Sunday, April 14, 2024

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European

The West is calling on Israel to exercise restraint in the face of rising fears of escalation.


Governments from the Western world are advising Israel to exhibit self-control in their military operation against Hamas in Gaza, amid concerns that the situation could escalate uncontrollably.

On Thursday, both U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French President Emmanuel Macron expressed their backing for Israel’s right to retaliate, but also cautioned that the retaliation must be just.

“According to Macron, it is within Israel’s rights to protect itself by taking targeted measures against terrorist organizations like Hamas. However, it is the responsibility of democracies to safeguard civilian populations. The appropriate response to terrorism is one that is both powerful and just.”

During a press conference on Thursday, Benjamin Netanyahu and Antony Blinken discussed Israel’s right to self-defense. However, Blinken also emphasized the importance of how Israel exercises this right.

During a conversation with Netanyahu on Thursday night, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reiterated the UK’s support for Israel in combating terrorism. They both agreed that Hamas should never be allowed to commit violent acts against the Israeli people again. However, Sunak also acknowledged that Hamas has embedded itself among civilians in Gaza and stressed the importance of taking necessary steps to protect innocent Palestinians and provide humanitarian assistance.

Other officials from Western countries have expressed similar concerns in private, cautioning that the current state of the world is unstable.

As Israel increases its strong retaliatory actions in Gaza, certain European governments are concerned that a large-scale war in the region may break out.

A French diplomat, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak publicly, expressed concern that any actions taken by Israel and the Palestinians could further polarize the conflict and potentially spread it to neighboring regions.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, has referred to the Hamas attacks and subsequent kidnapping of civilians as “Israel’s 9/11.”

The terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 prompted the U.S. to initiate a worldwide “War on Terror,” which involved American-led military action in Afghanistan and, later on, Iraq. This resulted in the loss of numerous lives. The initial unified global backing for the U.S. following 9/11 dissipated when President George W. Bush chose to invade Iraq in 2003.

According to an EU official, Israel views this as a reason for war and there is a concern that they may use it as justification for a large-scale attack on Gaza.

Shock and fury

Yanis Varoufakis, the ex-Finance Minister of Greece, issued a public warning against repeating the same error.

On X, he stated that the intense anger and outrage in Israel are similar to the feelings in the US following 9/11. This resulted in a show of solidarity and strength by Americans, but it also ultimately led to a misguided and harmful war on terror. He warned that Israel may be following this same perilous course of action.

The recent attacks by Hamas on Israel resulted in over 1,200 fatalities and sparked a tremendous outpouring of compassion and anger throughout Western countries. The Israeli flag was displayed on the European Commission’s headquarters and at Berlin’s Brandenburger Tor.

However, there is already criticism towards Israel for their response to Hamas. The attack has resulted in the deaths of over 1,500 Palestinians, as reported by Gaza’s health ministry, and has placed the Gaza strip under a strict blockade.

The United Nations has raised concerns about recent events. Shortly after the incidents, Secretary-General António Guterres expressed distress over Israel’s decision to impose a blockade on Gaza. He also reminded Israel of their obligation to adhere to international humanitarian laws when carrying out military actions. This sentiment was reinforced by the EU’s foreign policy leader Josep Borrell.

Non-governmental organizations and governments from Western countries are currently concerned about a potential humanitarian disaster. The Red Cross has issued a warning that hospitals in Gaza could become makeshift morgues due to the lack of electricity.

As of now, Israel appears to be intensifying their efforts.

Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz stated on Thursday that a humanitarian exception would not be granted until all hostages were released and emphasized that there should be no moralizing.

In an interview with POLITICO’s transatlantic podcast Power Play, Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to Berlin, emphasized the importance of the West supporting Israel in its fight against Hamas, whom he referred to as “bloodthirsty animals.”

In regards to Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip, Prosor stated that Israel has chosen to transition from containment to elimination of Islamic extremists. He described this as a battle between civilization and barbarity, good versus evil.

Haim Regev, the Israeli ambassador to the European Union, noted on Tuesday that there have not been many opposing opinions thus far. “However, I believe that as we continue with our response, we may start to see more.”

Abdalrahim Alfarra, the leader of the Palestinian delegation to the EU, informed POLITICO on Thursday that a shift in mood is currently taking place. He noted, “There has been progress since yesterday, with various EU members calling on Israel and Netanyahu’s administration to at least allow for the delivery of food aid in order to put an end to the ongoing Israeli aggression and conflict in the Gaza strip.”

Gordian knot 

Western diplomats are concerned that the escalation of the conflict could have a destabilizing effect on the entire region, similar to the U.S. response to 9/11.

According to an EU diplomat, the current dispute is a complex and difficult issue, much like the legendary Gordian knot. There is concern that it may lead to further conflicts with neighboring countries. The diplomat emphasized the need to prioritize stabilizing the situation and finding a way to bring the involved parties back to the negotiating table.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger issued a warning about the potential escalation of the Middle East conflict, which could involve other Arab countries due to the influence of their public opinion. He also referenced the 1973 Yom Kippur War as a lesson to be remembered, where an Arab coalition led by Egypt and Syria launched an attack on Israel.

Although the U.S. has made efforts to promote peace in the region, it is not an impartial mediator, as it has consistently supported Israel. During past conflicts in the area, the U.S. seemed to give Israel free reign in its actions, but eventually increased pressure to push for a ceasefire agreement from the Israeli government.

The EU official referenced above expressed uncertainty about whether the US will adhere to the same tactics this time around. According to the official, Biden is limited in his domestic options following the Hamas attacks and is obligated to fully support Netanyahu.

Eddy Wax, Suzanne Lynch, Sarah Wheaton, Elisa Braun, Jacopo Barigazzi, and Laura Hülsemann provided information for this report.

The latest version of this article now includes information from a conversation between U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the current number of Palestinian fatalities.