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Yossi Sharabi and Itay Svirsky were two of the more than 240 people whom the Palestinian terror group Hamas kidnapped on Oct. 7. In a video released by Hamas, they appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the war in the Gaza Strip, reported USA Today. The video later included footage of their lifeless bodies after an Israeli air strike, causing outrage and grief in Israel.
“The loss and suffering of the families is enormous and unimaginable,” said Kibbutz Be’eri, where the two men lived, according to the Times of Israel. “We call on the war cabinet to do everything to return the members of the Sharabi family home as well as the other abductees.”
Their calls, increasingly echoed by other Israelis, are facing staunch resistance from Israeli settlers and their right-wing representatives in the Israeli government, especially Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who last week publicly dismissed attempts by the US to push a draw-down and a resolution to the war that involves a two-state solution.
“We will not settle for anything short of an absolute victory,” Netanyahu said. “This truth I tell to our American friends, and I put the brakes on the attempt to coerce us to a reality that would endanger the state of Israel.”
However, most of the international community has lost patience. Staunch European allies now are voicing frustration out loud: “Which are the other solutions they have in mind?” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, referring to the Israeli rejection of a two-state solution. “To make all the Palestinians leave? To kill … them?”
That’s because, on the other side of the Israeli border with Gaza, Gaza is devastated. Few buildings remain intact, almost no civil institutions are functioning, hospitals are often closed, unable to operate because of a lack of drugs, and schools are destroyed.
More than 25,000 people have died in Gaza since the war began in October, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. About 60,000 Gazans have been wounded, wrote the Associated Press. And 80 percent of the strip’s 2.3 million people have been displaced from their homes. Most have nowhere to go. Now, tents have become as scarce as safety, Samir Salah, who evacuated Gaza City and now lives with his family in a tent on top of a destroyed building, told NPR.
“I felt this was a safe place because it has already been targeted,” he said. “They won’t hit it again.”
Tents are just one of the necessities lacking in the enclave: water, food, medicine and blankets are now something families ration if they can get them at all.
“My neighbor told me he did not eat for two days. Can you imagine?” said Awni Nejem, who fled to Rafah from the Nuseirat refugee camp, where Israeli airstrikes have hit repeatedly since mid-November. “I understand people can take in suffering, but not this much. This is unbearable.”
As the suffering continues, however, Israel, the US, the European Union, and Arab countries are talking about a possible end to the fighting and what comes after.
A few weeks ago, Israel announced a partial drawdown from Gaza, Al-Monitor explained. The fighting resumed, as Reuters noted, but the statement was an acknowledgment of American and other pressure to curb civilian casualties.
Meanwhile, Israeli lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar, for example, recently slammed the Israeli government for reducing troop numbers in Gaza because, he said, Hamas had not been defeated. But he added that there was no “alternative” to Hamas governing Gaza, the Hindustan Times reported.
Israeli officials have frowned on the prospect of the Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank, resuming its control over Gaza. The Authority has been working hard diplomatically to have a say in the process, however, Bloomberg added, in spite of the fact that their approval ratings in the West Bank are in the teens and many Israelis and others in the region oppose this expansion of its mandate.
Meanwhile, American leaders oppose an extended Israeli presence in the Strip, too. “There will be a post-conflict Gaza, no reoccupation of Gaza,” the White House national security adviser, John Kirby, said after Netanyahu’s remarks. It’s the only way, US officials say, to protect Israel, unify moderate Arab countries and isolate Israel’s arch-enemy, Iran, the Associated Press reported. Without a “pathway to a Palestinian state,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, Israel would not “get genuine security.”
Still, even with Gaza’s future uncertain, the European Union, Egypt, Jordan, and the oil-rich Persian Gulf states have drafted plans to spend billions on reconstruction in Gaza with the aim of helping Palestine become an independent state, wrote the Christian Science Monitor.
As the Atlantic magazine explained, reconstruction will be vital, but a wider-ranging peace deal is necessary to truly make amends for the violence and bloodshed that has occurred between the two sides for generations.
Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Hussein Safadi, said on Friday how both Israeli goals of eliminating Hamas and Palestinian goals of a life with dignity and self-determination could be accomplished with a two-state solution.
Arab countries, he said, would make sure that Hamas is no longer a problem for Israel. In fact, if Palestinians get what they want, they no longer will need Hamas, Safadi added. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has said the kingdom is ready to establish full relations with Israel as part of a larger political agreement. “But that can only happen through peace for the Palestinians, through a Palestinian state.”