I awoke to news of rockets flying into Israel in their thousands, Palestinians pouring into southern Israel, killing and kidnapping. And Israel retaliating. Today more than 500 people on both sides had their hopes, dreams, lives extinguished, brutally, senselessly. We should be getting used to it after witnessing Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine, yet it still sends a shiver up my spine.
It’s been coming and one of the major questions being asked is how did Israel’s intelligence fail so dramatically? But this is not the point. The bigger question is how did the leaders on all sides fail so miserably?
Netanyahu warns that this will be a long, drawn-out war and no doubt the people of Gaza will pay a heavy price. There will be horrible scenes of murder and carnage. And where will it leave us when things finally calm down into an uneasy truce? The overwhelming destruction of Gaza? The eruption of a new Middle East war that will not just impact the Middle East?
Whatever happens, any rational person must see that today saw bells being rung calling time on the current leadership in Israel and Palestine. It is time for new leaders to replace those who have so singularly failed their citizens, each taking positions that only spin ever downwards and lead to, well, lead to today.
Netanyahu has clung onto power by aligning himself with the hawks, standing firm against Palestinian self-determination and statehood, encroaching on disputed lands, spewing hardline rhetoric that creates barriers not harmony. Hamas and its leadership are no better. Refusing to recognise Israel’s right to exist is self-evidently a crazy position to take if statehood, peace and prosperity is a serious objective. Swatting Israel’s military with paragliders and bulldozers cannot succeed. Trump’s disastrous term as President just poured fuel onto a smouldering fire – moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, sending Jared Kushner to draw up a peace plan (a nice $2 billion earner) that was so unrealistic and biased it was worse than useless. We have seen decades of US support for Israel hinder not help the process towards peace. The policy from one administration to the next seems to have been ‘keep talking and hope for the best’. Iran’s religious despots likewise only exacerbate the tensions.
A tweet from journalist Noga Tarnopolsky stated the position well: Hamas leadership is unlikely to survive what is happening today, but it is difficult to imagine how exactly Netanyahu survives this catastrophic failure and the inevitable commission of investigation to follow. Many casualties. Total collapse of security concept. Not much to spin.
When the dust settles, as it will eventually, new leaders must step up to the plate and make a serious attempt to reach common ground. It can’t be the existing leaders – they have lost all credibility. It must be a new generation.
We need to see Palestinian statehood, a recognition of Israel’s right to exist, too. The removal of illegal Israeli settlements, the creation of an independent city-state of Jerusalem, much like the Vatican within Italy. Dear God – whichever form you take in mosques, synagogues or churches, knock some sense into the heads of those who claim to be honouring you.