Four months since West Asia slipped into war, peace remains elusive. In the meantime, over 27,000 Palestinians have been killed and most of Gaza has been flattened rendering thousands homeless. Meanwhile, the whole region is in ferment with the Houthis targeting the busy shipping lanes in the Red Sea, Iranians bombing suspected “spy” sites in Pakistan and Iraq, and America, stung by the killing of its personnel, resorting to bombing. Against this backdrop, the 135-day truce suggested by Hamas made sense because it promised a beginning to end the war. However, PM Netanyahu has said Israel would not stop short of “an absolute victory”. This stance could pit Israel not just against the Arab world, but also alienate friends in the West. The West Asia war could not have come at a worse time for President Biden: It is turning public opinion against him in an election year. US secretary of state Antony Blinken has been in Arab capitals, hoping to negotiate peace. The Arab States have been responsive and reports suggest that they are ready to recognise Israel and back a peace deal, if Israel agrees to the formation of a Palestinian State.
Israel’s resistance to a peace deal threatens to wipe out the diplomatic gains made since the 1990s— it stands accused of genocide in the International Court of Justice and its disproportionate response after the October 7 attack has cost the country the moral claim that it is a victim of terrorism. For the US, and countries such as Saudi Arabia, Tel Aviv’s obstinate stand may facilitate the rise of Iran in the region, as a militant voice of local discomfort with the West’s unconditional backing for Israel. Washington should tell Tel Aviv that its security is not necessarily served by the total annihilation of Hamas, but by a friendly neighbourhood that recognises Palestine’s right to a State and its security needs in return for peace.