The fact that Palestinian and Israeli leaders have agreed on an Egypt-brokered ceasefire to end the seven-week-old conflict in the Gaza Strip should be welcomed by all. The deal is aimed at halting the fighting which has resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 people since July 8. However, this is only the first necessary but not sufficient factor in search of a permanent solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and there is a vast gulf between Tel Aviv and the militant group Hamas, whose charter does not recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Substantive negotiations are to begin within a month, but the broader aims of the two sides appear difficult to reconcile. As India has good relations with both the sides, it can play a positive role in ensuring that a serious bid to find a solution is made and the dispute doesn’t lead to fresh rounds of conflict. The fact that like Hamas, the Israeli side, too, is led by a hardliner like Benjamin Netanyahu has made the task of finding a solution difficult. Moreover, ever since the building of walls by Israel greatly reduced the entry of suicide bombers and other terrorists from the Palestinian side, Tel Aviv has lost much of its earlier interest in reaching out to the Palestinians. Hamas, of course, has added fuel to the fire by building tunnels for the terrorists to enter Israel and also by firing rockets from Gaza.
At the same time, one reason why Israel agreed to the cessation of hostilities was the blow to its image by the flashing of television pictures of the bombardment of innocent Palestinians, especially children. While America’s declining influence due to its economic difficulties, and renewed preoccupation with the threat from ISIS radicals further north, made it unwilling to play as active a role as before to speak to both sides, even the Arab countries were strangely silent, suggesting that the world was losing interest in this seemingly unending confrontation.