Where next for Gaza?

It is now 5 weeks since the terrible massacre perpetrated by Hamas on mostly civilians in Israel, killing over 1400 people, Jews & Arabs, Israelis, Thai & Nepalese and kidnapping more than 240 into the tunnel network inside Gaza as hostages. This was a savage attack, with people killed in front of their children, in front of their parents. Old people, young people, even babies, were not spared. Nothing that has happened since should hide that simple brutality of the actions of Hamas. This went beyond a raid into Israel, it was a pogrom against civilians whose only crime was that they lived in Israel. 

It also broke an existing ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that had allowed a slow (far too slow) relaxation of the blockade of Gaza, that allowed an increasing number of Gazan residents to work inside Israel & provide for their families. There was also the tantalising possibility of an agreement with Saudi Arabia that would have included measures to ease the plight of Palestinians which has now gone because of Hamas’s actions.

However, none of this is an excuse for the actions of the Israel Government. By acting in the way they have done, the Netanyahu Government has lost the goodwill from around the world it got after the October 7th.

It has allowed itself to be drawn into a fight on Hamas’s terms.  It has been culpable in the killing of thousands of Gazans of all ages, many of whom were not members or even supporters of Hamas. It has invaded Gaza with no clear idea of how to extract itself after the fighting ends. It has embroiled the Israeli Military in a war it cannot win however many Hamas militants (and Palestinian civilians) it kills, simply provided a ready supply of new volunteers bent on revenge for the death of their loved ones.  It has made the release of the hostages taken into Gaza more difficult. It has made finding a resolution to the wider conflict and providing long term security for Israel far more complicated.

Indeed, there is a growing feeling inside Israel that Netanyahu has mishandled the crisis, more concerned with shoring up his position as Prime Minister (and stopping his corruption trial) than caring about those killed or kidnapped by Hamas.

With neither Hamas or the Netanyahu Government currently open to calls for a (another) ceasefire, it will be hard to find a way to stop either the fighting or the killing of civilians. What is needed is not just pious words from around the world calling politely for an end to this round of fighting. 

Unless Western and  Arab nations are willing to back up their words with concrete help, with helping supply peacekeepers to enforce a disengagement between Hamas & the Israeli Military leading to a withdrawal of both from Gaza, to ensure the release of all hostages held by Hamas, to launch a massive aid and reconstruction effort in Gaza, to support the Palestine Authority regain civil control over Gaza and help bring new leadership to the Palestinian Nation (Israel will have new leadership after the war as there are already a growing calls for Netanyahu & the Fascists in his Government to go), nothing will change. 

If not, while there may be another temporary ceasefire in a week or two when Hamas & Israel have grown tired of killing Gazans and Israelis, there will be another round of fighting before too long, another round of pious calls for ceasefire, another round of crocodile tears about the death of civilians but nothing fundamental will change.

 

* Leon Duveen is Chair of Liberal Democrats for Peace in the Middle East, a new group of Lib Dems working to support those trying to a solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict and to providing information about these peacemakers.

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26 Comments

  • Joseph Borrell at the EU has sketched out a well thought through plan for conflict resolution EU maps out draft framework for post-conflict Gaza
    His plan can be summarized as three yes and three no. There should be no forced expulsion of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, no permanent reoccupation by the Israeli military or change in the size of the Gaza Strip, and no return of Hamas.
    There should be a “Palestinian Authority” defined and decided by the UN Security Council. Arab countries need to provide greater support to the Palestinian Authority, and the EU should also become more involved in the region, particularly in building a Palestinian state.

  • Nigel Jones 14th Nov '23 - 2:09pm

    Leon, I welcome the part you are playing in our party’s comments on the Middle East. In particular your call for words to be met with actions on the party of Western nations and Arab nations. You also rightly concur with Gutteres’ statement made a few weeks ago that there is no justification either for what Hamas did, nor the way Israel is responding and I regret the lack of explicit support for the UN General Secretary’s words from our party leader.
    In addition we must stress what Gutteres said about these events not happening in a vacuum; hence the need to stress the unacceptable settlements by Israelis in the West Bank, the divisions among the Palestinians and the insufficient help given by various nations over decades to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian people.

