If legitimacy involves acceptance or approval of the appropriateness or coherence of any implementation or policy decision of a government, then it requires responsibility and commitment. Legitimacy also requires these decisions, including internal or foreign policy issues, to be coherent or consistent with the fundamental social and international values and norms, all of which have been endorsed and maintained by human kind for centuries. The dignity of innocence and proportionality of use of force are some of the fundamental principles that any state has to oblige.
Once again the attacks in the region raise the question of legitimacy, including the way Israel has been handling the problem. Israel’s operations in Gaza resulted in destruction, death, suffering and misery on the side of Palestinians. The air strikes left itself to a ground operation which has also started on last Saturday, a week after the beginning of air strikes. Although the attacks have been projected as targeting the Hamas, which have been accused of launching rocket attacks against Israeli cities, the actual outcome is that the innocent got the largest share of the punishment. Hundreds of civilians, including babies, children, and women have been killed. Mosques have been targeted, in quotation “a political leader of Hamas” has been killed along with his entire family.
Legitimacy in this case requires Israel to have a justifiable ground as well as justifiable means, which will fit into the fundamental reasoning behind the operation. However, the implementation of the operation has proven that in every step, willingly or accidently more innocent people have been killed than the actual targets, which has been defined as Hamas infrastructure. This vaguely defined objective is so inclusive that anyone can be a potential target in Gaza and in West Bank as well, since people in West Bank are, can and will be potentially supportive of Hamas. This so called targeting Hamas is so unclear that the operation can last for months, and anyone can be within the scope of the operation.
In any case, the operation, incursion, or invasion whatever the term is used, will create waves in political, social, and psychological areas. For example, for the first time, Egypt has taken a radical position, which has not been seen before. Egypt which has waged many wars against Israel almost did take a passive position. Saudi Arabia seemed to be silent which also is a kind of unusual experience for the region. Similarly, Jordan has been silent from the very beginning. It is possible to add other countries to the list.
Egypt’s position in this recent conflict might be an appropriate option for the Egyptian leadership, but that does not necessarily a case for the people in the country. Legitimacy should reflect the core, fundamental values of the society and the nation in general. While the people have been killed in the neighboring Palestine, regardless whether it is Gaza today or West Bank in the future, closing the doors in Rafah may not be a legitimate decision for the people in the region. This is the same for the Arab League which have failed even to have a meeting for days after the attacks started.
The legitimacy of the international community, particularly the international organizations, such as the UN and the EU lays on the implementation of the universal principles and rule of law, which are fundamental foundations for the existence of these organizations.
It is an unfortunate that the UN, for example, has been established to bring about peace and stability to the regions like the Middle East, it has not been so badly wounded in terms of the image and was not questioned whether it is for the peace of the world or it is just a simple tool to facilitate or to protect the interest of a few countries.
Questioning the sole reasons of existence for such organizations will lead to questioning of the legitimacy, as a result of which even in justifiable situations the international community will be hesitant to take on a heavy responsibility. That will create a lack of commitment.
The EU is considering these operations as a legitimate reaction; however, while they may consider those images on the Internet, TV, and newspapers as an ordinary outcome of strategically and carefully planned operation, the very same images are telling different stories for other people. It is obvious that this conflict will create a vacuum which will provide huge amount of ammunition and materials which then will be capitalized by the terrorists for recruiting new members not necessarily limited within Palestinian territory.
It is not the Hamas which will be used to recruit the members for terrorist organizations, but it is the images of dead bodies of the babies, women, children, and destruction of mosques that make a perfect attraction for the terrorist organizations. Considering these, it is very hard to understand the EU position in this case.
Wrongful handling of the situation will alienate the community in the region. Especially the ground operation will lead to new atrocities in Gaza which will make cycle of violence stronger. The EU or UN should at least warn Israel to refrain from disproportionate use of force.
Except for Turkey, the regional countries were unable to present any visible move to stop this painful and depressing conflict. Turkey has come out of this conflict as not only a facilitator of diplomacy among different countries but also a country which showed political courage and humanitarian role model for the world. Turkey, as being the only country rushing out to look for possible emergency exits from this devastating turmoil, has reached out to neighboring countries as well as EU members and the US. Time will show whether any concrete result would come out of these diplomatic breakthrough efforts by Turkey. Nevertheless, Turkey has proven itself as the country which managed to win the hearts and minds of the people not only in Palestine but in entire region.
Turkey’s leadership role in a sense has represented the outcry of the people in Gaza and the communities in the region. This outcry has involved in embedded profound messages by the people of Middle East, and the wider audience in the other parts of the world. Similar approach is also expected from other countries.
Unless the UN or other parties of interest will see any Palestinian civilian in Gaza as a valuable human being as a Georgian in Georgian-Russian conflict, the world will continue to witness conflicts, turmoil, and suffering. It is not the matter of A or B country; it is the consistency of the implementation of the universal principles for everybody regardless of their nationality, religion, or region. Consistency will bring about stability; which is believed to be the most precious yet so scarce status in this region of despair, deprivation, and isolation.
As globalization is closing the distances among nations through growing economic, political, social, and cultural dependencies, another dynamic, consciousness of human nature should play an active role to overcome the aggressive and assertive characters. That compels the international community in general to have very strong commitment to initiate concrete steps toward peace and stability in this conflict not just wishful statement.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Suleyman Ozeren