The Return of Diplomacy?
Why the Battle of Gaza Has No End?

The “Al-Aqsa Storm” operation is unprecedented, unlike any battle since the foundation of the Israeli regime. It has revealed that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians cannot come to an end, as the two-state solution is neither the choice of the Israeli regime nor the option of the Hamas liberation movement, writes Dr. Mohammad Reza Dehshiri, Professor of Political Science, School of International Relations, Tehran, Iran, for the 13th Middle East conference of the Valdai Discussion Club.

In the years following 1948, the idea of a two-state solution in Palestine has been raised repeatedly. However, the U.S. and Europe never forced Israel to adhere to it. Instead, Israel, confident in unwavering Western support, has expanded its occupation of Palestinian territories, erected numerous settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and violated holy sites: oppressing Muslims and Christians and targeting any Palestinian dissenters. As the Israeli regime perpetrates systematic anti-Palestinian indoctrination and has no intention to relocate over a million illegal settlers nor to treat all Muslim and Christian Palestinians as equal to Jewish people, we believe that the Gaza war won’t end, even though there may be a temporary peace mechanism applied to the current battle. 

Conceptual Framework

The current confrontation in Gaza is an operation in the chain of operations of a century-old war which, even if it is stopped, flares up again without bringing peace. Therefore, the conceptual point emphasized by this article is that the existing conflict is a “battle” and not a “war”. At the theoretical level, political analysts have focused more on why wars start or are prolonged. Only in the last three decades have they focused on how the wars would be ended. Therefore, the new theoretical question raised in this article is why this war would or wouldn’t end. The claim of the article is that since Israel does not agree to the idea of two state solution in any way, it seems that this war won’t end. Therefore, in explaining this issue, the nature of the Israeli regime based on Zionism, discrimination, expansionism, militarism and the genocide of Palestinian people is more problematic than anything else. If the principle of one vote per person is accepted, there would be a way out. But since such an idea won’t be realized in the foreseeable future, relations between Palestinians and the Israeli regime continue to revolve around confrontation and conflict. At the same time, the main discussion in explaining and predicting the Gaza battle is the central theory of “defeat and victory”, especially since Netanyahu talks about “absolute victory”. Here even the theory of “win and loss” can help.

The important assumption in understanding how the war can end is the answer to the question: “why did the war start?” In other words, if a war is to be ended, the reason the war began must be somehow erased or changed.

At the historical level, the battle of Gaza started with a 67-word letter written by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to the Jewish leader of the country (Lionel Walter Rothschild) in 1917, in which he expressed the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This was despite the fact that even in 1947 (the year of the foundation of the Israeli regime), Jews only made up 9% of the population and owned a maximum of 6% of the land. In addition, the Palestinian people experienced brutal bombings and the destruction of their homes in 1939, even before the establishment of the Israeli regime, as the massacre of 5,000 Palestinians by 30,000 British soldiers shows. If we leave the rest of the history of this war aside, in the last 18 years alone, the Israeli regime has fought with Hamas four times: in 2008, 2012, 2014 and the current war of October 7, 2023. Of these conflicts, two confrontations were accompanied with a limited ground attack, without an Israeli request for the complete destruction of Hamas. In the first three conflicts, about 4,000 Palestinians and fewer than 100 Israelis were killed. However, in the current battle, so far, the Palestinian people are being killed at a rate of around 250 people per day, which cannot be compared to any other battle. Meanwhile, it is claimed that Hamas has been defeated in the three previous wars; this time, however, the outcome of the battle is not yet clear.

Why did the war start?

In the past decades, authors have written a lot about the Gaza Crisis. Among them is Anthony H. Cordesman of the American Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), who has described the Gaza Strip before the October 7, 2023 as “a prison without a ceiling” at the crossroads of Israel and Egypt, with an economy on the verge of destruction. Therefore, without further explanation, we can conclude that the border fence was the determining factor or the necessary condition for the current confrontation. In other words, it’s illogical to ask why Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. On the contrary, it is logical and rational to ask why Palestinians hadn’t acted to free themselves from such a prison at any opportunity. It is to be noted that the leadership of Hamas has repeatedly asked the involved parties to leave the open option for this organization and for the administration of Gaza in order to be released from this prison; however, its efforts have been futile. Therefore, given the existence of this determining condition, the sufficient condition for the October 7 attack by Hamas could have been anything else: Israeli settlers attacking Palestinian villages and the militias’ counter-defence in the West Bank, repeated attacks by the Israeli army on Palestinians, or suspicious actions such as the holding of religious ceremonies by some Jews in Al-Aqsa Mosque a week before Hamas attacks. Perhaps this is the reason Hamas named its operation “Al-Aqsa Storm”. Among these factors, I believe that the issue of the settlers constitutes a fundamental factor due to the fact that the number of settlers has increased from 4,000 people in 1977 to 500,000 people in 2024.

