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  • Writer's pictureRory O'Keeffe, Koraki

Israel and Gaza 3) What should happen next

Had I been able to talk directly to men, women and children in Israel and Gaza, this piece would certainly have been different (or, arguably, would not exist). Instead of it, I would have created a piece of reportage, with under- and over-currents of what follows here.

I did and do not have such access. As a result, this piece is pure analysis – the first section historical, the second regarding Hamas' attack, and the third about what should happen next. 

To read this piece in full, click here

To read Part One, (A bit of) History, click here

To read Part Two, 8 October 2023: What should have happened, click here

Israel and Gaza

3) What should happen next

On 23 February 2024, CNN received sight of a proposal for Gaza sketched by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It suggested that once the Israeli invasion and devastation ended – a process he claims will take 'weeks', though we must consider that there is no way he planned for his violent revenge to have taken five months with zero achievements, so we should take that estimate with at least a pinch of salt – Israel would take 'full security control' of Gaza, would decide where Gaza receives funding from, and would have full control over all entries and exits, of items as well as people, to and from the area.

What is most interesting is that his 'plan for the future' is precisely the situation which existed before Hamas' attack and his revenge. Israel already had full control of Gazan security, it had erected a wall around its border with Gaza, and controlled absolutely everything that went in and out of the country, including food. It controlled where funding for the region came from, and whether donations and investment were allowed.

The sole major change under Netanyahu's 'new' plan would be that the Israeli government would have control also over the crossing points from Gaza to Egypt – in effect making the annexation of Gaza complete. But in practice, the Israeli government has pressured its Egyptian counterparts to the extent that it already controls this border, so even this is not a significant development.

The second most interesting thing about this 'plan' is that it is as we have said an annexation of the last remaining piece of Palestinian territory in the west of the region, or at best a literal siege.

And it is impossible not to conclude, drawing upon all of recorded history everywhere on Earth, and literally the last 20 years in this precise region, that the only outcome of this 'plan' will not be increased security for Israeli citizens, and certainly not any improvement in the dire and gruesome living standards and lived experience of Palestinian people – which of course was never an interest of Netanyahu – but the strengthening of Hamas, or the rise of another, almost identical, group.

It is hard, in fact, to see any other circumstance more likely to sow inherent mistrust and anger with the Israeli government from Palestinian people, or circumstances under which such feelings – precisely the situation which gives rise to militant resistance groups – could be easier to understand.

It would be a recipe for disaster, had disaster not already happened.

Instead, it is a recipe for continued misery, bloodshed, and mutual hatred among people who must, one way or another, live side by side.

Which brings us to what should happen.

We must first note two things:

·        There simply is not a 'solution' that will entirely please any imaginable Israeli government and simultaneously whatever remains of a representative Palestinian body, and

·        At present, there is little to no reason for the Israeli government even to take any negotiations seriously: despite the narrative of the government, Palestine and its people pose absolutely zero threat to the state of Israel (though certainly Palestinian armed groups pose a threat to some Israeli individuals). This is, simply, why Israeli governments have such a long and consistent record of walking away from, or refusing even to enter, processes of dialogue

For these reasons, the plan I think it's most important to consider – the one, at least, against which objections should be raised – is one which, on the face of it, might appear to deliver less to both parties than alternatives may deliver to one or other.

But it might also be more sustainable, and less bloody, than those alternatives.

Before we note the two major options – or their essence, at least – we have to set out some simple statements of fact:

·        First, the existence of Israel is absolutely and understandably considered by Palestinian people to be a catastrophe.

Even had the 'new' state adhered to the international mandate by which it was created – and it has done nothing of the sort – thousands and thousands of people lost their homes, their land, their possessions and their livelihoods, in some cases the legacies of family possessions reaching back for thousands and thousands of years.

To dismiss or ignore this simple fact is to deny, in effect, the matter at the heart of the ongoing enmity and anger in the region

·        Second, despite this, Israel does exist, and while 'historical justification' is an extremely shallow concept, the simple fact is that there are Israeli people who were born in Israel and are now 76 years old.

The state's creation may well have been a 'catastrophe' to many people living even now in the region, but the simple reality is that there are historical reasons why this area was chosen – albeit that this decision was taken by people with no right to do so, and zero consultation with those who actually lived there –  and in any case, to 'wipe it off the map', even without violence, would be to commit to at least some extent to precisely the uprooting of people from their homes that we correctly abhor when considering modern Israel's formation

·        Third, Israel has been attacked by its neighbours – though its relations with almost all of them have significantly improved in the last decade.

