Statements from SkyNews Arabia interview – December 19, 2023
From Paris, French academic and professor of international relations, Frank Farnel, expressed his concerns about the possibility of an escalation in the region, particularly given the potentially catastrophic effects at both regional and global levels.
Farnel explained that Paris has an opportunity to redefine its diplomatic position and promote better understanding and cooperation among all involved parties. The challenge France faces is finding a balance between supporting Israel in eliminating terrorist groups and regional threats, alongside Western powers in the region, while also reducing the appeal of the conflict on its own soil, especially as there are fears that certain far-left groups may see it as an opportunity to strengthen their societal voter base.
He stated, “Paris is concerned about the possibility of the war spreading in the region. It aims for a ceasefire in the conflict, but realizes that it can only be achieved after Israel has achieved its war objectives and exercised its right to self-defense.”
He emphasized that the visit of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs to Beirut on Monday presents an opportunity to redefine its diplomatic position and strengthen understanding and cooperation among all involved parties.
SKYNEWS ARABIA – 19 DECEMBER 2023 – ABU DHABI
Three European countries call for a ceasefire in Gaza
Over the past few days, there has been a significant shift in Western positions regarding the war being waged by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip for 73 days. While the British and German foreign ministers called for a “permanent ceasefire,” the French foreign minister called for an “immediate and permanent” truce to prevent disastrous repercussions for the besieged sector since the October 7 attack.
Speaking to Sky News Arabia, observers and analysts believe that the gradual change in Western and American positions towards the war in Gaza can be explained by several reasons, including internal pressures in these countries following the deaths of thousands of Palestinian civilians due to “Israeli blind bombardments,” as well as the time that has elapsed. It is time for Tel Aviv to implement its “target bank” in the Gaza Strip, as well as the lack of a clear plan before the Israeli government regarding putting an end to this conflict.
Israel is facing increasing pressure from its allies regarding its war in Gaza, as the United States, its main supporter, has criticized what they have described as “blind bombings” that result in civilian casualties.
Article Highlights Urgency for a Permanent Ceasefire in Gaza
In a joint article published by the Sunday Times, British Foreign Minister David Cameron and his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock stressed the urgent need for a “permanent ceasefire” in Gaza. While the UK and Germany abstained from voting on the recent UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire, which was vetoed by the US, both ministers emphasized the importance of reaching an agreement to end the ongoing military operation against Hamas.
“We must do everything in our power to pave the way for a permanent ceasefire that leads to lasting peace. The need is urgent,” the ministers wrote. However, they also made it clear that they do not believe calling for an immediate general ceasefire is the right approach, stating that “immediate cessation of fire, with the hope of it becoming permanent in one way or another, is the way to go.”
The ministers explained that this approach does not take into account the reason why Israel needs to defend itself: Hamas has brutally attacked Israel and continues to fire rockets, endangering Israeli citizens every day. They called on Hamas to lay down their arms.
According to Politico, this article represents a significant shift in the positions of both countries regarding the Gaza conflict, as the British government called for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting but did not go as far as calling for a ceasefire, while Germany vigorously defended Israel’s right to self-defense since the Hamas attacks on October 7th.
Addressing Israel directly, the ministers stated, “The Israeli government must do more to adequately distinguish between terrorists and civilians, and ensure that its campaign targets Hamas leaders and operatives.” They emphasized that while Israel has the right to defend itself, it must also respect international humanitarian law. “Israel will not win the war if its operations destroy the prospects of peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians. They have the right to eliminate the Hamas threat.”
In addition to the UK, several other countries including Australia, Canada, and France have also called on Israel to take immediate and concrete measures to address violence by settlers in the occupied West Bank.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna expressed her country’s “deep” concern over the situation in Gaza and called for an “immediate and lasting new ceasefire” during a joint press conference with her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen in Tel Aviv. The EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, also stressed the need to stop the military operations and urgently achieve a humanitarian truce, adding that “we are witnessing a catastrophic failure to discern during the Israeli military operation in Gaza,” as confirmed by other foreign ministers including those from France, Germany, and the UK.
Lack of Objectives
In an exclusive interview with “Sky News Arabia,” Abdul Masih Al-Shami, the coordinator of German-Arab relations in the German Parliament and an international relations expert, asserts from Berlin that Israel has achieved numerous objectives since the start of its military operations on October 7th.
Al-Shami adds that despite the statements from Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers seeking to continue the fighting, the Israeli government sees the war coming to an end. There are no more targets in Gaza, and if the war continues, it will have a more negative impact on Israelis than a positive one.
Al-Shami believes that there is coordination between European countries, especially the UK, Germany, and France, and the Israeli government before addressing these appeals to the global public opinion. The reality confirms that these countries were most supportive of the Israeli operation at the beginning. He also states that the German and British positions cannot be anti-Israeli at any time or place due to their relationships with Tel Aviv.
The coordinator of German-Arab relations in the German Parliament emphasizes that “Germany or the UK cannot oppose Israel in any way,” but their call for a ceasefire comes in light of the thousands of civilian deaths and the increasing pressure to play a positive role in ending this suffering.
Al-Shami points out that Israel does not want a direct ceasefire in Gaza in order to maintain its image with its people and the world, and to avoid appearing weak. Instead, it prefers an “international decision.”
He continues, saying, “Stopping the war requires concessions from Israeli authorities. The war will not last long and is coming to an end. It will be an international decision supported by Western countries, as well as the United States.”
Concerns Arise Over Dangerous Escalation in the Region
Frank Farnel, a French academic and professor of international relations, has expressed concern over the potential for escalation in the region. Speaking to Sky News Arabia from Paris, Farnel emphasized the catastrophic effects such escalation could have on a regional and global scale.
Farnel believes that Paris has an opportunity to redefine its diplomatic position and promote better understanding and cooperation among all parties involved. The challenge for France lies in striking a balance between supporting Israel in eliminating terrorist groups and regional threats, alongside Western powers in the region, while also reducing the appeal of the conflict within its own land. There is a concern that certain far-left groups may see this as an opportunity to strengthen their societal voter base.
“Paris is concerned about the possibility of the war spreading throughout the region,” Farnel stated. He emphasized that France aims for a ceasefire in the conflict but realizes that it can only be achieved once Israel has achieved its war objectives and exercised its right to self-defense.
Farnel also highlighted the upcoming visit of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs to Beirut on Monday as an opportunity to redefine France’s diplomatic position and strengthen understanding and cooperation among all parties involved.