  • Leon, this is all good stuff, except where you describe calls for a ceasefire as “pious words “. Israel has admitted they will have to stop the killings when the clamour from abroad gets too loud. They calculate that this will be in two to three weeks time. Raising our voices louder will save lives. We have to do it.

  • Leon Duveen 14th Nov '23 - 3:47pm

    @Andy, it takes two to have a ceasefire, currently there are no signs that Hamas are ready to stop fighting.

  • Guinevere Barnes 14th Nov '23 - 4:58pm

    As I understand it, Hamas are basically a political party, which won elections in 2006 for the whole Palestinian area, beating Fatah. Because the “west” didn’t like that outcome, they supported Fatah to retain power despite losing the election. Hamas fought against that, and won in Gaza. So whether you like them or not – or even designate them as terrorists – they are arguably the legitimate government of the Palestinians. It seems somewhat unreasonable, therefore, to demand that they remove themselves from Gaza as well as the Israelis. None of this is to suggest that their actions on Oct 7 were acceptable, nor that the Israeli reaction is reasonable.
    As to the “two state solution” . This seems unlikely to meet with agreement while their are Israeli settlers occupying a large part of the West Bank.

  • Nom de Plume 14th Nov '23 - 5:38pm

    A ceasefire is fine by me. I can not see a political path to or from it, but the killing needs to stop.

  • Leon Duveen 14th Nov '23 - 7:17pm

    @Andy, yes Israel will be forced to ceased operations in a week or two but unless there are concrete actions by Western and Arab nations to provide security for Gaza & its residents, to remove Hamas & the IDF from the area, the fighting will simply start again in a few weeks, months whenever, as it has all too often before. This is what I meant by pious words, calling for a ceasefire with no concrete plane of how to free Gaza from both Hamas malign control & from Israel’s blockade.

  • Leon Duveen 14th Nov '23 - 7:25pm

    @Joe, @Nigel, having plans, roadmaps suggestions is the easy part. They aren’t difficult to come up with, there is one I wrote in the original post. They are all very similar
    The hard part will be working out how to implement any plan, who will replace Hamas & the IDF on the ground, how will the Palestinian Authority be brought in, who will act as guarantor to make sure neither the Israeli Government (either the current one or it successors when they need a political distraction) nor Hamas break the agreement. Unless those questions are answered, none of the plans are worth the paper they are written on

  • Leekliberal 14th Nov '23 - 7:51pm

    I agree with Nigel Jones on this. Another facet is the coming debate in Parliament on the SNP motion calling for a ceasefire. Labour, as usual. are proposing an amendment to render it meaningless, but where are the Lib Dems on this? Very late in the day we have called for a ceasefire, so hopefully we will vote for the SNP motion. Had our leadership been more decisive we could have taken the lead on this and deserved some credit for doing so, but currently, that seems too much to hope for.

  • Leon,

    the European Union has leverage with Israel. The EU signed an Association Agreement with Israel in 1995 but Israel cancelled the annual talks under the format in 2013 in protest over an EU decision to differentiate between settlements and the rest of Israel in all agreements.
    For a number of years, individual EU member states also prevented the meetings from taking place, calling for more progress on peace with the Palestinians before moving towards closer EU-Israel ties.
    Borrell is travelling to Israel, Palestine, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar & Jordan this week to discuss humanitarian access & assistance & political issues with regional leaders EU’s top diplomat Borrell to visit Israel, Palestine, Arab countries this week
    He commented “We need a political horizon looking towards the two-state solution. This can only be achieved through dialogue,”. “We would need to work on it immediately, in collaboration with the United States and Arab states.”
    The EU has an important role to play in establishing a framework for a lasting settlement. We should not forget China either who hold the presidency of the UN security council this month. They could probably build an airport and a seaport for Gaza in a couple of months with some finance from Qatar and other Gulf states if they wanted to.

