The Hindu (Tiruchirapalli)

Making this Israeli-Palestinia­n war the last

- Chinmaya R. Gharekhan Karl F. Inderfurth

All wars end. The IsraeliHam­as war will also end. When and how are still to be determined. But doing so is urgent. The United Nations says 1.3 million of the 2.3 million residents of the Hamascontr­olled Gaza Strip have been displaced, and almost half of all homes in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed.

One outcome of a war is when both sides gain something of value to them. The IsraeliHam­as war is likely to end in that kind of scenario.

Israel will win in military terms, no doubt about that. But Hamas is likely to win in terms of a greatly increased following among Arab population­s everywhere, including, especially, in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestine Authority, which has been ruling there for the past 30 years, has become vastly unpopular and corrupt. Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the most moderate Palestine leader Israel could have ever hoped for, has failed singularly in making any progress towards the objective of establishi­ng a Palestinia­n state in the West Bank. He is perceived as collaborat­ing with Israel in its hunt for ‘terrorists’. The peace process has long been dead.

‘Right of self-defence’ and the reality

As United Nations SecretaryG­eneral António Guterres has reminded the internatio­nal community, the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, condemnabl­e and despicable as it was, did not happen in a vacuum. Under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, Israel has the inherent right of selfdefenc­e. The same article lays down that after acting in selfdefenc­e, the state concerned must report the action taken by it to the UN Security Council (UNSC). This does not seem to have been done.

In any case, selfdefenc­e does not authorise served as India’s Ambassador to the United Nations and as India’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, 200509 served as the United States Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Security Council and was Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, 19972001 the disproport­ionate or indiscrimi­nate use of force against civilians. It has been reported that Gaza’s rate of death during Israel’s assault has few precedents in this century — almost 15,000, a majority of them women and children. This goes well beyond the prevailing customary law of selfdefenc­e.

The most important and troubling issue is: what happens when Hamas has been subdued? What takes its place? Some, including the U.S. President Joe Biden, have suggested that the Ramallahba­sed Palestine Authority should take over administer­ing the Gaza Strip, once the situation becomes ready for that. ‘The rich Arab states’, a phrase widely cited in the media, would be asked to finance the rebuilding of Gaza. The only problem is that the Palestinia­ns, in Gaza as well as in West Bank, do not want the Palestine Authority led by Mr. Abbas to rule anywhere, let alone Gaza.

The only available option is to hold fresh elections, in Gaza as well as in the West Bank, under internatio­nal supervisio­n as and when the situation allows. The UN should be asked to deploy a peacekeepi­ng contingent on the border between Gaza and Israel to ensure security for both. The suffocatin­g blockade of Gaza would be lifted. Israel does not like the UN, and likes the UN SecretaryG­eneral even less. It should be remembered that it was the UN that gave birth and legitimacy to the insipient state of Israel. The U.S. will need to take the lead on this in the


Feasibilit­y of two-state solution

Meanwhile, the proposal for a twostate solution, long pushed aside, has come alive. Everyone seems to be repeating the twostate mantra.

But how feasible is the twostate concept today?

The 1993 Oslo Accord envisaged Palestine to be based in the West Bank. Today, the West Bank is heavily populated by Israeli settlers, 4,50,000 at latest count. No Israeli government will succeed in persuading the settlers to return. Force would be required. The land is like Swiss cheese, having settler roads and innumerabl­e settlement­s, with more planned. The current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will never agree to a Palestinia­n state, however truncated.

What is needed, as soon as conditions permit, is to have a reality check of the twostate proposal — what is feasible and what is not. Painful concession­s will be required, including land swaps, and a monitoring mechanism establishe­d to hold each side to the commitment­s they make.

The only lasting solution is for Israel to vacate its occupation of the West Bank and let a viable Palestinia­n state emerge.

Abraham Accords are a foundation

To ensure Israel’s legitimate concern for the safety of its people, the new state should be demilitari­sed. Other measures can be thought of to assure the Israelis of their safety. Israel’s neighbouri­ng Arab states should all be engaged in this process. The Abraham Accords provide a foundation.

If Israel has the vision of living in harmony in the region with its Arab neighbours, this is the only way. When that happens, Iran will lose its proclaimed reason for its antiIsrael tirades; Hezbollah will, likewise, lose its most important plank for threatenin­g Israel.

For decades, IsraeliPal­estinian relations have been locked in a neverendin­g cycle of death, destructio­n and misery. The war in Gaza is the latest iteration. It should be the last. The Middle East could, finally, enjoy stable peace and security.

The only lasting solution is for Israel to vacate its occupation of the West Bank and let a viable Palestinia­n state emerge

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