Israel’s War Objectives
Gabi Siboni, Kobi Michael
The State of Israel and the people of Israel have known many crises and have withstood difficult times. Israel can emerge victorious this time, too. It will be costly, but a historic opportunity has been created here to reshape the Palestinian and regional arenas.

US and Israeli Narrative of Hamas Attack

Some authors like John Mearsheimer considered the current battle a surprise, like the October 1973 war. He believes that before this battle, Israel was pursuing a policy of coexistence with Hamas; this is because he considered the existence of this organization to be the largest obstacle to the establishment of a two-state solution. This very sentence indicates that the Israeli regime is still looking for an excuse so that the Palestinian state would not be formed under any circumstances. Jeffrey Feltman from the Brookings Institution also introduces such an analogy, but he believes that in 1973 the countries that attacked Israel were considered an existential threat to Israel, while Hamas does not pose such a threat.

There is a global consensus regarding Israel’s surprise in the face of the Hamas attack, but there is a lot of disagreement about the causes and reasons for this surprise. Mearsheimer considers the main reason for this surprise to be Israel’s false perception of Hamas. Israel’s attempt to use Hamas as a tool rendered the regime unable to recognize the real danger posed by this group. On the other hand, the arrogance and self-conceit of Israelis is also one of the factors underscoring this misconception. Basically, American statesmen usually make analogies in order to understand an issue in their security and military policies, but in some cases they make comparisons with the purpose of “framing” the other party in order to securitize it and perpetrate military actions. In the current battle, the Israelis made such a comparison much earlier than the Americans; they considered the recent attack by Hamas to be a repetition of the September 11 attack by al-Qaeda on the United States. US President Biden also voiced this analogy on several occasions.

As a result, just as the US response to Al-Qaeda’s attack on US territory was excessive and disproportionate, Israel’s attack on Gaza has been disproportionate and much more extensive than necessary. Therefore, it is said that the purpose of the visit of American officials to the region at the beginning of the battle was to warn Israel not to repeat the US mistake after September 11. However, the US response to the September 11 attack was to occupy two countries, leading to the killing of Muslims. Therefore, this analogy has been made to pave the way for the genocide of Palestinians by Netanyahu. There is a consensus that like the September 11 attack by Al-Qaeda on US territory, Hamas’ action also reflected a failure of Israel’s intelligence. Hamas had probably been preparing for this operation for months. Therefore, it is a mystery why Israel could not foresee such an attack despite its intense pursuit and vigilance in Gaza. It can even be said that the Americans did better in the September 11 attack; since the surprise attack on the US was the first of its kind in nearly 200 years, since Washington was set on fire by the British. Before the Al-Qaeda attack on US territory, the feeling of security was so great that there was not much talk about internal security in theoretical and academic discussions.

Meanwhile, Israel was so insecure before the Hamas attack that it had to expect such attacks at any moment, but the attack by Hamas on Israel was such that it seems that as if there was basically no government, police or intelligence apparatus in Israel.

At the operational level, another comparison has been made: with the American war in Mosul against ISIS due to the use of tunnels by ISIS. This is despite the fact that ISIS was considered a foreign force in Mosul, while Hamas is present in the heart of Palestinian society and in all its layers. In addition, the amount of bombs that were dropped on Gaza cannot be compared to the amount of bombs that were dropped on Mosul by the United States. Israel’s excessive and at the same time unsuccessful targeting of places like Shefa Hospital in order to destroy such tunnels demonstrates why this is a flawed analogy.

Israels goals in Gaza

Since the beginning of the Gaza battle, American officials have claimed that Israel has no intention of occupying and staying in Gaza, and that Israel’s goal is only to destroy Hamas, blow up the tunnels, and destroy their workshops. Based on this analysis, when Israel’s losses increase, they exit the war by declaring victory; this was considered the most likely scenario. Considering the fact that tens of thousands of Hamas forces work in schools, hospitals and the judicial system- their number is estimated to be 60,000 people – and that Hamas is an idea, or according to David Miller, a set of ideas; and therefore not easy to eliminate, the Israeli claim that it can eradicate the scattered violence and tension in Gaza via military means is unfounded.