  • Mark Frankel 15th Nov '23 - 7:42am

    There are some interesting ideas here but let’s not forget any settlement must protect Israel’s peace and security.

  • David Evans 15th Nov '23 - 2:31pm

    An excellent piece Leon. I wish you and the Liberal Democrats for Peace in the Middle East every success.

    My view is quite simple. I am not on the side of the Israelis or the Palestinians. I am not on the side of the Jews or the Muslims. In particular I am not on the side of any grouping or faction that is based on suppressing the ‘other side’ in order to enhance the claimed rights of its own side. However, I am totally on the side of each and every one of those poor ordinary people in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel who for decades have been just trying to get on with their lives despite the total mess their leaders have been making of things for over three quarters of a century in that region.

    Finding any sort of fair solution will be verging on impossible, but we have to work towards it as best we can, and supporting and bringing together all those who want to find a solution and opposing all those who regard stoking up conflict and division as a route to their personal nirvana will be one small step in the right direction.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Nov '23 - 3:48pm

    As the other Vice Chair of Liberal Democrats For Peace In The Middle East, I see the suggestions of Leon here are excellent and worthwhile.

    As a concerned individual I do not believe it can transpire easily!

    Israel shall bomb until Hamas are debilitated. Yet they shall survive because they thrive on harm. Israel knows that but cannot sit by and do nothing and the govt is not going to become peacemaker, not with this pm of Israel.

  • Jenny Barnes 15th Nov '23 - 3:51pm

    “There are some interesting ideas here but let’s not forget any settlement must protect Israel’s peace and security.” and of course the peace and security of the Palestinians in the area.

    There, fixed that for you.

  • Nigel Jones 15th Nov '23 - 4:27pm

    @Leekliberal, I agree with your added comments about us too slow to take the lead on saying what needed to be said within a couploe of days after 7 Oct. Surely our leader can criticise Israel as well as Hamas while making it clear our opposition is to Netanyahu and his partners and the settlers in the West Bank, not people of any particular race or ethnicity.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Nov '23 - 5:12pm

    @Guinevere Barnes
    Hamas may have won elections in 2006 – but it’s now 2023.

    Isn’t 17 years without fresh elections rather too long?

  • Peter Martin 16th Nov '23 - 10:32am

    It’s interesting to ask ChatGPT ( a free online AI site) about the conflict.

    Q: Do Israelis have the right to be free?

    ChatGBT: Yes, like any other group of people, Israelis, as individuals and as a collective, have the right to be free. The right to freedom is a fundamental human right that is recognized internationally. The question of Israeli rights is often framed within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate historical and national aspirations.

    Q: Do Palestinians have the right to be free?

    Chat BGT: The question of Palestinian rights is a complex and sensitive issue that has been the subject of longstanding political, historical, and humanitarian debate. Different perspectives exist on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and opinions on the rights and status of Palestinians vary widely.

    These are just the first paragraphs, but why the difference? Apparently the correct answer to the first question should be ” Yes, like any other group of people *except Palestinians*, Israelis……..” 🙂

  • Guinevere Barnes 14th Nov ’23 – 4:58pm:
    As I understand it, Hamas are basically a political party,…

    Here’s Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a founding member of Hamas…

    If Hamas was a political party then we can apply pressure on them and bring them to the negotiating table to compromise, but Hamas is a religious movement that is waging a holy war against the Jewish people. This is the difference. How can you negotiate with people like this? You’ll never be able to satisfy their ambition. Hence democracies can not negotiate with terrorists. The more you negotiate with them, the more you give them legitimacy, the more you validate their violence.

    ‘Hamas can’t be negotiated with, co-founder’s son says | Cuomo’ [November 2023]:

  • @ Mohammed Amin
    ”Hamas tells us clearly in its 1988 Covenant and its 2017 Statement that it is not interested in peace while Israel exists”

    This isn’t really helpful, as similar declarations of intent have been made by Israeli right at least as far back as 1977…
    Obviously, they are mutually exclusive, the only way forward is, as with N.Ireland, was to marginalise the extremists and create the space for more moderate thinking come to the fore. However, as we witnessed with N.Ireland, this is an undertaking that will span generations.

