Bring the diplomats in, send the warriors out

by Bantarto Bandoro Source: The Jakarta Post
In a vote of 14-0, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) approved Resolution 1860 calling for an immediate cease-fire to the Gaza conflict. The United States abstained from voting, presumably

because the resolution didn't affect its current position very much.

The cease-fire resolution, drafted by Britain and backed by the United States and France - all veto-wielding members of the UNSC - with amendments by key Arab negotiators including the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Qatar, came out after nearly a week of intensive diplomatic moves by the international community to de-escalate, if not to end, the Gaza crisis which has claimed more than 800 Palestinian lives.

From a moral perspective, it is in the interest of all to see the war end soon. But many question the resolution's practicality as the warring parties continue to resist because the resolution does not represent - and even undermines - their interests.

A student of mine asked whether there is a difference between the 2006 Israeli bombardment of Southern Lebanon and the current war in Gaza.

My answer is partly no. In both cases the wars have dragged world diplomats to the UNSC to issue cease-fire resolutions.

Both cases have also showed the extent to which the prospects for a Middle East deal seem minuscule. But there is a way out, and both sides know what they must do. This is where the strategic role of the diplomats enters the picture.

Israel and Hamas have justified their military actions on the basis of self-defense. Most sadly and internationally condemned, however, is that the Israelis' actions have claimed the lives of many innocent Palestinian civilians. This has led the international community to launch a massive protest.

Ways to end the fighting include a long-term political solution, the deployment of international forces and an initial cease-fire. At the diplomatic level, countries inside as well as outside the Middle East region seem to be in agreement that the war in Gaza should end.

The post-UNSC Resolution 1860 will eventually see whether the diplomats will be able to significantly influence theto adhere to the initial cease-fire resolution and uphold the truce.

Megaphone diplomacy was revealed when president Yudhoyono talked on the phone over the weekend with France's president Nicolas Sarkozy - the current president of the UNSCboth of whom see the need to end the war in Gaza.

In this war, the main argument is perhaps not when and how cease-fire Resolution 1860 should be employed, but whether the resolution serves and protects their respective interests.

Here the job of the diplomats is to convince the "warriors" that a cease-fire would only be the beginning andshould prescribe to dialog over acts of terror.

We see that every political leader and diplomat wants to be seenif not to be deserved - as a major player in what one may call the cease-fire game.

The appearance of peacemaking suggests international power and prestige and is accompanied by their endless meetings.

Politicians and diplomats thrive on the process, and it is politically correct to talk about ending the "suffering of the Palestinians". As a result, the field has become even more crowded, with the UN Secretary-General, Turkey, Russia, numerous European nations, Qatar, Egyptfar more quietly - the outgoing Bush administration completing the group.

It is obvious that no war ends without a cessation of hostilities.

It is also true to say that war is a momentary event and there is a time when the warring parties are ready to enter a stage when they - with an intermediary perhapswill go to the negotiating table.

Representatives of the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas were in Cairo to discuss the crisis. But beyond this stage, does one expect Hamas and Israel to abandon their war objectives?

On the one hand, the level of trust, at least at the moment, between Israel and Hamas is nonexistent. Diplomats, on the other hand, are aware that the gap between public relations and the substance of the UNSC Resolution 1860 that hopefully will lead to an end of the conflict is seemingly huge.

The initial cease-fire is now in place to avert a larger war in the Middle East. But the statements made by the officials of Hamas and Israel about Resolution 1860 are a clear indication of their unwillingness to abandon their strategy of a much more open war.

It is only a matter of time when Iran and Syria, a long-time patron of the Hamas, will become involved in the crisis.

If Israel does continue its military operations until after the inauguration of Barack Obama as the next US president, then it will be time for the United States to exert even stronger pressure on Israel.

Diplomats, particularly from those countries considered to be stakeholders in the Gaza crisis, will presumably not take a single minute to stretch their legs given the warnings from Israel and Hamas of their next war strategy.

They must be sure that, in spite of strong resistance from the Israelis and Hamas, the resolution will lead to a durable truce in the Gaza Strip, or we will see that a premature end will simply serve as the beginning point for the next and expanded round of fighting due to the continued tension and skepticism on both sides. For a cease-fire to be successful, the diplomats should be weaving a net of trust among the "warriors" and only then can the diplomats further proceed with future peace proposals.

The writer is a lecturer in the International Relations Postgraduate Studies Program at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta.

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