The Israel-Hamas war has become more complex and intense in the last 10 days. Efforts are on by many neutral nations to find an amicable solution to the present crisis.
As the Israeli punishment of Gaza in response to Hamas’s terror attacks shook the security complacency and humanitarian conscience of the world, continue- a legitimate question is being asked exactly what the game plan after this dust is settles down? The international community is pretty much lost for their focus always remains current and driven by the immediate crisis from the UNSC to the bilateral statements and initiatives and there is no dearth of them. Most of these are woolly ideologues trying to score brownie points with either side with no plan or perspective. Knee-jerk reactions tend to dictate their plans. Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) has been dead for a long and credit for this also goes to the fatigued Arab world, intransigent Tel Aviv, and a divided Palestine between Ramallah and Gaza. Any divided house is easy to demolish and precisely that is what has happened.
One can endlessly argue about the historic possession and belonging of the Holy Land to the Jews and Arabs thereafter but that makes only an academic discussion somewhat worthwhile since the ‘Exodus’ of people from their lands and their disenfranchisement has happened all the time. It does not seek to resolve the issues. Israel is a reality that PLO recognised and Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran must recognise it. Palestinian people are going nowhere that is also a stark reality even as Netanyahu has ordered half of Gaza’s population to walk into the Sinai desert or perish. This feat, even as scared and innocent civilians scramble to save their lives, is virtually impossible in given time frames. This time around, given the heinous and most inhuman attack by Hamas, Bibi has vowed not to denigrate, degrade, and decimate but destroy the Hamas leadership and cadre so that they don’t have to face the ISIS-type virus again.
If one were to believe several commentaries and the most recent article in Times of Israel of 8 October, Netanyahu seems to have enabled and nurtured Hamas to counter the Palestinian Authority (PA &PLO & Al Fatah) so that they don’t become a potent united force. This is a contradiction in terms but fits well with the narratives. Utter Intelligence failures and underestimation of the ever-increasing Hamas capabilities have cost Tel Aviv dearly in terms of prestige and people. Hundreds of Kidnapped women, men, and children have provided undue leverage to Hamas that has so far stunted the all-out attacks and ground invasion of Gaza.
Russia which has regained its influence in the Middle East has proposed a UN draft resolution seeking a ceasefire and humanitarian corridors for relief supplies to Gaza that did not condemn Hamas per se, hence the G3 comprising of US, UK, and France won’t go with it. China has made an appeal for the cessation of hostilities and resumption of dialogue for the two-state solution as an Israeli embassy person in Beijing was stabbed. China has been offering its good offices for starting the MEPP. Apparently, their special envoy for the Middle East will be in the region. Arab leaders and Islamic countries have been constrained by their streets as the support and anger for the hapless civilians and their Islamic plight is evident in protests and demonstrations accusing Tel Aviv and its ultra-right-wing government of endless provocations. Iran supported Hamas by offering to kiss the hands who did it while vainly distancing themselves from the planning and execution of the heinous acts.
Hezbollah and several other Jihadi groups are ready to support Hamas. If they joined then the conflict will be expanded in space and intensity. However, it appears that the Saudi King and Iranian leader, who are new and old frenemies, have discussed this in order to keep the lid on the escalation for the time being as it would have a disastrous impact on the region. Iranian foreign minister also travelled to meet Hezbollah leader Nasrallah. Meanwhile, the much-touted and desired Saudi rapprochement with Israel and several projects like IMEC (India, Middle East, Europe Economic Corridor) have been put on hold. We might see low-key interactions in the aftermath as the eventual fate of Netanyahu will become a point of political and accountability debate in Israel itself. By the way, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is reportedly enjoying Qatari hospitality as Gaza suffers.
US France and other Western countries, which also lost their civilians in the Hamas attacks of 7 October some of whom are in their custody, had extended unequivocal support to Benjamin Netanyahu even by deploying their naval assets and supplies of arms and equipment. This was also partly driven by Biden’s domestic considerations and powerful Jewish lobby constraints. As such Israel’s security is a primary foreign policy objective in the region There is no doubt that such heinous acts by terror groups must be condemned and the global fight against terrorism is a must for which India has always been advocating but to no avail. Terrorism thrives because of preferences by countries justifying their existence and methodologies including cross-border terrorism simply for the sake of geopolitics.
Be that as it may, the powers, that are or have been, have assiduously defeated the solution to this festering issue and succumbed to myopic considerations without indulging their Palestinian or Israeli constituents to sort the issues at least in the past three decades after the Oslo Accords. Old QUARTET, even though still the most influential, is virtually dead. Hence it is imperative that countries like India with tremendous credibility with both sides, which have condemned the Hamas terror attacks in no uncertain terms and have also reiterated the need for reverting to dialogue, diplomacy, and a two-state solution must think of taking a credible initiative to bring two sides to the table even as distance between the two sides has increased manifold with shrinking territories. Tel Aviv may have to think that their regional ambitions can be fulfilled by reducing tensions with Palestinians. Palestinians like the PLO will have to accept the existence of an Israeli state side by side. There is no other option.
No doubt very cumbersome and complex negotiations will be needed with a lot of clout and honesty but it’s worth a try for regional security and stability. Elsewhere, I had argued for a new QUARTET with India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Brazil (SEBI) to take it forward as all of them have their individual value attached to both sides as stakeholders and can play a constructive role. Hope someone will bell the cat, when the time comes and not wait for another conflagration to erupt.
Article Credit: Firstpost
Title image courtesy: NDTV
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies