Taking Orders from Tehran

Even before the U.N. Security Council adopted resolution 1860 Thursday that “stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire leading to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza,” it was clear that one of the parties calling the shots (literally) was firmly opposed to the proposals that had been put forward to end the fighting in Gaza: Ali Larijani, the influential speaker of the Iranian parliament, described the proposals on Thursday as “honey injected with poison.”

The night before, Larijani had met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and several high-level officials from Hamas at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, and it was thus hardly a surprise that Palestinian groups in Damascus, including Hamas, issued a statement that duly echoed Iran’s stance. Once the resolution was adopted, Hamas representatives declared that they were “not interested in it because it does not meet the demands of the movement.”

There were indications that on the ground in Gaza, Hamas leaders were contemplating a somewhat more conciliatory stance: Ahmed Yusuf, an advisor to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh expressed the hope that it would be possible to “secure a truce within 48 hours.”

Israeli analysts have argued that “the real enemy” in Gaza is Iran, and that it is therefore of vital importance for Israel to “defeat” Hamas. However, in order to define what constitutes a “defeat” of Hamas one has to take into account that no matter what happens on the battlefield, Hamas would never concede defeat as long as there is even one Hamas sympathizer around to claim “victory.” But as Jonathan Spyer has argued in the Jerusalem Post: “If something resembling the Egyptian truce proposal (with improved measures to prevent smuggling) ends up being implemented, and if Hamas fail to improve on their current poor military showing, then the current round of fighting in Gaza is likely to be remembered as constituting a limited setback for the Iranian interest in the region.”

Unfortunately, the most recent reports indicate “a growing sense that the Egyptian-French plan is not going to work.” The sticking point seems to be Egyptian objections to proposals to allow the deployment of foreign forces on the Egyptian side of its 15-km (9-mile) border with the Gaza Strip. The obvious alternative — to employ these forces on the Palestinian side of the border — seems to be something nobody is willing to consider. As so often, the world wants to get the dreadful images of death and destruction off the television screens, but is not quite ready to invest what it takes to prevent another round of fighting in the not-too-distant future.