Sam Menassa

The Obstacles to Hindering the Israeli War Machine

It is now reasonable, after the thousands of civilian casualties and indescribable destruction we have seen, to ask how effectively the United States could pressure Israel, which is determined to continue its hysterical war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Almost every country and international organization in the world has called for a ceasefire, humanitarian truces, and respect for the laws of war. However, their demands have fallen on deaf ears in Israel. Even the appeals and pressure of Washington, Israel's main supporter and ally, for a humanitarian truce, aid for civilians, limiting civilian casualties, and avoiding an expansion to other fronts, have also been ignored. It seems that the Resolution of the Security Council issued last Wednesday calling for "truces and humanitarian corridors" will meet the same fate.
The answer to why American pressure is ineffective is complex and multifaceted. Domestic US and Israeli factors must be considered, as do considerations tied to Hamas and its allies in the Iranian axis.
Is it conceivable that the United States cannot contain Israel’s madness, even when its leaders and officials have been making visits since the beginning of the war, fleets to protect Israel and deter its enemies were deployed, and the US provided - and continues to provide - Israel with the latest weaponry, as well as sending it $14 billion in aid?
Firstly, we should not underestimate the significance of domestic US factors. The sharp polarization in the country and the divergence of opinions within the administration, which have become public, limit the administration's room for maneuver. These considerations are particularly relevant 12 months away from the presidential elections. Beyond the domestic American context, we see a conviction in the US - one that is shared by the West in general - that the pre-October 7 status quo in Gaza has become untenable and that Hamas cannot remain a political and military force in the Strip.

Non-state actors like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah have made a habit of declaring victory merely because they survived and built their policies around this professed victory, regardless of the human and material cost of the conflict. For the Americans, Europeans, and others, the survival of Hamas is tantamount to a victory for the Iranian Axis of Resistance, with all the implications that come with it for the security and stability of the region, and it would leave Israel and other countries in the region vulnerable to attacks like the "Al-Aqsa Flood" in the future.
A Hamas victory would also have implications for the future of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority. The Islamization of the Palestinian cause would be bolstered, as would violent and ideologically driven extremism, limiting the potential for peace and settlements in the region with Israel. That would undermine the political, economic, and social interests of the moderate Arab states and could well open doors to civil conflicts in the region.

Many domestic Israeli factors must also be considered. First, we have the shock of the army and Israeli citizens after the Hamas operation and the high number of casualties it left in its wake. The Israelis were also surprised at the military and planning capabilities of Hamas, as Israeli civilian and military officials have an arrogant view of themselves and their enemy.
Israel’s domestic disagreements became obvious following the protest movement against the policies of the right-wing government and its leader, and some have blamed Israel's current plight on these policies. Preoccupied with personal concerns, Benjamin Netanyahu is worried about his future once the war ends, and this could be driving him to prolong it and maximize its brutality. He could even seek to implicate the United States in a regional war that includes Iran, making his mistakes seem insignificant compared to the outcomes of that war.
If we delve into the mindset of most Israelis, especially that of Israeli decision-makers, we find two main problems or obstacles hindering a cessation of hostilities and thus sustainable peace in the future. The first is the chronic and pathological apprehensions about even a demilitarized Palestinian state that shares borders with Israel and the broad conviction that the Palestinian people do not have rights and should never have independent control over their land. The rhetoric of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich about deporting Palestinians and compensating them afterward reflects the unspoken attitudes of a significant number of Israelis.
The second issue or obstacle is Israel’s inability or unwillingness to understand the importance of the two-state solution and granting Palestinians some of the legitimate rights they have been deprived of for containing Iran's influence and mitigating the threat that Iran poses to Israel and the countries of the region. Indeed, the majority of Israelis are convinced that undermining Iran’s ability to manipulate the Palestinian cause would have significant consequences.
They do see the importance of depriving Iran and its allies with a pretext for arming and creating factions and militias and fostering ideologically extreme and radical groups. They do not understand that Iran would lose much of its proxies and political weight in the region. Israelis are also not convinced that, regardless of the anticipated risks from a Palestinian state on their borders, it would remain less dangerous than the threat Iran poses to them and to peace and moderation in the region.

The war in Gaza and its calamities have not changed Hamas’ and Iran’s proxies’ lexicon or rhetoric in the slightest. The ink had not dried on the resolutions of the Arab and Islamic summit in Riyadh before the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced Iran's opposition to four items from the summit's final statement: the two-state solution, a return to the 1967 borders, the recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinians, and the 2002 Arab initiative.

Naturally, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the rest of the Resistance Axis are no less extreme than the Supreme Leader in Tehran. Therefore, no initiatives or understandings that can be built upon will be put forward to Washington, Western countries, and thus Israel, by Tehran, Hamas, or Hezbollah. The positions of the Resistance Axis are nothing more than an updated version of the positions and slogans that the likes of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Hafez al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Gaddafi have been raising over more than sixty years. All of them have led to failure, regression, and tragedies for the Palestinian people.

As a result, we must go back to the moderate Arab states, especially after the joint Arab-Islamic Summit in Riyadh. Despite the reservations of Iran and Syria, these states remain the only ones capable of clearly announcing to the Americans, the West, and Israel what they accept and reject once and for all, giving the Americans and Europeans a deadline to pressure Israel.

What is acceptable and unacceptable to Arabs is now known: an independent Palestinian state on the land of Palestine, encompassing the West Bank and Gaza under the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, "special status" for the holy sites, discussions of a settlement for refugees, and an immediate halt to settlement expansion and plans for the displacement of Palestinians. The "Clinton Parameters of 2000 can be taken as a benchmark for further negotiations.

Now, the moderate Arab states can proclaim: "Bear witness that I have conveyed the message."