Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Gaza 2014: Why Ceasefires Are Going to be Harder and Harder to Keep.

No truce nor ceasefire could stick for long throughout July 2014 because the geopolitical stakes have been increased vastly in the course of the period between 2011 and 2014. One neglected aspect has been to explain the failure of diplomacy as a consequence of the growing regional rivalry between Qatar-Turkey and Israel. 

Whereas previous encounters between Hamas and the IDF could be described as conflicts, in 2014 there is now a apparently a war to the end. Hamas is fighting to the end because it knows Israel  seems bent on finishing them off and is not interested in a ceasefire but in their unconditional surrender. 

This is a resource war in which Israel wants to decisively crush Hamas, demilitarise Gaza and so secure Israel's control over the gas reserves of the Eastern Mediterranean against Qatar and Turkey's attempt to use Hamas as a bargaining chip in advancing other claims to the gas in the region. 

According to existing agreements a percentage of the revenues would go into a special fund earmarked for Palestinian economic development. At present, that stands at about 10% and would go to the West Bank and not to Gaza because Hamas in regarded still as a straightforwardly terrorist organisation.

Israel is not prepared to exploit those reserves if Hamas has any role in governing Palestine and Hamas has no interest in allowing Israel to exploit them under the existing agreements. Israel cannot, at present, completely guarantee the security of its gas rigs from sabotage and attack by Hamas

Israel fears Qatar using Gaza as a way of meddling in its much needed push to exploit the reserves, not merely the Gazan reserves but even Israeli gas fields which could be reached by Hamas rockets should Qatari funds be channelled away from infrastructure projects and into continued armed resistance.

Israel cannot afford that as tapping these resources is considered a strategic and economic imperative. The only way to get peace is if Hamas agrees to demilitarise the zone in accordance with outside powers or, from Israel's perspective, if Hamas is so relentlessly crushed that it ceases to be in any bargaining position. 

Netanyahu has made that quite clear. 'Sustainable quiet', in actual fact, means Israel can develop those gas resources as would any other advanced state in the world, a 'Gift from God', and it is connected with the idea of Israel's right to exist as a self sufficient economic power in the Eastern Mediterranean

The great surge of optimism about Israel's energy potential is mingled with pessimistic fears that Israel, despite being a nuclear armed state, could be intimidated by having its energy supplies affected. It was furious when Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood backed government cut gas exports from Egypt in 2012.

The use of energy as a tool of diplomacy led Israel into an energy crisis, making the necessity of getting Israeli gas on stream. The Egyptian coup of 2013 came as a relief to Israel and led, with the effective crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood by General Sisi, for the need to strengthen military and energy ties. 

These fears have increased at a time when the US is considered not to be as interested in upholding Israeli interests in the Middle East as it once was. The US has started cooperating far more with its opponent Qatar as a global hub for exporting and importing liquefied natural gas to both the EU and East Asia. 

Qatar has become an ever closer ally of Britain and France which increasingly buy more and more LNG as part of a strategy of energy diversification and to secure independence from Russia ( which is flexing its muscle once more because of its huge energy reserves ) and North Africa. 

With jihadists active in sabotaging pipelines in Algeria and Libya in continued state of chaos, Israel has, therefore, reckoned that it has to be a major regional energy player at least partly on a par with Qatar in order to maintain its independence and status and influence within Western capitals.

The failure to condemn Israel's actions in Gaza in partly about hedging their bets between Qatar on the one hand and Israel's potential for helping EU states, especially those in the Mediterranean such as Spain and Italy, and diversify supplies away from Russia ( especially with civil war in Ukraine ). 

The sheer level of ignorance of the role of resources in driving the current war prevents a true understanding of the real geopolitical stakes and why the regional and global actors concerned with this war are acting in a way that appears callous, brutal, indifferent and revoltingly hypocritical.

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