Tectonic Change in Strategy Towards Lasting Middle East Peace

Yet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu experienced not only a failure in intelligence but also in intellect. When problems look like a nail, the logical solution will be the...

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Published by MYsinchew, BusinessToday & AstroAwani, image by BusinessToday.

Wars are either by intention or accident. Sometimes, they are in between the spectrum. When “Konfrontasi” happened, sad as it may be, ironically, that was because Sukarno loved Nusantara too much. He couldn’t stand the sight of Malaya and three states from Northern Borneo, i.e. Brunei, Sabah, and Sarawak, carved away from Indonesia in 1962.

To him, these three were a part of a great family. All sides understood each other. Why would Malaysia be apart from Indonesia? But other than this aberration, it didn’t take long for Indonesia to be back on excellent terms with Malaysia again.

The above having been said, the world is witnessing the first “Avoidable War”. How? Apartheid Israel has all the reasons to stop, take a deep breath, and understand how their security lapses occurred on October 7 2023.

However, rather than taking the time to understand the root causes —- the elimination of continuous fights is, after all, everything to do with the roots —- one of Israel’s most unpopular sons, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister who has formed the most right-wing government in history, a record worse than the late Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Shamir, has transitioned to being the head of the War Cabinet. This is peculiar, to say the least.

How can a Prime Minister, who two weeks ago was still being denounced by more than 2/3 of  Israelis from all creeds and faiths, suddenly be thrust into the role of leading the charge into the Gaza Strip?

Yet, the unthinkable has happened. It is Bibi, the short name of Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now in charge.

Benny Grantz, the Opposition Leader preferred by the United States (US), Israel’s last friend, is in the cabinet of Bibi too. However, not due to any affection for the latter. Instead, the existence of Israel is deemed to be more at risk than ever. Thus, Israel is now behaving in any manner and form that stirs the blade of a single grass. Words like Holocaust and Pogroms have come back to haunt them. Even a sentence from the UN Secretary-General is enough to cause Israel a substantial alarm.

On October 22 2023, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), António Guterres, affirmed: “Events that happened in Israel (two weeks ago) did not come from a vacuum”. This is a spot-on and accurate assessment, rarely coming out from the UN Secretary-General.

Almost instantly, the Israeli representative to the UN demanded the UN Secretary-General’s resignation.

As a paying member of the UN, it would be within the right of Israel to say anything it wants. But to shut down the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres is akin to making a mountain out of a molehill. However, what soon followed —- within a spate of a few hours, if not less —- was even more remarkable.

Not since the days of Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, who took his shoes out at the podium of the UN Security Council to which he repeatedly thumped his black leather shoe on the dais: “Just you wait. We will bury you! We will bury you,” something peculiar occurred 60 years later.

This time around, it was the Israeli delegation to the UN who said “We will teach you a lesson!” If the remit of the word had been confined to Pegasus, a notorious app invented by Israel that can hack into almost every phone, even without the receiver accepting the call, perhaps what Israel truly meant was: We will break into your phone!

But that was not what the Israeli delegation had meant. In fact, this was a continuation of what Israel has always been threatening to do since the events on the morning of October 7 2023.

Israel had promised then, as it has promised everyone, not excluding the US, that Israel will pounce Hamas to pieces. For the lack of a better expression, Israel was determined to show UN Secretary-General António Guterres that his one remark on the dire situation in Gaza alone would lead to the whole of that strip, that is no longer than Philadelphia, being bombed into smithereens.

In a more macabre manner, Israel has made no mention of any attempts to negotiate for the release of the rest of the 200 hostages first. More remarkably, the US has begun to mouth the line that there will be no ceasefire before the release of any hostages by the guilty elements in Gaza.

This is odd. The Biden Administration had agreed on releasing 5 American prisoners in the Iranian jail in exchange for US$6 billion whose funds are held in escrow by South Korea and Qatar.

If the US had been able to exchange 5 American prisoners with Iran for US$6 Billion (Iran’s own monies) without triggering any wars, why would the U.S. treat Israel differently?

Yet, with the November 20 2024 presidential election looming, with no certainty if President Joe Biden can single-handedly defeat any Republican candidates, especially if the person happens to be Donald Trump, it seems plausible that President Biden had begun his re-election bid. How?

First and foremost, instead of stopping the impending war of aggression of Israel against Gaza, President Biden has given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel a free pass to attack the remaining 1.1 million people in the northern sector of Gaza as Israel saw fit against any or all principles of humanity and gross violation of Geneva Convention.