Its experience over that period has certainly shaped some of its governments' outlooks and behaviours, and has given its main backers, particularly the US, an excuse or even a reason to build the state into by far the richest, most militarily advanced, and powerful state in its region

·        Fourth, in part because of this, however justified the situation and support may be, Israeli governments have consistently abused their immense power, even while portraying themselves as 'powerless underdogs' and 'victims of violence'.

They have stolen land far beyond that granted the state by the mandate which created it, carried out regular attacks, both in the form of military strikes designed to force Palestinian people to leave their homes to make way for 'settlers', and of all-out missile and ground attacks against Palestinian areas.

Even before 7 October 2023, Israeli governments have carried out war crimes against Palestinian people, and the state has been in direct breach of international law regarding the land it has stolen, for every one of the last 60 years.

The sole reason the law has not been enforced is because the US has consistently, as it has done in the months of the most recent savagery against Palestinian men, women and children, used its UN Security Council veto to block any measures to do so.

With all of this said, the first part of absolutely any plan must be that the Israeli government ceases its attack on Palestinian people, and ceases using starvation as a means of weakening and killing its men, women and particularly (because they are most vulnerable and because to target them is a specific act of genocide) its children.

The last five months have been a bitter and horrifying assault not only on Palestinian people, but on international law, and on what it actually means to be a human being. The Israeli government must cease this outrage against every person on Earth, immediately.

The Israeli government holds all of the power here, however. So why would it do so?

The major reason is because the source of that power is the US. As has been the case from the start, if the US government wished to, it could step in to immediately end the slaughter of Palestinian people by the Israeli government. The latter government is so reliant on US cash and weapons for its regional hegemony that even the threat of its removal would push it to end its massacre, and enter negotiations.

But the end of this round of violence would of course not be enough. As we have already noted, Palestinian people have very serious and understandable grievances, and Israeli citizens, fuelled in part by justified fear that they may become victims of an attack, and in large part by the propaganda continuously blasted at them by racists in every position of power in the state, live in a combination of threatened injury or death, and fear, suspicion and hatred of their neighbours, almost none of whom any of them have ever seen, let alone met or spoken to.

Within years, if not months, violence would begin again. Some Israeli people would no doubt be injured or killed, and thousands more Palestinian people would suffer the same fate. The bitter irony being that this shared experience would of course drive both farther apart, and cause both to double down, sowing the seeds for the next attack, and the next massacre, and all of those after that.

The sole way out of this is an agreed peace, accepted on equal terms by both groups, and which delivers every person in the region absolute equality in terms of rights of all kind, with every other person in the region.

This is, of course, absolutely the least that every single person on the planet deserves.

The two major options for this in this region are, in essence, a 'one-state' or a 'two-state' 'solution'.

The one state option is largely favoured by Palestinian people (though some recent polling may indicate that a small majority now favours a two-state plan), but generally dismissed by Israeli politicians and many citizens, who fear that they would swiftly be outnumbered in their own state, and stripped of their rights as a result.

There would, of course, be means by which this could be prevented. The UN, for example, could oversee and regulate the country's constitution so that if at some stage a majority Palestinian population did elect an extremist nationalist government (and this has happened in both Gaza and Israel, with greater regularity than reflects well on either) and that government attempted to strip Israeli people of their constitutional rights, the UN could prevent this.

But it is unlikely that an Israeli government, accustomed despite its protestations to the contrary to being the most powerful operator in its region, would seriously enter such an agreement, and it must be considered whether it would be reasonable to demand it to.

The alternative, then, is two states: an Israel, and a Palestine.

Why should Palestinian people agree to such a situation? And how would anyone prevent one or other of the two states from attacking or invading the other?

The first part of the answer to the first part of the question is brutal, but accurate: an independent Palestinian state would be far, far better than the reality for Palestinian people today, and for many decades before, as well as enormously better than Netanyahu's shell of an idea.

The 'new' Palestine would be controlled and run by Palestinian people. It would not be walled, as Gaza is, and its people would not be restricted by a hostile powerful neighbour from entering or leaving. It, and nobody else, would control its trade and which food and other items entered or left.

