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If the US wants peace it must back up its words with teeth

US envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield vetos a UN Security Council resolution calling a Gaza ceasefire on Feb. 20, 2024. (REUTERS)
US envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield vetos a UN Security Council resolution calling a Gaza ceasefire on Feb. 20, 2024. (REUTERS)
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24 Feb 2024 02:02:23 GMT9
24 Feb 2024 02:02:23 GMT9

The third US veto of UN Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire was not received well in the Middle East, although most lost hope in Washington long ago.

America says it wants more time to find a solution to the hostage issue that would usher in a six-week pause in hostilities, but not a full ceasefire. Even on that score, there is no guarantee that the Israelis — especially the four times criminally indicted prime minister, who continuously ignores what the US says — would be willing to listen. Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he knows how to deal with the US, and he has been proved right. He knows very well when Joe Biden is serious, and he still doesn’t believe the White House genuinely wants him to stop his war on Palestinians, especially in Gaza.

As a result, the world is dealing with ever-moving goalposts when it comes to when this carnage will stop. Many thought that by the end of 2023, or after the first US presidential primaries, the war would end. But the goalposts continue to move, based on what Netanyahu wants rather than what Washington says.

Now the latest US target appears to be the beginning of Ramadan, expected on March 10 or 11.

In Palestine, the most special place to be during the holy month is Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third-holiest place in Islam and a magnet for Palestinian Muslims and any other Muslim allowed in by the Israelis.

In previous years, the Israeli army — expecting vast numbers of people piling up at checkpoints and trying to push their way into the Old City — has generally avoided clashing with observing Muslims. Military checkpoints abandon the usually tight travel restrictions and time-consuming individual checks, and have generally allowed any worshipper wishing to reach Jerusalem to do so, especially on Fridays.

The last ten days of the holy month are the most revered, and the 27th day of Ramadan is the pinnacle. It is called Laylat Al-Qadr, or the Night of Destiny, when Muslims believe the Qur’an was first sent down from heaven and when its first verses were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

The pressure is on the US and Israel to find a solution quickly, because the clock is ticking inexorably toward yet another deadline.

Daoud Kuttab

Normally, Friday noon prayers are attended by between 250,000 and 500,000 worshippers. On the last 10 days of Ramadan, many of the faithful stay overnight on the 36-acre site, a sixth of the size of the entire Old City of Jerusalem.

But things are different this year: the far-right extremist Israeli government appears to be set on ruining the holy month for Muslims, regardless of the backlash this will cause.

After the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, Israel canceled all travel permits for West Bank Palestinians. The security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir — a notorious bigot who has been charged with hate speech against Arabs and has a criminal conviction for supporting terrorism — is now demanding that the ban on Palestinians from the occupied West Bank entering Jerusalem be not just upheld, but enforced on Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The Israeli Cabinet appears to be backing Ben Gvir’s outright discrimination: but as usual, Netanyahu, not known for his truthfulness, has said that discussions continue about ways to ensure the right to pray for Muslim citizens of Israel. Some Palestinian Muslim leaders who are Israeli citizens are threatening to challenge the restrictions in the High Court.

While the discussion in the Israeli media is focused on Israel’s Muslim citizens, no one is even talking about the right to worship of Palestinians who live in the occupied territories, even residents of Jerusalem itself. Ben Gvir has even banned the traditional celebrations and colorful lights that are a regular feature of Ramadan at night in Jerusalem. Worshippers who fast all day go out at night as part of the cultural and social life that comes alive during evening hours, when a wide assortment of cultural and artistic events take place, especially in the Old City.

Jordan, whose Hashemite royal family have been custodians of Al-Aqsa Mosque for generations, has made no public statements but has sent strong messages using different channels. According to some Israeli reports, Jordan has made it clear that there may be widespread regional unrest if there are any tensions in Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan.

The Jerusalem Waqf Council is due to meet next week to respond to the Israeli decision, but regardless of what Jordan or the council say and do, the Palestinian people throughout the occupied territories and beyond will no doubt respond with strong opposition to any attempt at control their right to worship in Al-Aqsa. The pressure is on the US and Israel to find a solution quickly, because the clock is ticking inexorably toward yet another deadline created by the Americans — who are still unwilling to put any teeth behind their own words.

• Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist and a director of Community Media Network. X: @daoudkuttab

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