Observations of an Expat: Middle East Movement

Finally, there appears to be a glimmer of progress on the Gaza front.

In the unlikely venue of a New York ice cream parlour, President Joe Biden, revealed this week that he is hopeful for a ceasefire by Monday.

And almost simultaneously, Muhammad Shtayyeh, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, resigned to make way for a reorganised government for the West Bank and Gaza Strip which could provide an outside chance of leading to recognition of a State of Palestine.

The departure of Shtayyeh comes amidst a flurry of diplomatic meetings involving American, British, EU, and Arab state officials in Riyadh, Paris and Doha.

What appears to be emerging is an agreement for a “temporary” ceasefire of “some weeks” which would involve the release of all the remaining Israeli hostages; the freeing of an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners and a massive influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

That appears to be the bones of a short-term agreement. The long-term is more problematic because it involves a revival of the two-state solution and recognition of a reconstituted Palestinian Authority as a Palestinian state.

The idea was mooted back in January by British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron as part of a carrot and stick approach that involved British support for Israel as the flip side of the diplomatic coin.

Recognition would be accompanied by Arab and American-backed security guarantees for Israel and the prospect of the normalisation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. To encourage the Palestinians to compromise, there would be a multi-billion dollar fund to rebuild Gaza and provide an investment fund for the Palestinian Authority. Neither Israel nor Hamas would be allowed to remain in power in Gaza.

The giant human fly in this political ointment is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has said that the southern Gaza ground offensive planned for 10 March “could be delayed somewhat.” But, it would be for “a week” rather than “weeks” and would not be allowed to stand in the way of “total victory.”

As for the proposed long-term solution of a two-state solution, diplomatic recognition and all its diplomatic trappings; that is a “non-starter.” Instead, the Israeli Prime Minister plans to retain control of Gaza and any rebuilding plans would be contingent on the demilitarisation of the 25-mile-long strip of Middle Eastern real estate.

Donald Trump could be another potential problem. He has gone on record as rejecting the two-state solution. But that was while he was in the White House. Since 7 October his Middle Eastern pronouncements have been restricted to the decidedly unhelpful suggestion that the two sides should be left “to fight it out.”

His former ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, however, has been more succinct. “Make no mistake,” he said, “recognition of a Palestinian state would be even more devastating to Israel than the attack on the 7th of October.”

It would seem that the best hope for peace would be if Netanyahu is ousted from power and Trump is blocked from returning to the White House.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Rogers 2nd Mar '24 - 5:46pm

    IF any of the current hopes and aspirations proceed – and I sincerely hope they do – then what will be the Israeli reaction if/when they discover that many of the hostages are no longer alive? To my mind, it seems highly unlikely that they will all have survived the devastation wrought on Gaza by the IDF.

  • Netanyahu has said that once the hostages are released he will continue to “total victory.” If the hostages are dead?…. all bets are off.

  • Our country has no control over the actions of either Trump of Netanyahu. We need to focus on what our country can do to help in the situation.

  • Nigel Quinton 4th Mar '24 - 2:17am

    To Tom Harney, while I suspect we do have slightly more influence than you suggest still, I agree it is minimal. What we can do, and should do immediately, is halt all arms supplies to Israel.

  • Peter Hirst 9th Mar '24 - 2:41pm

    Israel certainly needs a more centrist government for any lasting solution to be even envisaged. Politics in Israel needs to change helped by security guarantees from all major actors in the region. Once conditions improve in Gaza and the West Bank, there should be negotiations leading to referendums in both countries.

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