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Gaza Cease-Fire Hopes Increase Amid International Pressure

Reports in Israel indicate fighting could end as soon as Thursday.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
A Palestinian man walks beside rubble in Gaza.
A Palestinian man walks beside the rubble of a house destroyed during an Israeli raid in the Gaza Strip on May 18. Fatima Shbair/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Gaza cease-fire hopes increase, Spain experiences a migrant surge in North African exclaves, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Iceland.

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Cease-Fire Comes Closer in Israel-Gaza Conflict

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Gaza cease-fire hopes increase, Spain experiences a migrant surge in North African exclaves, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Iceland.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Cease-Fire Comes Closer in Israel-Gaza Conflict

Barring a “surprising turn of events,” fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas is expected to end on Thursday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported early this morning, citing a senior Israeli political official. The news contrasts with Israeli military statements on Tuesday saying it would expand its bombing campaign in the coming days. More than 200 people have been killed so far in the conflict, with Palestinians making up the vast majority of the dead.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians across Israel, the occupied West Bank, and Gaza joined in a general strike on Tuesday in protest of Israel’s military campaign and planned evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. In the West Bank city of Ramallah, three Palestinians were killed and 72 people injured when protesters exchanged fire with soldiers at a nearby military base. In Jerusalem, Israeli police dispersed Palestinian protesters with stun grenades.

European Union foreign ministers were (almost) united in calling for an immediate cease-fire following an emergency meeting on Tuesday. Unanimity was denied by Hungary, whose Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called the EU statement “one-sided.” Other ministers pledged to restart the peace process alongside the United States, Russia, and the United Nations.

The human cost. As the bombings continue, the human toll is becoming clearer. More than 52,000 people in Gaza have been displaced by Israel’s aerial assault, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Tuesday, with most seeking refuge in U.N.-run schools. The Norwegian Refugee Council confirmed that 11 of the more than 60 children killed so far by Israeli airstrikes were participants in a council program helping children deal with trauma.

Credibility test. Even if hostilities soon end, the Biden administration’s resistance to a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire has tested U.S. credibility. “They pledged to come back and support the U.N. system and multilateralism,” one council diplomat said in a report by Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer. “We don’t see that happening now in the Security Council.” The episode also encouraged China to carve out a leadership role at the Security Council on Middle East issues, a topic where it usually takes a back seat, while also allowing it to dodge questions on its actions in Xinjiang.

Democratic discord. Rep. Gregory Meeks, chairperson of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has reportedly backed down from calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to delay a $735 million arms deal with Israel. Democrats are still pressuring the president, however. Rep. Rashida Tlaib confronted Biden in person on the airfield tarmac as he visited Dearborn, Michigan—home to the largest Muslim population per capita in the United States. “Congresswoman Tlaib reiterated that the status quo is enabling more killing, that the current U.S. approach of unconditional support for the Israeli government is not working, and that the White House must do far more to protect Palestinian lives, dignity, and human rights,” said an aide to Tlaib. Biden praised Tlaib before his speech at an automobile plant. “Youre a fighter, and God thank you for being a fighter,” Biden said.

Biden’s side. Multiple reports appeared on Tuesday, attempting to shine light on Biden’s approach not to call publicly for a cease-fire. They depict an administration wary of getting on the bad side of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, inviting the possibility of the conflict dragging on for weeks.

The tactic has been criticized as a misreading of U.S. leverage over an ally it provides significant military aid and political support to. Shibley Telhami, writing in the Boston Globe, voiced some of that criticism on Tuesday. “If an American president cannot leverage this extraordinary and unprecedented support to advance core American values,” Telhami wrote, “what hope is there for succeeding anywhere else?”

What We’re Following Today

Blinken meets Lavrov. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet today with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the Arctic Council in Iceland. The meeting, ahead of a planned summit between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, will “test the proposition of whether we can achieve a relationship with Moscow that is more stable and predictable,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price. The meeting comes as the Biden administration plans to waive sanctions on the company overseeing the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, according to an Axios report.

Mediterranean migration. At least 57 migrants drowned off the coast of Tunisia on Tuesday after the boat they were traveling in capsized. Although the dead have not been identified, the Red Crescent Movement identified the 33 survivors as Bangladeshi nationals who had boarded the boat in Libya. The United Nations estimates at least 685 people have either died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea this year.

Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has traveled to two Spanish exclaves in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, to deal with record numbers of migrants crossing into Spanish territory from neighboring Morocco; 8,000 migrants have entered Ceuta in recent days, Spanish officials said, with children a large proportion of those making the journey by boat or on foot at low tide. Sánchez has also deployed Spanish troops to assist border forces in the territory.

India delays vaccine exports. In a delay that’s longer than anticipated, India likely won’t resume exporting major batches of coronavirus vaccines until October at the earliest to prioritize domestic vaccinations, a move that’s set to compound the shortages already faced by COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), an initiative to get vaccines to developing countries. India curtailed vaccine exports more than a month ago after exporting more than 60 million doses, and the latest delay comes as the country experiences the world’s biggest surge in coronavirus cases, which crossed the 25 million mark on Tuesday.

Even before the delay was reported, the head of the U.N. Children’s Emergency Fund, Henrietta Fore, called on G-7 countries on Monday to donate supplies to COVAX to cover India’s cutbacks. “Sharing immediately available excess doses is a minimum, essential, and emergency stop-gap measure, and it is needed right now,” she said.

Keep an Eye On

IEA fossil fuel warning. The International Energy Agency warned all new fossil fuel extraction projects must be halted if the world is to reach the target of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. Describing the goal as “narrow but still achievable,” the group said to reach the goal, all sales of combustion engine cars must cease within the next 14 years and energy efficiency must increase by 4 percent annually over the next 10 years.

Samoa’s new leader. Samoa has a new leader for the first time in 20 years. Fiame Naomi Mataafa unseated Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, who had been the second-longest serving prime minister in the world. Mataafa’s victory was validated by the country’s supreme court on Monday, making her the first female prime minister in the country’s history. Mata’afa has a slim one-seat advantage in the 51-seat parliament after an independent lawmaker broke a 25-25 seat deadlock between the two main parties.

Odds and Ends

An Air France-KLM flight touched down in Montreal on Wednesday after flying from Paris fueled in part by used cooking oil. The company said the flight was its first experiment in using the fuel on a long-haul flight as airlines are being pushed to find sustainable alternatives to high-emission jet fuel.

The flight was powered using a 16 percent mix of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) produced in France by energy giant Total. The trip comes as new rules enter into force in 2022, which will force all flights departing France to be powered by at least 1 percent SAF, as the European Union works toward a goal of 5 percent by 2030. The move is not seen as a silver bullet to solve problems presented by climate change. Emissions won’t suddenly drop “just by adding a very small quantity of agro-fuel or biofuel,” said Agathe Bounfour of the Climate Action Network in France. “We need a drop in air traffic in order to comply with climate goals.”

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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