Questions on the Israeli war on Gaza

Mohamed Ibrahim Eldawiry
Wednesday 20 Mar 2024

Numerous questions have emerged regarding the course and possible outcomes of the Israeli war on Gaza, with their answers likely deciding the future of the region.

 

The Al-Aqsa Flood and Iron Swords Operations have raised numerous issues that have muddied the playing field on both the regional and international levels. They have posed a significant set of questions for which comprehensive answers are currently elusive. Discussing the post-war future carries with it a plethora of possibilities far beyond the realm of narrowly predictable scenarios.

It is imperative to pinpoint the key questions for which answers must be sought. When and how might this war conclude? Is there any foreseeable end to the military operations that have now continued for nearly half a year? Can Israel achieve its stated objectives, specifically the eradication of Hamas’ military infrastructure? Will an invasion of Rafah occur without a plan to evacuate its population and displaced individuals numbering over a million?

Will the outcomes of this war prompt Israel to reconsider its hardline stance towards the Peace Process, leading to serious negotiations towards implementing the two-state solution, even in stages? Will Hamas emerge from the war militarily, politically, and popularly intact, as it was before the events of last October? Will it integrate into the Palestinian National Framework and pursue genuine reconciliation, becoming a legitimate component with rights and obligations?

Can the Palestinian Authority (PA) assimilate the lessons learned from this war, which have shown that its political impact is limited for reasons not entirely within its control and begin an assessment of how it can play a primary role in the upcoming phase, demonstrating to all its indispensable role in the Peace Process upon its resumption?

Can the Arab states articulate a realistic political vision for resolving the Palestinian issue, one that moves the international community and exerts pressure on Israeli society? Can the current US administration initiate a new phase leading to the gradual implementation of the two-state solution? Or will it wait for the results of the US presidential elections and the possibility of former president Donald Trump’s return to power, subsequently reviving the unjust “Deal of the Century” that is entirely devoid of any respect for Palestinian rights?

Can the international community address its inadequacy in the face of the unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe endured by 2.3 million Palestinians, with its role extending beyond humanitarian aid delivery to the Gaza Strip? Can the Palestinian issue transcend being merely a ceremonial guest at various forums and return to the realm of actual solutions?

Will the day following the end of the war serve the interests of the Palestinian people, or will it be an opportunity to advance the interests of numerous parties excluding the Palestinian side? Who are the principal actors authorised to shape Gaza’s future?

Undoubtedly, the answers to these questions, whose difficulty I acknowledge, will chart the course for the next phase not only regarding the Palestinian issue but also concerning the continuity of the US and Israeli approach aimed at integrating Israel into the regional system in the political, economic, and security spheres, particularly regarding attempts to normalise relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi stance was decisive when it linked normalisation to the resolution of the Palestinian issue.

Despite all the complexities associated with the current situation in the region, as well as regarding the war on Gaza and its catastrophic character and current and future repercussions, we must not lose hope in transforming this ordeal into an opportunity.

But this will mean influential parties arming themselves with the necessary political will to move towards addressing the root causes that have contributed to the escalation of the situation, working diligently to resolve them as thoroughly as possible to prevent the recurrence of this tragedy.

We must caution against dealing with these events superficially, as doing so will only amount to a temporary attempt to pacify the twisted conditions that have persisted for decades in the region, characterised by the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. If the remedies are confined to superficial aspects, we must prepare for more violence, with the West Bank being the next likely step and the most severe one. No one will be able to contain it, and it will profoundly impact not only Israeli security but regional security as a whole.

The conclusion is crystal clear: there is a consensus that the Palestinian issue constitutes the foundation for stability in the region, and without its resolution the cycle of violence will persist in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem, Israel, and other fronts that have emerged following the events in Gaza. The conflict will widen, embarking on an unpredictable path, a formula that requires no effort to decipher.

The message is that Israeli security will never be achieved solely through military means, regardless of its sophistication or the duration of US support or bias. The only avenue for integrating Israel into the region is through the gateway of a Palestinian state and negotiations that ensure security for all.

There are two main demands that must be made of any Israeli government: firstly, to present a realistic, and not extremist, vision for the future of the Peace Process; and secondly, to heed the lessons learned from the war on Gaza, but within a broader context and not one limited to eliminating Hamas.

*The writer is deputy director of the Egyptian Centre for Strategic Studies.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 21 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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