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Palestine: Something Must Be Done, But What and By Whom?

14/07/2014 14:52 BST | Updated 12/09/2014 10:59 BST

As Israeli military operations reignited in Gaza on July 8, the familiar indignant echo of "something must be done" rang out around the liberal and non-interventionist quarters of the Western world in a show of solidarity with the trampled Palestinian people that, while admirable, all too often fails to delineate exactly to whom the appeals for reason should be addressed.

We'll start with our own government just in case anybody, particularly of purple pound-sign persuasion, still clings to the black-and-white, Elgar-scored fantasy of Britain as an international diplomacy high-roller.

In the immediate term William Hague has called for a ceasefire while reiterating Israel's right to defend itself in a statement so closely aligned with President Obama's side of a reported phone conversation with Israeli PM Netanyahu it may as well just have read: "what he said".

The UK's other recourse would be to boycott Israeli businesses with branches in the occupied territories like the now infamous Sodastream although it is worth noting that this victory came as a result of two years of protest, affected one of 27 companies operating out of the occupied territories and trading in the UK, and was at odds with the government's anti-boycott position, cemented by David Cameron at a Middle East press conference in March :

I'm anti-boycott. I couldn't have been clearer about that today. And that's all I've got to say about the matter.

So what about the America? Strategically the United States and Israel enjoy a near symbiotic relationship, with a Republican Senator once famously describing Israel as: "America's aircraft carrier in the Middle East".

But lately things have not been quite so cosy, as Secretary of State John Kerry seemingly routinely provokes outrage among Israeli officials with such critiques of their policy as the "apartheid" barb. However, what started out as arguably the most pro-Palestinian White House in recent memory has been bent back into its traditional role as "Israel's lawyer" by a hostile Republican congress and an increasingly unstable diplomatic landscape in the Middle East.

This uncertain new horizon has seen the US and Israel reinforce both economic and diplomatic ties, both of which are held in place by the huge weight of historical responsibility that successive US governments have placed on their own shoulders where Israel is concerned.

Another distracting sideshow for the US State Department is the relatively positive progress made in US-Iran relations, the very existence of which causes disgruntled rumbles in Jerusalem's diplomatic wheelhouse and provides yet further disincentive to rock the port side of the Israeli boat.

The upshot of this impossibly delicate situation is that the American response to Israel's latest belligerence has stopped short of calling for a ceasefire, instead offering to "mediate" a temporary truce.

From a Palestinian point of view this is a less than welcome proposition - imagine a football match being refereed by one team's largest minority shareholder - so assuming a negotiated ceasefire is the best workable option, what other options are there in the international community?

The UN Security Council has also, very creatively, called for a ceasefire , though historically the impact of this, the primary forum for international relations, is minimal to say the least - on a par with the moments in The Simpsons when Helen Lovejoy is shouting "won't somebody please think of the children?!"

The security council's main diplomatic tool is the Resolution - non binding recommendations that can instigate diplomatic or military action, but do very little to prevent it. The latest UN resolution in late June set out a framework for peace and non-proliferation in Mali - where 30 people were reported to have been killed in clashes between UN forces an militant Islamists just today . Within hours of this flagrant disavowal of UN authority, the tattered shreds of their discarded resolutions were also to be found in North Korea, where missile testing dealt another, all too regular blow to the UN peace mission.

Where Israel is concerned, things become even more difficult - each of the security council's five permanent members has the right to veto resolutions, a right exercised with trigger-happy abandon by the USA whenever a resolution is perceived to aid Palestine. There hasn't been a UN resolution on Israel since Resolution 1860 in 2009 which called for the immediate cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. It was rejected by both sides.

Therein lies the rub. While overstretched superpowers continue to exert their creaking pragmatism by snuffing out any radical (ie. strongly worded) UN resolutions, such interminable, Sisyphean diplomatic questions as that of Israel-Palestine will continue to spiral into oblivion.

Mark LeVine, writing for Al Jazeera , made the case for removing the veto:

With the civil war and attending humanitarian diaster in Syria, the Central African Republic spiraling into a conflict across the region, the showdown over Crimea threatening to resurrect the Cold War, there is a growing sense that the only way to get rising powers to play a more proactive role in managing regional conflicts is through their greater empowerment within the international system.

While doing so would not resolve the security council's lack of legal clout, it would remove one roadblock between the diplomatic community and the kind of constructive debate that could lead to a peaceful compromise.

Get rid of the veto: then the discussion can begin.