Saturday 28 October 2023

It takes two to ceasefire

What is happening in Gaza is horrific. Even accepting that Israel is attempting to minimise civilian casualties, the Israelis themselves concede that there have been and will be significant civilian casualties. 

So it is understandable people want this to stop. And think the best way for that to come about is for there to be a ceasefire. Keir Starmer is coming under internal pressure to make that the declared position of the Labour Party. Prominent Party members, including our leader in Scotland have already made personal calls to that effect.

Except, in truth, they are only making that demand on one side, the Israelis. IF Labour was in power and IF we had any influence on matters, the best we could do is call on the Israelis to cease firing. That might just have some effect, particularly if similar calls came from other major western governments. But it would have no effect on Hamas. And that's why this whole ceasefire call is a complete blind alley. If Hamas was prepared to release the hostages and undertook to stop lobbing random missiles in to Israel then there might actually  be the basis for a ceasefire. Except they are unwilling to do either of these things.  Hamas not only started the current war, they wish it to continue. 

And so long as they wish to continue fighting Israel then inevitably Israel has to continue fighting them.

That's the problem. The UN Secretary General was right when he said the 7th October events cannot be seen in a vacuum. But Hamas cannot be seen in a vacuum either. They do not want peace on any terms other than the complete destruction of Israel. Yet that is clearly something that could never happen. Nine million people live in Israel, they are not going to go away voluntarily and it is, on any objective view, never mind the "merits" of such a development,  impossible for Hamas to achieve their removal any other way. Yet Hamas by it's very nature has to insist that this outcome will be achieved some how, some day. And to, literally, keep fighting for it. 

So a ceasefire will never be acceptable to them. A humanitarian pause in hostilities perhaps but never a ceasefire. I repeat, those calling for just that ignore this reality.

The Israelis have clearly decided that not just 7th October but the potential of future 7th Octobers requires to be dealt with militarily now. And they are dealing with a foe whose most basic demand could never be conceded by Israel as the basis for any kind of negotiated peace. Yes, there could and should be a two state solution to the Palestine issue but that is no more wanted by Hamas than it is by the most fanatical of West Bank settlers. That's the reality. Hamas are a major obstacle to peace. They need dealt with at some point. A ceasefire doesn't change that. It only postpones that reckoning.

Starmer sees that. So should others

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