Encouraging Solidarity: Advocating for Gaza and Iran to Deter Netanyahu’s War Escalation

In the interest of the Palestinian people, and in the interest of all developing countries, whose economies are stunted by higher oil prices caused by the Gaza war, Iran should repress the urge to retaliate.

The West is urging Tehran to hold its hand and not strike back against Israel for its fatal attack, albeit unacknowledged, on an Iranian embassy building in Damascus, Syria, on April 2. Not just Iran’s traditional enemies but also its traditional friends should also ask Tehran not to open another front in the ongoing deadly conflict in the Middle East. Such an attack would precisely deliver the response Israel’s beleaguered prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to provoke.

In the interest of the people of Gaza, and in the interest of not allowing Netanyahu to wriggle out of the tight spot in which he finds himself, Iran should postpone any retaliatory strike in response to the attack on its embassy building in Syria.

Netanyahu facing pressure

Benjamin Netanyahu is under immense pressure from his rightwing coalition allies, the relatives of the hostages who remain in Hamas captivity after 21 weeks of indiscriminate killing in Gaza, and from his global allies. His right-wing coalition partners want him not just to continue the war in Gaza but to extend it to the West Bank and fill the place with Jewish settlers. All the rest want Netanyahu to stop the killing and start talking.

The moment the war is over, it might well be over for Netanyahu as well. He faces corruption charges, a popular revolt, on account of his legislation to undermine judicial review of laws passed by the Knesset, and the snapping of brittle ties by his ultra-religious allies who are dead against a ceasefire. Netanyahu’s interest lies in extending the conflict and postponing the day of reckoning.

Israel’s closest allies, the US and Britain, as well as major European powers Germany and France, have been mounting pressure on the Netanyahu government to stop the ongoing slaughter in Gaza. The pressure has grown after Israeli forces bombed an aid convoy distributing meals to Palestinians, run by World Central Kitchen, an American non-governmental organization, and killed seven volunteers working with the charity.

US may need to rethink

The Biden administration has hinted that if Netanyahu goes ahead with its proposal to attack the southern town of Rafah, where Israel had earlier advised the residents of northern Gaza to flee while it attacked the northern regions, Washington would have to rethink its unconditional support of Israel.

American intelligence forces claim to have detected an imminent strike by Iran, in retaliation for the attack on its embassy premises in Damascus, which killed a senior officer of the elite Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. This would, in effect, be deliverance for Netanyahu. America and Europe would once again close ranks and support Israel, in the face of an Iranian attack. Attention would shift to the Islamist regime, its repression of women and support for assorted extremist forces around the world.

Instead of the world expressing horror at Israeli excess in Gaza and isolating the Netanyahu regime, the world would come together in solidarity with Israel against the Islamist menace represented by the regime of Mullahs in Tehran.

Many liberals rooting for an end to their national governments’ support for and supply of arms to Israel would remember the Fatwa to kill Salman Rushdie and the attack he has sustained, and retreat from the complexity of the conflict in the Middle East. They would abandon the Palestinians, superimposing the natural revulsion of normal people towards Islamist radicalism over the suffering of Palestinians as a people displaced from their homeland, maintained in captivity like zoo animals, fed with aid, called to work the land in Israel as and when required, and bombed from the air or strafed with machine-gun fire on land at will.

The ideal solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict would be a single, secular state in which Palestinians and Israelis live together in democratic coexistence and mutual respect. Two separate states, one for Israel and the other for Palestine, would be a more pragmatic, intermediate solution.

This has been the accepted goal ever since the Oslo Accords and the Oslo peace process, notwithstanding the assassination of the Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who put his signature in 1993 to recognise the Two State solution as the goal, with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation as Israel’s partner in the process.

Playing Hamas against PLO

One of Netanyahu’s achievements as Israel’s leader has been to sweep the two-state solution off the agenda altogether, first by propping up an Islamist rival to the secular PLO, the Hamas, and by repeated use of force to suppress Palestinian rebellion, and thereby creating the impression that the Palestine problem could be contained by military coercion on a permanent basis, without any need for a political solution.

The October 7 attack has driven home the point that lasting peace is not possible without creating a state of Palestine. That goal has widespread international backing now. A broader war in the Middle East, drawing in Iran and other countries, would derail any progress towards a two-state solution.

In the interest of the Palestinian people, and in the interest of all developing countries, whose economies are stunted by higher oil prices caused by the Gaza war, Iran should repress the urge to retaliate. Now is not the time to open another front in the Middle East conflict.

TK Arun is a Senior Journalist and Columnist based in Delhi.

This article was first published in The Federal as ‘Friends of Gaza and Iran should urge Tehran not to bail out Netanyahu by launching another war‘ on April 12, 2024.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organization.

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Acknowledgement: This article was posted by Mansi Garg, a Researcher at IMPRI