How to break the cycle of violence in a one-state reality

How to break the cycle of violence in a one-state reality

Marc Lynch and Shibley Telhami write:

The excesses of the war on Gaza have been so extreme that to many international observers, they have left international law in tatters. One outcome has been to isolate Washington and undermine its claim of defending international norms and the liberal international order. The fact that South Africa, one of the leaders of the global South, has accused Israel of the extraordinary charge of genocide before the International Court of Justice suggests the extent to which many parts of the world are no longer in line with Washington and its Western allies, undermining U.S. leadership in international institutions. In a preliminary ruling on January 26, the court determined that some alleged Israeli actions in Gaza plausibly constitute violations of the UN Genocide Convention. Although the court did not demand a cease-fire, it ordered a sweeping set of measures Israel must undertake to limit harm to Palestinian civilians. If Washington continues unconditional support for Israel in Gaza without demanding adherence to those measures, it may appear even more complicit in the war. It is imperative that the United States support international accountability for alleged war crimes on all sides.

Following a cease-fire, the United States must get serious about pushing Israel to shift course. So far, U.S. policymakers’ efforts to outline a postwar plan for Gaza have been repeatedly rebuffed by Israeli officials. Israel has dismissed the idea of returning the PA to Gaza, which is a cornerstone of current U.S. strategy. Instead, Israeli politicians talk openly about restoring illegal settlements and creating a buffer zone in northern Gaza and seem intent on forcing large numbers of Palestinians out of the territory—notions that flout explicit American redlines. Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s government has systematically ignored even the most anodyne requests to minimize the killing of civilians, allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid, plan for a postwar Gaza, and help rebuild the PA. Israel’s current strategy seems likely to end in either the mass expulsion of Gazans or a perpetual, costly, and violent counterinsurgency. The United States has actively opposed the former, in line with the forcefully expressed positions of its allies in Jordan and Egypt, and the latter would only be made worse the longer Israeli troops remain in Gaza. But the Biden administration has refused to impose any consequences to attempt to compel Israel to accept those demands.

To overcome Israeli intransigence, the United States must stop shielding Israel from the consequences of severe violations of international law and norms at the United Nations and other international organizations. Such a step in itself could start an essential policy debate within Israel and among the Palestinians, which could open up new possibilities. At the same time, the White House should condition further aid to Israel on adherence to U.S. law and international norms and should encourage similar efforts in Congress instead of opposing them. It should also instruct U.S. government agencies to follow the law and international rules in providing assistance to Israel rather than seeking creative ways to subvert them.

Indeed, Biden’s reluctance to tie military aid to Israel to human rights or even to U.S. law has already led to extraordinary moves by members of his own party. Consider the resolution proposed in December by Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, and 12 of his colleagues to condition supplemental military aid to Israel and Ukraine on the requirement that weapons are used in accordance with U.S. law, international humanitarian law, and the law of armed conflict. Similarly, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent, proposed a resolution that would make military aid to Israel contingent on a U.S. State Department review of possible human rights violations in the war. But as has already been shown with the defeat of Sanders’s proposal in January, such efforts are unlikely to succeed without presidential leadership, especially in an election year in which congressional Democrats are reluctant to undermine the electoral prospects of their already unpopular president. Only the White House can successfully lead on this issue.

Paradoxically, the traumas experienced by the Palestinians and the Israelis since October 7 have demonstrated both the urgent need for a two-state solution and the improbability of establishing one. The White House could still try, if it were willing to use American muscle to reopen a path to a Palestinian state. But nothing in its current approach suggests it will do more than continue to offer lip service to the goal while enabling the horrific reality. [Continue reading…]

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