Since 1975
  • facebook
  • twitter

The time is right for Israel to negotiate

As every day passes and the civilian death toll grows, the more worldwide opinion turns against Israel (File/AFP)
As every day passes and the civilian death toll grows, the more worldwide opinion turns against Israel (File/AFP)
Short Url:
25 Jan 2024 01:01:34 GMT9
25 Jan 2024 01:01:34 GMT9

On Monday, 24 Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza in one day, including 21 in a single ambush. Obviously, Hamas is not weakened and the Israeli bombing campaign that has killed more than 25,000 people in the Strip, two-thirds of them women and children, has not affected Hamas’ capacity to inflict casualties on its enemy’s ranks. It is very clear that the Israeli army has failed to destroy Hamas. So, is it now time for Israel to realize that its policy is not working? Is it not time to salvage what it can and negotiate?

The more time that passes and the more war crimes Israel commits — from killing women and children to bombarding schools and hospitals and targeting journalists — the more it loses. So far, 76 Palestinian journalists have been killed since Oct. 7. Of course, Israel does not want anyone to uncover the atrocities it is committing in Gaza. This is a sign of weakness, not a sign of strength. In fact, as time passes, Israel is showing more and more that it is weak.

The mighty Israeli army, which at one point in time was touted as the strongest in the Middle East, cannot even handle an armed militia that has supposedly been under siege for 17 years. As every day passes and the civilian death toll grows, the more worldwide opinion turns against Israel. The EU’s Josep Borrell this week bluntly criticized Israel, saying that its plan is not working and that it is “seeding hate” for generations to come.

Israel has still not laid out its plan for Gaza, except the Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich plan to push the Gazans to leave their land. But Palestinians have learned from the Nakba. If they left, they would never be able to go back. If they left, their existence as Palestinian people would be finished. There are few who are as tenacious as the Palestinian people. Bombs will not pacify them. Israel will have to admit that reducing the population of Gaza to 100,000 to 200,000, as Smotrich has suggested, will not happen.

As every day passes and the civilian death toll grows, the more worldwide opinion turns against Israel

Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib

Israel does not seem to have any plan. It is simply bombing and bombing. It is behaving like a gambler who keeps losing but keeps on doubling down, hoping they will win it all back at some point in time. Israel keeps on losing. It is losing its soldiers. It is losing social cohesion, as the hostages’ families are angry that the government is prioritizing its own survival over getting their loved ones back home. It is losing its international standing. All Israelis will suffer from their country’s negative image. This will affect them when they travel, when they do business and when they send their children abroad.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doubling down on his position. He stated on Saturday that he wants to keep Israeli control of all territories from the river to the sea and that there will be no Palestinian state. He has gone publicly and directly against US President Joe Biden.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, clearly said in an interview that Netanyahu had failed to abide by a US request to reduce civilian casualties and that the humanitarian catastrophe was going from “terrible to worse.” He directly criticized the Israeli PM, saying that he was putting his own skin above rescuing the hostages. He also said it was time for a ceasefire and that Biden needed to go “big and bold” and put forward the vision of a two-state solution.

When everything seems to be going against Israel, is it not time to listen? Is it not time to be realistic? Israel is self-destructing, while the Palestinian side is showing resilience. Still Israel is holding on to its maximalist and unrealistic objectives and refusing a reasonable solution.

Still Israel is holding on to its maximalist and unrealistic objectives and refusing a reasonable solution

Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib

The head of the CIA has, along with Qatar and Egypt, put together a very reasonable plan. Its points include that Israel should withdraw from the Strip, a prisoner exchange should take place, a multinational force should take control of Gaza and a government of technocrats should be responsible for the Strip’s civilian administration. If a force that is viewed as legitimate takes control of Gaza and if basic services are provided, then this will help dry out the social incubator that is fueling Hamas. If people are given hope, then they will not hold on to Hamas. This would also allow for the return of hostages.

Unfortunately, Netanyahu is still delusional. He thinks he has room to maneuver. But he does not. Now is the time to negotiate. He knows very well that the end of the war means his exit. The war might delay his exit, but the longer he waits the more difficult this exit will be. He knows that, sooner or later, he will have to leave, but if he clinches a deal that returns the hostages, at least he would have a token that would weigh in his favor. So far, at least 25 hostages have died in captivity, probably due to Israeli bombing. The Israeli army has only been able to free one hostage. It is very difficult to go door to door looking for hostages. And Hamas will not surrender.

Borrell said that the only way forward is a two-state solution, whether Israel likes it or not. He wondered: “What are the other solutions they have in mind? Make all the Palestinians leave? Kill all of them?” What does Borrell mean by this harsh criticism? Is it a veiled threat of sanctions if Israel fails to comply? Sanctions would kill Israel, as the country is very integrated with the global economy, especially Europe.

The International Court of Justice is set to deliver its interim verdict on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel in the coming days. This will create immense pressure on Israel. Still, this government is more concerned with showing it is strong than being realistic and putting forward an executable solution. Now is the time to negotiate. British Foreign Minister Lord Cameron is this week back in the Middle East, hoping to convince the Israelis of the need for a sustained pause in the fighting, after which a return to hostilities would be difficult, and the need to accept a two-state solution — but will Netanyahu listen?

  • Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib is a specialist in US-Arab relations with a focus on lobbying. She is co-founder of the Research Center for Cooperation and Peace Building, a Lebanese nongovernmental organization focused on Track II.
Most Popular

return to top