Diplomacy Now – Edition 13 – ‘Diplomatic Stalemates’

After eight months of carnage in Gaza – that has killed more than 36,000 and reduced cities to rubble – US president Joe Biden has finally called for a permanent ceasefire. While it is unclear whether the six-week peace plan, that President Biden claims was put forth by Israel, could mark an end to the conflict, it shows signs that his administration, that backed a war that flouted all international norms, now understands that President Netanyahu’s government has gone too far. But there is doubt as to whether the Israeli government will accept what President Biden has called an ‘Israeli’ proposal.

President Biden finally responded to widespread domestic and international condemnation for a bloody war that some analysts say might cost him the November presidential elections. Today, a US-sponsored resolution welcoming the ceasefire proposal announced by President Biden has been voted on and adopted in the Security Council. However, many are sceptical as to whether the resolution will be implemented in full. Meanwhile, after this resolution, many in the diplomatic community will now expect the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres to finally call for a permanent ceasefire, a permanent cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza – rather than a ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ that has been understood by many as merely a call for a pause in fighting. For months UN observers and journalists continued to raise questions as to why both Special Advisors on Genocide and Children and Armed Conflict have remained silence. Many are relieved that a determination has been made to add Israel to the list of countries and armed groups killing and harming children.

In the meantime UN Humanitarian agencies have decried the lack of access to Gaza, with Phillippe Lazzarini, the commissioner for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees writing an op-ed in The New York Times titled ‘Stop Israel’s Violent Campaign Against Us.’ Lazzarini claims. “The war in Gaza has produced a blatant disregard for the mission of the United Nations,” before outlining the deadly toll of Israel’s offensive on the staff of the agency: 192 employees killed, more than 170 UNRWA premises damaged or destroyed, schools destroyed, routine humiliation at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank, and violent demonstrations and arson attacks by Israelis on their compounds.

Lazzarini names the Israeli state as the perpetrator of violence, while Guterres, refers to the violence of the bombardments and offensives as though they were without author. Similarly, while his advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu has raised alarm about genocide in Sudan, she has remained silent on claims of genocide in Gaza, that have been backed by the UN’s independent Special Rapporteurs, and the International Court of Justice has found it “plausible” that Israel has committed acts that violate the Genocide Convention. 

In this month’s edition of Diplomacy Now, two authors offer insights into the crisis in Gaza and its implications for the Middle East, and the possible action the UN could take including establishing a peacekeeping mission. We then turn to Libya, and the resignation of UN Special Envoy Abdoulaye Bathily and its consequences for peace in the nation that has been torn apart by conflict since 2011.

We then move to the Sahel, which is facing one of the world’s most neglected crises, where jihadist groups are running rife, and the military, particularly in Burkina Faso, is allegedly massacring people with impunity. We finally conclude with an article on the geopolitics of the Maghreb, the failure of the Maghreb Arab Union and the significance of the recent meeting of heads of states of Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. 

As with every edition the views expressed by these authors are not all necessarily our own. However, ICDI remains committed to the ethos and philosophy that open debate, dialogue, diplomacy, and mediation, rather than armed conflict and war, offer the way forward to resolving any conflict.

Thank you for reading Diplomacy Now and we welcome your feedback at diplomacynow@dialogueinitiatives.org.

Jamal Benomar
Chair of ICDI 

A Dark Chapter in the Middle East

Dr. Nabeel A. Khoury, who served the US State Department for 25 years, argues that a regional war in the Middle East resulting from the Gaza crisis remains dangerously present. “It is difficult to predict how any war ends but some patterns are already discernible. Second, the situation on the Lebanese-Israeli border has become fraught with daily skirmishes, making all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah a real possibility. Third, the strategic equation in the region has shifted dramatically with irregular armies becoming increasingly prominent in the fight against Israel – and there is the potential of Iran’s direct involvement in any all-out war with Israel,” he writes.

He moves on to explore April’s escalation between Israel and Iran and what it might portend for future conflict between Israel and the ‘Axis of resistance.’ “In addition to Iran’s potential direct involvement in an all-out war, the Axis of resistance groups supported by Iran form a qualitatively different fighting force than the Arab armies that fought several wars with Israel in the past. Hezbollah, Hamas, Ansar Allah and the PMF in Iraq are popular forces that reflect the pro-Palestinian Arab popular opinion and an uncompromising opposition to Israeli occupation,” Khoury writes.

