No one could have predicted the wanton bloodletting that followed Israel’s response to the surprise Hamas attack on its citizens on October 7. But going by the initial statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the ongoing annihilation of Palestinians in Gaza is going according to script.
In his speech after the devastating attack that led to the death of at least 200 Israelis, Netanyahu was categorical about a massive retaliation. “In parallel, I am initiating an extensive mobilization of the reserves to fight back on a scale and intensity that the enemy has so far not experienced. The enemy will pay an unprecedented price,” Netanyahu said as he vowed to retaliate in a manner that have never been witnessed in previous conflicts between Israel and Palestine.
Experts are of the view that Netanyahu’s response, including the subsequent pronouncements of top Israeli officials was premeditated. It bespeaks of a well thought out reaction that could not have been planned within such a short period for parties that had no recent simmering tensions resorting to a full-blown war.
It was not lost to experts that, knowingly or unknowingly, the Israeli officials were alluding to a “genocide”. The sheer terror visited on innocent Palestinians has been an overkill – they are non-combatant collateral damage. With negligible Hamas counterattack on the ground, at least by what we see on the international media, Israel is actually engaged in a one-sided war in Gaza. The country cannot claim any more that its actions in Gaza are in self-defense.
For Israel, and by extension its Western allies, the writing is on the wall. A large part of the international community is now demanding “ceasefire now”, and a serious conversation towards a two-state solution without further ado. Indeed, some Western countries are also changing tune, with French President Emmanuel Macron also rooting for a two-state solution as a permanent resolution to the perennial conflict during his telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 20.
In his speech on November 21 at the BRICS extraordinary virtual summit on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, Xi pleaded for the opening and securing of humanitarian corridors for the people of Gaza. Further, Additionally, the collective punishment of people in Gaza in the form of forced transfer or water, electricity and fuel deprivation must stop,” Xi said.
He stated that the root cause of the Palestinian-Israeli situation is the fact that the right of the Palestinian people to statehood, their right to existence, and their right of return have long been ignored. I have emphasized on many occasions that the only viable way to break the cycle of Palestinian-Israeli conflict lies in the two-state solution, in the restoration of the legitimate national rights of Palestine, and in the establishment of an independent State of Palestine.
The United Nations (UN) Charter is clear that the use of force on another country should be sanctioned by the Security Council (UNSC). Basically, the UNSC authorizes the use of force on occasions when international peace and security is under threat, or in self-defense during an armed attack. None of these circumstances prevailed after Hamas attack last month. But the escalation of the violent conflict result in global crisis.
Israel is engaged in an act of reprisal as its actions do not fall within the principle of necessity, neither that of proportionality. As of November 22, it was estimated that the death toll of the conflict had risen to 14,532 Palestinians, of who 6,000 were children. Israel’s bombings and attacks on hospitals has also been unreasonable. Even after the devastating bombings, there has been no smoking gun evidence that Hamas was using the medical facilities as military bases or command centers.
The unmitigated violence against Palestinians who have nothing to do with the conflict, or the Hamas attack for that matter, shows that Israel is engaged in a scorched earth policy. Palestinians also fear that Israel will not cede back all the territory that it has advanced into after the military operation ends. This would intensify the crisis and prolong any hopes for peace.
Israel has not given a timeline within which its military operation in Gaza will cease. As it stands now, it is fighting a faceless enemy in a no-holds barred contest. This is the fifth time Israel has launched a military offensive in the Palestinian territory since 2007. There is really not much the use of force between the two adversaries can achieve this time that it has not achieved over the years. Had the two parties engaged in peacebuilding and negotiations in this period, most likely a rapprochement would have been achieved.
Hamas may not be a formal military outfit with overt hierarchies found in the armed forces. However, this Palestinian military wing represents the desperation Palestinians feel for the increasing loss of their territory in Gaza. Even though the Palestine Liberation Organization denounced the militant group’s actions, experts view the October attack as a way of calling international attention to the plight of Palestinians. That has happened as the international community has been focused on the Palestine question since the attack.