Two-state solution is the path to peace between Palestine and Israel
Published: Oct 14, 2023 12:07 PM
Palestinians flee their homes in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 13, 2023. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Friday ordered residents of Gaza City to evacuate to the southern area of the coastal enclave ahead of a possible Israeli ground offensive. (Photo: Xinhua)

Palestinians flee their homes in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 13, 2023. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Friday ordered residents of Gaza City to evacuate to the southern area of the coastal enclave ahead of a possible Israeli ground offensive. (Photo: Xinhua)

The breakthrough from Gaza into Israel by fighters loyal to Hamas has generated more heat than light on the international diplomatic front.

The appalling loss of life and suffering on both sides has triggered an emotional wave of human grief around the world, but the angry response to it, though understandable, is not right.

The immediate reaction has been to apportion blame, followed rapidly by an all-too-natural desire to respond by exacting revenge. But this is the path only to further bloodshed and loss. As unimaginably painful as it must be, and counter-intuitive as it must seem, the tragedy which is still unfolding in Gaza as a horrified world looks on should be seized as an opportunity to seek peace, even as the violence escalates.

Almost without exception, governments have been quick to support Israel: A knee-jerk response which fails to consider the wider picture. It confused sympathy for the carnage with overall support for one side over another in this complex conflict.

China seems to have been one of the few with the foresight to look ahead and call for a ceasefire, and declare that – 30 years after the Oslo Accords – the only peaceful resolution to this decades-long conflict is the two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

Sadly, such a course of action currently seems unlikely, at least for as long as Israel is determined to prosecute its self-declared “war” on the strip of coastal land which more than 2 million Palestinian civilians call home, and Western governments are prepared to go along with this. Similarly, as long as there are those who deny Israel’s right to exist, there will be huge barriers to peace. However, the alternative – perpetual war – is just as unthinkable.

Already, the bloody toll of the current conflict looks like surmounting the slaughter of thousands during the Gaza Wars of 2008-09 and of 2014. Hamas has rained rockets on Israel and its fighters have struck with terror and ruthlessness; Israel is responding with an apparent search-and-destroy operation which involves amassing hundreds of thousands of troops ahead of a likely ground invasion. Yet almost nobody is calling for the fighting to stop. Peace must come first to best prevent further killing, accountability can follow in time. Most voices in the Western world are currently focused on instant responses which appear to endorse retaliation, when what is needed is carefully considered reflections which seek to resolve disputes, not prolong them. 

China’s response has been unequivocal, calling for an immediate ceasefire and an end to fighting. Apportioning blame at this stage is an impediment to peace, yet only China seems to be remaining neutral. Escalation could further destabilize an already unsteady region. China has called upon all parties involved to put down their weapons and talk. In June, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an international peace conference on the Israel-Palestine conflict and called for Palestine to become a full member of the UN. This followed a detente he brokered between Iran and Saudi Arabia, after years of diplomatic deadlock between the historic rivals.

Despite significant political difference, China’s relationship with Israel has grown over recent decades, and Israel has said it considers China a “friend.”

Contrast China’s Middle East strategy with the US. Washington reacted to the latest Israel-Palestine crisis by sending the aircraft carrier Gerald R Ford steaming toward the eastern Mediterranean, along with five guided missile destroyers and cruisers. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered USAF fighter jets into the region “to bolster regional deterrence efforts” and spoke of Washington’s “ironclad support” for Israel. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made similar assurances, and President Joe Biden delivered a renewed, unequivocal, American commitment to Israel as “rock solid and unwavering.” All of this is in addition to the US’ promise, made by Barack Obama in 2016, for an overall package of $38 billion military aid to Israel between 2019 and 2028.

In Europe, there was confusion as one official said the EU had frozen 691 million euros ($730 million) in development aid to Palestinians, even though this would be a collective punishment inflicted on the civilians – a war crime – only for another official to deny the payments were being suspended. Separately, Germany announced that German financial aid to the Palestinians would be reviewed, while Austria said that payments had been suspended. In the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised “steadfast support” and military, diplomatic, intelligence or security support. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared “We stand with Israel,” as did Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron. None of this suggests that any of these countries is looking further than the ends of their noses.

An Israeli diplomat in Beijing expressed disappointment at China’s even-handed approach, and openly criticized its stance: “This is not the time to call for a two-state solution.” On the contrary – it’s the perfect time.

The author is a journalist and lecturer living in Britain. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn