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The Israel-Hamas Conflict: A Call For Ceasefire – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

The Israel-Hamas conflict:A call for Ceasefire

Amb Anil Trigunayat

How much is enough “to rake up the conscience and comfort levels of the international community especially for USA- the sole benefactor of the Netanyahu led Israeli onslaught on the hapless and hopeless Palestinian civilians in Gaza. All norms of humanity appear to have been sacrificed for the political ambitions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who frittered away all the sympathy and support from the world in no time after the October 7 terrorist attacks by an equally culpable Hamas.

International Dynamics and Power Shifts

While Israel lost 1139 innocent civilians in the Hamas attacks the plight of 240 plus Israeli hostages became the key and negotiating tool for the Hamas which wanted to refocus the world attention, especially that of the Islamic world, on the ‘Lost and compromised Palestinian cause ‘as the impending Saudi rapprochement with Israel was moving fast- a la Abraham Accords and IMEEC (India Middle East Europe Economic Corridor). As a result, riders have been placed on further moves in this direction. No one denies the right of Israel to defend itself but proportionality of response must be adhered to.

Meanwhile over 30000 Palestinians have been killed including large number of women and children and more than twice have been injured in Israeli bombings and combat. Worst humanitarian plight is being witnessed day in and day out and so is the violation of international humanitarian law as the relief supplies have been restricted and denied to the sick and famished and unattended Palestinians under seize in Gaza.

Many plans for another ‘Nakba’ were engineered to shift out the 1.7 Mn displaced population to Africa and elsewhere including to the Egyptian desert. And the international community barely expresses its outrage in well couched empty rhetoric at the UNGA and the International Court of Justice and other fora. UNSC remains defunct due to the sole US veto. All calls for sanity and adherence to well established principles have remained unheeded. Netanyahu and IDF are being charged with ‘genocide ‘which ironically the Jews had themselves suffered. The world has become a mute spectator to the unfolding horrors on a daily basis.

The worst was the killing of over 112 people waiting in queues for some food, when the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) opened fire at those hapless people. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned it expressing his shock as did rest of the world. But that’s not enough to prevent further recurrence.

India had very strongly condemned the terror attacks of October 7 and expressed sympathy with the Israeli people. But what followed, under the garb of a mission “Destroy Hamas’, with mounting civilian casualties on a daily basis and indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force against civilians, especially women and children, made New Delhi to call for ending of the hostilities and terrorism and urgency for the Two State solution through direct dialogue and adherence to the international humanitarian law by all.

This became even more concerning as the chances of the war expending to other theatres including the challenges posed by Houthis in Red Sea to the imitational commercial maritime traffic and security. PM Modi kept talking to regional and global leaders to find some way out as India extended humanitarian and relief supplies to the Gazans. Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued a clear statement at the killing of over 100 Gazans in the Northern part waiting for relief supplies ‘We are deeply shocked at the loss of lives in Northern Gaza yesterday (Feb 29) during delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Such loss of civilian lives and the larger humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to be a cause for extreme concern. We reiterate our call for safe and timely delivery of humanitarian aid and assistance.”

During this transitional order or disorder what has become quite evident is that the power equilibrium has been shaken and US monopoly over the power differential has been severely undermined, occasionally due to its own irrational policies and domestic compulsions. Defiance has become the order of the day. While it is understandable that in the Russia-Ukraine war, its strategic enemy Moscow confronts and defies the US mandate, the defiance of President Biden and Secretary Blinken’s advice for ceasefire by its strategic ally Israel will point to another weaker dynamic.

This in turn has further disenchanted its hitherto allies in the Arab world, who are beginning to seek alternatives and options in China and Russia led initiatives and regional efforts to find a modus vivendi among themselves especially with Iran. Although Tehran has tried to contain allied militia group attacks in Iraq and Syria on US troops its concert with 3Hs (Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah) has made it a key actor, if the expansion of the conflict beyond Gaza is to be ensured. Here also Israeli leadership mentions that they are losing patience with Iran while covert operations by both sides on strategic assets continue.

No doubt the War could spiral out of control by a small spark but the mere focus on it rather than resolving the ongoing war and defining the “Day after’ scenario clearly demonstrates a misplaced strategy.

Israeli Actions and Challenges

While the rest of the world including Biden and Blinken have been talking of the Two State solution and control of Gaza by the reformed Palestinian Authority despite inherent ground realities and complexities, Comrade Bibi Netanyahu does not think so who has outrightly rejected any Two State scenario. In a recent plan that he proposed to the War cabinet clearly speaks of near total control of Gaza and rejects any internationally imposed or prescribed solution including Two State but only admits the possibility of eventual (no timelines) direct negotiations for a “final Status agreement’.

It also talks of complete sanitization and deradicalization of the political and socio-economic space in Gaza. Disbanding of United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA) is envisaged with extensive border controls and more fences, effectively ensuring prolongation of the seize by all means.

Even all this will happen only after Netanyahu has claimed his victory over Hamas, which by all counts and reports is still going strong and seems to be eluding him. Meanwhile, patience of the Israeli people is also running out especially as demonstrations against the government and call for immediate release of hostages and holding of elections have become louder by the day. To absolve himself of the various failures Bibi wants to show something on the ground to the Israeli people who might be baying for him.

Prospects for Peace and Truce

Whether use of excessive force and security minded approach for last 75 years has ensured security for the Israeli people and State is an open question. Even during this war unprecedented number of Israelis have been killed and injured and 575 Israeli soldiers have died nearly 700000 of them have become internally displaced and Israeli economy is under huge stress as calls for more US funding and military assistance become louder. Co-existence of Israel and Palestine is the only way forward to achieve that objective for which mindset on both sides will have to change. It may sound idyllic and idealistic but ground reality dictates that.

As the saga and more mayhem goes on, discussions over another nearly six weeks long ceasefire remain in the pipeline which could see the release of remaining 130 hostages (many of whom have been reported caught in the fire) in exchange of Palestinian prisoners and uninterrupted relief supplies.

Both sides have some intractable demands in this proposal which is being worked out by France, Qatar, US and Egypt. Still there is a widely held hope that, however tenuous, some sort of truce might be achieved during Ramadan. But the fact remains that the extreme provocations from both sides in the holy month for years now are also a reality. So, even if there is a truce or ceasefire, its longevity will always be a major concern.

Amb Anil Trigunayat, Distinguished Fellow, VIF

The article was first published in Vivekanada International Foundation as Israel-Hamas War-Enough is Enough on March 6, 2024.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organisation.

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Acknowledgment: This article was posted by Nikita Saha, a research intern at IMPRI.

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