Gaza War: Israel is losing badly in the battle of perceptions

Nearly 36,000 Palestinians are reported to have been killed in Israel’s war since the 7 October attacks by Hamas.  (AFP)
Nearly 36,000 Palestinians are reported to have been killed in Israel’s war since the 7 October attacks by Hamas. (AFP)


  • Tel Aviv risks global isolation if it persists with its Gaza offensive. A ceasefire and captive exchange could end this war and prepare the ground for peace based on a durable two-state solution. Palestine and Israel can co-exist.

More than seven months after Israel began its counter-offensive against Hamas, the war in Gaza seems no closer to an end. On Sunday, Israel launched a fresh strike based on “precise intelligence" against what it called “legitimate targets" after Hamas fired a barrage of missiles at Tel Aviv. 

Two senior Hamas officials are said to have been killed in the Israeli strike, which Hamas claims hit a refugee facility near Rafah in south Gaza and killed at least 35 people. The painful loss of civilian lives will only weaken Israel’s stature. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, seems bent on prolonging this war, as favoured by his far-right allies and perhaps calculations to keep himself in power. 

Also read: Israel airstrike hits refugee camp in Gaza; kills 35 including children. What we know so far

For the region, however, such an endless cycle of violence is catastrophic. Nearly 36,000 Palestinians are reported to have been killed in Israel’s war since the 7 October attacks by Hamas in which about 1,200 Israelis lost their lives and 250 others were taken hostage.

Various peace proposals have gone abegging even as discontent grows in Israel. Netanyahu’s government has been unable to secure the release of hostages; about half of them are still in Hamas captivity. It is also clear that victory would be an endless wait if wiping out this anti-Israel militia is the war’s principal aim. 

Meanwhile, the clock has run down on the leeway Tel Aviv got from world opinion for its response after last October’s horrors. Israel’s attack on Gaza has also been brutal; Gazans have suffered grievously and the still-rising death toll of women and children with no place to flee has marked Israel’s record with allegations of ‘genocide’ in a tragic irony for this Jewish state. 

As the weight of international views and jurisprudence has moved against Tel Aviv, it is lucky to have US backing. If Israel could openly ignore the International Court of Justice’s order to stop its Rafah offensive, it’s because of US support. Yet, this backing could run thin if America re-invests in the wisdom of a “decent respect for the opinions of mankind" in the context of how its overseas image is shaped by its Israel policy.

Also read: Hamas fires rockets at Tel Aviv for the first time in four months

It makes sense for all sides to grab an olive branch that puts an end to hostilities. If local Israeli politics is an obstacle, then it is even more important for America to push for a truce and play peacemaker. Netanyahu’s newly restive cabinet colleagues are right that Tel Aviv must declare a clear post-war plan for Gaza. 

Full re-occupation would mean a return to a scenario given up in 2005 and will be taken as a move backwards in the peace process, while allowing a Palestinian administration to work under Israel’s military oversight might prove a non-starter, especially if other countries are asked to help rebuild a Gaza that lacks sovereign control over itself. The options may be few, but any real settlement of the dispute will have to respect the right of Palestinians to self-determination. 

As Israel would be reluctant to give up its Jewish identity to fully embrace religious diversity, a two-state solution suggests itself, with the sovereign states of Israel and Palestine sharing Jerusalem. This has long been considered the most feasible lasting solution, with Palestinian refugees allowed to return to their state—in Gaza and the West Bank—but not Israel. 

Down the years, sadly, Israeli hardliners have rejected through actions what was agreed upon in principle as a peace formula. What we need right now is an urgent prisoner-exchange pact, one that lays the ground for fire-arms to fall silent and final-status talks to re-begin.

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