Israel-Hamas War: Steps Towards Two-State Solution Are Only Way Forward – OpEd

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The Israeli government under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu favoured pursuing a policy of diluting the two state solution proposal arrived at the Oslo Accords in September 1993 by facilitating and endorsing strategies such as Israeli settlements in West Bank leading to gradual weakening of the Palestinian Authority (PA) there and cultivation of a deliberate mindset to look over growing rocket delivery and immense destroyable military capacities of Hamas which became a crude reality with continuous flow of financial assistance from Qatar and support from Iran over the years. Despite airstrikes in regular intervals by Hamas, Netanyahu ignored the need to sufficiently weaken the group by limiting Israeli operations to surgical strikes against the militant group without taking serious steps towards blocking the external support that the group was overtly or covertly receiving.

Two-State Solution proposal has been flouted with bitter results

The temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas towards the end of November, 2023 does not indicate anyways that the Israeli operations against Hamas are heading towards any kind of political resolution. Although both sides are freeing the war captives and detainees, Israel has stated that it will resume the war soon after the ceasefire. The Israeli operations do not have any political end in sight as regards the reconstruction and governance of Gaza in the post-war scenario. The immediate end that Israel Defence Forces (IDF) has identified is to destroy the military and governance capabilities of Hamas and nothing beyond this.

Israel under Netanyahu’s leadership saw Hamas evolving more as a governing authority in Gaza and hence turned a blind eye to the flow of funding and assistance from external powers to the militant group over the years and on the other side, Arab-Israel diplomacy which was geared to enhance legitimacy of Israel’s sovereignty and territorial integrity while at the same time aiming to dilute and dampen the support for the Palestinian historical fight against the Israeli policy was focused on. The gross mistake that the Israeli leadership committed was to ignore the fact that Hamas also sought to breach the two state formula but on its own terms – with an objective of extending the borders of the existing de-facto Palestine by depopulating Jews.

This strategy of Israeli leadership to dilute the two state solution proposal to the Palestinian territorial question boomeranged when Hamas turned out to be an existential threat to Israel on October 7 which became evident from its massive destroying capabilities.

The attack pointed not only to the failure of the Israeli policy of diluting the two state solution to the territorial issue but to the fragility of its deterrence capabilities and intelligence alertness which appeared ill-equipped to sense and thwart such a threat.

Wars Cannot End Ideologies

Israel’s defence and intelligence preparedness has gone through many technocratic revolutions which palpably failed to predict machineries of the bygone era such as bulldozers being used to breach border security. Israel’s long years of focus on building underground technologies to neutralize Hamas’s reliance on tunnels to raise asymmetric war and development of Iron Dome missile defence systems to undercut the destroying rocket delivery capabilities of Hamas blinded Israel to the usage of simple above the ground operations by Hamas.

A state cannot claim monopoly over advanced technologies such as Artificial intelligence (AI) as non-state actors such as terrorist groups are also mastering these technologies and to the dismay of the state actors and in order to beat them, these groups are using a mix of advanced and traditional technologies and tools as was witnessed by Israel. Israel during the ongoing war or in the phase following the war may encounter such challenges posed by an asymmetric threat. Israel cannot convincingly crush an enemy which uses civilians as human shields and uses civilian infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and mosques as bunkers and depots of weapons and rocket launchers. Winning such an asymmetric war convincingly is always impossible.

Strategies of Hamas keep changing. It is worth recalling how Israeli security forces witnessed the border areas of Gaza along the Israeli border being crowded by a series of demonstrations on each Friday from March 2018 till the end of 2019 which is known as the ‘Great March of Return’. While the demonstrators sought to put across certain genuine and legitimate demands such as Palestinian refugees must be allowed to return to lands they were displaced from (areas which are now in Israel). Second, they protested against Israel’s land, air and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip and third they demanded revocation of US recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, Hamas used these protests as a cover to fulfill its own designs against Israel.

Hamas’s past reliance on airstrikes and these demonstrations across the border might have prompted Israel to ignore the people’s movements and designs along the border.

As the war has been evolving, it is evident that Israel is well-disposed to substantially weaken Hamas and its infrastructure but it cannot attain this without a massive blow to the civilians among whom children and women are the worst sufferers. Further, it is also highly unlikely on the part of Israel to destroy the subtle foundations on which the militant group stands – its ideology and support-base among the people. As Israel does not have any long-term strategic planning as to how to reconstruct and govern Gaza following the war, there is every possibility that the power vacuum left by Hamas will sooner or later be filled by certain other militant group akin to Hamas. Israeli occupation cannot be accepted to the Gazans after the war. Palestinian Authority (PA) appears to be too weak to effectively govern West Bank, leave alone the Gaza strip. Similarly, Egypt will not like to be looked upon as a colonizer again by taking this responsibility upon itself. Other Arab countries would not like to provide Israel that much support undercutting Palestinian historical territorial claims. The European countries are grappling with other issues of concern such as the war over Ukraine.

It is time that the US works on and leads other states of the international community towards modalities of finding a two-state solution to the ongoing war. Unstinted support from the US to Israel has led Ukraine to feel alienated in its war against Russia. The American commitment of support to its ally is flagging whereas Russia is poised to change the dynamics of war in its favour by killing more civilians and destroying more civilian infrastructure. The US needs to weigh which war needs what kind of response and it cannot stretch its commitment and military support beyond a limit.

Dr. Manoj Kumar Mishra

Dr. Manoj Kumar Mishra has a PhD in International Relations from the Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad. He is currently working as a Lecturer in Political Science, S.V.M. Autonomous College, Odisha, India. Previously, he worked as the Programme Coordinator, School of International Studies, Ravenshaw University, Odisha, India. He taught Theories of International Relations and India’s Foreign Policy to MA and M.Phil. students.

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