What’s the future for Israel and Palestine?

It is now more than two months since the Hamas attack in southern Israel, and the bombing and shelling of Palestinians in Gaza continues.  Many of us have marched in support of a cease-fire, but the marches have achieved nothing, so it must be time for a rethink.

The horrific, murderous the attack on October 7 had its roots in Palestinian resentment, and arguably the seeds were planted by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour’s decision during the First World War to donate part of a foreign country we didn’t own to a people who’d suffered abuse and discrimination in Europe for hundreds of years and wanted somewhere to go that wasn’t Europe.  

Others say the current conflict in Gaza is simply the consequence of Hamas behaving “like animals” on October 7.  There are proximal causes and more deep-seated ones, some of which go back a very long way – for some Jewish fundamentalists the claim to ownership of Judea and Samaria goes back thousands of years.   Many other more recent factors are involved, like the funding of Hamas by Qatar (among other countries) and the funding of Israel by the US, which have made the Palestinians pawns in a game driven by the geopolitical ambitions of others.     

What is being lost in the debate over which part of history is most important is the fate of the Palestinian people in Gaza, and increasingly in the West Bank, with bombs falling, bullets flying, and starvation and disease now gaining hold.  Since October 7, more than 20,000 people have been killed, upward of 50,000 injured, and hostages are being held.  Around two million people in Gaza are living in a devastated waste land, short of water, food, electricity, shelter, medical aid, and hope that the world will do anything to alleviate their suffering. 

If the world community is going to move on from simply grandstanding, the obvious first requirement is an end to the fighting.  Calling for Israel to stop hasn’t worked, but if we think that only Israel has the power to end the war we are missing an important point.  Israel has said it won’t stop until Hamas is defeated or surrenders, so the sooner Hamas lays down its arms the better.

Most of those who’ve marched in recent weeks angrily deny supporting Hamas, claiming it’s possible to share Israel’s horror at October 7 while at the same time calling the Israeli response disproportionate.  But we ought to look beyond our own perspective, and think how our actions look to the leadership of Hamas.  Perceiving huge support around the world for the Palestinians encourages them to carry on the fight, a fight we know will fuel more hatred and will achieve nothing good.  

We don’t even know what the aims of Hamas really are.  Is it to force Israel to accept the two-state solution, or to annihilate Israel ?  They say different things at different times. Since October 7 the military wing of Hamas has looked like a death cult, with those killed becoming martyrs.  There is no evidence that Hamas views the deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians any differently.  This means that if we want to see the people of Gaza spared further suffering we have to call on Hamas to surrender and lay down their arms.

Accepting the Israeli narrative about Hamas will be anathema to some, given that what Israel is doing is widely believed to be illegal under international humanitarian law, but if our hearts really are going out to the Palestinians as we claim, we should grasp at anything which will bring the suffering to an end.  The bonus would be that if world opinion is to carry any weight after the fighting stops we will need to have shown the people of Israel that we have sympathy for their plight, and concur with their view of Hamas.  To most outside observers the Israeli policy of domination and control over the Palestinians which began in earnest in 1967 with the Occupation is being revealed by what is happening in Gaza as a disastrous failure, but the Israeli public are genuinely fearful of ‘the annihilation of Israel’ promised by Hamas; most Israelis saw no other choice than to use military might to defend themselves.  

Military force is never going to solve the basic problem Israel has faced since 1948, that it is a colonial enterprise.  It has had many chances to gain acceptance from the local population and make it work, but has thrown them all away.  A two-state solution which recognises the right of Palestinians to live in their own country is the only way forward if Israel wants to end the cycle of hatred and violence.     

      

  

* Andy Daer is a member of the Liberal Democrats in South Gloucestershire

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29 Comments

  • Jenny Barnes 20th Dec '23 - 1:23pm

    The Economist reports on 1 & 2 state possible “solutions” to the conflict.
    https://www.economist.com/briefing/2023/12/07/despite-the-war-in-gaza-talk-of-a-two-state-solution-persists

    For both Israelis and Palestinians, support for – 2 states is around 33%
    -1 state with equality 20%
    -1 state without equality (ie (p)destruction of Israel // (i)continuation of the status quo ante bellum) 30% Palestinian, 35% Israeli

    It doesn’t look very hopeful that at least 2/3 of the inhabitants of the region oppose each possible solution.

