What is the path to peace in Gaza?

Dove as symbol of peace photo illustration
Photo Illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images [2]

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

What’s happening

Ever since Hamas brutally attacked Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostage, Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu’s right-wing government has vowed to launch a large-scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip and destroy the militant group once and for all.

But as the days have passed with no invasion — and as unbridled Israeli airstrikes have leveled large swaths of Gaza, killing at least 5,700, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry — experts, observers and even U.S. officials have started to question whether Israel has a workable plan for the “day after” it eliminates Hamas (assuming it can even accomplish that goal).

“The Biden administration is concerned that Israel lacks achievable military objectives in Gaza, and that the Israel Defense Forces are not yet ready to launch a ground invasion with a plan that can work,” the New York Times reported Monday.

In response, the U.S. has sent a Marine three-star general and several other U.S. military officers to Israel to help advise its military leadership — while also urging Israel to delay its ground offensive until hostage negotiations can play out.

Israeli forces will almost certainly invade Gaza. But the consensus is that how Israel fights Hamas — by minimizing or maximizing civilian casualties? by considering the future of the Palestinian people as well as its own? — will set the stage for what comes next.

Is peace a possibility, or will war engulf the entire region?

Why there’s debate

Over the last 75 years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has proven to be perhaps the world’s most intractable and combustible problem. Given the current level of hostilities — and Israel’s increasingly hard-line internal politics — a lasting resolution has rarely seemed more remote.

Yet as David Ignatius, a longtime foreign-affairs reporter and columnist at the Washington Post, recently explained, wars in the Middle East tend to “open new opportunities for peace.”

“That was true with the 1973 war, which produced [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem and eventually the Camp David Peace Agreement between Egypt and Israel,” Ignatius wrote. “The First Intifada produced [the] Oslo [Accords] and the Palestinian Authority. This war will produce openings, too, if Israel and the Arabs are wise enough to see and pursue them.”

The question is what Israel — and allies such as the United States — must do today to pave the way for such opportunities later.

A cease-fire is unlikely, at least before Hamas releases its hostages. But most experts agree that Israel’s current trajectory — “Obliterating Hamas capabilities” at all costs, as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations put it last week, without “thinking now what will happen the day after the war” — risks maximizing Palestinian deaths.

Such an approach could also mire Israeli forces in Gaza for the foreseeable future, triggering outrage in the wider Arab world and drawing Iran and Iranian-backed militant groups such as Hezbollah into the conflict.

So is there a different path — a path that might aim to alleviate rather than intensify the region’s endless cycle of violence? And if so, can Israel be convinced to pursue it?

What’s next

Publicly, President Biden has spent the last few weeks emphasizing America’s unstinting support for the Jewish state. But behind the scenes his administration has successfully pressured Netanyahu to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, and there are signs that the U.S. is using the hours before Israel’s seemingly inevitable invasion to steer its hawkish government toward a more far-sighted course of action.

“As hard as it is, we cannot give up on peace. We cannot give up on a two-state solution,” Biden posted Monday on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, referring to the diplomatic plan that envisions an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. “Israelis and Palestinians equally deserve to live in safety, dignity, and peace.”


Eliminate Hamas now; diplomacy can come later.

“At this moment, Israel’s imperative is not to stall, but to conclude. To see this through, it must dismantle the roots of this recurrent cycle of violence, which are embedded deep within the toxic ideology of Hamas. Once Hamas and its violent brand of nationalism are defeated, the two-state solution, and the prospect of a lasting peace, can be meaningfully revisited.” — Joe Roberts, National Post (Canada)

But the problem is that ‘indiscriminate destruction’ will only lead to more Hamas-like extremism.

“Hamas, whose atrocities deserve bitter condemnation, is a product of alienation, desperation, and dispossession. The movement is seen by millions of Palestinians as part of a resistance to exactly the kind of indiscriminate destruction Israel is now unleashing upon a defenseless population. If Israel truly wanted to ‘wipe Hamas off the face of the earth,’ as its defense minister says, it would deal with the conditions that created them.” — Ronan Burtenshaw, Jacobin

So Israel needs to reframe its approach ahead of the invasion…

“Israel would be much better off framing any Gaza operation as ‘Operation Save Our Hostages’ — rather than ‘Operation End Hamas Once and for All’ — and carrying it out, if possible, with repeated surgical strikes and special forces that can still get the Hamas leadership but also draw the brightest possible line between Gazan civilians and the Hamas dictatorship.” — Thomas Friedman, New York Times

… and make ‘the aim of the war itself … a lasting Israeli–Palestinian peace rather than the military defeat of Palestinian aspirations for statehood.’

“A more targeted campaign against Hamas’s leadership and capabilities could be coupled with a historic effort to secure significant Arab support and resources for ... a reconstructed Gaza. ... Gaza’s southern border could become a conduit for humanitarian support to Palestinian civilians rather than a route to expel them permanently into Egypt.” — Ben Rhodes, New York Review of Books

Now is the time to start figuring out who will govern Gaza.

“Israel doesn’t want to run Gaza, and its proxies will be rejected as collaborators. The best hope — the only hope, really — is that moderate Arab nations will work to create a new, post-Hamas structure that will represent a new Palestinian Authority that could govern the West Bank, as well.” — David Ignatius, Washington Post

Israel can learn from America’s failures in Iraq.

“If you fail to try to build something better in Hamas’s place or try in a halfhearted way, Israel will gain only a few years’ respite. … So what should you prioritize at the outset? … 1. End Hamas’s culture of economic corruption in Gaza. … 2. Listen to what Gaza’s residents want. … 3. Change the educational curriculum. … 4. Find a path for Gazans to write a constitution that will lead toward a more democratic state that can live in peace side by side with Israel. … 5. Show Gazans that Israel is prepared to help Gaza rebuild economically. … 6. Border security for Gaza that Israel can live with — not a siege — is vital.” — Thomas S. Warrick, former State Department and Homeland Security official, in the New York Times

The ‘work of moral rebuilding’ must begin too.

“Israel desperately needs a genuinely Jewish and Palestinian political party, not because it can win power but because it can model a politics based on common liberal democratic values, not tribe. American Jews who rightly hate Hamas but know, in their bones, that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is profoundly wrong must ask themselves a painful question: What nonviolent forms of Palestinian resistance to oppression will I support? More Palestinians and their supporters must express revulsion at the murder of innocent Israeli Jews and affirm that Palestinian liberation means living equally alongside them in safety and freedom.” — Peter Beinart, New York Times