When will a vicious circle of historical vengeance and revenge end? Even the algorithm of the Israeli defense program that this week calculated how a bomb could destroy the office of the Belgian development agency Enabel in Gaza cannot predict that.
With deep red lines, the death curves of the war between Israel and Hamas continue to climb every day. At least 27,019 Palestinian deaths and 66,139 injuries have been reported in Gaza, according to their health ministry. As of February 1, 222 soldiers had been killed and 1,293 wounded in Gaza, according to the Israeli army, which launched a devastating offensive after the massacre of 1,200 Israeli civilians and the hostage-taking of more than 250 others on October 7 last year.
According to the United Nations, there are now an estimated 1.7 million displaced people in the Gaza Strip, out of 2.3 million inhabitants. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) calculated this week that since the war, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has fallen by 26.1 percent. Eight in ten Gazans are now unemployed. Meanwhile, 37,379 buildings, 18 percent of all structures, have been damaged or destroyed. If reconstruction were to start today, even under the most optimistic scenario – 10 percent annual growth – GDP will not reach pre-Israeli Gaza blockade levels of 2006 until 2035.
Gaza is now becoming virtually uninhabitable. In the imagination of some extremists in the Israeli government, this is a dream excuse to try to push some of the Palestinians across the border into the desert. They wander. The more you bombard a people into the Stone Age, the more they build their identity around resistance. If necessary, by throwing the rubble of ruins, as the intifadas taught us.
Israel has the right to self-defense against Hamas attacks, but its ruthless scorched earth strategy is now providing the breeding ground on which the terrorist organization can recruit the next generation.
Even US President Joe Biden, despite being a loyal ally of Israel, has had enough. In an unprecedented move, this week he imposed financial sanctions for the first time against four Israeli settlers who used illegal violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.
This is just the beginning of a series of initiatives we can expect from Biden in the coming weeks. The US will soon strike back against Iranian militias in the region to prevent them from starting a broader war. After that, commentators in Washington, such as Franklin Foer in this newspaper, expect that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will be urged by Biden to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority. At the same time, the US wants to make a new attempt at a Saudi-Israeli peace agreement, which was already close before October 7.
The aim of all these talks is a viable Palestinian state next to Israel, with mutual security guarantees. It is the only way to break the cycle of violence in the Middle East.