Charles Elias Chartouni: What Are the Prospects of War Ending?/شارل الياس شرتوني: ما هي احتمالات انتهاء الحرب؟


شارل الياس شرتوني/ما هي احتمالات انتهاء الحرب؟
What Are the Prospects of War Ending?
Charles Elias Chartouni/This Is Beirut Site/February 28/2024
Aside from wishful thinking and peaceful yearnings, we have not seen, so far, concrete proposals on how to put an end to the ongoing cycles of violence and move to another stage of discursive conflict resolution. While reviewing the various proposals, we observe that very few of them have come up with working solutions that are likely to draw the support of moderates and defeat extremists on both sides. The unconditional truce and ceasefire scenarios have failed to address the issues at stake, or they are deliberately blind to the strategic and security concerns that underpin conflict dynamics.

Any peace strategy is doomed to fail if it overlooks the pending contentions and grievances on both sides or blames the resurgence of violence on one side. The South African lawsuit before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is typical of politicized justice based on selective incrimination, distortion and denial of facts, and political score-settling. The incrimination proceeds on the very basis of distorted facts, sublated issues, and overlapping political agendas. The subjunctive recommendations of the International Court of Justice (January 26, 2024) reflect the ambiguities of the military conflict, the prudential nature of the rules of engagement, and the need to prevent war crimes and abide by the Geneva Convention rulings (1949). The South African lawsuit fails to offer a balanced assessment of the war and pinpoint the shared responsibility in the ongoing cycles of violence and the excruciating travails of civilians in Gaza.

The reconstruction of facts should be based on real and contextually circumscribed events, away from ideological projections. The political and legal agendas are constrained by ideological blinders, which add to the inherent difficulties of the conflict. There is compelling evidence around which revolves the whole political and legal plot: the pogrom of the 7th of October, 2023, is a deliberate act of war carefully planned, executed, and overtly assumed by Hamas and its partners. If we fail, intentionally or unintentionally, to establish the connection between the massacre and the dynamics of violence it unleashed, the whole legal case bungles and adds to the recurrent failed arbitrations.

The Israeli act of war is a response to Hamas’ act of war and not an arbitrary act of violence on its part. By and large, all those who blame Israel unilaterally proceed with their accusation based on ideological prejudices, historical telescoping, and political calculations that do not necessarily relate to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The basic legal and conflict resolution premises should be strictly defined if we were to move ahead in this direction. Otherwise, the war in Gaza was initially prompted by Hamas and invited Israel’s invasion, 17 years after its withdrawal. The Hamas leadership, its associates, and Iranian mentors were fully cognizant of its lethality, nihilistic framing, highly destructive effects, and disastrous humanitarian and ecological consequences, and still, they did it and confessed it publicly, with no remorse or critical hindsight. It is manifestly an intentional sin by the commission acted out at the crossroads between multiple agendas: inter-Palestinian rivalries, Iranian regional power games, Russian and Turkish strategic angling, and the rising equations of the new Cold War.

The tragic fallouts of the Gaza war ascribe to the sabotaging of the US-Saudi negotiations, the looming normalization it portended, the nihilistic turn taken by Palestinian politics, the inability to put an end to continuous civil wars and subversion politics (Gaza, West Bank, Palestinian camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt…), build a consensual platform, extract themselves from rotating dependencies, and engage in international mediations.

The instrumentalization of the Gaza urban landscape and its transformation into a military platform through the labyrinthine system of subterranean tunnels (500 km, 361 miles), the human shield strategy, and the harnessing of civil infrastructure for military purposes (hospitals, schools, universities, mosques, UNRWA facilities…) were not benign choices. Hamas and acolytes were dismissive of the security and welfare of the civilian population and brought about this catastrophe.

It is not a mere faulty calculation; it is ideological arrogance and self-righteousness, arbitrary power, and wrongful decision-making. The civilian population in Gaza was never consulted on this issue but had to take the brunt of its ravaging consequences.

As for the Israeli side, it’s quite understandable to expect a counter-act of war that was deliberately sought by the Hamas leadership. How would the Hamas leadership and its associates engage in such a military venture and overlook its human and ecological costs? The drama lies in the setting chosen for this war, and the disasters are in line with the criminal decision-making behind this reckless undertaking. The setting is an overcrowded urban landscape (2,000,000 people living in 356 square kilometers, 221 miles), and the magnitude of the military operations and their devastating consequences were corollaries of the terrorist act in South Israel and the outcomes of a total war declaration.

The Israeli retaliation was a combination of a war of revenge, total war stratagems, just war rules, and strategic repositioning. Israel demonstrated its unwillingness to coexist with terrorism on its northern and southern borders and unveiled the existential concerns featured in this pogrom. In addition, this war highlighted the inconsistencies of the Netanyahu policies: the relegation of the Palestinian dossier within the Abraham accords and their sequels, the endorsement of the messianic and ultranationalist right colonizing and predatory mindset, and the weakening of the questionable Palestinian Authority while catering to Hamas in a joint venture with Qatar, which altogether account for the security failures last October in southern Israel.
The humanitarian tragedies in Gaza are the result of a criminal act of war and the consequences it triggered all along. The cessation of hostilities is unlikely to take place unless Israel wins the war and destroys the operational platforms of Hamas, or Hamas concedes defeat and disengages Gaza, as did the PLO in Beirut in 1982, and the United Nations umpires transitional governance in common understanding with Israel and the Palestinian national authority.

The end of the Gaza episode should usher in a new era whereby Palestinians and Israelis resume their negotiations over mutual acknowledgment, dual statehood, strategic security, and economic cooperation. Reaching this stage requires the containment of extremism on both sides and the revival of a whole endowment of negotiations, international resolutions, and relationships between the two people that extend over a century.

The Oslo Accords should be revived and readjusted to the new realities. Israel has to reconsider the issues of statehood, strategic security, and economic integration and put an end to the settlements in the West Bank. The Palestinians have to regain their moral and national autonomy, break away from their alienating dependencies, and overcome their state of denial and waffling whenever it comes to the acknowledgment of Israel’s right to exist as an independent state. The unilateral withdrawal of Israel from Gaza is a non-sequitur and a political nonstarter. The resumption of negotiations is mandatory if this conflict is to end after a hundred years of shifting fortunes and misfortunes.