• Wednesday, 24 April 2024

PROFESSOR DR. LENORE MARTIN TO GULAN: The leadership in both Gaza and Israel is in the hands of extreme actors

PROFESSOR DR. LENORE MARTIN TO GULAN: The leadership in both Gaza and Israel is in the hands of extreme actors

Dr. Lenore G. Martin is a Professor and Chair Department of Political Science and International Studies, Emmanuel College. She is an Associate of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs of Harvard University where she serves as co-chair of the WCFIA/CMES Middle East Seminar. She is also an Associate at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard where she co-chairs the Seminar on Turkey in the Modern World co-sponsored by CMES and WCFIA. Her major field is International Relations; particularly, international relations of the Middle East and Turkey. Professor Martin is a member of the American Political Science Association, the International Studies Association, and the Middle East Studies Association. In a written interview with our Magazine, she answered our questions like the following.

Gulan: How do you characterize the current war in Gaza in terms of causes and consequences?

Dr. Lenore G. Martin: The current war in Gaza can be explained using a number of different time lines and perspectives. The immediate cause of the war was the attack by Hamas on October 7, 2023. It was obvious by the brutality of the attack, the size of the attack, and the fact that it involved the taking of civilian hostages that Hamas knew very well that Israel would have to retaliate in a major way.

What has been needed since the founding of the state of Israel (and even before) is the willingness of both Palestinians and Israelis to agree to a two-state solution. One that will satisfy the yearning for self-determination for the two peoples. There have been many attempts over the years yet, one or the other –or both, ultimately rejected the agreement. Interestingly there was a symbolic agreement called the Geneva Initiative/Geneva Accord of 2003 written over two years by a group of Israelis and Palestinians including some who were former formal negotiators for Israelis and Palestinians. The idea was to show the real possibility of making peace through a two-state solution and they did!  

The leadership in both Gaza and Israel today is in the hands of extreme actors unwilling to make long term peace through serious negotiations. It would require hard decisions and compromises. It is not clear whether the anger and hurt and most importantly the enormous lack of trust resulting from this hugely destructive war will either bring people to say…enough. Or will they seek revenge and a total rejection of a negotiated peace.

We need to remember that Hamas has rejected the existence of the state of Israel. This has given the  Israeli state a reason for not moving forward towards a peace deal which Hamas seemed ready to propose in the past, namely a temporary peace. The response for some Israelis goes like this:  why make a deal that will strengthen Hamas and in return receive only a 30 year peace or a Hudna?

This left Gaza with its borders controlled by Israel and little hope for the people of Gaza for independence, economic development, and hope…especially for the youth.

Israel under Netanyahu has grown increasingly right wing including some very extremist ministers in his cabinet who have been advocating the building of more and more settlements in the West Bank and even now in Gaza.

In a tragic way for years both Hamas and Israel were complicit in settling for the status-quo. Both stayed in power and no compromise was made by either.

But, the people paid. Tunnels were built in Gaza, though shelters for the civilians were not. Fuel was available for rockets but not hospitals. Civilians have been killed, forced from their homes and hostages taken…sick, young, old, civilians.

It has seen more and more Israeli settlements in the West Bank and more extremist attacks on Palestinians from these settlements.

In fact, the international community had itself settled for the status quo with the Saudis seriously considering a three way agreement between Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S.. The agreement was supposed to include Saudi recognition of Israel, and a security agreement between the U.S. and the Saudis, with little change in the status of the Palestinians—this meant no serious movement towards statehood for the Palestinians. It is believed by many that this possible agreement was the reason for the timing of the October 7 attack.

Today the role of the U.S., the West, and the Arab states is crucial in limiting the power of Hamas and Israeli extremists and moving both Palestinians and Israelis towards a real two-state solution

Gulan: Thus far, the confrontation in Gaza, which was sparked by Hamas's strike on October 7, has not resulted in the worst-case scenario of a larger Middle East conflict including Iran and the United States, but can this conflict be contained from further escalation?

Dr. Lenore G. Martin: We need to hope so.

Gulan: The Red Sea is the focal point of the threat, as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels headquartered in Yemen have been assaulting freighters that may or may not have ties to Israel, how do you interpret this development?

Dr. Lenore G. Martin: The Houthis like Hamas and Hezbollah are Iranian proxies--- the resistance front. The attacks are costly to people all over the world because of the increased shipping costs. The attacks also make it more difficult for the Saudis to clinch a peace deal with the Houthis that would have brought more stability to the Gulf and helped the people of Yemen who have suffering through the civil war. The U.S. and allies are trying to respond proportionately. Some urge even more assertive action.

Gulan: While support for Mr. Netanyahu has dramatically declined, Israeli public opinion continues to firmly support the operation aimed at eliminating Hamas, despite widespread demands for a ceasefire and global concern about the dead toll and damage in Gaza, do you believe that this means that the war is bound to continue and escalate?

Dr. Lenore G. Martin: The Israeli public neither trusts the government under Netanyahu nor believes it has been protected by the military or intelligence. The question is whether it is even possible to eliminate Hamas as a political force. Surely, Israel needs to address the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza for housing, food, water, electricity, and healthcare. It means it will need to have an endpoint and the rebuilding of Gaza begin.

Gulan: Obviously, the geopolitics is a crucial component as Middle Eastern crises are too closely linked to Western interests and geopolitics, how this component factor in the development of Gaza war?

Dr. Lenore G. Martin: please see above.

Gulan: In your opinion what would be the implication of this war on the issue of normalization of ties between Israel and several Arab countries? Do you also think that this restoration of ties will last?

Dr. Lenore G. Martin: Iran continues to threaten instability in the Gulf and beyond. Egypt, Jordan and most of the Gulf states would be stronger with Israeli support. But, this can come only with a real movement towards peace and a two-state solution.