Yet, granted that President Joe Biden is the first American president to have the longest experience in foreign affairs, both in the Senate in 1972 and the Vice President’s office between 2008-2016, it is tragic beyond proportion that he has merely asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to go to war without any regard for the collateral damage.

King Abdullah of Jordan, not unlike Queen Raina, his Consort was smart. When the Biden Administration asked for a meeting with the Royal Couple, the Hashemite Palace of Jordan had turned him down. The Saudis and the Palestinian leadership followed the same. Perhaps they were afraid if such meetings take place so soon after the carpet bombing of densely populated Gaza, including residential areas, schools and even hospitals, another “Arab Spring” may emerge if the leaders of the Arab world meet up with Biden — self-serving not focus on solving the barbaric attack on Gaza.

Also, that is because they had known ahead of time that President Biden was not coming to Israel to stop a brutal and blunt assault against Gaza.

If anything else, President Biden was coming to the Middle East to meet as many as five Arab leaders to give Israel the fig leaf of protection that the Arab world had understood the significance of the Israeli military campaign.

The war drums could have been immediately stopped if President Biden had told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel cannot go to war unless all the hostages were first freed.

After all, Israel had indeed exchanged one Israeli infantry, Galid Shadad, for a total of 1227 Palestinian prisoners under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s watch.

Theologically, such an exchange would be totally consistent with the so-called Jewish state. In Judaism, freeing a hostage is deemed more important than the act of freeing a slave.

This is due to the awareness that a hostage would be subject to the psychological and other abuse of being put to death. A slave, however,  could remain an indentured labour in the service of his or her master. Yet she or he can have the guile to free herself one day. A hostage is guarded and chained at all times.

Yet, instead of taking heed of the importance of Judaism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to budge.

Deep down, he, of all people, who was a former member of the Special Commandos in Israel, knows that the invincibility of Israel had been punctured by the infiltrators from Gaza.

Whether one can or cannot name all the perpetrators precisely, the reputation of Israel —- not as a Start-Up Nation —- but as the world’s toughest garrison state had been severely compromised, and this wasn’t the failure of intelligence only.

Even many well-armed Kibbutz, with Panic or Safe Rooms, to seek their security, had failed on many families. Some families waited for six hours for any infantry to let them out.

Indeed, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and ASEAN were having their summit in Riyadh. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, not excluding Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, had all been against any further escalation of violence.

That was their consensus on October 21st 2023. Tel Aviv could have noticed the importance of that summit. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar were the members of the GCC. None of them had wanted a war against Israel.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was also at the extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Riyadh.

This was the biggest congregation of 57 OIC member states that did not want a war with Israel. Including Iran. Not unless Israel continues to treat Gaza with total cold-bloodedness. Iran might well be sucked into the conflict since Israel was liquidating an important section of geography closest to the Suez Chanel.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim shuttled from Riyadh to Istanbul, urging Turkey to join his effort to stop the war. Turkey agreed. As did Egypt.

For the lack of a better phrase, Israel couldn’t understand the logic of war: the key to war was winning it without going to one. GCC and OIC, not excluding ASEAN, with the largest Muslim population in the world outside of the Middle East, alternatively, West Asia, were willing to leave Israel alone to deal with their counter-terrorism problem carefully.

However, short as Bibi’s name might be, he and his War Cabinet seemed to want to spoiled for a Great War.

Had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu been half as clever, he would have coordinated with the US not to go to this war.

Yet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu experienced not only a failure in intelligence but one in intellect too. When all problems look like a nail, the solutions that follow are logically the hammers.

That is why the imminent war in Gaza, which Israel will prosecute with unrelenting energy, only to find themselves entirely sapped by the labyrinth of more than 450 KM of tunnels for 187,000 soldiers, will be the most avoidable war.

This is most lamentable since Israeli pride and ego had once again clouded the sight of their own: this time but the very leader, i.e. Bibi, whom a large majority of them dislike.

As for the Muslim world, doing the same thing for the last 75 years —- protests, speeches, demonstrations, meetings —- expecting a different result, is pure insanity. It is time to tectonically change strategy with a holistic approach that may include a forceful military intervention alongside engaged diplomacy. Otherwise, the carnage and brutality against Palestinians will continue by the barbaric Israeli regime.

Dr Rais Hussin is the Founder of EMIR Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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