The extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League convened on the Gaza Crisis held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 11th. In the harsh final declaration, Muslim-majority countries raised their voices in unison against Israel’s aggression against Palestinians.
The leaders of 58 countries, claiming to represent more than 2 billion Muslims around the world, condemned Israel’s “war crimes” against the Palestinians in its “barbaric, brutal and inhuman massacres”, rejected the “excuse of self-defense” and demanded an immediate and permanent halt to the attacks, not a temporary ceasefire, and called on the United Nations Security Council to stop Israel with an “immediate, definitive and binding” resolution, prevent the sale of arms and ammunition to Israel, and lift the blockade of Gaza. The final declaration is made up of 31 articles and in certain terms calls on Israel to stop.
Or else… Or else what?
I mean, what if Israel doesn’t stop, and there is no sign that it will stop, what if it doesn’t stop?
Türkiye harshens the declaration
I will return to this question, but first, I must say that it was unexpected that such a harsh declaration came out of this meeting. It seems that President Tayyip Erdoğan contributed to the hardening of the declaration.
For example, Erdogan’s speech at the summit included a call for a UN investigation into the remarks made by Amihai Eliyahu, a minister of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, about the use of nuclear weapons in Gaza, which had been condemned by the Arab League, for Israel to account for its war crimes before international law, and for Israel to compensate the Palestinians for the damage it has caused.
According to Turkish sources, the Turkish delegation played a role in the inclusion of the call for the UN Security Council to adopt a ceasefire resolution, the call for the UN Secretary General to establish a mechanism for the protection of Palestinian civilians, the proposal for a scheduled peace conference, and the call for UN member states to exert political, diplomatic and legal pressure on Israel and to take deterrent measures.
It should be reminded that neither Türkiye nor Israel recognizes the International Criminal Court, which was included in the declaration at Türkiye’s suggestion.
Will it produce results?
One more detail. In his speech, Erdoğan said, “It is not possible for us to equate Hamas resistance fighters defending their homeland with the occupiers.” However, in the final declaration, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was named as the sole and legitimate representative of Palestine on behalf of Turkey.
Türkiye, along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Qatar, Indonesia and Nigeria, took part in the follow-up of the summit decisions and the formulation and implementation of the international action plan. This is a diplomatic victory, but it is debatable how much it will change the political consequences.
Let’s return to the previous question. If Israel does not stop, if the UN fails to stop Israel, what will be the repercussions of this call and what will it lead to?
What are the chances that the joint stance of Saudi Arabia and Iran, Turkey and Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria, and their rumblings, albeit with justified humanitarian and political demands, will bring peace on the Palestinian territories?
Why doesn’t Israel care?
For example, what are the chances that the permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, the UK and France – will take “immediate, definitive and binding” resolutions against Israel and stop the attacks while they are even refusing to condemn Israel’s attacks targeting hospitals, schools and places of worship on the grounds of the “right of self-defense”? In approximate figures, the United States is by far the largest arms seller to Israel with 82 percent, Germany is second with 15 percent and Italy is third with 3 percent.
Since 2017-2018, when the US became a net exporter of oil and gas, and no longer dependent on Middle East oil, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have become less likely to play a balancing role in US policies in favor of Palestine. In Palestine, this decline was accelerated by the weakening of the PLO and the strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood-based Hamas, which threatens Arab autocracies. In a sense, the Ibrahim Accords can be seen as a “we lost in politics, let’s win in trade” deal between the Gulf Arab states and Israel through the US.
That is why Israel does not care about the fact that Muslim-majority countries have come together for the first time on such a large scale and raised their voices with such vehemence for the first time.
The other side of the coin
However, there is no way to refrain from voicing legitimate humanitarian and political demands just because they are unlikely to be realized; the discourse against Israel’s policy of usurping the land where Palestinians have lived for thousands of years must be continued.
Achieving this unity of discourse has already led to certain changes in the regional balance, although how permanent they will be remains to be seen.
For example, the Saudi-Israeli cooperation, which formed the backbone of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor project, which US President Joe Biden had given enough importance to include in his speech in full support of Israel on January 19, was shelved after Hamas launched an attack on Israel on October 7. Saudi Arabia has rapprochement with Iran in order to protect its shared oil and gas interests. Mohammed bin Salman and Ibrahim Reisi shook hands at the Riyadh Summit. Likewise, President Erdoğan met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi; the Gaza crisis accelerated the normalization process between Turkey and Egypt.
Eyes on the US-China meeting
At this stage, the US is the only actor that can stop the right-wing-Zionist aggression represented by Netanyahu in Israel. But in the run-up to the November 2024 elections, it would be delusional to think that Biden will do so spontaneously or only because Muslim countries insist on it. At the moment, much of the American electorate is swayed by the narrative that Israel has every right to retaliate for the Hamas attack, the largest loss of civilian life since its founding in 1948, including the massacre of civilians.
This is why not only the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, not only Muslim countries, but the “East” in general must engage in rhetoric and action that will influence conscientious “Western” public opinion and especially the US administration.
This is why Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco next week is important. In this meeting, Pacific security issues such as Taiwan and North Korea as well as the Gaza Crisis are expected to be discussed. In the same context, Chinese Special Envoy to the Middle East Cay Cün will hold talks with Foreign Ministry officials in Ankara on November 13.