  • What do people mean by ” from the river to the sea Palestine will be free”? As Lord Finkelstein says in his piece in today’s Times: “is there no one willing to say that between the river and the sea there must be an Israel safe and secure within agreed borders? … Without security for Israel there will never be freedom for Palestine. And vice versa.” The current Israeli govt has abandoned the 2 state solution but it’s the only show in town. Both Gaza and Israel require different leadership for peace to have a chance.

  • Mary Fulton 20th Dec '23 - 5:18pm

    The reality is that Israel believes in a one state solution with Israel the only sovereign state, and with the Palestinians, at best, perhaps given some limited administrative powers over whatever land Palestinians will continue to be allowed to inhabit. Meanwhile Israeli settlers will gradually expand their presence and Palestinians will be left with less and less. And so much of the West chooses to look the other way…

  • Miranda Pinch 20th Dec '23 - 5:35pm

    Russell. There are many stements made by members of the far right Israeli government claiming the whole area for Israel alone. Even within the accepted borders of Israel there is the Nation State Law that only gives Jews the right to self-determination. Not exactly democratic. Israel wants to annex the rest of the West Bank and is slowly ethnically cleansing it, putting aside what many refer to as genocide in Gaza.
    I have been on demonstartions where the chant ‘from the river to the sea Palestine will be free” has been shouted even by the many fellow Jews demonstrating alongside. What is meant by it is that Palestinians should be free and equal in all the land and not under occupation and oppression. To want freedom for one people is not to deny freedom to another. To want self-determination for Palestinians from the river to the sea is not to deny Israeli Jews the same right.

  • Jenny Barnes 20th Dec '23 - 5:42pm

    I’d say that on the evidence there needs to be different Palestinian and Israeli people for peace to have a chance.

  • Cj Williams 20th Dec '23 - 7:17pm

    ‘But we ought to look beyond our own perspective, and think how our actions look to the leadership of Hamas. Perceiving huge support around the world for the Palestinians encourages them to carry on the fight, a fight we know will fuel more hatred and will achieve nothing good’ Absolutely, well said.

  • Ernest Bevin, the foreign secretary in the post-wat Attlee government described the priorities aims of Jews and Arabs in Palestine in 1947 as irreconcilable. The absolute priority for the Jewish agency was the establishment of a Jewish state. The absolute priority for the Arab population was the prevention of the creation of a Jewish state.
    Richard Crossman, a former member of the Anglo-American inquiry commission who has been critical of British policy in Palestine, said that it was impossible for an “alien government” to continue ruling Jews and Arabs. It would be preferable to let Jews and Arabs fight out the issue, even if it involved bloodshed, instead of keeping Britain in Palestine under an arrangement with America “under another phoney constitution,” he declared. Crossman said that Britain should tell the U.N. that the mandate is unworkable, and that it will withdraw its troops and administration at a certain date Bevin Charges U.S. Blocked Palestine Solution
    The day the Mandate ended 5 Arab armies invaded. At the end of the fighting an armistice line (the green line) was established that constitutes what is most commonly recognised within the Arab world as the accepted borders of Israel.
    76 years on from Richard Crossman’s preferred solution to the dilemma, the same irreconcilable aims outlined by Bevin remain and will continue until the armed Palestinian resistance and wider Islamic world accepts the right of Israel to exist within secure borders that are claimed by Hamas (and Iranian proxies) as inviolable Arab or Islamic lands

  • Mark Frankel 21st Dec '23 - 9:01am

    In the Second World War the Allies insisted on Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender. In the short term this meant more death and destruction but in the long term it meant a permanent settlement and in the even longer term the reunification of Germany. The only answer in Gaza is unconditional surrender by Hamas, and the international community helping Israel to overthrow violent Palestinian revanchist ideology. This would involve reforming UNWRA, which has been providing welfare services and teaching the right of return to Palestinian militants since its inception in 1949. In the long term I hope this would lead to an independent Palestinian state but meanwhile the Palestinians have to learn to act like statesmen.

