Gaza needs equitable, long-term solution : The Tribune India

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Gaza needs equitable, long-term solution

UN deliberations show that an intractable deadlock prevails in the global political arena

Gaza needs equitable, long-term solution

Ruthless: Gaza’s civilian population has been subjected to disproportionate punishment. Reuters

Uday Bhaskar

Director, Society for Policy Studies

ISRAEL’S war of retribution against Hamas for the dastardly terror attack of October 7 entered the second stage last week as the military offensive against Gaza expanded from aerial attacks to include ground operations. It is expected that this hybrid phase, which will entail urban warfare between a state and a terror group, will be even more complex and bloody, given the vast network of underground tunnels in Gaza that is estimated to be larger than the London metro system. PM Netanyahu stated that the objectives for this war were “to destroy the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and bring the hostages home.”

With the war entering the fourth week, the death toll stands at over 8,000 for Palestine and around 1,400 for Israel. These numbers will increase as the second phase of the war intensifies.

Concurrently, the possibility of the war expanding both in its geographical scope and drawing in external actors, ranging from Hezbollah to perhaps Iran, will have grave regional and global repercussions, beginning with turbulence in the energy/hydrocarbon sector.

The October 7 attack has led to a deep division across the world by way of support to Israel and sympathy for Palestine and an intractable deadlock prevails in the global political arena. This was reflected in the deliberations at the UN, where the Security Council was unable to arrive at a consensus about a cessation of the Israeli offensive, even as Gaza has been razed to the ground and its hapless civilian population subjected to disproportionate punishment in flagrant violation of international law.

The vote at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday, which saw India’s abstention, is illustrative of the political deadlock over the war in Gaza. A Jordan-drafted resolution that called for an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities, but did not make any mention of Hamas, got 120 votes in favour, 14 against and 45 abstentions.

Among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the US voted against the UNGA resolution; Russia, China and France were in favour; and the UK abstained. During the negotiations, Canada and the US co-sponsored an amendment seeking the introduction of a paragraph which would state that the UNGA “unequivocally rejects and condemns the terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting on October 7 and the taking of hostages, demands the safety, well-being and humane treatment of the hostages in compliance with international law, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.”

It is instructive that India voted in favour of the Canadian amendment, along with 87 other nations, while 55 member states voted against and 23 abstained. However, this fell short of the required majority and the final resolution had no mention of Hamas as a group or its terrorist tag. India, which has taken an unambiguous position that terrorism, irrespective of its provenance, cannot be ignored or condoned, justified its decision to abstain, though this has led to considerable political discord within the country.

The spectrum of responses to the October 7 attack is wide and varied, both among states and their populations. While Turkey is not alone in refusing to describe Hamas as a terror group, some major states — Russia and China, for example — are ambivalent. Consequently, this deadlock on restraining Israel is likely to persist till the US reviews its support to the Netanyahu government.

Civil society across the world has staged a series of protests calling for an end to the Israeli attacks, and this is the silver lining. Cutting across the poisonous religious binary, a large number of Jews in New York are in the forefront of the peace campaign and many others have also extended support to the cause of Palestine (in London and Istanbul) and this is also visible in India, though on a smaller scale.

The Israeli response is understandable — the terrorists who attacked it and killed its citizens have to be punished. However, the manner in which Israel has prosecuted this war may not be prudent in the long run for arriving at a consensual political settlement with Palestine (an Oslo-plus template?) and the tactical policy of maximum force shows blatant disregard for international humanitarian law and ethical norms.

What is the way ahead in Gaza? The probability is that the violence will increase and more civilians will perish. The anguishing question that haunts the liberal constituency is: how many more children will be killed to avenge the October 7 attack? If there is no cessation of the war, the possibility of escalation is high and this can lead to the involvement of other state-sponsored groups; in that case, the regional dynamics will become even more volatile than they are now.

In this blood-spattered crisis that has found major powers abdicating their responsibility to strive for peace (however elusive it may appear now), former French PM Dominique de Villepin, better remembered for leading France’s opposition to the US-led Iraq war, has made an insightful assessment. In an interview, he cautions the world about what could be a ‘Hamas trap’: one that will entice Israel and its supporters to higher levels of militarism, and the overlap with the trap of Occidentalism. The de Villepin assessment warrants an objective introspection.

Other political leaders, such as former US President Barack Obama and former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, have joined the animated public discourse. This is a very small cross-section of the often disparaged peaceniks; at this stage, when there is no discernible light at the end of the bloody Gaza tunnel, patient diplomacy anchored in an equitable, long-term solution must be pursued with all interlocutors.

Hamas and its affiliates that are wedded to the gory path of terror must be quarantined and rendered ineffective — both ideologically and militarily — so that such groups are divested of their ability to terrorise the state and society.

#Gaza #Hamas #Israel

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