Since the beginning of the war in Gaza there have been several initiatives by regional countries to end the humanitarian catastrophe. Among them is a group formed at a summit of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Riyadh this month that comprises foreign ministers and other representatives from Turkiye, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and the Palestinian Authority, and the OIC secretary-general.
Diplomats from these countries visited the capitals of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members and others last week, aiming to find an immediate solution to the Israeli assaults on Gaza. If the intricate and carefully choreographed ceasefire deal that went into effect on Friday proceeds as agreed, it could provide the international community with an opportunity to intensify efforts for a permanent solution and exert pressure on Israel for lasting peace. The newly formed regional group therefore finds itself at a critical juncture.
The group’s initial visits were to Beijing, Moscow, London, and Paris. Notably, Washington, a key player in the conflict and Israel’s staunchest ally, was not on the itinerary. The group comprises a diverse mix of countries, each with an influential bargaining position. Together, their collective voices have the potential to shape the course of the war in Gaza.
Qatar was instrumental in achieving the ceasefire agreement after numerous rounds of tough negotiations. Qatar is positioned to be a bridge between Palestinian Hamas militants on one side and the Israeli and Western governments on the other. In the past, it played a role in brokering ceasefires between Hamas and Israel. Even though it has not normalized relations with Israel, Doha aims to increase its leverage by leading efforts aimed at de-escalation in Gaza. We do not yet know how the truce and the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners will proceed, but Qatar is likely to be at the center of Western and regional countries’ calculations in the course of the war in Gaza.
The group comprises a diverse mix of countries, each with an influential bargaining position. Together, their collective voices have the potential to shape the course of the war
The second actor is Turkiye. Ankara sees the war in Gaza as an inflection point for the Middle East. In order to revive its regional role, it tried to mediate between parties and even proposed a formula to resolve the conflict in which it would act as a guarantor for a future Palestinian state. As the truce began, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkiye would make efforts to rebuild damaged infrastructure, hospitals and schools in Gaza if the ceasefire holds. The war erupted while Turkiye and Israel were normalizing their relations after more than a decade of stalemate. Like Qatar, Turkiye also has high stakes in the resolution of the conflict.
Palestine’s immediate neighbors, Egypt and Jordan, are also pivotal actors. Both countries are extremely concerned about a massive influx of Palestinians into their territory, something that they fear would, among other things, severely undermine hopes for a Palestinian state. Cairo and Amman have rejected any attempts by the Israeli army to displace the people of Gaza. They urged the international community to leverage the truce for relief efforts and stressed the importance of a comprehensive political process for a two-state solution to address the Palestinian issue. While Hamas is not a particularly popular organization in Jordan or Egypt, the suffering of the Palestinian people remains a central issue for most Jordanians and Egyptians.
Saudi Arabia is another significant actor that has played a role in seeking to lead a collective Arab and Islamic response by organizing an emergency meeting of the OIC states in Jeddah in October and the joint Arab League-OIC summit in Riyadh in November. Saudi Arabia was instrumental in proposing the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002, which remains on the agenda for a viable two-state reality.
Nigeria is the only African country in the interesting mix of states in the group. Although Nigeria has adopted a neutral diplomatic stance toward the war in Gaza, it has a significant Muslim population whose bond with the Palestinian cause resonates deeply. It is also concerned that Israel’s Gaza war has potential to exacerbate existing tensions in Nigeria, a country known for its diverse religious and ethnic composition.
As a longstanding supporter of the Palestinian cause and the world’s most populous Muslim majority nationstate, Indonesia cannot remain on the sidelines of the diplomatic efforts for Gaza. Indonesia sees the war as a way to demonstrate solidarity with the wider Muslim world.
It has become clear that no single country can shoulder the task of mediating and finding an immediate solution, despite strong records of mediation. The recently created group for Gaza is a crucial one in which each member can utilize their leverage and bargaining power.