Diplomacy Now – Edition 8, November 2023 – “How the International System Failed Gaza”

Over the past two months, the war on Gaza that has killed more than 17,000 people, has become a flashpoint for debates about the world order, United States foreign policy and the performance of the United Nations that was built in the aftermath war to prevent the outbreak of war.

The magnitude and gravity of the situation in Gaza has again put into question the anachronic structure and ineffectiveness of the Security Council, a body that continues to be controlled by the victors of World War II. Again, as in the case of Ukraine, the Security Council is paralyzed and unable to address a serious situation and breach of international peace and security. With the US continuing to veto any resolution calling for a ceasefire, the Council has become increasingly discredited in the eyes of the Global South.

From the streets of the United States to inside the agencies of the United Nations, the conflict in Gaza has ignited a debate about the decline of the role of the UN in peace and security, Western foreign policies, and how to address the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The question that arises is what a principled and effective UN response grounded in international law and UN norms should have been? The mixed performance of the UN leadership to this crisis stands in sharp contrast to the principled position taken by the UN’s own 45 Human Rights Experts and Special Rapporteurs, who clearly warned against ‘war crimes,’ ‘crimes against humanity,’ and ‘genocide,’ and called for a ‘permanent ceasefire,’ (not ‘humanitarian’), an ‘arms embargo on all warring parties,’ and ‘the deployment of an international protective presence in the occupied Palestinian territory under the supervision of the UN.’

The crisis has also revealed that a weak and divided Europe is unable to play the effective role in international peace and security that it aims to play in the world. Germany and France’s recent banning of demonstrations calling for a ceasefire has further eroded the Europeans’ credibility on human rights. The mass demonstrations in the United States and Europe calling for an end to the war have also revealed a widening gap between the political elites and a public unconvinced by the traditional position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict taken by their governments.  

In the Middle East and North Africa, citizens are questioning authoritarian governments who normalized ties with Israel, and there is a renewed interest and widespread popular support for the Palestinian cause that was overlooked by US proponents of normalization. Along with this, is a renewed questioning of authoritarianism that was quelled after the disappointments that followed the Arab Spring, and a critique of questionable political alliances and might over right.

Although there is a lot of wishful thinking in Washington about possible arrangements for “the day after” and “the two-state solution” mantra, there is still little thinking on what lessons can be drawn from the failure of the Oslo process and the Abraham Accords and what a renewed inclusive diplomatic process would look like. Who would be a credible facilitator of this process? How could Palestinians participate? What would be the format and legal framework for any new negotiations? And what would the agenda and timeline be?

In this edition of Diplomacy Now three writers from the region explore the ongoing conflict in Gaza – scrutinizing the response of the UN, examining the reverberating consequences of the conflict for the Arab world, and charting potential paths for peace. Finally, we turn to the neglected conflict in the Sahel region, with an interview from a Tuareg leader Bilal Ag Acherif, about the National Army of Azawad’s recently declared war with the central government and the Wagner group, and the withdrawal of the United Nations peacekeeping mission. 

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 

The Failure of the Oslo and Abraham Accords – What Next?

We present Diplomacy Now’s first podcast that features a discussion between Palestinian affairs researcher Mouin Rabbani and Michael Omer-Man, DAWN’s Director of Research for Israel-Palestine, and myself. We discuss the failures of the Oslo and Abraham Accords, the lessons from the failure of the normalizations with Israel and ideas on the way forward for a renewed diplomatic effort.

The UN has Failed to Address the War on Gaza

Palestinian journalist and UN correspondent Abdelhamid Siyam explores the response of different branches of the United Nations to the war in Gaza, outlining Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and dissent within humanitarian agencies. Siyam questions the response of Secretary-General Antònio Guterres arguing that the UN must take a more forceful approach if it is to regain any credibility. “The UN was founded on the principle of peaceful resolution of conflict, rather than armed conflict. It’s about time for Secretary-General Guterres to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and be straightforward in condemning the killing of civilians and his own staff. For the UN to regain any credibility it needs to act more forcefully to stop the killing of civilians – failure to do so will further erode its credibility,” he writes.

The Gaza War is Shaking up the Authoritarian Arab World

Moroccan historian and human rights defender Maati Monjib argues that the conflict in Gaza is shaking up authoritarian Arab governments who normalized ties with Israel and fuelling popular dissent from Egypt to Morocco. “This climate of great tension has provoked a widespread rejection among Arab peoples of their regimes, with many perceiving them as cowardly, impotent, and even as accomplices in the conflict in Gaza,” he writes. “Could this umpteenth Israeli-Palestinian war finally change the world’s perception of the seemingly endless Palestinian tragedy? Will the Global South, which is broadly sympathetic to the suffering of the Palestinians, become more involved in imposing a just and lasting solution to this conflict, which has been going on for decades?” Monjib asks.

A Plan for Peace in Gaza

In his pithy and compelling piece, former prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority Salam Fayyad argues the release of hostages and possible reconfiguration of the Palestinian Authority could offer hope for future negotiations. “There remains some hope that the release of Israeli civilians in captivity could carve out enough space for Arab and international diplomacy to find a quick answer to the question of what will happen on “the day after”— that is, who will rule in the aftermath of the ongoing Israeli operation,” he writes. “A properly reconfigured PA may offer the best option for “the day after” and beyond, providing a segue for the creation of a regionally owned and internationally backed effort to end the Israeli occupation within a framework that credibly addresses the structural weaknesses that bedeviled the peace process over the past three decades.

‘We are at War’ – A Tuareg Leader Speaks about the Escalating Crisis in Mali

Bilal Ag Acherif, the coordinator of the National Army of Azawad, speaks with ICDI’s chaiman Jamal Benomar about their renewed war with the central Malian government and the Wagner Group. As the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) comes to a close at the end of this month, Ag Acherif provides reasons as to why the mission failed to establish peace and the consequences for its departure and the future prospects for peace.

“Today, the Azawadiens are waging a war for survival after wearing out all the other means, including the avenues provided by the international community and the Algeria-led international mediation, as well as direct dialogue with the putschists in Bamako,” he said. “Mali is now engaged in war between the North and the South. Conditions are made even worse by Bamako’s wish to settle all the problems through war and by the part played by the ill-famed Wagner group. Reaching a solution will require a formula that gives Azawadiens autonomy as well as the withdrawal of the putschists from our territory.”

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.