The latest conflict between Israel and Palestine is a stark reminder that peace remains very much elusive in the region, and so does the two-state solution. The recent escalation in violence took place against the backdrop of forced evictions of Palestinian families from the occupied East Jerusalem and Israeli raids in Al-Aqsa Mosque compounds. The subsequent intercommunal violence in mixed Jewish-Arab neighbourhoods across Israel has added a new dimension to the conflict, potentially making it more intractable and deadly. Civilians, nonetheless, remain the primary victims of the atrocities. Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment of civilian targets — including establishments housing the news media — and Hamas’ rockets aimed at Israeli cities have broken every norm of warfare, amounting to war crimes.
No other crisis in human history has received so much attention; no other conflict has divided humanity as much. And yet, the international community continues to shirk its responsibility to act. Over the last decade, global and regional powers, instead of initiating a peace process, have supported extremists on both sides, perpetuating the misery that is disproportionately felt by Palestinians. Donald Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ was nothing but a sham; a thinly veiled attempt to pile more misery on Palestinians, as if they haven’t already suffered enough, by forcing upon them a deal they had no right to negotiate. Despite adopting a radically different stance from that of the Trump administration on all other foreign policy issues, the Biden administration has embarked on the same old beaten track traversed by previous administrations: offering the iniquitous American support for Israel to torment the Palestinians while projecting a façade of neutrality.
The bitter truth is that the political leaderships on both sides are grossly incompetent to negotiate any peace deal. Under their leaderships, the ‘two-state solution’ has become an old chestnut, peace and peaceful coexistence have become dirty words, any attempt to set in motion a peace dialogue is verboten. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a flag-bearer of Trumpism, who feeds off power from right-wing extremism, whose ravenous appetite for power has made ethnocratic Israel’s claim of being a pluralistic democracy even more untenable. Mahmoud Abbas, a potentate, is out of step with his constituents and has lost his right to lead the people of Palestine. Hamas is a party of intransigent bigots that rules Gaza with an iron fist and will stoop to any level to retain its control over Gaza.
A cycle repeats itself every time tensions flare between Israel and Palestine. Urban warfare ensues, where Palestinians, given the sheer power imbalance between the two sides, suffer the most. Despite there being plenty of goodwill to mediate, the international community is rendered handicapped by Israel’s all-weather friend, the United States. Pro-Israeli media prints out sheaves of opinion columns to justify killing civilians, including children, that will supposedly keep terror at bay. In thrall to the ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ proverb, Pro-Assad Western leftists issue a clarion call to rally support for the Syrian regime and Hezbollah. The US president issues a boilerplate statement upholding Israel’s right to defend itself — a right that could only be actualised through bombing civilian targets — while reaffirming US commitment to the two-state solution and vowing to rebuild the bombarded Palestinian enclaves. After a temporary ceasefire is negotiated, the mediators go about their own business. The Nobel Committee considers a few nominations to the Nobel Peace Prize. The destitute Palestinians resume their everyday life of living under Israeli occupation. The cycle repeats, ad infinitum!
One thing is for certain: The current lull in the conflict cannot be deemed as a return to normalcy because there cannot be any normalcy when it is profoundly unjust for Palestinians who continue to live under occupation for more than half a century. Israel’s chokehold on Gaza needs to end; the illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories need to be dismantled; Israeli seizures of Palestinian homes cannot go on. The current PLO leadership needs to resign. Hamas cannot expect to secure international recognition so long as it rules over Gaza in an authoritarian style and carries on its odious mission of driving all the Jews out of Palestine. The US policy on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict needs to undergo a Damascene conversion; the United States should no longer be an enabler of Israel. The international community should begin working on a strategic roadmap for the repatriation of the displaced Palestinian refugees. The prospects of any sustainable peace in the Middle East lies in the vision of a shared future held fast by people of all faiths, colours, and ethnicities — not in an internecine war that guarantees nothing but mutual annihilation.