Towards Human Security and a Resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
As humanity watches with horror the violent attacks in Israel, the shocking loss of civilian life and devastation in Gaza, and the escalations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, it’s evident that it’s up to the international community to do something beyond the usual band aid solutions. The Global Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is clearly applicable, and in the case of Gaza, has indeed been for years, as no state or entity has been able or willing to protect the population in Gaza. With current Israeli leadership’s plan of action focused on destroying Hamas at all costs, and apparent plan to continue its operation in southern Gaza, where Palestinians have been forced to flee; the International Community (IC), most notably the US and the EU must use its leverage on Israel to find a solution that protects all civilian population within Israel and Palestine. Pressure must also be placed on Hamas via Middle East states, including Qatar, the home of the political wing of Hamas who have become billionaires while Gazans starved. Subsequent to the October 7th events, Hamas must not only release Israeli hostages but be indefinitely removed from ruling over Gaza. None of this is possible without serious international engagement and leverage. Although the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and Israel’s brutal military occupation has festered under the international radar for decades, the current escalation effects everyone, not only fostering the potential of a regional war but also the rise of antisemitism and anti-Islam sentiment, which is resulting in mounting hatred and attacks against innocent civilians and homes of worship across the world.
The cycles of violence between Gaza under Hamas and Israel’s bombardment and incursions known as moving the lawn, that commonly fails to distinguish between combatants and civilians, must never again be repeated. An immediate cease fire is needed not only to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid to Gaza and allow for the return of kidnapped Israeli civilians, but also to open a corridor for Gazans to find safe locations in the South, as many families decided to stay in north of Gaza not because they support Hamas – as most Gazans don’t but because they felt too frighted to make the unsafe journey with their children. The conditions in the North of Gaza have become a living hell, without food, water, electricity and garbage and bodies rotting in the streets. As usual, Hamas and Israel blame each other for the death of civilians and all rules of war have been ignored.
The deadly events and escalation in violence within Israel and Palestine have to shift the international community away from blindly supporting an ally, towards human security and a sustainable solution. Since October 7th, Israel’s government’s reaction, supported by its allies including the US and Canada, has been focused on the destruction of Hamas and the familiar Israeli security solutions of collective punishment, with justification of war atrocities and massive bombardments of Gaza. The solutions for Israel and Palestine lie beyond humanitarian aid, ceasefires and the ground invasion of Gaza which will not succeed in destroying Hamas and, without a plan for the day after, will only lead to more senseless deaths among civilians. Although nothing justifies atrocities against civilians, Israel’s security strategies are what instigated the attack in the first place and the same strategies will do little to improve the realities for Israelis or Palestinians. Israel’s key military strategies since 1948 of shifting combat onto enemy soil and achieving military victory in the shortest time possible, are also no longer feasible and new approaches are necessary to protect civilian population and calm the current escalation before it widens within the Middle East. The complete disregard of basic human rights and needs for Palestinians and collective punishment of the two million residents of Gaza are not a justification for Hamas’ violent attack against Israeli civilians but certainly contribute to the explanation.
Solutions become less complicated when the primary concern is not the destruction of the other but the protection of civilians. Israeli civilians need security, freedom from terrorism and rocket attacks. Any ‘solution’ that involves war atrocities; genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity, is obviously not a solution to be carried out by anyone who does not want to eventually end up in the Hague. The common excuse for lack of negotiation and mediation is that Israel does not have a partner on the other side. However, the Palestinian Authority (PA) which is effectively in charge of Area A of the West Bank and governs majority of the Palestinian population are more moderate than the current Israeli government. There are workable solutions, some being floated around by state and EU representatives that formulate the basis of a two-state solution, which is the only possible and acceptable solution towards the protection of all civilians.
Some of the basic principles include:
1) Gaza will return to be ruled under the Palestinian Authority towards the creation of a Palestinian state with a fixed and a short-term timeline;
2) There can be no forced Palestinian displacement or long-term Israeli security presence in Gaza
3) At the same time, Gaza cannot continue to be a safe haven for terrorists and Hamas cannot control Gaza, which would necessitate a formidable transitional international presence
4) The blockade of Gaza must come to an immediate end. Not only have the sanctions led to perpetual civilian suffering and collective punishment, the policy has not worked. Under the 16-year-long blockade Hamas leaders gained immense wealth and miliary might, while the economy of Gaza collapsed.
5) Given the paralysis of the Quartet and the UN Security Council, a new international body must be created to oversee a transitional political, administrative and security process for Gaza. In order to assist the Palestinian Authority with security and state building, international peace keeping force could be made up of troops and police from regional countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Egypt.
Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank under Israel’s perpetual occupation without a peace solution is a horrific option for anyone certainly for Palestinian and Israeli civilians. Given the current lack of capable Israeli and Palestinian leadership, any negotiation and political discussions towards solutions should require an internationally led inclusive process with representation from opposition, women and Palestinian and Israeli civil society, with the end goal of human security and accountability for human rights abuses. The international community, notably the UN, US, EU, NATO and regional states need to formulate a viable peace plan and a road map that ends the Israeli Occupation and prioritizes human security and protection of all of the civilian population living within Israel and Palestine. Human security is a fundamental right for every person and when no state or entity is providing for the protection of a civilian population, it is the international community’s obligation to take all measures necessary to protect the population.