In fact, the larger Israeli goal is to move the Palestinians to the Sinai and re-annex Gaza to Israel, ultimately destroying the tunnels built by Hamas and freeing the hostages. Beyond that, it seems that the Israeli regime would like to determine the main goal in terms of progress in the war. The displacement and relocation of the Palestinian population constitutes a repetition of 1948 or 1967. The Israeli army is currently implementing a transition plan during which it would oversee the security and civilian affairs of Gaza. After all, Netanyahu has claimed that Israeli forces should have freedom of movement in Gaza for the foreseeable future.

Lack of strategy from both sides

According to Cordesman, the tactical victories of Hamas without significant political and strategic achievements made Gaza vulnerable to Israeli air strikes; without having any clear option to achieve the security of Gaza. But the situation of the battle is now such that the possibility of a serious victory on the Palestinian front is seen. What is very important is the role of the people of Gaza. Israel’s entire effort has been to depopulate Gaza through endless bombing. Regardless of Israel’s propaganda policy and psychological warfare, it can be said that this time the Palestinians stayed, or if they went to the south, they returned to the north and opened a new front against Israel. This resistance has allowed Hamas to survive even longer and continue to attack Israel with its rockets. If there was such resistance in 1948, basically a country called Israel would not have been formed. On the other hand, in the early days of the battle, when American officials were full supporters of Israel, they were less critical of Israel’s strategy. But over time, and especially since the failure of the temporary ceasefire, the American authorities have been seriously questioning Israel’s strategy. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin believes that Israel risks a strategic defeat in exchange for tactical victories. The explanation is that for every Palestinian who is killed, at least the same number of Hamas members will be added in the future. Meanwhile, no war has ever been won by dropping bombs on civilians. According to Steven A. Cook, the increase in the number of deaths in Gaza equates to greater insecurity for Israel in the future and the increase in the popularity of Hamas. “Punishment” or, according to Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, “revenge”, is not a strategy; sooner or later, the Palestinians will also “reciprocate”. As Cordesman admits, Israel has the ability to contain Gaza, seriously weaken Hamas, and in the best case, occupy and control Gaza, but it will never be accepted by the people of Gaza. At the same time, it has stoked deep anger among Palestinians and Arabs. Israel will not be able to establish lasting security in Gaza or achieve real peace, even if it completely destroys Hamas.

In other words, even if Hamas is eliminated, it would be replaced by a greater threat to Israel.

In the ongoing battle, time is an enigma. In all previous battles between Israel and the Palestinians, the war lasted at most a month. Here too, the initial predictions were that Israel would not be able to continue a war for a long time. However, it has been able to resist for more than 4 months and will probably endure even more. This being said, the international pressure against Israel is intense.

Furthermore, according to the theory of defeat and victory, there are indicators of failure in this battle. Israel has set the floor of its demand to wipe out Hamas, which is “impossible” and its ceiling is to redefine equations at the regional level. However, the realities of the scene show that Israel will not reach even the most basic of its demands. Even if Israel achieves this goal, eventually, sooner or later, elections will have to be held again, and Hamas will win again in these elections.

Lack of an exit strategy

Usually, because the beginning of wars is accompanied with optimism, the initiator of the war does not think about how to end it. Using a fast strike is also an error of a war-initiating party. Public opinion (due to the presence of prisoners in the hands of Hamas) has been influential both at the beginning and at the end of the war. Therefore, at the beginning of the war, internal pressure may have led Netanyahu’s government to pursue irrational action. Although Netanyahu has declared that he is ready for a long war, it is possible that his war cabinet has assumed it will be a short-term war. However, whatever the reason, Israel itself has confirmed that it does not have a clear strategy for exiting the war. US President Biden, Secretary of Defense Austin, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also have reminded Israel to think of solutions in this regard. But it seems that Israel is at an impasse. Israel showed that it is much weaker in terms of psychological warfare and counter-intelligence measures than was previously thought. So everyone's question is how to end this war. The US as well as the EU are insisting on a two-state solution and have considered the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces in Gaza after the ceasefire. However, this plan would probably not succeed, due to Israel’s enmity toward the United Nations. However, the US and EU estimate that at least raising this issue would make Israel think about ending the war.

