Hamas are winning in this latest appalling round of conflict in Israel-Palestine, whilst innocent Palestinians are losing their lives. Yes, their monstrous attacks on innocent civilians in southern Israel have been condemned by almost every country in the world, but they have surely reinforced their standing amongst extremists and bolstered their recruiting. What does a Hamas commander care that Biden condemns his actions?
The body-count in Gaza is horrifying and many, perhaps most, of the bodies are those of children, who should have had decades of life ahead of them. But Hamas do not weep for each dead child, they are not concerned about how many of the dead are Israeli or Palestinian. They are winning in Gaza because they are almost literally calling the shots. It was their intention to lure Israel into this ruthless response and they care nothing for the dead amongst those they are supposed to govern.
But they are not alone in this dance of death. Hamas has long had a partner in Netanyahu, who has traded on violence and fear all his political life. While portraying himself as the hard man who could protect Israel’s security, for years Netanyahu took steps to support Hamas and undermine the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The result of his strategy was that, according to the Times of Israel,
‘Hamas was upgraded from a mere terror group to an organization with which Israel held indirect negotiations via Egypt, and one that was allowed to receive infusions of cash from abroad.’
What do Netanyahu and the leaders of Hamas have in common? A desire to weaken strong and legitimate political authority for the Palestinians. They are both blocking the road to peace and for reasons of self-aggrandisement for which they are prepared for thousands of others to pay with their lives.
This feels like a story without hope, with the leaders of both sides stuck in a mortal combat while thousands die. But that is wrong. There is a way that the international community could defeat the men of blood on both sides. That way, the only way out of this conflict, is a peace process that brings justice as well as security.
People across the world are crying out for an end to the killing, but a cessation of hostilities must be only the first step on the road to a genuine peace. Like every other citizen in the world, both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live peacefully within internationally recognised borders and without recurring bouts of extreme violence and a constant fear of them returning.
We all know how the path to this peace begins: it begins with an immediate ceasefire and the unconditional return of all hostages. Then the world must demand a true and binding negotiation, rejecting meaningless platitudes about ‘two state solution’ and ‘peace process’ that have echoed down the decades while the killing has gone on. Of course this will not be easy: that is why we say that making of peace requires much more courage than the making of war.
We, the international community, cannot allow Hamas to win. We cannot allow their brutal attacks to undermine any chance of justice for their own people and so perpetuate the conflict that will soon have lasted for a century.
Only by isolating the men of violence on both sides can we ensure that the lives lost during this heart-breaking conflict are the last and that the hard work of making peace begins.