The UN’s Last Chance to Redeem Itself on Gaza

Independent journalist Sam Husseini explores what the UN could do to halt Israel’s ongoing military action and protect civilians in Gaza through exploring the 1950 Uniting for Peace resolution and the United Nations Emergency Force, that would empower to UN General Assembly to deploy a protection force in absence of consensus of the permanent five members of the Security Council. Looking into the history of Uniting for Peace, he explores the possibilities it could open up for the United Nations, whose leadership have been accused of failing to curtail the carnage in Gaza.

“The US government will loudly proclaim that a General Assembly resolution is not binding. But standing against a unified vote of the world will further isolate the US establishment. And in any case, the US government has claimed that UN Security Council resolutions are not binding when it was convenient for it to do so,” he writes. “The US and Israeli governments will only be stopped by concerted action coming from different directions. Strong action using Uniting for Peace will empower Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions and other movements.”

UN Musical Chairs and a Stalemate in Libya

Libyan lawyer and civil society activist Mohamed Alhadi Balatif writes about the resignation of Abdoulaye Bathily, the United Nations envoy to Libya, who cited “stubborn resistance, unreasonable expectations, and indifference to the interests of the Libyan people,” as reasons for stepping down. The resignation is but another blow for Libya, which has been mired in conflict since the fall of Gadaffi more than a decade ago.

“Critics argue that the mission’s approach has not adapted to the evolving conflict, leading to calls to amend or even dissolution of UNSMIL. The situation in Libya remains precarious, with the country divided and foreign interference exacerbating the conflict. The UN’s efforts, while well-intentioned or not, have not yet resulted in a durable resolution, highlighting the need for a reevaluation of strategies and objectives to better serve the Libyan people,” they write.

“UNSMIL should critically revisit its engagement with Libyan actors to identify a consensual pathway towards a durable peaceful solution far from competing foreign interests. Short of this, it will sink even deeper down this negative spiral, with rotating UN envoys without any tangible results, while Libya will continue to be locked in this no-peace-no-war stalemate for decades to come,” they write.

The World Needs to Give the Crisis in the Sahel the Attention it Deserves

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, former foreign minister of Mauritania, former UN envoy and a member of ICDI’s board, gave a powerful speech about the need to focus on the Sahel whose battle against armed jihadist insurgents is spiraling out of control. “The wars in Ukraine, between Israelis and Palestinians, and in Libya and Sudan are all having a destabilizing impact on the world. But that doesn’t make addressing the expanding violence in Sahel any less important. The crisis there is a threat to peace and, worse yet, is causing states to crumble,” he claims.
“On the international front, regional relations are stuck in a holding pattern right now, held hostage, so to speak, by certain ideological camps. The nations of the Sahel and their North African neighbors need to overcome the impasse and figure out a way to cooperate that’s beneficial for everyone, because in addition to their shared proximity, they do have common interests,” he writes arguing that the Maghreb and Europe must work together with Sahelian states in their battle against extremism.

The Limits of New Regional Dynamics in North Africa

Algerian professor Hasni Abidi, the co-founder of the Center for Studies and Research on the Arab and Mediterranean World explores the changing geopolitics of the Maghreb and the implications of recent meetings between heads of state of Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.

“The AMU is at a standstill because the Maghreb’s two heavyweights — Algeria and Morocco — are at serious odds over Western Sahara. Morocco’s move to normalize relations with Israel has further exacerbated those differences, and nullified any attempts at mediation and reconciliation between the two neighbors. Algeria considered Morocco’s presence in Western Sahara a threat even beforehand. Normalization, and the prospect that Israel could invest in Morocco militarily, adds to the anxiety, and marks a turning point for Algiers in its relationship with Rabat,” he writes.

“It’s high time that the people of the region take note and demand a shift back toward the principles that our forefathers, in their fight for Maghreb independence and unity, laid out during the Tangiers Conference of 1958. It won’t be easy, but together we can move forward, working on what brings us together and leaving aside what drives us apart,” he concludes.

Latest News

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

Nelson Mandela

Join the Diplomacy Now Mailing list.

Receive each monthly edition direct to your inbox.