  • Jenny Barnes 21st Dec '23 - 9:35am

    “one land, two states” may be a solution, but, like the other possibilities, it’s one that’s opposed by 2/3 of the both populations.

  • Jenny Barnes 21st Dec '23 - 9:48am

    The Israeli ambassador to the UK is one of the 2/3 opposing a 2 state solution:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMNbghMW2pU
    interview with Sky News

  • Joe Bourke – your historical account ends a little too early. In 2002 the Arab League countries offered a peace plan. In essence it said that if Israel withdrew to 1967 borders they would all recognise Israel. Sadly this offer was not seriously entertained by Israel and further discussion of it was not encouraged by the West. The Abraham Accords, under which some Gulf countries have recognised Israel, shows there is a desire to reach an accord. For the process to continue there does need to be a fair outcome for the Palestinians – something Mr Netanyahu is clearly determined to prevent. If the USA didn’t just advocate a two-state solution, as Joe Biden has done several times recently, but made US ongoing support for Israel conditional on their agreement to move towards such a goal, then there is serious prospect of change. The devil will then be in the detail, not in the principle.

  • John (Waller), I think you and Russel are absolutely right when you say ‘both Gaza and Israel require different leadership for peace to have a chance’. For the Israelis there is a definite chance that could come about, but for the Palestinians it is much more problematic for so many reasons embedded in the region’s history and culture.

    However, I think you are misremembering when you say ‘From January to October *the young* in Israel were demonstrating for that change’. It was a much wider grouping than that.

    The demonstrators were a wide and diverse group spanning almost every strata of Israeli society and included parents with children, middle aged, businessmen and women, working people, the elderly – indeed right minded people of almost every demographic group across the nation. Most importantly, it also contained a lot of ex-IDF soldiers and reservists who knew that the sort of state and values Netanyahau was creating were not the ones they had fought for.

    This made it impossible for Netanyahu and his cronies to portray the demonstrators as anti-Israeli agitators, and allow those members of the security services with more sociopathic tendencies free rein to disrupt demonstrations with acts of random violence.

    It is only when a broad church of concerned individuals in a society unite that social disruptors in power can be successfully opposed. All should be accepted and acknowledged.

    Diversity is a strength, but only if we believe in it and understand it enough to actually publicise it fully.

  • John McHugo 21st Dec '23 - 2:43pm

    @Joe Bourke,

    Parts of your historical account are tendentious The Arab armies invaded in reaction to the militias of the Yishuv trying to carve out a state in Palestine to establish an ethnically Jewish state at the expense of the Arab population. This had already necessitated widespread ethnic cleansing. See Benny Morris’s ‘The Palestinian Refugees Problem Revisited.’

    It is scarcely surprising that Israel’s initial application to join the UN was rejected, and it only succeeded after it had signed armistices with its Arab neighbours.

  • John Kelly,

    in 2002 (during the second (intifada) the quartet on the middle east comprising the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia announced the roadmap for peace calling for an an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace,. The first step on the Roadmap was the appointment of the first-ever Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The plan went no further however due to the recalcitrance of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But by 2008 Ehud Olmert did offer Mahmoud Abbas a Palestinian stateOlmert’s 2008 peace offer to Palestinians
    President Obama was receptive to the Arab Peace plan, The John Kerry Parameters were a declaration of principles that seek to serve as a framework for a final resolution to the long-standing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. They were proposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry in 2016, following the UN Security Council’s approval of Resolution 2334, in which the United States refrained from using its veto. The plan proposed the existence of an Israeli and Palestinian state side by side, with Jerusalem as the capital of both countries, an end to the occupation while fulfilling Israel’s security needs, and a viable, demilitarized Palestinian state. Netanyahu rejected the plan and successfully sought direct support from the US congress and senate to undermine the Obama initiative. No US president is going to make ongoing support for Israel’s security conditional and risk alienating such large voting as christian zionists.. It is going to have to be a consensual agreement between (most likely new and more enlightened) Israeli and Palestinian leadership.