The second part of the answer is that in order for this new Palestine to exist, it and the 'new' Israel would adhere precisely to the borders set out in the 1948 mandate for the original 'new' Israeli state.

Although the 1948 mandate is – correctly – regarded by most Palestinian people as an outrage and a catastrophe, there is no escaping the fact that it is a far better situation for Palestinian people than the tiny area into which they have been crammed by successive Israeli governments' illegal land grabs.

So, Palestinian people gain a state, which has been denied them for decades, and one far larger than the current slivers of land into which they have been forced.

Of course, few Palestinian people would regard this as ideal. But this in itself is a part of the strength of the proposal. Because in order for any agreement to work, it seems sadly inevitable that along with a gain for itself, each population will need to be able to see that their own concerns and unhappiness are matched by those of the other.

And those disappointments and unhappiness will be felt by the Israeli government. Not only will it see an actually independent Palestine, a development it has unjustly demanded must never happen, it will also be stripped of the land it has stolen – and stolen is precisely the correct term – from Palestinians since 1948.

So, why would an Israeli government agree to such a deal?

First, because while Netanyahu and his extremist cohort are too blinded by prejudice and racism to recognise it, any reasonable Israeli person must be able to see that there is no way to end the violence – including the direct threats faced by Israeli men, women and children, but also the massacres of their Palestinian counterparts – that does not involve a negotiated settlement under which everyone has the same rights and freedoms.

The past 76 years starkly proves the point, and this will continue as long as no such settlement exists.

The only alternative way to deliver such an outcome would be the 'one-state solution' preferred by most Palestinian people, and opposed by most Israelis, and so here is a gain for Israel (and a 'loss' for Palestinians) – the better of the two legal and realistically successful options.

Second, because the international community, including the US, must make clear to Israeli politicians that the current situation is unacceptable, and without a settlement, all aid and weapons to Israel will be cut off.

And third, because the best way to answer the second question: how would anyone prevent one state simply attacking the other? is by means of a demilitarised zone, preferably administered and safeguarded by Arab states, overseen by the UN.

The advantage of this may not be immediately clear, but is as follows:

·        Palestinian people, even more than Israeli people (who are, as we have said, perfectly justified in their fear of attack from Palestinian armed groups) have reason to be terrified of Israeli violence against them. Their lives have been continuously imperilled, and in many cases ruined, by Israeli state violence. This is, if anything at all is, in fact the single characteristic Palestinian experience. So, an Arab-state-administered demilitarised zone is the reassurance a Palestinian state might need, and is a safeguard for Israel and Palestine against an extremist group taking power in Palestine and fomenting violence under a claimed 'threat from Israel'.

·        Israeli people also have justified fears of violence against them from Palestinian groups. A demilitarised zone, administered by Arab states, who are in turn overseen by the UN, offers reassurance to Israeli people that this cannot happen, and makes it far less likely – to the benefit of Israeli as well as Palestinian people – that a far-Right racist like Netanyahu will ever again rise to power on the back of claimed 'threats from Arabs'.

·        Perhaps most importantly, Israel makes a real gain here. Because any demilitarised zone administered by Arab states must by definition include the open and concrete recognition of Israel as a state.

The slightly surprising fact is that such a solution is arguably more realistic now than it has ever been.

Most Arab states (and Türkiye) have significantly improved their relations with Israel, Israelis have been horrified by the last five months, and Palestinians prior to the Israeli government's attack were demonstrating against Hamas and calling for a solution to decades of violence.

But it does require movement. In the first instance from the US government, in the second from the wider international community, and in the third from Israeli and Palestinian representatives.

I do not claim that the 'solution' is perfect, though I will repeat that no solution that is perfect for both sides exists, and any planned future will be far more likely to hold, and remain steady, if both sides have equal disappointments, even as both sides also gain.

But I do believe that this is the proposal that must be the 'go-to': the one against which criticisms should be made, to test its strength and feasibility.

Not only that, what is happening now is unacceptable, and sadly completely sustainable. The only way the cycle of attacks and massacres ends is not by carrying out more massacres, to the point of genocide, but if we make it end.

The alternative is a life in fear for Israeli people, and a life in hell – if any life at all – for Palestinians.

We can, and must, do better. This seems the best way to do so.

To read this piece in full, click here

To read Part One, (A bit of) History, click here

To read Part Two, 8 October 2023: What should have happened, click here



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