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The Israel-Hamas War in perspective

  • 02 November 2023
  The fifth war between Israel and Hamas enters its fourth week, with the worst yet to come. As with any such repetitious calamity, a sense of inevitability seeps in. But there was a credible course that might have avoided this catastrophe. 

At one time a solid majority among both Israelis and Palestinians accepted the same basic framework for resolution of their century-long conflict. The details were yet to be worked out, but the idea of two states seemed to be the future path. Then the extremists on both sides went to work.

In perspective, after the Interim Agreement (Oslo II) was concluded in September 1995, support for the peace process in Israel registered as high as 73 per cent. Support among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza was reliably recorded at 72 per cent. Around that time I wrote that ‘it is possible that we are in the last stage of the Arab-Israel conflict’. I was not alone in this happy thought. But we were all wrong.

In short order came the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and during the subsequent Israeli election campaign Palestinian terrorists launched four attacks in nine days, helping to tip the balance in favour of hawkish newcomer Benjamin Netanyahu. Then came the collapse of the Camp David/Taba talks, the second intifada, a wave of suicide bombings in Israel, the Hamas victory in 2006 Palestinian elections, the 2006–07 Israel-Hezbollah war, the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the four subsequent wars there. All of this was accompanied by the growth of Jewish settlements and settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

On the eve of the 7 October massacre, then, support for the two-state solution had fallen to 32 per cent among Palestinians and 35 per cent among Israelis.

To reverse Hamas control of Gaza, after 2007 Israel and Egypt (also fighting Islamic extremists) instituted a blockade designed, in theory, to allow humanitarian relief to the civil population but to weaken Hamas militarily and governmentally. Obviously this failed. Civilians did suffer, but Hamas remained in control and able to commit massive atrocities in Israel.


'Netanyahu is now reaping the results of his own short-sighted policy. Tragically many Israelis, and many more Palestinians, will pay the price with their lives. When it’s over, maybe the dismal chapter of Bibi’s reign will also be over. But will the sheer brutality of it also bolster the Hamas grip on power, despite its previously