It is possible that the people of Gaza can turn the battle against Israel from a stalemate into an erosion. If Israel’s tactic is to turn Gaza into a burnt wasteland, which it seems to be, the Palestinian war of attrition against Israel will just begin; especially since they have nothing left to lose.

Gaza. Yemen. Epicentres of Pain. Feelings, Myths, and Memories in the Middle East
Vitaly Naumkin, Vasily Kuznetsov
Many developments that significantly impacted the destinies of the regional players, non-regional actors, and many people around the world have unfolded during the year that followed the publication of our paper titled “The Middle East and the Future of a Polycentric World” (February 2023).


1- Some of the previous participants in the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations believe that in recent decades, any peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israeli regime has occurred after such attacks and that any progress since 1967 has followed this rule. At least it is shown that after each of these events, the Palestinian issue cannot be pushed aside. It also shows that solving this problem using military or terrorist methods is not practical.

2- Due to Israel’s enmity towards the United Nations, no force from this organization will be stationed in Gaza. Therefore, maybe a multilateral force consisting of Arab countries or a peacekeeping force to monitor the implementation of the 1979 agreement between Israel and Egypt can play a role. However, no country in the region is a member of multilateral international peacekeeping organizations. Arab countries may pay for the reconstruction of Gaza, but not deploy troops. Of course, in the long term, there is a possibility of a coalition of Arab countries that are/would be members of the Abraham Accords accepting the task of rebuilding Gaza. The Arab League has also emphasised its decisive role. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia won’t provide the billions of dollars needed, unless there would be a serious commitment to a political solution. It has been argued that the result depends on the US ability to convince Israel to oust Hamas with a morally and diplomatically acceptable cost.

3- Politically, even if Israel is able to topple Hamas, there will be a governance vacuum and an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. In this context, the result of this battle would be deep confusion.

4- Politics in Gaza cannot be imposed from outside. Even the leaders of the Palestinian National Authority government are not willing to return to such conditions with the support of Israeli tanks. Until now, the legitimacy of this organisation has remained under question. Fatah has not had any elections since 2005, 87-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is still the first person to have been elected. The vast majority of Palestinians consider this group a corrupt and ineffective institution. Its security cooperation with Israel in the West Bank is also a subject of deep suspicion and pessimism among the Palestinians. In addition, the Palestinian National Authority is unable to protect Palestinians from attacks by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Furthermore, in recent years, the very existence of the Palestinian National Authority government has been questioned, let alone that it wants to govern a population of two million people in the shadow of war. If the Palestinian National Authority is to have any authority, it must have new elections, vast resources, and a very different behaviour than the current government. Meanwhile, the Palestinian National Authority government does not accept the administration of Gaza without the participation of Hamas, whereas Netanyahu has announced that Hamas cannot be a negotiating party for hostage negotiations. This is also a paradox.

5- Considering the consequences of this battle, the first priority is the formation of infrastructure for the administration of Gaza. Humanitarian aid and post-war planning should go forward in parallel.

Contradicting Netanyahu’s declaration that Israel will forever remain responsible for the security of Gaza, the US administration has declared that after Hamas, the control of the Gaza Strip will remain in the hands of the Palestinians; but the problem of Israeli regime and US is that their assumption of eradicating Hamas can never become a reality, because Hamas is a part of Palestinian reality.

6- The experience of the last hundred years shows that the main issue is the nature of the state in Israel. What was in the Balfour Declaration is that the Jewish state should accept other religions as well; but the experience has shown that this is impossible. Israelis, especially in recent years, have been more united in confronting the issue of the “two-state” plan. The presence of fanatical settlers, which has increased in recent years, has also made it more difficult. Therefore, the solution that even some American-Israelis give is that at the end we should switch to the principle of one vote per person; but since the nature of the government in Israel does not seem to change for the foreseeable future, the main characteristic of Israel’s future relations with the Palestinians will be nothing but crisis, conflict and war. Furthermore, there is a risk that the current battle in the Gaza Strip would inflame the broader region.

7- In recent months, the Ansarullah/Houthis have come to the assistance of the people of Gaza; their strikes on Ilat and their attacks on Israel-bound ships in the Red Sea can create strategic effects, and this is something that the Israelis have not experienced before. From the day the United States entered the war with Ansarullah for attacking the ships carrying goods for the Israeli regime, it was clear that there was a bigger purpose behind it. The US is deliberately starting a war in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandab and the Gulf of Aden. With the American and British attack on Yemen and the Yemeni army’s heavy response to these attacks, this region has automatically become more insecure. 

