Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony in Jerusalem, May 12, 2024 Image Credit: Reuters

More than seven months into Israel’s war on Gaza, with Palestinian death toll climbing up by the hour, only one thing appears to be true: There is no clear finish line or a Netanyahu moment of victory. Hounding all parties is the yet-to-be-clear day-after day-after scenario.

As the humanitarian catastrophe deepens, especially following Israel’s occupation of the Rafah crossing on the Palestinian side — raising the Israeli flag there — and the suspension of aid delivery shipments, the UN and other aid agencies issued warnings that all of Gaza now faces imminent famine.

The collapse of the truce deal — brokered by the US and Egypt last week and blamed almost entirely on Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to end the war — has polarised Israelis and Western governments even further. Netanyahu’s end-game is simple: Keep the war going at any cost.

Ignoring warnings about a ground offensive on Rafah, the last refuge for more than 1.2 million Palestinians, Netanyahu and his war cabinet decided to do it piecemeal, declaring that they are carrying limited incursions into the beleaguered safe haven to avoid the White House’s wrath. President Joe Biden has confirmed that he has ordered the delay in shipping a payload of 2000-pound bombs to Israel for fear that they could be used in Rafah.

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Potential genocide

However, US sources have confirmed that arms shipments to Israel have not been fully suspended. Biden had come under attack from Democratic and Republican lawmakers for “siding with Hamas” and abandoning Israel. Netanyahu, in a melodramatic tone, declared that Israel would fight it alone if it had to. He previously challenged the ICC and the ICJ to look into potential genocide and other war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza.

The West, roiled by mass anti-war protests in the streets and colleges and universities, is suffering from Netanyahu fatigue. In Israel, tens of thousands of Israelis are taking to the streets on an almost daily basis, calling for Netanyahu’s ouster and an immediate hostage exchange, even if it meant an end to the war.

Even as Israel is pounding Rafah and forcing tens of thousands of Palestinians to seek refuge elsewhere, a decisive victory over Hamas appears remote. Recently, it claimed that top Hamas leaders have fled from Rafah to Khan Younis, while admitting that Hamas fighters are regrouping in previously cleared areas like Jabalia in the north.

Whatever Netanyahu and his generals thought they had achieved, in a military sense, over the past seven months, it is slowly eroding. Israel’s loss in the international arena is beyond comprehension and will never be recovered.

On Friday, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to enhance Palestine’s non-member status while calling on the Security Council to expedite its application for full membership.

A number of European countries are on the verge of recognising a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines, while South Africa is pushing the ICJ to issue a ruling to stop the war. The ICC is under pressure to release arrest warrants against top Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, despite brazen warnings to pay the price if it does by US lawmakers.

Breaching international law

Even the US State Department, at the request of the White House, announced in a report that Israel’s use of US-provided weapons in Gaza likely violated international humanitarian law but that wartime conditions prevented US officials from determining that for sure in specific air strikes.

The finding of “reasonable” evidence to conclude that Israel had breached international law protecting civilians in the way it conducted its war against Hamas was the strongest statement that the Biden administration has yet made on the matter. It was released in a summary of a report being delivered to Congress on Friday, AP reported.

The stark conclusion is that the conflict in Gaza has no military solution. The civilian death toll, now reaching 35,000 dead, mostly civilians, including more than 14,000 children, 10,000 missing, and over 70,000 injured, has tipped the international rules-based order on its head.

Israel’s war crimes in Gaza have brought the West’s most fundamental rights of individual freedoms, freedom of speech and assembly, human rights, press freedom, and governments’ complicity in possible genocide to its knees. Netanyahu’s obsession with an endless war, one that wreaks destruction without achieving any meaningful military or strategic prizes, must end.

Instead, what needs to be discussed is a comprehensive resolution to the Palestine Question, one that ends the occupation, supports civil and democratic rule in an independent Palestine, and finds a suitable solution to the problem of refugees.

The issue today is about Israel’s place in the Middle East and its acceptance of a Palestinian state. Israel should be looking inward rather than outward. The crux of the conflict is occupation. As Israel sinks deeper in the Gaza quagmire, it behooves its leaders to learn from the lessons of Vietnam, South Africa, Algeria, Afghanistan, and others.

After seven bloody months, the West and Israelis should admit that it is Netanyahu and his radical allies who are the problem. The Palestinian people are not going anywhere, and Israel must accept this fact.

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.