Arab forces will not go to Gaza, says Jordanian minister in rebuke of Israel

Ayman Safadi says credibility of international law at stake as he clashes with senior US official over terms for humanitarian pause

Jordan’s foreign minister has said Arab troops will not go to Gaza as he delivered a blistering criticism of Israel’s war on Hamas.

Ayman Safadi clashed with Joe Biden’s senior Middle East adviser on Saturday, saying a humanitarian pause should not be conditional on the release of hostages held by Hamas. The US envoy, Brett McGurk, said the onus was on Hamas to release hostages as a pathway to humanitarian aid increasing and a pause in the fighting.

The pair were addressing the IISS Manama Dialogue security summit in Bahrain, where Arab anger towards Israel’s refusal to negotiate a two-state solution was repeatedly voiced.

Speaker after speaker advised Israel that it would not find security through force.

At the same event, the EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, indicated he believed Israel could face charges at the international criminal court, adding: “One horror does not justify another.”

Safadi, in a no-holds-barred attack on Israel and the cover being provided by the US, said faith in peaceful negotiation and international law was being destroyed by the west’s refusal to rein in Israel.

The credibility of international law had fallen victim to its selective application, he said. “If any other country in the world did a fragment of what Israel did, it would have sanctions imposed on it from every corner of the world.”

He said even those who accepted Israel was acting in self-defence “keep telling Israel to act within international law. It is not, so where do we go from here? Keep telling them to do it? They keep refusing to do it. People are being killed day in and day out.”

He said: “International law has to apply to all. The message seems to be that Israel can do whatever it wants. That is what the world is seeing, [that] Israel is above the law.”

He also disagreed with McGurk over the terms for a humanitarian ceasefire, after the latter said the release of hostages held by Hamas would lead to a surge in the delivery of humanitarian aid.

McGurk said the pathway to a significant pause in fighting was through the release of hostages. “If the hostages are released, you will see a significant, significant change. The onus here is on Hamas. This is the path. The surge in humanitarian aid will come when the hostages are released,” he said.

Safadi urged Hamas to release the hostages, but said no preconditions should be set for a humanitarian pause, arguing that 2.4 million Palestinians were being held hostage by Israel in Gaza.

He refused to join the calls to liken Hamas to Islamic State. “Hamas did not create the conflict. The conflict created Hamas,” he said, adding: “You cannot bomb an idea out of existence.

“There will be no Arab troops going to Gaza. None. We are not going to be seen as the enemy.”

He said all Arab governments were agreed on this, and that any discussion of Gaza’s future now was impossible. “By entertaining that, we are telling the Israeli government: ‘Do whatever you want. Go destroy Gaza. No one is stopping you and once you are done we will clean up your mess.’ No, we will not.”

He said Jordan would do “whatever it takes to stop” the displacement of Palestinians. “We will never allow that to happen; in addition to it being a war crime, it would be a direct threat to our national security.

“All of us have to speak loud and clear about the catastrophe that the Israeli war is bringing, not just on Gaza, but on the region in general. This is not a time for mincing words. This is a time to state facts as they are.

“Denial of food, medicine and fuel to Gazans is a war crime and we have to call it out.”

Bahrain’s crown prince, speaking at the summit on Friday, called on Hamas to release Israeli women and children held hostage and for Israel in exchange to release from its prisons Palestinian women and children who he said were non-combatants. He said there should be Palestinian elections, but did not specify a date.

Borrell said only the Palestinian Authority could be in control of Gaza after the war. Israel has insisted the authority will have no role for some years and, in a demonstration of its dislike, barred the authority’s foreign minister from travelling to Bahrain to speak.


Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

The GuardianTramp

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