The fine line between pushing a prime minister and a just peace

The war has been raging for the last few months in Gaza. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

The war has been raging for the last few months in Gaza. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 7, 2024



Standing at a bus stop one snowy Sunday evening in Beijing, an elderly lady asked me, when recognising me as a foreigner, where I was from.

Upon replying from South Africa, she went on to explain China compromising on its historic principle of non-interference in the case of fighting colonialism in Africa and apartheid in South Africa in particular.

It was the only time, she argued, that China would compromise on the core characteristic of its foreign policy.

The core characteristic of Chinese foreign policy was further interrogated in my research when studying UN Security Council Resolution 1973 used by Nato to attack Libya in 2011.

In the lead-up to that resolution, Nato members on the UN Security Council used the principle of the “responsibility to protect” to justify their envisaged action.

Significantly, all five BRICS countries were also serving on the UN Security Council at the time and all argued, with the exception of South Africa who eventually voted in favour of the resolution while the other four abstained, for the principle of the “responsibility while protecting”.

The resolution became one of former president Jacob Zuma administration’s greatest regrets in its foreign policy.

Brazil had proposed that while the principle of the responsibility to protect violated national sovereignty and, no doubt, led to interference, the principle was a bit more nuanced.

“Responsibility while protecting” simply meant that the international community had a responsibility to protect a people of a country or nation but not necessarily automatically intervene in that country’s domestic affairs.

What this all means is that there is a fine line between the role played by the international community, the actions of individual countries towards a (rogue) state and regime change.

As countries from Africa and the rest of the developing world, we are all too familiar with the actions of the international community at times, as was the case in Libya, or certain individual Western countries and their interference in our domestic affairs.

Yet walking the fine line between protecting Palestinians as well as Israelis and advocating for regime change in Israel, I intimated in this column, immediately after our government had made its submission to the International Court of Justice, that Israel needs protection from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The sentiment was confirmed four weeks ago when US senate majority leader, the Democrat from New York and who self-identifies “as the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in [the US] government”, Chuck Schumer, stated: “The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after October 7.”

He went on to insist that “the United States cannot dictate the outcome of an election, nor should (they) try. That is for the Israeli public to decide — a public that (Schumer believes) understands better than anybody that Israel cannot hope to succeed as a pariah opposed by the rest of the world”.

And a pariah of the world they have been for a long time. Hence, the responsibility of the international community while protecting Palestinians and Israelis.

As my last column on the seismic shifts in the attitude of certain Western countries to the atrocities in Gaza was published in these pages, tens of thousands of Israelis were taking to the streets in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Caesarea and other cities, starting on Saturday and culminating with Sunday evening’s protest at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem.

The protests were primarily against the Israeli prime minister and towards a resolution of the conflict; a just peace.

“Pressure on PM grows, protests affecting talks” exclaimed Israel’s left-leaning daily, ‘Haaretz’, on Monday. “Thousands in J’lem rally for elections” rallied the more conservative, ‘The Jerusalem Post’, on the same day. Whereas this week’s ‘The Guardian Weekly’ shouts: “Excuses have run out, thousands call for PM’s removal.”

In the same edition of “Haartez”, left-leaning Israeli politician, Zehava Galon, writes that “Netanyahu has failed. If (Israelis) want a future, (they) have to return to the streets”.

Recalling US Senator Joe Lieberman, who died just over a week ago, in this past Wednesday’s edition of “The Jerusalem Post”, American Zionist, Gil Troy, headlined his column: “Saving Israel from Bibi: Learning from Joe Lieberman.”

While the tide is fast turning against Netanyahu, the protests are primarily led by the families of the hostages held by Hamas and by those involved in the internal disputes of conscription.

To support the idea of seismic shifts continuing to happen in Israel and the West, the latest March Gallup poll indicates that most American adults disapprove of Israel’s continuing war against Hamas. Support for the war has dropped from 50% of US adults to just over a third.

In Berlin, hitherto one of Israel’s strongest European allies, Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign affairs minister, has sent a delegation to Israel, reminding it of its obligations under the Geneva conventions.

In the light of the principle of responsibility while protecting, we must be unequivocal in our support for the Palestinians.

However, we must also do so by lobbying Israelis and Westerners who demand a just peace because while Netanyahu must feel the pressure and it is ultimately Israelis who must decide, we cannot be pushing for regime change in Israel.

For if we did so, we would be no better than our imperialists oppressors.

*Seale has a PhD in international relations

**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL