17 November, 2023

An immediate ceasefire would obviously be ideal but, as so often, the best would almost certainly be the enemy of the good. Hamas, I gather, has announced that it will never stop fighting and it is inconceivable that the ultras in the Netanyahu government in Israel would agree to a unilateral ceasefire. So the efforts of outside parties to promote a ceasefire would be a complete waste of time. Meanwhile the killing and the destruction in Gaza would continue apace. If on the other hand the less ambitious idea of a humanitarian pause, or series of such pauses, were to be pursued more energetically (coupled with intense pressure on Israel to take more seriously the avoidance of civilian casualties), a great deal of  relief might be much more quickly brought to Gaza’s people. I was impressed by the thoughtful and well informed letter to his constituents on this subject of the British Labour Party’s Hilary Benn.

As to the future, I always used to think that the Palestine-Israel conflict was not a problem to be solved but a dilemma to be managed, in the hope that if handled well by outside parties and with moderate governments in charge on the ground, memories might gradually fade in two or three generations and a two-state solution become possible. But it has not been managed well and that is now a pipe-dream. Unless, that is, there is some very serious external arm-twisting – with external guarantees, demilitarised border zones and the insertion of substantial peacekeeping forces, not necessarily those of the UN because of Israeli hostility to the world body. The arrangements for Sinai following the Egypt-Israel peace treaty of 1979 are perhaps the model. The odds are probably against this, of course, but I refuse to despair – yet.

Some valuable articles:
Jonathan Freedland, ‘”It’s not yet post-traumatic stress disorder … we’re still in it”: Israel, a nation at war’, The Guardian, 24 November 2023; ‘In its war against Hamas, Israel faces a tragic choice between two different routes to disaster’, The Guardian, 1 December 2023

Patrick Wintour, ‘Corrupt, discredited: could a reformed Palestinian Authority run Gaza?’ The Guardian, 27 November 2023