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israel-hamas war
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Opinion articles written in the style of their author. These texts are to be based on verified facts and must be respectful towards people, even though their actions may be criticized. All opinion articles written by individuals from outside the staff of EL PAÍS shall feature, along with the author’s name (regardless of their greater or lesser renown), a footer stating their office, academic title, political affiliation (if any) and main occupation, or the occupation related to the topic being assessed

The postwar fog

Contrary to what Netanyahu thinks, the only path to peace for Israel is an independent Palestinian state

Palestinians inspect the destruction caused by Israeli strikes on their homes in the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Yunis
Palestinians amid the rubble of their homes in the city of Khuzaa, east of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip.SAID KHATIB (AFP)

The reality of war blankets battlefields with a fog of confusion and uncertainty. And when the dust settles, a new postwar fog descends. Apart from Hamas, Israel’s postwar intentions toward Gaza and its people are unclear. Benjamin Netanyahu, a proven master at political survival, seems indifferent about the future of Gaza. Or perhaps he just doesn’t know what to do.

The military’s role is to defeat and neutralize the enemy, but the political objectives, especially in a democratic system, are the purview of civilians. In the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, it’s unclear if using force alone can completely eradicate Hamas, with all its factions, roots and religious ties. To understand Israel’s intentions, we can look to its commanders and some Israeli leaders abroad. To them, victory in Gaza is complete, physical destruction — wipe it off the map.

However, true victory often entails achieving a new balance and order that favors the winner while maintaining stability. Israel’s political objectives are to eradicate Hamas but also to dismantle the entire concept of a Palestinian state. In doing so, they aim to address the demographic aspect of the conflict, which is to achieve approximate parity of the Palestinian and Israeli populations between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The ultimate goal is to establish a Greater Israel by occupying the entire territory. The aim of Zionist extremism is to occupy as much land as possible and minimize the Palestinian presence.

Everything the Israeli army is doing — population control and the destruction of homes and infrastructure — serves this purpose. Establishing a security zone and demilitarization will further shrink the already small Palestinian territory, making life harder for its people. It will be challenging to find solutions that don’t involve Israeli occupation or the expulsion of Gazans without any sort of international administration or involvement by the Palestinian Authority.

The United States is the only country with a proper strategy. Biden wants to rein in Israel — right now and after the war — while also discouraging Iran from getting involved. According to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, if Israel continues to make Palestinian civilians suffer, they might achieve a tactical military victory but bear a strategic defeat. Contrary to Netanyahu’s beliefs, the only path to future peace and stability for Israel is a Palestinian state with internationally recognized borders. This would allow Israelis to experience the stability of a peaceful order for the first time in their history. The alternative is a besieged fortress in a perpetual state of war with its neighbors.

Words like these fall on deaf ears, as shown by Israel’s recent attacks in the southern Gaza Strip, repeating the invasion and destruction of the north. The bombing of Gaza is now among the worst in history, comparable to the destruction of German cities in World War II. The gravity bombs of the past have evolved into sophisticated guided missiles. Biden has clear objectives for Gaza, but Netanyahu politely ignores his advice and shows disdain for Europe. He is entirely focused on getting more bombs from the U.S. to fuel the shockwave of destruction sweeping over the Gaza Strip.

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