A ceasefire has brought to a halt the 11-day Gaza war. Only time will tell if this is a true harbinger of peace between Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank. The fear is this will be as short-lived as several peace initiatives brokered in the past proved. The ceasefire, pursued vigorously by Egypt on top of US President Joe Biden’s increasingly stern advice to Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, is the best thing to happen as it puts an immediate stop to the toll of lives. As many as 230 Palestinians, including 65 children and 35 women and 12 Israelis, including two children, have perished after lives of millions were torn asunder when thousands of rockets and GPS-guided missiles and bombs were raining on the region.
The question is, when will the next escalation come as victory is already being declared by the Hamas militants over a more powerful Jewish state even as Palestinians and Israelis cautiously welcome the cessation of hostilities? A cycle of violence followed by temporary truce has been the historical pattern and it will change only if Mr Biden becomes even less supportive of Israel, which is largely dependent on US funding and protection, besides an endless supply of precision-guided weapons. The US has said it will route humanitarian aid to rebuild Gaza only through the recognised Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and not the shadowy Hamas commanders.
Not too much credence can be given to the Palestinian militants’ claim that Mr Netanyahu has promised to halt further action at the Al Aqsa Mosque as well as planned evictions from Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem. The two flashpoints marked the run up to the most recent war though its direct cause may have been the invasive action of the firing of 4,000-plus rockets into Israel from Gaza. Whatever be the historical background to intractable confrontations, the fact remains that Hamas was the aggressor in raining fire though Israel reacted excessively in bombing Gaza in its hunt for militant targets, especially the network of tunnels, nicknamed “The Metro”.
The ultimate solution lies in the two-State principle granting recognition to a homeland for the Palestinian people, millions of whom were displaced during the creation of Israel in 1948 and after the 1967 war. The timing may seem awkward right now when war wounds are still being tended but international diplomacy would have to get cracking for any progress to be made in initiating talks on the right of the Palestinians to a homeland in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It stands to reason that the economic blockade of Gaza must end in any fair solution and the return of the displaced to Jerusalem and other Palestinian territories must be considered though it is hugely complicated.
There is no pretending that the Hamas, voted to power in Gaza in 2006 over the moderate Fatah, are not an impediment to peace in their fanatical belief in “intifada”. What happens from here would, however, be subject to how much the US is prepared to back any plan in which the state of Israel, whose right to existence is not in question anymore, may have to compromise in recognising a Palestinian homeland and if it seeks to live in peace.