The explosion in a hospital in the Gaza Strip — with its sinister toll of deaths and injuries and for which the Israeli army and the Islamist militias operating in the Palestinian territory, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are blaming each other — highlights the situation of total helplessness experienced by the Palestinian civilian population, who are no longer safe even in the places they use as a shelter. Diplomatic action must put an end to the innocent deaths in Gaza, instead of contributing to the increase in casualties and an extended confrontation in the region of incalculable consequences. The same urgency must apply to the release of the Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas.
While two million people in Gaza — trapped and subjected to an unacceptable siege, and who could have a minimum of respite if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s commitment to allow the passage of aid from Egypt finally materializes — await the announced ground invasion, we are witnessing a multiplication of visits to Israel by the West’s heavyweights, who have expressed their solidarity after the savage attack on October 7 and ratified Israel’s right to self-defense. But they have also underlined their concern for the Palestinian civilian population who, along with the Israelis who were murdered and those being held hostage by Hamas, are the innocent victims of this escalation.
The arrival in Israel of the German Chancellor, social democrat Olaf Scholz, and of the president of the United States, the democrat Joe Biden, within just hours of one another is very significant. The former on Tuesday ratified Germany’s support for Israel, but pointed out that the situation of Gaza’s civilians cannot be met with indifferent, insisting on the need to urgently provide them with food, water and electricity. Biden struck a different tone that was more resounding in its defense of Israel and its right to exist, but he also advocated in Tel Aviv for providing humanitarian aid to the Gaza population and announced modest — though very significant in this war context — economic aid for Gaza and the West Bank. The fact that two important allies of Israel, especially the very fundamental United States, have underscored this aspect in the presence of Netanyahu shows the depth of a disaster that is deepening by the hour.
It is urgent to move from words to actions. This is a crucial moment in which international diplomacy must act without delay to avoid a totally irreversible tragedy in Gaza, prevent an uncontrolled escalation in the region and confront a situation that has been poisoning the Middle East and the global political discussion for more than half a century. In this sense, it is very important that Biden supported the existence of two states as a final political solution, which is what the international community has been defending since the partition of historic Palestine. But it has not been effectively fulfilled.
Given the importance of the moment, we must regret the lack of coordination shown by the European Union, which was revealed above all with President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen’s visit to Israel. She adopted a role that should fall to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, who unequivocally condemned the Hamas attack and recalled Israel’s duty to respect humanitarian law from the start.
In the short term, the visits by Scholz and Biden — Britain’s Rishi Sunak may be the third to join — have taken place before the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, which will presumably not occur while these visits are taking place. Every hour gained before the situation worsens translates into lives saved, but in order for hope not to turn into agony, fuel and electricity supply must be restored and humanitarian aid must reach the Gaza Strip.
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