Israeli-Palestinian conflict calls for urgent regional cooperation

Published : 21 Oct 2023 09:46 PM
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The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has extended beyond 10 days, resulting in a continuous loss of life with each passing hour. Since Oct. 7, Israeli forces have been relentlessly bombarding the blockaded Gaza Strip in full view of the world. A particularly tragic incident occurred at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital on Tuesday, claiming the lives of more than 500 Palestinians and leaving hundreds injured, including both patients and displaced individuals seeking shelter within the hospital. The situation in Gaza is an incredibly distressing and devastating humanitarian catastrophe, occurring in a place where more than 2.3 million Palestinians are enduring severe shortages of electricity, gas and water.

As tensions escalate, with the Israeli army preparing for a ground operation, regional countries are intensifying their efforts to pressure both sides to bring an end to the conflict in Gaza and provide urgent aid to the affected population. Since the international community’s influence over Israel has proved limited, the responsibility to actively engage now largely rests on the shoulders of countries in this volatile region.

Reflecting on past conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians, in 2012 it was the pressure exerted by regional countries that ultimately secured a seemingly impossible ceasefire. 

During that time, foreign ministers from various Arab states and Turkiye promptly visited Gaza to express solidarity with the Palestinian people. Their visits held great significance as they coincided with Israeli air bombardments on Gaza. Israel had to halt its operations due to the powerful message delivered from Gaza by these foreign ministers.

It is evident that the path to ending the conflict relies on regional actors taking the lead in de-escalating tensions

However, achieving a collective regional response to the current conflict is challenged by a significantly altered regional context compared to a decade ago. The news of Israel striking a hospital in Gaza sparked protests worldwide, including in Turkiye. 

Regardless of their view of Hamas or Israel, people are protesting because they all recognize that the situation is fundamentally different now.

The voices of these protests are finding their way into diplomatic circles. As a result, we are witnessing an intense flurry of diplomatic efforts by regional actors, with Turkiye being one of the leaders, as these nations are deeply concerned about the conflict spilling over into Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

Looking at last week’s diplomacy traffic between Turkiye and several countries, it is evident that the path to ending the conflict relies on regional actors taking the lead in de-escalating tensions, rather than global actors such as the US, which has thrown its heavy support behind the right-wing aggression in Israel, or Russia, which is glad that attention has been diverted away from the war in Ukraine. China, a long-time supporter of Palestine, faces a dilemma in taking a clear stance due to its growing ties with Israel.

It is evident that the path to 

ending the conflict relies on

 regional actors taking the lead in 

de-escalating tensions

Amid all this, Middle Eastern states are, as usual, left to deal with the situation on their own. The ongoing conflict’s repercussions are being felt far afield, raising fears that it may lead to a larger war involving Palestinians in the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt (which shares a border with Gaza) and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. And Turkiye wants the war in Gaza to end as soon as possible before it spreads to the region and it is forced to intervene.

On Wednesday, on the invitation of Saudi Arabia, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation held an urgent meeting in Jeddah to discuss the rapidly deteriorating situation in Gaza. On the sidelines of this meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan held separate meetings with his Saudi and Kuwaiti counterparts. In the OIC meeting, Fidan emphasized three key points: the need for a new mechanism for peace in Gaza; the unification of the Muslim world; and an immediate supply of water, electricity and aid to Gazans.

Fidan’s visits to Lebanon and Egypt likely aimed to convey Turkiye’s readiness to help prevent the conflict spilling over

Before his trip to Saudi Arabia, Fidan had meetings in Lebanon with both political and military officials. And before that, he visited Egypt. Lebanon and Egypt are crucially situated on the doorstep of the ongoing conflict. Fidan’s visits likely aimed to convey Turkiye’s readiness to help in preventing the conflict from spilling over.

As the Israeli army continues its attacks on the Gaza Strip, neighboring Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan have increased their security measures. It has been reported that, due to the possibility of conflict with Israel, Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines is keeping some of its aircraft in Turkiye. 

Fidan also called for the Palestinian factions to release the hostages, which is one of the key issues that regional countries have been focusing on.

This dramatic new wave of violence erupted following a prolonged period of regional-led de-escalation and reconciliation efforts. In the current climate, the top priority of the Middle Eastern states is to end the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza. 

However, this war once again makes it clear that, without a tangible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the region’s countries will not be able to achieve real security. That is why their efforts should ultimately aim to change the outcome of this conflict, for the betterment of the Palestinian people and the people of the region generally.

Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish 

political analyst who specializes in Turkiye’s relations 

with the Middle East. 

Source: Arab News