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Establishing Negative Peace: Lessons from the Past for Israel
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The ramifications of the Libyan intervention and the Israel-Palestine conflict, though distinct, converge on a common theme—extrication from war. After seven months of an extensive military campaign, rebel forces took over and shot Qaddafi dead. Hailed as a successful model for modern-day intervention, this victory was claimed too soon. Libya has since devolved into a failed state, further deteriorating regional instability in the Middle East North Africa region.

Israel’s real challenge doesn’t lie in eradicating Hamas but in how it will disengage from the war zone. With shadows from its past hanging heavily, Israel lacks a good example to follow but has enough examples to learn from. Negative peace is a nuanced endeavour beyond the absence of active conflict. Israel has the unwanted responsibility of establishing negative peace. The chief of Israel's security agency, in his letter to the United Nation Security General, explicitly states, “Gaza should be freed from Hamas, not from Israel. Hamas is Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” In this hour of frustration, this statement appears prophetic.

This war will be the deciding factor in two major geopolitical relationships. Israel’s ability to defend itself domestically and internationally without its biggest ally, America, will define its relationship with Saudi Arabia. A pragmatic Israel will set the stage for the future normalisation of relationships in the Middle East. New Delhi’s reaction to the war in Israel has been different from the rest of the Global South. Its ability to navigate the tides of global unrest and two on-going wars will set the stage as the mouthpiece for the Global South. International indifference at large over the events of October 7th has turned Israel bitter.

While Israel does not seek a long-term occupation of the Gaza Strip, unfortunately, Israel has to take the responsibility of rebuilding Gaza. Its future generation will inherit a humanitarian disaster like no other. For America, Iraq and Afghanistan are overseas, but for Israel, Gaza is its neighbourhood. Israel has to act in favour of establishing a long-term stable political process in Gaza to evade the hazard generated by conflict legacy.

The entire post-conflict decade poses a higher risk of instability. The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian General Assembly right after the second intifada and Israel's disengagement from Gaza prove the point. Israel has to look forward to at least a couple of decades of occupation, rebuilding Gaza along with other local stakeholders, probably Saudi Arabia, without any intervention from the United States of America.

Rebuilding the economy post-war is a challenge, but to rebuild the economy of Gaza would be particularly burdensome. The level of income is highly significant, and its effect is large post-conflict. Studies have shown that international post-conflict efforts should be concentrated disproportionately in the poorest countries and should focus heavily on economic recovery. If the post-conflict economy grows at a steady and high rate, the decade's risks fall by 26%. Israel has to facilitate this growth with the selfish motives of post-war peace and stability. It is not the inheritance of income but rather the choices made to spend it that determines how the level of income will evolve for the decade.

Autocracies are always seen in a negative light, but research shows that if post-war governance is severely autocratic, the risk of peace is only 26%; otherwise, it doubles to 62%. Institutionalized good governance along with centralized decision-making could curb a volatile region from further violence. Elections shift the risk between years rather than either raising or lowering it. Specifically, an election reduces risk in the year of the election but increases it in the year following the election. Efforts are shifted towards political campaigning rather than violence, but once the election is concluded, the loser has a stronger incentive to return to violence. Post-conflict elections are the wrong milestone on which to base international exit strategies.

A policy package where the political design is meant for a stable state that can have elections a couple of years after the conflict, along with four times the average military peacekeeping strategy and an economic model of high growth, brings down the risks of conflict reversion to 36.7%. (Paul Collier 2008)

While finding an immediate leader from the grassroots would be impossible, Israel must seek partners even among its adversaries. Therefore, creating an alliance with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), even though previously unwanted, is crucial. The PLO has been involved in peace negotiations and agreements with Israel, such as the Oslo Accords. These historical agreements could serve as a basis for renewed negotiations and cooperation.

One of Israel's significant missteps may have been supporting radical Hamas as a counterweight to Yaseen Arafat's Fatah, a comparatively less corrupt and secular organization and this has come to bite them back. The political landscape is dynamic, and the success of any alternative government to Hamas would depend on various factors. What seems evident, however, is that the government would likely function as a proxy for Israel.

The Cold War in the Middle East has largely funded Hamas operations, and Iran, as the most culpable, will escape any repercussions. The protracted nature of this war waged for supremacy within the MENA region suggests a persistent and enduring struggle. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, intertwined with broader geopolitical considerations, demands a nuanced and forward-looking approach. It is not merely a regional conflict but a litmus test for the international community's commitment to peace and stability in the Middle East.

In navigating the complexities of the Israel-Palestine conflict, lessons from both the Libyan intervention and historical experiences are critical for charting a path towards lasting peace. The challenge for Israel extends beyond eradicating Hamas to the intricacies of disengaging from the war zone and establishing negative peace. The geopolitical landscape, including relationships with major allies, presents a crucial juncture for Israel's strategic decisions.

The post-conflict decade carries inherent risks of instability, making the rebuilding of Gaza and the broader region a daunting task. Recognizing the economic and governance challenges, Israel's role in facilitating sustainable growth becomes crucial. The choices made in the aftermath of conflict will shape not only the region's economic trajectory but also its prospects for long-term stability.

Triveni Fotedar is a Political scientist specializing in Europe and the Middle East.

 

 

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