  • John Mchugo,

    the comment above expresses no viewpoint on the various motivations behind the invasion of mandate Palestine in 1948 by forces from outside the territory of mandate Palestine.. The reasons (as is so often the case) appear multi-faceted. Pan-Arabism and Arab nationalism, expansion of the existing territory of neighbouring states, Islamic fundamentalism, anti-semitism, the arrival of refugees fleeing conflict in mandate Palestine in 1947-48 before the establishment of Israel and control of the holy sites of Jerusalem among others.
    It was the case that no attempt was made to create a Palestinian state from the areas occupied by Arab forces until 1967 and that were part of the area earmarked by the UN for an independent Arab state. Jordan annexed the west-bank and east Jerusalem and granted Jordanian citizenship to Palestinian refugees on the same basis as existing residents From 1948 until 1959, Gaza was nominally under the jurisdiction of the All-Palestine Government, an entity established by the Arab League during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, purportedly as the government for a liberated Palestine. However, the government was ineffective with little or no influence over events in Gaza and was dissolved by Cairo in 1959. When the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964, Nasser formally, but not practically, proclaimed that it would hold authority over Gaza, and a year later, conscription was instituted for the Palestinian Liberation Army. It was only from this time (16 years on from the creation of Israel as a state) that a Palestinian political entity, separate from that of neighbouring Arab states, began to form.

  • In the past the Israeli government supported the two-state solution but thought it could get peace without accepting international law and UN resolutions. Israel could have had peace in 2000 if it had agreed to allocate East Jerusalem to the Palestinian state and accepted the right of return of the Palestinians who had fled from their homes within the 1948 borders of Israel.

    Extreme Zionists still talk of a Zionist Israel between the river and the sea.

    Peace will only come when fewer than 15% of the Palestinians and Israelis no longer believe that a ‘one state without equality’ (as stated by Jenny Barnes) is their preferred solution.

    A one state with equality may well be the way forward, but it would mean the one state could not be a Zionist state, but all Palestinians and all Jews could be given the right to live in the new state. (Also religious parties and parties which support separate states and/or the expulsion of another ethnic group would need to be banned.)

    Mark Frankel,

    As John Waller wrote peace was achieved in Northern Ireland without the surrender of the IRA. So peace in the Middle East could be achieved without the surrender of Hamas. What is needed is a solution acceptable to the huge majority of Palestinians and Israelis. The post WW2 German solution didn’t work in Iraq.

  • Mary Fulton 22nd Dec '23 - 4:18pm

    @Mark Frankel
    I am surprised at your use of the phase ‘Palestinian revanchist ideology.’ Surely ‘revanchism’ is where a country lost some of its previous territory in a war and, despite having agreed a treaty at the time, now wishes to reclaim back what was lost. I’m not sure that is similar to the Palestinian situation where all their previous land was militarily occupied, land confiscated with the Palestinians ejected, and millions continuing to live under military control often in refugee camps. Refugees wanting to return to the land from which they fled or were ejected is not revanchism.

  • @Mark Frankel, I think Mary Fulton has put it rather well. The entire project was a European attempt to relocate Jews from Europe in Mandate Palestine. Not surprisingly, Palestinians were a bit unhappy about giving away a huge part of their country to European colonists, but as I argue in my article, if the Israelis had tried to understand the Palestinian point of view and had not not “thrown away all the chances they’d had” by what Amnesty describes as thinking they could dominate the indigenous people, they would now be living harmoniously alongside a Palestinian state.
    Israelis are like us, and like the Palestinians, decent people who want the best for themselves. They’ve been sold a pup by Netanyahu, but who hasn’t been conned by an elected government ? We need to show that we realise Israel has dug itself into a hole, and help them dig their way out.

