Letter From the Editors

These days, everyone wants a peaceful settlement to the war between Israel and Palestine. But what does that really involve? And are world leaders truly prepared to pursue consistent policies to achieve that elusive peace? The short answer, it appears, is no.

As expert Lyudmila Samarskaya writes in NG, Hamas’s Operation Al-Aqsa Flood “took Israel by surprise”: Israeli intelligence somehow failed to predict the attack, while the country’s leadership was preoccupied with domestic problems. Samarskaya even suggests that what encouraged Hamas to attack was the refusal of reservists to show up for training; this protest against judicial reforms created an “illusion of Israel’s weakness.” That in turn, she says, has “triggered a tougher-than-usual response by Israel,” which now feels it must convince Israelis of its ability to guarantee their security.

Meanwhile, Israel’s closest ally – the US – is not wavering in its support for the country. In fact, Biden even travelled to the region to tell Netanyahu directly: “The US stands with you in defense of that freedom, in pursuit of that justice, and in support of that peace, today, tomorrow, and always. We promise you.” Biden’s plans to meet with Egyptian President el-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Abbas in Jordan, however, were cancelled until the main parties can agree to end “the war and the massacre of the Palestinians.”

But what are the Arab states actually willing to bring to the table? According to expert Sergei Demidenko, “the Arab world came to terms with Israel’s existence long ago and no longer seeks to destroy it. Israel is a geopolitical given in the Middle East.” In other words, “the Palestinian question itself is no longer the key one in building relations between Arabs and Israelis.” As for the Palestinians themselves, Valentin Loginov says they believe the problem is “the US’s inability to play the role of peace mediator.”

Dmitry Medvedev also lays the blame for the situation at the US’s door. In a scathing piece for Izvestia, he says both sides in the war are in “berserker mode” and points to “a distinct American trail***toward increasing darkness and terror.” According to him, “an unstable, explosive region chock-full of various weapons has turned out to be very useful for the US,” which uses “controlled instability” to gain “influence and big money.” Unlike the US, he says, Russia stands for diplomacy, the resumption of talks and the implementation of a two-state solution.

China, like Russia, has generally taken a pro-Palestinian stance, and it blames the latest violence on “the years-long oppression and repression” of the Palestinians. As Dmitry Goncharov points out in Republic, though, China has taken the opposite position on its own minority of Uighur Muslims. In fact, the US describes Beijing’s Uighur policy as “genocide.” Ironically, Abbas has expressed support for China’s policy, “dismissing human rights problems in Xinjiang as ‘Western fabrications.’ ” To explain this contradiction, Goncharov concludes: “It is far more important for Beijing to preserve close ties with the Arab world, which provides the Chinese economy with more than half of its energy resources.”

Clearly, China’s foreign policy is dictated by its economic interests. Another prime example of this is its One Belt, One Road initiative, which involves establishing sea and land routes in Asia, Africa and Europe. To further this project, China hosted a forum of involved countries this week, with Putin and other senior Russian officials and businesspeople in attendance. As Aleksandr Lukin comments in NG, though, there are few prospects for Russia in this initiative, particularly in the current situation. However, Lukin continues, Moscow is an important partner for China in its confrontation with the West, so China will continue to engage with it.

But what about the regular people struggling through all of this? The myriad groups suffering from the actions of these great powers? Are they merely pawns of peace, easily sacrificed for the greater goal of a checkmate? The short answer, it appears, is yes.