Israel must change direction

Mona Makram Ebeid
Tuesday 14 Nov 2023

Only a change in the direction Israel has been going in recent years can lead to lasting peace and security in the region, writes Mona Makram Ebeid

 

The events of 7 October are the most traumatic ever to have taken place in the history of Israel.

The first feature of the Hamas attacks was their strategic surprise, although Israel has always prided itself on having the most sophisticated intelligence services in the world. Even so, it was faced with an operation that had been prepared for a year and that it had been told about by the Egyptians, who said that something could happen. But the Israeli army, busy manning illegal check points, took hours before it appeared on the scene in southern Israel.

A month into Israel’s war on Gaza, policymakers are considering longer-term questions about how the Strip should be governed when the war is over. This has pushed policymakers to begin looking at the feasibility of various arrangements for the day after.

Of course, we should not forget that this is not a conventional war that will give way to imposed post-war arrangements. There is the threat of displacing Gazans within Gaza through the ongoing military operations that might also force a significant number of people to leave Gaza for Sinai despite Egypt’s closure of the Rafah Crossing. However, that possibility is receding fast due to the adamant resistance of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

There will be efforts made to devise constructive arrangements if the fighting diminishes, and one of them will be a new governance system for Gaza. Meanwhile, when Jewish fanatics in the apartheid state of Israel say they want to wipe Gaza off the face of the earth, we should believe them.

It is noteworthy that the sympathy generated towards Israel in the immediate aftermath of 7 October, when the Palestinian group Hamas launched its attack on Israel, is now diminishing, and signs of growing friction between Israel and the US are appearing.

The Western support is weakening because of the dreadful death toll in Gaza and fears that Israel’s brutal campaign could spark a much broader and even more catastrophic war in the region. Israel is now also losing the support of public opinion in Europe, and in a week or two the possibility of its losing the support of European governments as well could happen.

The volte-face of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is said to have pressed on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the need for humanitarian pauses in the Israeli campaign and that Israel should prioritise the protection of civilians and minimise civilian casualties, is quite telling. One idea doing the rounds at the moment is for Gaza to be handed over to a multinational Arab force that would stay there for a period and help the Palestinian Authority (PA) to take over properly.

The question is whether Israel is capable of changing the direction it has been on in recent years.

Israel continues to reject calls for a ceasefire from Egypt and other countries, and tensions are beginning to emerge between Egypt and Israel for the first time in a decade. The return to the negotiating table will be more likely if the war in Gaza leads to a new and more flexible Israeli Government, as has been suggested by leading Israeli official Itamar Rabinovitch.

The growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza has led to increasing calls to stop the hostilities by world leaders, international organisations, and citizens across the globe. As for Egypt, a main player, it is no secret that since 2016 Egypt has maintained good relations with Israel, but people are becoming more and more angry at what Israel is doing in Gaza, putting increasing pressure on the government.  

President Al-Sisi has been adamant in refusing the right of the Gazans to cross into Sinai as this will mean the end of Palestine and the two-state solution.

According to several analysts, many Israelis think that the Israeli government must understand that continuing the current approach of being hell bent on eradicating Hamas at all costs is a road to Armageddon in the Middle East.

The Egyptian public is outraged by the ongoing Israeli bombardment of Gaza. President Al-Sisi is insisting that the UN, the EU, and others help provide humanitarian assistance for people in Gaza. Displacing the Palestinians into Sinai would create serious national security issues for the government of Egypt. Meanwhile, there is a rising tide of public and private pressure from European and Latin American capitals and even the US pressuring Israel to allow humanitarian pauses in its bombardment of Gaza.

EU leaders have rejected pleas from the brutal Netanyahu government to lobby Egypt to open its border with Gaza and accept Palestinian refugees. This shift comes due to the sheer number of unacceptable deaths among civilians in Gaza.

 

PEACE CONFERENCE: I have just returned from an important conference in Abu Dhabi organised by the World Peace Conference and would like to share my intervention there that focused on the day after the war on Gaza ends.

Former Fatah strongman in the Gaza Strip Mohamed Dahlan says that once Israel’s war on Hamas ends the Gaza Strip should be governed by a technocratic government for two years as it is an illusion that any single individual or group can take over Gaza.

At the end of that period, which he believes would unify the splintered Palestinian factions, there should be elections based on a Palestinian state without defined borders. This “borderless” state could be backed by Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Qatar,

Saudi Arabia and the UAE. After that, there should be international recognition and a final agreement with Israel.

Although the attacks by Hamas on 7 October drew condemnation from many countries, Dahlan nevertheless sees the present war as an opportunity that could bring a Palestinian state into existence despite the talks between Israel and the Palestinians having been dead for years. Dahlan’s vision is thus one of surprising hope amid the horrors of the fighting.

He has connections on all sides of the conflict with Israel and with the population of Gaza, and he also speaks warmly of his relations with some senior Israeli figures. Dahlan, who has recently returned from Egypt and has close ties with President Al-Sisi, has also declared that he will not personally run in the Palestinian elections.

There is currently a great feeling of revenge on the part of the Netanyahu government, but the man who has ruled Israel for the last 15 years is the only one responsible for the present situation. After the war has ended, millions of Israelis will take to the streets with one demand – that Netanyahu resigns – because Israel cannot imprison two million people in Gaza without paying a cruel price.

Dahlan has a completely different approach to Israeli security, seeing this as coming about as a result of a political solution for Palestine coupled with comprehensive and enforceable security arrangements for Israel and justice for the Palestinians. He believes that the one responsible for the disaster that has befallen Israel is Netanyahu, who was leading the country into a policy of annexation and dispossession with complete disregard for the existence and rights of the Palestinian people.

I also followed the monumental protests of the Israeli people against the judicial reforms in Israel promoted by Netanyahu, which threatened Israeli democracy. His controversial judicial overhaul has led to months of protest over his attempts to neuter the Israeli High Court’s powers of judicial review, creating major protests against the current government.     

 

The writer is former senator and member of parliament, professor of political science, advisor to the UN high representative of the Alliance of Civilisations.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 16 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Short link: