In addition to the Palestinian – Israeli Conflict, there are internal impasses within Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Moreover there remains one fundamental unanswered question.
The Israeli perspective: Israel has outlined three primary objectives for the ongoing conflict, namely the return of hostages, the defeat of Hamas, and the assurance that Gaza will not pose a future threat to Israel. Despite some progress on the battlefield, achieving these goals is not imminent. Additionally, the West Bank remains unsettled, experiencing daily skirmishes. In the northern region, Hezbollah daily launches rocket attacks on Israel, heightening the risk of a full-fledged conflict. Involvement of other countries including Syria, the Houthis in Yemen and violent protests and acts of terror around the world, raise concerns about the conflict expanding beyond current borders.
Internally Israel faces a litany of problems:
The hostages: After 69 days, many of the hostages have yet to be returned with the grim notification of another hostage murdered in captivity every few days.
Evacuated towns: It remains unsafe for residents of Jewish communities near Gaza to return home. Furthermore, many do not have houses to return to. In the north, over 40 communities have been evacuated, and the safety of these areas is contingent on deterring Hezbollah. In total, an estimated 200,000 Israelis are currently internally displaced.
The reservists: Hundreds of thousands of reservists have been mobilized for over two months. Many will return to a difficult job situation and financial problems exacerbated by the war and their mobilization. Some will wonder why there have not been tangible results for their efforts.
Casualties: Since October 7, over 1,300 people have been killed, with more than 400 IDF soldiers dead and 11,000 injured, including 500 in critical condition. Aside from their anger, grief and frustration, ongoing support for the survivors and all the families will be crucial for their rehabilitation.
The economic toll: The initial war cost for Israel is estimated at $51 billion. Soaring expenses and dwindling tax revenues exacerbate the economic problems. In the meantime, the government continues to allocate superfluous funding to meet its coalition partners demands.
Weakening American support: President Biden and the U.S. government, while supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, express distrust in the present government’s policies. Without sustained U.S. support, Israel will struggle to navigate its already complex predicaments.
Disruptive Settler policy: The government has allowed some settlers to get out of hand and act in ways which provoke moderate Palestinians and antagonize our closest allies. Support for the Settlers has diverted funding and military resources. A notable instance is the transfer of two military units from Gaza to the West Bank just before October 7. If these units had stayed near Gaza, the outcome on October 7 might not have been as catastrophic. Settler policy has also tarnished Israel’s international reputation.
Little to no headway has been achieved on these issues, and many are poised to worsen. Even prior to the conflict, roughly half the population opposed the current government and its policies. Since then, a growing number expect a change. Many of those who continue to back Netanyahu and the government are doing so solely to avoid disrupting government operations during the war, with plans to oppose them immediately afterward. The majority of the public are disappointed with the lack of solutions provided by the present government. Despite projecting normalcy, Netanyahu’s chances of maintaining power are rapidly diminishing. The government’s standing will only worsen as the Israeli situation deteriorates.
Gaza: For many Palestinians and their supporters, the events of Oct 7 represent a glorified victory over Israel and the Jews. Nevertheless, nothing Hamas has done has advanced the Palestinian cause. The opposite is true.
The Hamas military situation: While they have caused enormous suffering for Israelis, they are not winning the war. At least 1/3 of their militants have been killed including many mid-high high-ranking officers. Much of the enormous and costly military infrastructure including the massive underground tunnel system sponsored since 2005 by Qatar lies in ruins. The Hamas military prowess has been destroyed.
The Gaza population: Gaza remains in ruins with close to 2 million people displaced, and 10’s of thousands of structures destroyed. Even if humanitarian aid is maximized, at most it will only meet the most basic needs of the Gaza population. As Gazans grow more desperate, they become increasingly willing to overcome their fear of Hamas and protest against Hamas policies.
As Israel advances in its ground campaign, the Hamas military force and infrastructure face the prospect of total eradication. The likelihood of achieving their declared goal of destroying Israel is diminishing. Without a change in direction Hamas will lose its leverage and the situation in Gaza will only worsen.
The West Bank and Palestinian Authority (PA):
Poor PA governance: The PA has a reputation as a corrupt, incompetent autocratic government.
Lack of Palestinians support: The PA is losing the popular contest to Hamas.
Lack of International support: While criticism of Israel is extensive, support of the PA is not, not even among Arab and Muslim countries.
US conditional support: The US is calling on the PA to play a role in the rebuilding of Gaza after the war, but only if the PA changes their ways.
