The illusion of political progress in the Israel-Palestine conflict

Fazal Masood Malik and Farhan Khokhar, Canada

In the turbulent world of Middle Eastern politics, recent events in Israel have sparked a flurry of headlines. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dissolution of the War Cabinet, escalating tensions with Hezbollah, and a war with Lebanon seem to signal a pivotal moment in the ongoing conflict. Yet a closer look reveals a paradoxical truth that despite these apparently significant developments, the fundamental dynamics of the conflict remain largely unchanged.

The dissolution of Israel’s War Cabinet, coupled with rising friction with Hezbollah, ostensibly marks a critical juncture, potentially leading to broader regional instability and a shift in Israel’s war strategy. But this notion belies a deeper, more troubling reality – one of stagnation masked by the illusion of change.

Benny Gantz’s departure from the emergency government appears to mark a shift in Israel’s unified approach to the war. However, this political reshuffle seems to have little impact on the ground in Gaza. The Israeli political leadership remains steadfast in its commitment to “eradicating Hamas”, a goal that is impractical and morally questionable on account of the civilian casualties it is causing. (“Israel pounds north Gaza after attack on southern al-Mawasi ‘safe zone’”,

This stubbornness stands at odds with widely held ethical principles. The Holy Quran, for instance, emphasises the sanctity of human life: “[…] whosoever killed a person — unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land — it shall be as if he had killed all mankind.” (Surah al-Ma’idah, Ch.5: V.33) Similarly, many international laws and conventions stress the protection of civilians in conflict zones. (“International Laws Protecting Civilians in Armed Conflict Not Being Upheld, Secretary-General Warns Security Council, Urging Deadly Cycle Be Broken”,

The escalating conflict with Hezbollah further illustrates this paradox. While Israel threatens wider escalation, it has long been engaged in aggressive airstrikes against Hezbollah and Iranian targets. This cycle of retaliation, with neither side willing to de-escalate, mirrors countless historical conflicts where tit-for-tat violence led to prolonged suffering, the Northern Ireland war, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948 and the Kashmir conflict, to name a few.

Netanyahu’s inflexible leadership, despite widespread recognition of its unsustainability, further exemplifies the stagnant nature of the current situation. This political inertia, driven by a consensus on continuing military operations, stands at odds with the principles of responsible governance and effective crisis management. Recent statements from Israel’s Prime Minister underscore this concerning trend. Netanyahu has indicated that even if the conflict with Hamas slows down, he is prepared to open a new front with Lebanon. This aggressive stance, coupled with mass anti-war protests in Israel, highlights the growing disconnect between the government’s actions and public sentiment. (“Israel-Palestine conflict ‘All of the rats in the Knesset’: Mass antiwar protest in Israel”,

In theory, the resignation of Mr Gantz and the dissolution of the War Cabinet should have some effect on Israel’s decision-making in Gaza. After all, the emergency steering committee was for Israel, a sign of a unified approach to the war amid a political landscape traumatised by Hamas’ attack on October 7th and long polarised by Netanyahu’s divisive leadership. Some outside observers saw the War Cabinet as key to moderating Netanyahu’s decision-making.

The same is likely true of the cross-border conflict with Hezbollah. Israel may have threatened wider escalation in response to Hezbollah’s strikes, but in many ways, that framing is disingenuous since Israel has for months been carrying out highly aggressive airstrikes targeting Hezbollah’s leadership, as well as military officials from Iran, which backs Hezbollah. Moreover, neither side has any desire to escalate the conflict. (“Israel offensive in Lebanon could increase risk of broader war, U.S. general says”,

But even though a large swath of Israeli territory along the border with Lebanon has been evacuated, causing major disruptions for the affected population and the country at large, Israel has shown no signs of seeking de-escalation. And Hezbollah has said it won’t do so until a permanent ceasefire is reached in Gaza.

 As a result, the conflict is likely to remain in its current state of carefully – and at times not so carefully—calibrated tit-for-tat strikes.

 All of this leaves Israel and its wars with Hamas and Hezbollah in a repetitive cycle: major developments lead to headline-making news stories but little change. This stagnation, masked by the illusion of progress, not only perpetuates suffering but also moves further away from the principles of justice and compassion espoused by many ethical and religious traditions.

On the political front, the presence of extremist parties in the Knesset is likely to continue. Deeply divided politics in Israel is anathema to a compromise that is essential for peace. Perhaps a recent decision by the Supreme Court to ensure that ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students must be conscripted into the Israeli military and are no longer eligible for substantial government benefits will bring extremist parties to the negotiating table. (“Israeli Supreme Court rules ultra-Orthodox must serve in the military”,

As the region grapples with these challenges, it becomes increasingly clear that true change will require a fundamental shift in approach – one that prioritises human life, seeks genuine dialogue, and strives for a just and lasting peace. The region needs its own “Good Friday Agreement”. If major powers decide to stop the shipment of armaments and demand an end to hostilities, there is no reason why peace cannot prevail. Parties to the conflict share more in faith & culture than political disputes based on warring ideologies.

Without such a shift, the paradox of stagnation amid apparent change is likely to persist, with dire consequences for all involved.

No posts to display