Israel-Hamas Tensions: Charting the Path Forward

Anil Trigunayat

World woke to the worst horror stories and visuals of an unprecedented and well-coordinated attack by the internationally designated terrorist group Hamas based out of Gaza on Israeli civilians and settlers breaching the hitherto impregnable borders and supposedly impregnable fences of the Israeli defence Forces. The fact that it happened without any initial resistance, leading to deaths and injuries of thousands of Jews and many foreigners, raised some doubts among the soundness of the security establishment much to the glee of the Israel baiters.

In the previous wars between Hamas and Israel, it seems that despite being decimated each time and incurring huge losses and destruction of their capacity and scores of dead on the score card should make the world think as to how are they able to marshal their resources and each time inflict a greater threat and damages. Israeli response has also been equally or more vehement and punishing as the cycle of violence continues.

No one in their sane mind will condone and not condemn these horrific crimes against the hapless civilians. Most of the countries and people have done so assuring sympathy and support to bereaved Israeli people even if not necessarily in concert with Benjamin Netanyahu and his ultra -right wing government whose excesses in past few months have irked many Jews all over and the foreign leaders including the biggest supporter the United States of America.

No doubt Israel, like any other country in the world has a right to defend itself from any attacks and terror. Netanyahu has vowed to decimate and teach a lesson to Hamas for good this time. In last six days death toll of civilians on both sides has continued to rise. Aerial bombing is continuing apace and the ground offensive is in the offing as the 300,000 reservists have been pressed into service. No one including the Hamas would have doubted the capacity and extent of retaliation of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Israeli leadership.

International Reactions and Diplomatic Efforts for the Israel-Hamas conflict

While knowing too well that in war major casualties are ordinary civilians, women and children, many would argue that Israel hopefully should keep in mind and minimize the civilian casualties of the Palestinians while taking out the Hamas and other Jihadi outfits so that international law and Geneva conventions are not violated.

Antonio Guterres, UNSG has appealed, reiterating his “utter condemnation” of the “abhorrent” attacks by Hamas on Israel and cautioned the country, to ensure that its military operations are in accordance with international humanitarian laws ‘vital to look to the long-term horizon and avoid irreversible action that would embolden extremists and doom any prospects for lasting peace” referring to the long festering root cause being the Palestine issue. Ordinary Palestinians will suffer even more because of the criminal acts of the Hamas as several western countries are planning to cut down on aid and assistance to them.

Hamas was able to undermine the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah by championing the cause and fighting for liberation of Palestine, excesses by the IDF and above all the desecration and violations of the third holiest mosque ‘Al Aqsa’ in Jerusalem. A potent mix of issues and genuine grievances to rally around the public opinion which to a great extent and ironically facilitated by ultra-right elements in Netanyahu’s government. Hamas has exactly brought the Palestinian cause becoming a ‘Veto’ yet again which Netanyahu had with alacrity and disdain discounted at his recent UNGA address, when he was relishing the prospect of normalization of ties with Saudi Arabia. 

The ongoing operations and resultant humanitarian crisis will put temporary brakes on the Saudi intent since most Arab countries won’t be able to overcome and ignore the Arab street sentiment. Even though one could observe the “Palestine fatigue’ broadly in the Arab world leading to Iran and Turkey becoming new champions of the Palestinian cause, the current crisis will have an impact on rapprochement syndrome in the Middle East and steer public reorientation of the Arab leaders for the Palestinian cause.

Saudi Arabia and Iran and others have called for Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and Arab League meetings. This is despite the fact that most regional countries dislike Hamas and its methods of engineering violence and are forced to take umbrage under the rubric of larger Palestinian cause. Even though Turkey and Qatar, which are in truck with Hamas, have tried to distance from Hamas acts of terror and might help in release and exchange of prisoners, have held Israel responsible for these incidents and escalation.

Iranian leader Khamenei though claimed its innocence in planning and execution of Hamas attacks, have offered to kiss the hands that did it. Their other friends Hezbollah have already started the fireworks from Lebanon against Israeli posts. USA stopped short of accusing direct Iranian hand but had deployed its forces and naval carriers in defence of Israel should there be greater escalation from Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian regime or groups. The region is on a boil.

Challenges and the Need for a New Approach

But what next is the big question? Whether the world will continue to allow this vicious cycle of extremism, revenge, retribution and retaliation as the Jewish state celebrates its 75 years as an independent state. Many would be searching for the answers whether Israel has been secure with a unifocal security mindset of the governments or a change in Israeli policies is long overdue!

It is time to open the eyes of the security and political dispensation and make an assessment that denying the legitimate rights of Palestinians is the root cause of the ensuing and unremitting violence. Once the dust on the current imbroglio settlezzs down the world must seize the moment to work for some solution. Much water has flown down the Jordan River that is shrinking and drying up.

Who will do it? We have to think out of the box. Given the immense trust deficit and prevailing mistrust and geo political contestations among various super powers the old QUARTET has lost its credibility, will power and relevance. In my view India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Brazil could form a new grouping to try and bring the two sides to the table. Three of them are the G20 members and two in successive Presidency.

They have adequate leverage and stakes with relevant parties on both sides of the aisle. India under her Presidency has shown tremendous diplomatic skills to bring about a consensus among the vertically opposites while following a path of ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam’. New Delhi’s stand and support for the Palestinian cause is abundantly clear and often reiterated while India dehyphenated its policy with regard to Israel and Palestine.

At the same time India follows a ‘Zero tolerance’ policy on terrorism with which it has suffered for over four decades. Hence PM Modi rightly denounced the October 7 terror attacks on Israel killing and kidnappings of innocent civilians and expressed solidarity with the people of Israel. PM Modi and India are trusted by both Israel and Palestine. India‘s middle path with dialogue, diplomacy and peace is the way forward. 

Saudi Arabia had advanced an Arab Peace Plan and advocates a two-state solution while ready to establish ties with the Jewish state and is a part of the proposed IMEC corridor with India and Israel. It is trusted by the Palestinians a great deal -the King being the custodian of two holy mosques. Tehran, in rapprochement with Riyadh which has close relations with Hamas and has denied its direct hand, would overtly not undermine the initiative to resolve the Palestinian problem.

Like the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) the Hamas will have to be made to recognise Israel and be an acceptable political entity or be redundant. Brazil also has an equanimous position and will be the next Chair of G20. USA and Russia will be happy to support someone else belling the cat given their own compulsions. Hence, the burden and pivot for resolving the Global South problems falls back on the Global South, even if these legacy issues are the gift of crafty colonialists. 

It is to be hoped that someone bites the bullet. Fear of failure should not deter us.

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

The article was first published in the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) as Israel-Hamas War: What Next?

Read more by the author: China’s Role in the Iran-Saudi Arabia Relations

Posted by Reet Lath, Research Intern at IMPRI.