  • Peter Hirst 23rd Dec '23 - 2:29pm

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. Responses must be proportionate to the initial action and have a specific purpose. Global opinion seems to be too slowly pressurising Israel to moderate its actions. Without a firm mandate from the global community that it will support Israel to prevent further challenges to its integrity, it is not easy for it to enter negotiations to end hostilities.

  • @Peter Hirst, there seems to be general agreement that global opinion will slowly pressure Israel to moderate its actions. I disagree. What Israel has done in killing 20,000 civilians is unforgivable, but only by getting Hamas to end its futile attacks on Israel will global opinion be able to have any effect on events. By the time this (written on Christmas Eve) is published, the death toll will be higher.
    I thank all those who championed international law in their response to my article, or examined the way past events have shaped the catastrophe in Gaza, looking for meaning – or blame. I’m afraid that for me, all the legalistic rhetoric in the world counts for nothing. How many of the hundreds of thousands of terrified children and babies trapped by warring adults in Gaza are destined to die, or be orphaned, or maimed, or traumatised, because no-one has the sense to call a halt to the killing?
    Israel’s military superiority means it believes it could eventually achieve its aims, so calling for it to stop now is futile. Hamas cannot win, so only they have an incentive to end the war; our protests should be aimed at them.

  • Peter Hirst 1st Jan '24 - 11:50am

    I take a more human rights approach to this as to other conflicts Andy. How do you balance the rights of the Palestinian people against the rights of the people of Israel? Only diplomacy with a negotiated outcome agreed by both parties will do that. I accept Hamas do not represent the people of Palestine though until an alternative is provided that protects them it’s all we’ve got. We need a conference of all interested parties to agree a way forward that guarantees the safety of all those involved.

  • Peter Hirst 1st Jan '24 - 1:29pm

    It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, Andy. I don’t know what motivates Hamas and understand slightly better what motivates the Israel military. Israel depends on the support of America and western Europe. It can’t act in a vacuum despite what it says. It is conducting a PR exercise that seeks to give only one side of the conflict. When it starts to see the other side’s views we will have the beginnings of a resolution.

  • Peter Hirst 1st Jan '24 - 3:47pm

    Blaming Hamas is a simplistic solution Andy. Their actions are a reflection of their values and beliefs. Though these might be erroneous they are probably held with a conviction that defies logical challenge. Only a mediated ceasefire leading to a conference where a treaty can be signed by both sides will lead to a stable relationship.

  • Helen Dudden 2nd Jan '24 - 10:22am

    Fill in all the tunnels in Gaza. Those tunnels have caused many issues.

  • David Evans 2nd Jan '24 - 11:57am

    Peter, while I acknowledge your earnest efforts to put forward a logical approach to resolving the crisis, I fear that while your comment “Only a mediated ceasefire leading to a conference where a treaty can be signed by both sides will lead to a stable relationship” may be a necessary condition for peace, it is by no means a sufficient condition.

    To even begin to understand the immense problems with finding a way forward, we have to remember that, after signing the Oslo accords in 1993 and 1995, Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli PM was assassinated by a Jewish extremist on 4th November 1995. The articles in Wikipedia give a good account of the complexities of the problem.

    It is my view that until the vast majority of both the Israelis and the Palestinians are prepared to accept a compromise, and face down and defeat the extremists in their own camps, we will not see peace in the Middle East, whatever initiatives are taken and whatever documents are signed.

  • Nonconformistradical 2nd Jan '24 - 1:37pm

    @Helen Dudden
    Filling in the tunnels will not send Hamas away.

  • Jenny Barnes 2nd Jan '24 - 2:05pm

    “Filling in the tunnels”
    The I sraelis indeed have a plan fo fill in the tunnels with seawater. I believe they have pumps and pipes positioned already. However, the underlying rock strata are mostly permeable sandstones, so the seawater would leak out of the tunnels into the rocks, and down to the aquifer that is the major source of drinking water for the Gazans. Literally sowing the land with salt.

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