Is the US seeking a Gaza cease-fire to spare Israel, or just pretending?

Vladimir Putin should be grateful to Hamas for taking the world’s attention off his war in Ukraine, and also to the likes of Blinken for dragging the US and Western countries alongside Israel into a different war.

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People escape after an Israeli strike at a refugee camp in central Gaza Strip, on Nov. 6, 2023. The total number of Palestinian deaths in Gaza reached 10,022 since the latest round of Hamas-Israel conflict started on Oct. 7, Gaza's health ministry said on Monday. On the Israeli side, more than 1,400 people lost their lives, the vast majority in the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, which triggered the ongoing conflict. (Photo by Yasser Qudih/Xinhua)

As tensions rise and clashes intensify on the South Lebanon front between resistance groups and the Israeli occupation army, it’s clear that the nightmare prospect haunting the US administration — the expansion of the war on Gaza into a regional conflagration — is fast becoming more likely. In his speech on Friday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah deferred a decision to join the war or declare one, but did not rule that out. Recent developments may be leading to that option being activated.

On Tuesday evening, the Israeli army said 20 missiles were fired from Lebanese territory against bases and settlements in the Galilee, and that it shelled the environs of several Lebanese villages in response. Hezbollah’s al-Manar channel reported missile strikes on Israeli positions in Syria’s occupied Golan Heights which the Iron Dome system tried to intercept.

Earlier, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian had revealed that his US counterpart Anthony Blinken sent a message to Tehran via the Iraqi government assuring it that Washington has been seeking a cease-fire in Gaza. He accused the US of lying and playing time-games while being a partner to Israel’s ongoing relentless onslaught.

It would be no surprise for Blinken, who never stops advertising his devotion to Israel, to lie on its behalf and try to dupe the Iranians into thinking he is responsive to their concerns in a bid to prevent the war from expanding and being joined by Hezbollah. He tried to maintain that deception by travelling to occupied Jerusalem supposedly to lobby for a cease-fire of sorts.

There are two possibilities here.

One is that the US actually wanted a cease-fire of sorts, for Israel’s own sake (because its military goals are unachievable; its mass slaughter of civilians, especially women and children, is causing a global backlash and turning public opinion against it; and to spare it the consequences of a wider regional war). But Netanyahu refused to commit to any truce as that would benefit Hamas and impede his twin goals of completely eradicating the movement and securing the unconditional release of all its Israeli captives.

The other possibility is that Blinken is completely in cahoots with Netanyahu and did not put any pressure on him, but instead adopted his stance that any cease-fire must be opposed until those goals are achieved.

Both are plausible. It has been clear from the outset that Netanyahu is using the war to prolong his political life and that of his fascist government and avoid ending up jailed for corruption and abuse of power. Also, that thanks to the power of the Israel lobby in the US, Netanyahu wields more clout in Washington than President Joe Biden and can ignore his administration’s urgings, especially regarding any cease-fire or even humanitarian ‘pauses’.

Former Israeli prime minister and army chief Ehud Barak mused on Tuesday that Israel cannot sustain a long-term operation, and if it doesn’t achieve its objectives in two or three weeks it will be “heading towards friction” with the US. “America cannot dictate to Israel what to do. But we cannot ignore them,” he stated. He said it might take a year to wipe out Hamas, but noted Western support was weakening because of the civilian death toll in Gaza and fears of sparking a much broader catastrophic war in the region.

The chances of that happening are now very high, and the trigger or detonator could come from South Lebanon. Even if the Lebanese resistance were to stand aloof, which is inconceivable, allied resistance groups like Hamas’ Qassam brigades (who on Monday launched 17missiles against Galilee settlements) and Islamic Jihad’s Saraya al-Quds have both been highly active on the Lebanese front, with direct support from Hezbollah.

The US is currently waging a third world war in Ukraine, and all the evidence indicates it is losing. Now it is being lured into a second war in the Middle East by its closest ally and its lobbyists and loyalists in Washington.

Vladimir Putin should be grateful to Hamas for taking the world’s attention off his war in Ukraine, and also to the likes of Blinken for dragging the US and Western countries alongside Israel into a different war.

Ultimately, Netanyahu will depart defeated and Hamas will remain firmly rooted in the ground, just as in Iraq and Afghanistan the US departed defeated while the Iraqi resistance and the Taliban remained. And if the Gaza war expands and the Lebanese front opens up in response to Blinken’s deception, even the aircraft carriers the US has deployed to the region could suffer.

It is worth recalling the bombing of the US Marines headquarters in Beirut in 1983. 284 soldiers were killed in a single martyrdom operation. And that was 40 years ago, before the age of precision missiles and drones.

Abdel Bari Atwan

Abdel Bari Atwan was born in Gaza, Palestine and has lived in London since 1979. He is the editor-in-chief of London-based news site ‘Rai al-Youm’ and was the founder and editor-in-chief of ‘al-Quds al-Arabi’, the independent, pan-Arab daily newspaper, from 1989 to June 2013. Atwan is the author of ‘The Secret History of al-Qa’ida’, ‘A Country of Words’, his memoir, ‘After bin Laden: al-Qa’ida, the Next Generation’ and a new book ‘Islamic State: Digital Caliphate’ will be published by Saqi books in May 2015.

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