Israel Palestine Conflict

How will the Israel-Gaza war end?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Discussing the start and developments of the deadly war taking place in Gaza is inescapable, but so are the questions of how this war will end, who will raise the white flag first, and for what price.

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The ongoing Israeli military assault, which has spared no civilian lives or facilities, is more than a mere response to the attack by Hamas on October 7. Judging by the sheer size of the Israeli response, a change in the political reality is about to unfold before us.

In the aftermath of the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the region will never be the same again. This claim was echoed loudly in Western capitals, which were quick to announce their support and to back efforts to expel Hamas from Gaza.

Today, we stand before a horrific humanitarian crisis, a bloody military battle, and the prospects of a different political project. Israel may achieve its ambition and wipe out the armed group as we know it, yet the Palestinian cause and rights are here to stay, with or without Hamas in the picture. Israel will still be in danger, as evidenced by the scale of Hamas’s latest attack, despite years of blockade and surveillance by Israel.

Three important observations must be made here.

First, Netanyahu and Hamas may be enemies, but they are allies in the effort to thwart the peace project in the region.

Second, neither will emerge victorious in this war: Hamas may lose Gaza, while Netanyahu does not only risk losing the presidency of the Israeli government following the October 7 failure but also may go to jail on charges of corruption leveled against him before the war.

Finally, deadly as it may be, this war will breathe life into the peace project.

The expulsion of Yasser Arafat and his fighters from Lebanon was the end of Fatah as a military organization, but Arafat knew how to play his political cards. He repositioned and managed to return to Palestine as the leader of the Palestinian Authority, no less, following the Oslo Accords.

Today, history may repeat itself, even in light of the worst humanitarian crisis in the last 50 years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

In a few weeks, the war will end and the fronts will fall silent. Then, it will be time for politics.

While the skies above Gaza rained bombshells, Ismail Haniyeh dropped a metaphorical bombshell himself when he announced Hamas’s readiness to accept peace in the form of a two-state solution. Haniyeh is well aware of what the war could be hiding next. Hamas is not strong enough to repel US-backed Israel, let alone without any support from its allies. Haniyeh wants Hamas to have a political front that could reap the benefits of the October 7 attacks.

But he and Khaled Mashal must first overcome a big hurdle: the leaders of Hamas in Gaza do not recognize any role by their peers abroad. It has even been leaked that the men of Haniyeh and Mashal were removed from leadership roles as far back as 2017 when the military leadership headed by Yahya Sanwar took control of the movement.

Today, Hamas is cornered and blockaded, which could mean a guaranteed seat for its leadership abroad on any potential negotiating table in the future. However, the movement tried through its latest attack to nip any such negotiations in the bud.

But a challenge arises here. The US has listed Hamas on its terror list, so any American undertaking of a peace project will force Washington to backtrack.

Arafat was once banned from entering the States or meeting with American officials, and alternatives like Abdelshafi and Ashrawi appeared in his place during the Madrid Conference. But eventually, the Americans had to sit down with Arafat because no peace or negotiations were possible without him. Granted, the extremist movement of Hamas is not the same as Fatah, but it is still impossible to ignore, and its concession would strengthen the position of the Palestinian Authority in potential negotiations.

Until then, the road is fraught with traps. Israel has vowed to annihilate the 35,000-strong movement, but such a goal is impossible militarily without both sides incurring horrific civilian and other losses.

Will Hamas agree to step out of the scene to curb the loss of lives among civilians and its own fighters?

Moreover, even if Hamas agrees to disarmament, no Arab state is willing to take the movement under its wings and bear the potential dangers that accompany such a move.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, the two sides of the conflict may finally agree to a compromise, which no one is better positioned to engage in than the Palestinian Authority. Thus, the lights will shine again at the end of Gaza’s dark tunnels.

As for the prospects of peace and armament, that’s a subject for another time.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the Chairman of Al Arabiya's Editorial Board and former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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