Policy Alert: Rising Powers Respond to Israel-Palestine Conflict
Fighting between Israel and the Palestinians ensued over the past month in response to the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teens in the West Bank. Israel and Hamas have both drawn international condemnation for the ongoing violence, which has worsened the grave humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from India, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil on the recent events of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Despite closer ties with Israel in recent years, Indian commentary was by and large critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
- Harsh Pant, professor of international relations at King’s College London, observed that over the years, the Indian government has toned down its reactions to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. “This re-evaluation has been based on a realization that India’s largely pro-Arab stance in the Middle East has not been adequately rewarded by the Arab world. India has received no worthwhile backing from Arab countries in the resolution of problems it faces in its neighborhood, especially Kashmir.”
- Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, lamented in the India Express, “Gaza, at the moment, seems to be a spectacle, not just of dead bodies but also of dead ends. There are no narratives of liberation, no solutions in sight, and no fundamental transformations that can break this vicious cycle of violence.” He also cautioned that “being a friend of Israel cannot mean condoning actions that cannot be justified on any measure.”
- Manu Joseph, a Hindustan Times journalist commented, “So far, the current conflict in Gaza has unfolded, with minor changes, exactly the way it has on previous occasions. This repeating history is beyond the farce stage.”
- The Times of India applauded India’s support of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution condemning the disproportionate use of force by Israeli Defense Forces, stating that “it is welcome that the Indian government has sought to adopt an even-handed approach to the issue. Another editorial added that “principle must trump expediency. Israel is an ally but that does not give it a carte blanche to violate human rights.”
- Rudroneel Ghosh, a Times of India journalist, wrote, “Unless and until Washington is forced to drop its duplicitous policy on Palestine, the root of the conflict cannot be solved. Such duplicity will only breed resentment towards both Israel and the U.S. in the Arab world, hurting everyone’s interests in the long run.”
Chinese government officials continuously stressed the need for a ceasefire and actively supported efforts undertaken by other countries to end the fighting in Gaza, including Cairo’s ceasefire proposal.
- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that China is a firm supporter and sincere mediator for peace between Palestinians and Israel. He urged Israel to “lift its seven-year-long blockade of the Gaza Strip and release the Palestinians.”
- Liu Jieyi, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, pledged, “China will continue…to play an active and constructive role for an early end to the Israel-Palestine conflict, for the comprehensive and just resolution of the Palestinian issue, and for lasting peace in the Middle East region.”
- Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed “worry and grief” concerning the ongoing conflict and stated that “China will continue to work for a cease-fire, regional peace and stability.”
Despite President Vladimir Putin’s personal support for Israel, Russian newspapers and government officials remained neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict because of Russia’s other interests in the region.
- The Russian Foreign Ministry said that that Moscow is “deeply troubled by the growing number of victims among the civilian population in Gaza” and urged both sides to “conduct a humanitarian cease-fire without delay, and stop the bloodshed and suffering of peaceful civilians.”
- Despite President Vladimir Putin’s personal sympathy for Israel, Russia cannot openly support Israel “because of Russia’s stakes in the ongoing civil war in Syria and in nuclear talks in Iran,” according to Alexei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center.
- Yelena Suponina, head of the Asia and Middle East Center at the Russia Institute of Strategic Studies, observed that Russia has been trying to refrain from embracing one side of the conflict in order to boost its influence in world affairs. “This is Russia’s turf in world politics-talking to all sides, engaging in dialogue. While U.S. foreign policy is determined by ideology and values, Russia’s is much more flexible.”
Japanese newspapers avoided siding with either Israel or Palestine, instead pondering the cyclical nature of the ongoing violence.
- The Asahi Shimbun quoted a passage from an article it published in January 2009: “The Palestinian death toll has topped 500 amid the continued Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, and the militant Islamist group Hamas is putting up do-or-die resistance. But the United Nations, which supposedly represents the ‘conscience of the world,’ remains silent as usual. The people’s cries of anguish are rising from the blazing and smoking rubble.” TheAsahi noted that this passage could be recycled today, word-for-word, and asked, “why does all this bloodshed have to go on?“
- Demonstrators gathered in Tokyo on August 3 to encourage opposition to Japan’s ongoing support of the Israeli administration’s actions in Gaza. Participants -who organizers estimated numbered around 600- carried placard and banners featuring messages such as “Free Gaza” and “Save Gaza’s Children.”
- An editorial in the Japan Times observed, “As ever, the bottom line is the zero-sum mentality of Israel and Hamas. Both refuse to acknowledge the other’s legitimacy or existence, except as an entity to be extinguished. That may meet political needs, but it is unrealistic and unfeasible.”
South Korean media focused on the humanitarian aspect of the Israel-Palestine conflict, likening the “slaughter in Gaza” to a modern Holocaust in multiple articles.
- The Korea Times referred to Palestine as “another name for a large concentration campunder the tight supervision of Israel.” Referring to South Korea’s abstention from a UNHRC resolution denouncing Israel’s abuses of human rights of Gazans, the editorial asked, “How can Seoul ask other members to join its drive to improve human rights in North Korea?”
- The Joongang Daily observed that “the blame game will never end between Israel and the Palestinians. But the extremists are most blamed for making matters worse. Common sense appears to be drowned by militant voices once the mood turns ugly.”
- Another article in the Joongang worriedly reported that North Korea is allegedly innegotiations for a new arms deal with Hamas militants to provide missiles and communications equipment to the militant Palestinian group for its offensive against Israel.
Brazil’s reaction to the most recent outbreak of violence mirrored the reactions of other Latin American countries and focused on the “disproportionate response” by Israel.
- On July 24, Brazil recalled its ambassador in Israel for consultation in protest of the “disproportionate use of force by Israel.” This sparked a diplomatic row that included Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor calling the decision an “unfortunate demonstration of why Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, remains a diplomatic dwarf.”
- Several days later, on July 28, President Dilma Rousseff commented on Israel’s actions in Gaza, saying: “it is not a genocide, but I think it is a massacre and a disproportional action.” She also emphasized Brazil’s desire for a two-state solution that allows for peaceful coexistence.