Unending Conflict:

Sub Title : From historical grievances to modern warfare:

Issues Details : Vol 18 Issue 2 May – Jun 2024

Author : Amb Anil Trigunayat

Page No. : 35

Category : Geostrategy

: June 5, 2024

Since the UN’s 1948 resolution, conflicts and failed accords have defined Israel-Palestine relations, culminating in today’s escalated violence. Historical grievances persist as both sides grapple with territorial disputes, international interventions, and elusive peace.

In 1948, the UNSC voted to create states of Palestine and Israel living side by side, hopefully in peace. But it was not accepted by the Palestinians and Arabs and several wars including that of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 ensued leading to eventually Israel occupying even more territories. Israeli Settlements also continued to expand despite international reservations and condemnations. Consequently, today Israel possesses more than 78% of the total territory as compared to nearly 55% allocated in 1948. Although it was expected that several agreements including Camp David and Oslo Accords as well as the normalization of ties between Egypt and Israel (1979) and Israel and Joran (1994) and later Abraham Accords (2021) should have attempted to give the Palestinians their legitimate rights but that has not happened and state of war continues. Gaza, a small strip, was ruled by a militant group Hamas which had vowed to annihilate Israel and wanted only Palestine from the river to the sea.

Hamas and Israel have had several wars since 2008. The most recent one being the unprecedented terror attack (October 7, 2023) on Israeli Kibbutz and border towns, killing over 1200 Israelis and taking 250 hostages. Israel retaliated with all its might and fire power with a declared objective of destroying Hamas once for all. Ironically, Hamas, so far, was sustained by Israel including PM Netanyahu to undermine the Al Fatah and Palestine Authority (PA) in Ramallah, which was as such accorded only limited self-rule in the West Bank post Oslo Accords. Hamas, which had the backing of Iran, Turkey and Qatar apart from facilitation by Israeli leadership, has continued to grow in sophistication and strength as well as its resolve to snatch freedom for Palestine by force and all means from the Jewish State.

In previous conflicts and wars Israel was able to prevail in a maximum of three to four weeks but this time it has already been nearly eight months and there is no credible information that Hamas has been heavily decimated as it continues to regroup and fight while still holding 128 Israeli hostages, which has been the key. This may undermine the invincibility syndrome of the IDF. More than 35000 Gazans have been killed including a large number of children and women and over 78000 injured as the 1.4 million Palestinians have been cornered into southern Gaza in Rafah bordering with Egypt, which is likely to be the last major invasion by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). This impending full-scale invasion has been a ‘Red Line’ for the Biden Administration which has been working hard with Egypt and Qatar to secure a ceasefire. For the first time they threatened and paused the supply of arms and ammunition to their ‘iron clad friend’ which are very essential for the IDF. An anguished Netanyahu said that Israel was not a vassal state of US and that if needed, they will fight with fingernails. But his resolve to take out Hamas remains steady and his ultra-right-wing political bedfellows want him to nuke Gaza and occupy it. Besides defiance of international humanitarian law and US requests and attacks on humanitarian organizations and UN personnel by IDF have irked Washington DC even more.

Netanyahu has discarded the possibility of Gaza and Palestine being run either by ‘Hamastan or Fatahstan’; In sum no two-state solution. At best he might agree to a Gaza where security, police and defence, like other parts in West Bank will be under the complete control of Israel i.e. a Zone D. The West Bank is governed in Zones A, B and C depending on how much control Israel exercises over the designated territory. On this issue his colleagues in the War Cabinet like Benny Gantz as well as his own Defence Minister Yoav Gallant have warned Netanyahu against civil or military control of Gaza by the IDF and have asked for a clear plan on the “Day After’ scenario. There is a threat of them weaning away from Netanyahu who is internationally as well as domestically under lot of pressure for return of the hostages and to ensure ceasefire even though last effort to bring about some interim peace and truce failed, despite Hamas being forced to accept it, since it did not meet Israeli concerns.

These extreme positions both by Hamas and Israel have led to the special prosecutor of International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim Khan to secure an arrest warrant against Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Gallant as well as against the  three Hamas leaders Ismael Haniyeh, Mohammed Deif and Yahya Sinwar – which has enraged the US, some western countries and the Israeli leadership  as it tends to equate the internationally proscribed terror group with a democratically elected government leaders.  They even threatened to sanction the ICC and the special prosecutor making it uglier and hypocritical. Arguably, it may not have much meaning or import but its symbolism is indisputable. Likewise, South Africa has led a charge of ‘Genocide’ against Netanyahu at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Egypt which is feeling the heat of Israeli intransigence due to Rafah operations has even warned that if the invasion goes through it will impact their Peace Treaty and they have begun to mobilize their forces, just in case. They have also joined in support of South Africa at the ICJ.

The Arab street has been recharged and further normalization of Israel ties and rapprochement with other Arab countries like Saudi Arabia have been put on back burner which as such has been predicated on a Two state solution in accordance with the Arab Peace Plan 2002. Arab League, OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation -group of 57 Islamic countries) and other regional organizations and countries across the Global South are turning against Israel and its apartheid policies. Demands for a Two state solution and recognition of Palestine as a state have become louder. But the Palestinian fatigue among the Arab ruling elites had become quite evident and if Saudi Arabia, leader of the Islamic world, had also normalized ties with Israel, it would have been the virtual end of the Palestinian cause. Hence Hamas to some extent achieved its key objective by refocusing the attention of the Arab world on the Palestinian issue.

Most observers felt that perhaps the only positive outcome of this war could be a more sincere effort for the Two State Solution. Despite their domestic election season, USA appeared to push for it but least did it realize the limitations of its influence over the Israeli ultra-right wingers who do not want to yield an inch and consider the ‘Two State’ solution or recognition of Palestinian State as a recognition and reward for terrorists. Despite that the growing frustration of the international community with the plight of civilians in Gaza brought in a UNSC Resolution to recognize Palestine as a full member State from the current ‘Observer’ status. As expected the USA vetoed it while 13 members supported it and the UK abstained. Despite the statement by their Foreign Minister David Cameron that they could recognize Palestine. However, once again the UNGA passed yet another resolution in support of the State of Palestine as a full member, urging the UNSC to reconsider its decision. Not much hope can be pinned on it as Washington will most likely veto it again and not abstain. But several countries like Spain, Ireland and Norway have announced that on May 28 they would recognize the State of Palestine with full rights and privileges. Some others like Malta and Slovenia are likely to follow suit. Colombia has already announced opening of a full embassy in Ramallah. Netanyahu is outraged with this increasing isolation and recalled his ambassadors from the three countries.

Despite some plans like the Road Map that the EU presented and the US efforts with Qatar and Egypt for some temporary ceasefire and release of hostages, it is unlikely that War could be stopped any time soon. Even PM Modi recently announced that he had sent his Special envoy to Israel asking them to stop the war during the Ramazan. Since with the helicopter crash, in which Iranian President Raisi and Foreign Minister Abdollahian were killed, conspiracy theorists are finding some foreign hand, which could complicate the matter as already the 3 Hs (Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah) vowing revenge on the Zionist state have activated their aggression in support of Iran. With great difficulty, the world had been able to avert the expansion of the West Asian crisis when Tehran and Tel Aviv nearly came to war. Let good sense prevail on both sides so that the suffering of ordinary people on both sides can be alleviated.