“The total destruction of Hamas, what is that? Does anyone think that’s possible? If so, the war will last 10 years, and I don’t think anyone can seriously set this as a goal,” said French President Emmanuel Macron in Dubai, on the sidelines of the COP28 international conference.
Macron’s comment was rather unexpected and came just hours after the Gaza Strip ceasefire broke down and hostilities resumed. But it clearly couldn’t have been just an off-the-cuff remark – not at such a level and not in an international forum as important as Dubai. So the resident of the Elysee Palace is most likely trying to outline a “European way” towards resolving the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, as he had already tried to do several times during the first year of the war in Ukraine.
On one side, we still have the strong interventionism of the U.S. administration: this is the context in which we should read Secretary of State Blinken’s repeated talks with Israel’s neighbors and attempts to reestablish the leadership of the Palestinian National Authority in Gaza as well, aiming to oust Hamas from power. President Biden has invested heavily in these diplomatic missions, and if any success is achieved (or any agreement is reached that can be passed off as such), it’s certain that the Democrats will bank on it for the 2024 presidential election campaign. But it was the same Biden who had no hesitation to send aircraft carriers to Israel’s shores and immediately increase military supplies to the Israeli military: his bias in favor of Tel Aviv is undeniable.
On the opposite side, we have what one might call the “Arab front,” with the aggressiveness from Iran and Hezbollah (only in words so far), the role of Qatar, which facilitated the ceasefire of the past few days, and Turkey’s attempt to put itself forward as an international mediator on behalf of the Palestinian cause. On Saturday, also in Dubai, the Turkish president reiterated that “the exclusion and destruction of Hamas is not a realistic scenario” and once again called Israel “a terror state.”
His statement provoked the ire of Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen: “The Hamas-ISIS terrorist organization will not exist in Gaza on the day after,” he wrote on Twitter. “We will free Gaza from Hamas, for the sake of Israel’s security and to create a better future for the residents of the region. You [the account of the Turkish presidency] are welcome to host in your country Hamas terrorists who aren’t eliminated and flee from Gaza.”
So far, the EU has aligned itself completely with the U.S. position, with the exception of a few dissenting voices such as those of Spanish President Sanchez and some statements by High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Borrell. Now Macron has tried to insert himself into this tug-of-war that involves strong and influential global powers, perhaps to try to give the EU a strategic positioning that would be less clear-cut in favor of Israel. We will see if any other Old Continent leaders follows his lead in the coming days.