This American operation was actually launched in order to control European countries more than before.

As with the war in Ukraine, out of which the Europeans were deprived of access to cheap Russian gas, now they are deprived of the cheap oil and products that were sent to them from Asian countries.

With the increase in transportation and insurance costs due to American operations in the Red Sea forcing all Western companies to change the route from the Red Sea to the Cape of Good Hope, oil and hydrocarbon products no longer reach the Europeans on time. 

The biggest loser of these American and British operations is India, a close US ally, which was using cheap Russian oil to deliver hydrocarbon products to Europeans at a better price. At the same time, costs have increased due to the shortage of oil products, the Europeans are requesting American hydrocarbon products so that the transatlantic route has been revived for the big American oil companies. For this reason, European countries did not agree to accompany the US and UK in their adventure in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab. 

8- In the Gaza battle, Iran and the US showed that they should continue to use the lessons they have learned over more than four decades as the basis for their decision-making: How to avoid military confrontation with each other and still not exceed the level of “peaceful” deterrence.

9-It is true that the fire of this battle is not limited to Gaza, but has covered the West Bank and even Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Therefore, there is no peace except through the recognition of Palestinians’ right to self-determination. It is worth mentioning that the Israeli regime has practically made it impossible to realise the idea of two states. The settlement of 700,000 Jews in the West Bank shows that Israel, due to the ideology of Zionism, which is based on apartheid and discrimination and the superiority of the Jewish people over Muslims and Christians, as well as perpetrating terrorist acts against the anti-Zionist elites, is essentially opposed to the idea of a two-state solution.

10- The unwavering support of the West, especially the United States, for Israel’s slaughter has proven that principles such as democracy, human rights, and Western-oriented international law are nothing more than a joke. The long-term result of this assumption can be seen in the future of international politics. It seems that the indifferent attitudes of the West, especially the United States, in this battle have weakened the authority of international law and led to the moral decline of the liberal democratic system. On the other hand, the decision of the International Court of Justice at the request of South Africa to consider the actions of Israel in Gaza genocidal can be a starting point to oblige the Israeli regime to respond to repeated and long-term violations of international law.

In such an environment, Iran, China, and Russia, through the creation of a strategic partnership, can pave the way for the post-American international order. They have common objectives: China wants to push the United States out of the Western Pacific and to neutralise the American strategy of a “Pivot to Asia”, devoting more attention to countering the rise of China. Russia also wants to regain its lost influence after the collapse of the Soviet Union during the Ukraine crisis and to neutralise the American project of NATO enlargement towards Eurasia. In the Middle East, Iran and the axis of resistance (including Hamas, the Houthis, and Hezbollah) want to support the Palestinian cause against the Israeli regime and to confront the regional hegemony of the United States. Therefore, “Beijing, Moscow and Tehran” can form a new coalition in the framework of existing institutions such as BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in order to influence the current international system in transition.


It becomes clear that the Gaza war has no end in sight because of Israeli ideology. It is evident that there is no room for a two-state solution in the minds of Israeli leaders that not only are against the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state but also are determined to create a Greater Israel which encompasses Gaza, the West Bank, South Lebanon and Syria’s Golan Heights. With the continuous failure of Western and Arab leaders to secure the two-state solution, it seems that “sustainable peace in the Middle East” can only be realized when the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and Palestinian Statehood are respected and one democratic state with equal rights for all is established. We believe that a referendum which would empower all indigenous people, irrespective of their religious affiliation, to vote, overseen by an international body, such as the United Nations, rather than Israeli or Palestinian entities, remains the only path toward sustainable peace in the region. Furthermore, a sustainable peace in the region should come from inside not from outside. Only Middle Eastern countries can secure the Middle East peace process. The longer the Gaza war continues, the greater the risk of broader fractures across the Middle East. The Middle East countries must come together to build lasting mechanisms for conflict prevention and, ultimately, realise sustainable peace.

Resolving the Palestinian Issue is the Key to Stability in the Region
Ahmad Majdalani
The Palestinian issue must align with decisions which are internationally legitimate and United Nations resolutions. It should be based on the two-state solution, which entails the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, within the 1967 borders.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.