac, while condemning Hizbullah's actions, urged Israel to restrain from using "disproportionate force, and to avoid escalating the crisis (International Herald Tribune, 16/07/06).
Unqualified Condemnation of Israel – Traditionally Hostile States
This group contains players who are traditionally hostile to and critical of Israel, such as Iran, Syria, and members of the Arab League such as Yemen, Algerian, Sudan and Morocco.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "The Zionists think that they are victims of Hitler, but they act like Hitler and behave worse than Genghis Khan." (IRNA, 16/07/06); Ahmadinejad also warned Israel against undertaking military actions targeting Syria, because "it will be equivalent to an attack on the whole Islamic world and the regime (Israel) will face a crushing response" (The Jerusalem Post, 14/07/06). Iran has been accused to be behind Hezbollah's offensive. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad condemned Israel's campaign in Lebanon and, during a phone call with the Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, manifested his solidarity with Lebanon, "putting all capabilities under the disposal of the Lebanese state to help it." (SANA, 15/07/06); Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Shara declared that "the occupation is the main source and cause for provocation against the Palestinian and Lebanese people, so there is national Lebanese and Palestinian resistance." (SANA, 07/12/06). The Arab League condemned Israel's actions, urged the parties to avoid escalations, expressed unconditional support for Lebanon, and protested "Israeli aggression on Palestinian territories which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity." (Joelle Bassoul, Agence France Presse, 15/07/06)
Syria, Yemen, Algerian, Sudan and Morocco have expressed their support for Hizbullah, saying the organization acted according to international resolutions in order to force Israel to go back to the negotiating table.(Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 15/07/06)