No easy way out for Israel-Gaza conflict

In order for any ceasefire to be meaningful, Israel must free Gaza from its straitjacket. That prospect is some way off


With the bloodshed in Gaza having worsened over the weekend, John Kerry’s visit to the Middle East takes on added significance. Agreement on the terms of a ceasefire is vital.

Conflict does not necessarily beget sense. On the contrary, more often than not war hardens positions and there will be plenty in both Israel and Gaza who feel there is nothing to be lost by fighting on. But in the Israeli-Palestinian context where – in the end – peoples must live side by side, that makes it all the more important to end the competing bombardments.

Mr Kerry has been in a similar position before. Indeed, until the recent escalation of hostilities he had been groping towards a peace settlement for a little under a year without success. But with the Palestinian death toll rising above 500, most of them civilians, it is clear that the rhetoric from the US and the United Nations has become more focused on the need for a cessation to the fighting. Pictures of child-size body bags make a tougher line inevitable.

Yet the American Secretary of State cannot achieve a ceasefire alone and support in the wider Middle East for any peace plan is crucial to its accomplishment. His meeting last month with Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s President, may prove helpful in that regard, enabling the presentation of a united front to Benjamin Netanyahu and to the Palestinian leadership, even if Egyptian influence over Hamas is minimal.

Of course, nobody doubts that indiscriminate Hamas attacks on Israel are unacceptable. For all the efficacy of the Iron Dome defence system, no state should simply put up with rockets being fired into its territory. Nonetheless, the military gulf between the two sides is vast and the Israeli response over the past fortnight has been disproportionate. Israel must not be left under the illusion that it has widespread international support for its current actions, however legitimate its concerns about Hamas rockets.

As to whether Israel has weakened the Palestinian militants, that is frankly a moot point. The killing of women and children will only reinforce the view among Palestinian civilians that Israel does not care one jot about collateral damage to the innocent.

Mr Netanyahu’s steadfast refusal to recognise the current Palestinian government because of its backing by Hamas certainly makes peace more difficult to achieve. The simple fact is that Israel could continue air raids on Gaza indefinitely if its government wanted to, so any truce that seeks to humiliate Mr Netanyahu personally or the Israeli state is bound to be a non-starter.

But equally, the 10-point plan for peace set out by Hamas last week contains a lot that ought to be regarded as acceptable by both sides – and as reasonable by the international community. For instance, a measured lifting of the blockade of Gaza is frankly essential if any semblance of normality is to return to the lives of people living there. It is not reasonable that Gaza should be some kind of open-air penitentiary in perpetuity. To that end, the opening of a port and airport under UN management, and the expansion of the fishing zone, should be agreed upon. The requested release of all recaptured prisoners from the Gilad Shalit swap may rankle Israel, but there appears to be little justification for their continued detention.

The tragedy is that, as always, discussions about peace in the Middle East are set in the context of ceasefires, truces and – at the outside – five or 10-year settlements. The notion of a longer-lasting peace between Israel and a viable Palestinian state remains a seemingly forlorn hope. Today, it is further off than ever.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Read Next

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
William Hague, addresses delegates at the Conservative party conference for the last time in his political career in Birmingham  

It’s only natural for politicians like William Hague to end up as journalists

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference