Israel-Hamas Conflict

Cost of neglecting conflict resolution in favour of conflict management is rather steep

With Israel’s Titanic hitting Hamas’ iceberg, the world must shun the deceiving calmness of conflict management and wake up to the importance of conflict resolution.
Last Updated : 10 October 2023, 07:23 IST
Last Updated : 10 October 2023, 07:23 IST

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It’s never too early to pick lessons from the wreckage of a conflict outbreak. As a conflict continues, subsequent — not necessarily more pertinent — lessons could otherwise over-write ones gleaned earlier. From the terror onslaught over the weekend by Hamas and affiliated terror groups on Israel, an early lesson rifled up is on the importance of conflict resolution as against conflict management.

Since the war is set to continue, with Israel already at levelling much of Gaza and readying for a ground offensive in case the secret talks to release the hostages taken by Hamas fail, it is clear that the costs of neglecting conflict resolution in favour of conflict management can be rather steep, not only for belligerents but also for the international community.

As with the military disaster suffered by the Israelis exactly 50 years ago at the onset of the Yom Kippur War, Hamas has dealt a blow at the very outset. For Hamas, the reckoning is underway. The aftermath will unfortunately exact a greater toll on innocent Palestinians, as Israel goes about choosing a more lasting landscaping than this time to just ‘mow the grass’.

As for the region, the costs are in a hastily aborted putative peace initiative. There were indicators abroad over a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, in the spirit of the Abraham Accords. In return for a blanket security guarantee from the United States, rumour has it that Riyadh was to jettison its hitherto commitment of not normalising relations till Tel Aviv accepts a self-regarding Palestine as an equal interlocutor.

However, Israel used the cover of the peace initiative to unfurl a ‘grab what you can’ strategy to further the Right-wing agenda of its hardline Netanyahu government. It feared a closing of the door on its agenda to restrict the post-normalisation space for the Palestinians.

Palestinians, who were subject to Israeli impositions in terms of a continuing land grab in the West Bank and a creeping attempt to change the status of the Temple Mount complex, were sceptical of the peace initiative. Their fight back against Israeli repression has resulted in over 300 casualties this year, in part prompting the conflict.

Hamas reasoned that allowing normalcy over Palestinians' heads would leave it out in the cold. It was also worried that the Palestinian Authority, run by its rival Palestinian faction Fatah in the West Bank, might succumb to the enticement from the promise of developmental support by the international community, in the form of the ‘peace support package’ discussed on the sidelines of the General Assembly high-level week, to buttress peace deals.

Hamas reacted in the only way it knows how: the launch of asymmetric war. Its expectation is that subject to such terror, Israel would resort to what could amount to State terror, placing it afoul of international humanitarian law since its reaction would be compounded by its unfolding in occupied territory.

Hamas also rode on regional dynamics. Tehran was worried that Riyadh’s position would stand enhanced with the backing of the US and Israel. Suspicion is that Iran might have prodded Hamas on, given its own penchant for asymmetric war developed under late General Qassem Soleimani.

In short, the conflict management approach that under-grid the mentioned peace initiative has been upturned. Conflict management puts a lid on conflict by eliding addressing root causes. The time and seeming stability bought by the approach can vanish by some or other actors either taking unfair advantage, as did Israel by pursuing a Right-wing agenda, or another acting as a spoiler, as has Hamas in its terror attack. The limitations of conflict management are now obvious.

Conflict resolution, on the other hand, addresses the root causes. It holds the conflict parties to the table, incentivising and pressuring them into a negotiated resolution. The habits of engaging with each other act as eddies, expanding the space for possibilities and co-operation, termed in peace theory as conflict transformation. The cost of abandoning this approach, which had a promising start in the early 1990s with the Oslo Accords, is self-evident.

The lesson for South Asia is stark. The region has nursed a territorial conflict for as long as the Israeli-Palestinian one has been on the table. South Asia appears sanguine with its own conflict management approach extant over the Kashmir issue. It is equally liable to be evicted from this comfort zone should it continue turning a blind eye to the attractions of conflict resolution, made explicit in Israel’s Titanic hitting Hamas’ iceberg.

(Ali Ahmed is a freelance strategic analyst. Twitter: @aliahd66.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

Published 10 October 2023, 07:23 IST

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