The PA has lost ground since October 7.Without a change in direction, the PA’s standing will only worsen.
Unanswered question: Presuming that Israel eventually wins the war over Hamas, who will rule Gaza?
Problems with Resolution of the Palestinian Conflict
The Palestinian side: Hamas rejects a negotiated peace settlement, and the Palestinian Authority has never offered or accepted any compromise peace offering. Additionally, due to lack of mutual recognition, neither the PA nor Hamas can claim to be the official and accepted representatives of the Palestinian people.
The Israeli side: In the distant past, at least half of Israelis supported a two-state solution. However, ongoing violence by the various Palestinian factions, including events like Oct 7, has shifted the majority of Israelis to oppose a two-state solution. The Settler faction and their supporters reject it for ideological reasons, while others view it as untenable and a threat to Israel’s security.
However, given that neither the 9 million Israelis nor the approximately 7 million Palestinians have any intention of disappearing or being conquered, the key question is whether the two sides can coexist cooperatively or if they will persist in an existential conflict.
We are at multiple impasses. An impasse is a road or way that has no outlet. A deeper analysis of the concept suggests that while there may be no way out using the same solutions tried before, a different, previously untried solution may work. To break free from this deadlock, basic assumptions must be challenged, and some changed. Here is one avenue for exploration to convert a lose-lose situation into a potential win-win.
- Israel: The current Israeli government should recognize that its ongoing governance is exacerbating the situation. It would be more prudent to voluntarily relinquish control now rather than face forced removal later. The Israeli government could consider a plan in which they voluntarily resign, including Netanyahu, paving the way for an emergency, time-limited interim government appointed by the President. This interim government would be comprised of competent professionals dedicated to acting in the best interests of the people. The appointees could be drawn from all walks of Israeli life. For the interim government, party or coalition considerations would be unnecessary. Envision, for example, the potential improvement for Israel with an articulate, experienced English-speaking Foreign Minister or a professional serving as Finance Minister. Multiply that by each necessary government department and eliminate the unnecessary ones. Governance would improve. The budget would be exclusively geared at dealing with Israel’s difficult situation. Unlike the current government, this all-star cabinet would have the capability to halt expansion of further West Bank settlements and deal with unruly Settlers in accordance with the law. Like the emergency military cabinet, a war government composed of the most talented Israelis without a divisive political agenda would stand a better chance of navigating Israel through its labyrinth of problems and garnering more support from the US government.The Netanyahu government has failed. It is time for a change. Passing on the baton of power, while painful, would at least cut the losses of the present government before more damage is done to the country, and it falls into further disrepute.
- Hamas: Hamas is facing its elimination. There is a way for them to continue their influence if they reject their Jihad nihilistic policy and agree to engage in a non violent political process. In such a case, some Hamas representatives could be allowed to play a role in a future Gaza, on condition that they agree to release all the hostages without insisting on the release of convicted terrorists, along with agreeing in advance to abstain from the use of violence against Israel.
- Gaza: An international committee, comprising representatives from moderate Arab states, international entities, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Israel, would be designated to serve as an interim governing body for Gaza. This temporary solution would be a difficult pill both for Israel and Hamas to swallow, but has the potential of securing the release of the hostages, facilitating a chance for a positive rather than destructive or absent role for Hamas, and offering an interim compromise solution for Gaza. One can only draw solutions from what is available.
- The Palestinian Authority: The PA would be encouraged to collaborate towards a fuller politically negotiated agreement with Israel which if successful has the eventual potential of leading to a two-party solution. The interim process should include an international body which would oversee their democratization, insistence on a future election date, a free press and an independent judiciary. A committee comprising Palestinian, Israeli, and international educators would be responsible for rewriting textbooks to avoid promoting hatred against Jews among Palestinian children. While the PA would receive international funding, the finance minister would be appointed from the international community and be accountable to an independent auditor. The objective would be the improvement of the Palestinians’ well-being and political autonomy with a policy of coexistence toward Israel.
- Security: Israel would retain overall security control over Gaza.
- International involvement: In terms of who would be the international body, it cannot be UNWRA or any UN representative since they have been counter-productive in their influence on the conflict. A Western Europe or North American contingent could be considered.
Even if some aspects of this particular suggestion are dismissed, a potentially better solution may emerge than the unsustainable conflict which exists now. Furthermore, the present conflict has the potential to extend beyond the involved nations and, indeed, beyond the Middle East.