In my family discussions and personal musings about the crisis in Israel and Gaza I have come to realize that the Israelis lost a great opportunity to destroy Hamas and find real peace by employing what I will call “radical diplomacy.” In contrast, their choice to eradicate Hamas through total war bodes for more and more conflict into the foreseeable future.
By radical diplomacy I mean that Israel could have emphasized their victimhood without changing the narrative by going on the military offensive, but the diplomatic offensive. Israel would have had two overwhelming advantages in this effort, the videos and narratives of Hamas themselves and the vast western media making the case that Hamas was a barbarous sect. Those self-propagated images of Hamas, isolated from all other historical provocations, could have finally started the process of changing the mind of the so-called Arab street. From these advantages the goal would have been to strangle Hamas from all external support. For example, naming all of the Hamas leaders and charging them in the court of world opinion. This could easily result in charges at the International Criminal Court, but to more effect, the total isolation of the national backers of Hamas, Iran and Qatar.
All of these efforts could be done in concert with an internal shakeup of Israeli strategy and politics. For example, the policy of allowing support to reach Hamas to cause division among the Palestinians should have discredited the present government, let alone the military failure. That failure should also have been emphasized to the Israeli public that their security needs cannot be met by pure power. They need to change Arab minds. A gracious tone by Israel to the Palestinian people at the moment of the greatest crimes by Hamas, I believe, could have finally moved the needle toward peace among the Palestinians.
In contrast, it appears that Israel has chosen the option of total war. This entails cutting electricity and water while blocking entry of supplies and the exit of refugees, and calling for the mass exodus of one part of the strip to allow for a massive bombing campaign. These are indiscriminate actions against Hamas fighters and non-combatants. The potential non-combatant casualties can only escalate with the anticipated ground invasion. The change in world opinion from complete support for Israel just after October 7th to condemning Israel is telling. With the rise of the BRICS there was a chance for independent brokers to influence the Arab states to allow peace in Palestine. Now I fear the moment for the triumph of total diplomacy has passed.
A similar line of thought has followed my thinking of Russia’s special military operation against Ukraine. However, in this case all of Russia’s efforts at diplomacy had more than failed, they were used against them (e.g., rearming Ukraine while the Minsk 2 agreement was ignored and the scuttling of the ceasefire agreement by Boris Johnson early in the conflict after Russia had ceded the territory around Kiev). Furthermore, the western media was squarely against them. I am afraid there is no place left for diplomacy here as well.