  • Jenny Barnes 16th Nov '23 - 4:12pm

    “Isn’t 17 years without fresh elections rather too long?”
    There are plenty of autocratic regimes which either don’t hold elections or hold very flawed ones. Russia springs to mind as an example. That doesn’t make regime change a good idea. Just remember the results from regime change in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. No reason to expect any positive results from ousting Hamas either.
    An immediate ceasefire is the obvious first step.

  • The experience of the British government during the period of the troubles in N. Ireland should inform the actions of the Israeli government. There was no military solution for Ulster until a political settlement was negotiated. The idea that a Citizen population can be bombed to root out terrorist groups embedded with the population was no more a feasible strategy. in Ireland than it is today in the Gaza strip. Even if it is proven that Hamas is operating from beneath hospitals and schools, I cannot see how this could possibly justify treating these facilities as military targets than can be legitimately bombed. They can only be secured by soldiers operating on the ground.
    There are British and American hospital ships in the Mediterranean sea equipped with helicopters for the evacuation of wounded. One benefit of a humanitarian pause could be allowing these resources to be made available to relieve some of the pressure on hospitals in Gaza with helicopter delivery of medical supplies, generator fuel. food and bottled water together with evacuation of critically ill/injured patients.

  • @Jenny Barnes: Interventions with the specific purpose of effecting regime change tend not to end well, as in the examples you give. But a simple return to the status quo ante (the one that caused the conflict in the first place) is also unlikely to be beneficial. The WWII settlement resulted in regime change in Germany (and in Japan, but differently). This probably wasn’t the primary purpose of the Allied intervention at the beginning; it just became evident that the only way to achieve a lasting peace in Europe was elimination of the (originally democratically elected) regime in Germany.
    I’m not making any direct comparisons between that and any player in the Israel~Gaza war, but it should be clear that there will never be peace in the region while either of the present regimes remain in power, because neither of them want peace. So any post-war settlement will need to exclude them from power. There is a precedent for this in Bosnia, where indicted war criminals were banned from seeking or holding elected office.

  • Anyone still arguing that a one-sided cease-fire by Israel wouldn’t work, or that Israel is entitled to wipe out Hamas whatever the cost to Palestinian civilians, or that the whole thing is too complicated, might want to consider how the path to conflict resolution was described in three elegant words by someone born in a town not far away from Gaza many years ago (clue: he’s more famous than John Lennon).
    “Kill thine enemies” is the rationale behind Netanyahu’s stated aim for Gaza. To say that ending the Israeli/Palestinian conflict means revising the first of those three words to will sound naive to some, but I’m sure there are many in Israel and Palestine who are exhausted by the seemingly endless cycle of violence imposed on them by embittered, cynical, self-regarding leaders, and would be willing try love instead of hate.

  • What we see in Gaza is the face of modern warfare, According to the UN, the War in Yemen has resulted in the deaths of near on 400,000 people. While the fighting in Yemen has largely subsided in 2023, the humanitarian crisis has not improved; 21.6 million people need aid, including 11 million children, and more than 4.5 million are displaced. This may also be the future for Gaza.
    There are some positive developments in Gaza today with the evacuation of premature babies and some critically ill patients to Egypt and talk of a temporary ceasefire as part of a negotiated release of hostages by Hamas.
    I think Alex Macfie is right to say that there will never be peace in the region while either of the present regimes remain in power. Israeli citizens can never be secure while Islamic extremists are in control of neighbouring states and Palestinians can never be secure while Israeli society remains in denial about its treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
    Every Israeli government has been a coalition of some sort and this has allowed Likud and Netanyahu to remain in power (almost interrupted) since 2009. As with Putin’s Russia, this long period in power has seen the development of an increasingly coercive and authoritarian regime in Israel.

  • Former PM Ehud Olmert calls for Netanyahu to go now, calling him the worst leader in the history of the Israeli state ‘Netanyahu real danger to Israel’s stability,’ says former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert

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