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Recent Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria are a stark reminder of the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and re-stabilisation of the Middle East. Although the issue inevitably arises when discussing peace in the Middle East, extremism, aggression and terrorism remain pervasive to the discussion to the extent that the notion of ‘peace’ and the attainability of it is beginning to dwindle.
This is largely due to the Likud and the Hamas, as both groups are driven by extremist ideas that have proved detrimental to the peace process. Bizarrely, even though they appear to be in conflict, one is able to see that they thrive of one another as they both benefit from the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. Their extremist, violent tactics drive the conflict as it moves further and further away from any peace initiatives that would help facilitate a two-state solution.
Likud relies on groups like Hamas to justify its existence, and Hamas relies on Likud to justify its existence.
Historically, the Likud party has always played a fundamental role in stagnating the peace process. It has consistently expressed a harsh stance towards Palestinian refugees in particular as they have not recognised the Palestinian ‘right to return’ which emphasises the notion that their interests are only for the Jewish population and the sovereignty of Israel.
Likud, too, is a religious extremist party.
The Likud party’s harsh, unsympathetic nature derives from its inception, as it was formed by several parties, one of those parties being the Herut party which was formed from a recognised terrorist group.
Considering this, it is clear that Likud’s origins lie in extremist ideas, these ideas are reflected in the present-day government that does not favour a peace process that will give Palestinians autonomy and a two-state solution that will allow both states to co-exist. On the contrary, it exacerbates the conflict as it rejects a moderate approach. They share the “my way or the high way” approach of Islamist organisations like Hamas.
In order to determine how the party has undermined the peace process, one has to examine certain political figures that have led the party and how they have been instrumental to the demise of the peace process.
Ariel Sharon, former leader of the Likud Party known for his hard-line approach, sought to undermine the controversial PLO’s legitimacy as he assaulted PLO bases in Lebanon and Beirut. Through this, we are also able to witness the extremist nature of the party through Sharon’s actions.
Moreover, this is reflected in Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza which, although appears to be a move in order to mitigate conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, it is clear that it was only successful in dividing as it helped isolate the Palestinians in Gaza and alienate them further.
More importantly, it also helped extremism groups like the Hamas flourish and consolidate their power over Gaza. The roles political leaders have played in stagnating the peace process and intensifying conflict further cannot be underestimated, this is also reflected in Netanyahu, Israel’s current prime minister and leader of the Likud Party.
Arab Research & Advocacy Bureau believes, in an objective sense, that Israel’s crimes have been disproportionate to crimes committed by groups like Hamas. However, Hamas continues to jeopardise Palestinian chances as it plays into the hands of Netanyahu’s game of self-purported victimisation.
Netanyahu has notoriously been reluctant to engage in a peace process that would eventually lead to a Palestinian state. He repeatedly emphasises Israel’s national security as being a priority and the idea that Palestinian sovereignty could undermine it as a Jewish state. This rhetoric has allowed him and his government to avoid participating in dialogue with organisations like the PLO as according to him, a state for the Palestinians is a threat to national security – but what about Palestinian national security?
This allows Netanyahu to justify so-called “settlements”, particularly in the West Bank, and to fulfil the state’s expansionist aspirations.
Although the Israeli government led by the Likud Party serves as a barrier to peace, Hamas also plays an integral part in stagnating the peace process. The organisation is an internationally recognised terror group that has weakened Palestinian self-determination, playing exactly into Israeli hands when responding to the occupation with their own forms of aggression.
Hamas have also been reluctant to commit to a two-state solution as it does not coincide with their ideology that emphasises the liberation of historic Palestine. It is evident that there is no place for both an Israeli and a Palestinian state according to its ideology, an ideology completely detached from the realities of globalisation and modern-day diplomacy.
This is in stark contrast to Fatah as they have recognised Israel’s right to exist and this has led to conflict between the two organisations, which has somewhat been reconciled.
In trying to acknowledge the realities of international politics, Fatah have been branded traitors, and this makes it difficult for similar political parties to play a “Gandhi-esque” game in the face of oppression where Arab blood is now unfortunately cheaper.
Hamas’ rule over Gaza and its terrorist background has played a fundamental role in dividing the Palestinian population as their autonomy and their aspirations for a state of their own have been overshadowed by the extremist nature of the group.
The group recognise that many people who live in dire situations in Gaza are susceptible to radicalisation, as many of the young adults and children that fight for Hamas feel like they have nothing to lose. They are living a life of perpetual occupation in a highly condensed area where their daily lives are continually restricted. Movement is monitored and business is restricted, driving up youth unemployment.
This cycle of grassroots radicalisation gives the Israeli government an opportunity to halt any negotiations with Palestinian organisations especially if Hamas are involved. It is clear that, without stable leadership, Palestinian statehood cannot not occur in the foreseeable future.
Hamas also serves as a security risk when one considers its ties with Lebanese paramilitary organisation Hezbollah, which is also recognised as a terrorist group within the international community. In addition to this, Hamas is supplied with missiles by Iran which creates a supposed security threat for Israel, a regional nuclear superpower.
When examining these factors, one is able to determine that there is a complex triangle at play between Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran which is considered a staunch enemy of Israel. The existence of this triangle feeds the Likud party even further and rationalises the Likud’s policies towards Palestine amongst naive onlookers and voters.
It is therefore clear that both groups have dramatically undermined the peace process as they have both contributed to the demise of the two-state solution through extreme tactics that seek to exacerbate the conflict and damage any prospect of peace. If terrorism is killing innocents for ideological purposes, then both democratically-elected Hamas and democratically-elected Likud can be considered terrorist organisations in the strictest meaning of the term – Likud, of course, being the biggest aggressor, though Arab Research & Advocacy Bureau does not like to get in the game of quantifying and comparing suffering.
Everybody is suffering, and Hamas are playing right into Likud’s political game by giving Netanyahu a thinly veiled justification for his disproportionate aggression towards the Palestinians. Whatever Hamas’ political game is is not working a drastic change in strategy is needed.
Similarly, the hard military Zionism perpetuated by Netanyahu is making many Israelis and Jews – particularly younger ones who are increasingly developing liberal values – object to Israel’s policies and fall out of touch and sympathy with Zionism. Perhaps, then, Hamas should let Likud undermine itself: it could lead to its own demise and exposure, particularly in light of recent corruption allegations, thus providing more momentum for Palestine.
This would be the ideal way to follow-up Palestine’s recognised statehood and John Kerry’s candid outburst towards the end of Obama’s tenure.
In a post-Trump world where lobby groups in the business of arms largely dictate political outcomes, the “peace process” therefore seems to lack a moderate, rational voice that could make the two-state solution a reality.