The current Israeli – Gaza Strip crisis is the latest episode of war-level conflict between Israel and Palestinian (notably Hamas-centric groups) forces. The state of the conflict between the parties is at a particularly high level of armed engagement with the associated number of fatalities that is logically a consequence of such a state of affairs. The laws of physics and probability just don’t allow for the enormous amount of explosive projectiles being deployed without the ‘cause and effect’ deaths that will result. Simply put, when two sides engage in attempts to kill the other there will be deaths.
In most situations where there are armed conflicts, the nations of the world will express some degree of concern or alarm about the conflict. The nature and degree of concern or alarm will vary across a number of dimensions; but one particularly salient factor that raises the level of concern and disapproval are situations where civilians, and especially children, are victims to the violence. If the majority of the causalities are civilians then the outcry to stop the violence reaches its highest levels. In response to the concern around those being killed, a typical call to action will be for the opposing sides to agree to a ‘cease-fire’; that is a cessation of hostilities, a truce, or creating a pause in aggressive activities. The duration of a cease-fire represents a secondary dimension of attempts to resolve or manage a resolution to a crisis situation.
So it is not surprising in the current Israeli – Gaza hostilities that the calls for a cease-fire and the offers or proposals for cease-fires are in the offing as if there were some competition with a prize for the winner of a chosen proposal. Most proposals are rejected by one side or the other. I think occasionally both sides reject a presented proposal. There have been some short cease-fire events agreed to, but they are either almost immediately violated or pass with the return to the state of war as if that is the preferred condition and the cease-fires are inconvenient interruptions in the opportunities for death and destruction.
Diplomats from different nations inform us that they are working with any and all parties that they can to arrange for a cease-fire that they can then build upon to ultimately bring about a resolution and lead the parties and regions to peace. Certainly an admirable goal and objective for our US diplomats and for those from other nations; but are they failing to gain traction on this front because there is no way to place an acceptable proposal on the table or they are stuck in presenting ‘same old’, ‘been down this road before’, or ‘nothing new under the sun’ versions of a cease-fire state that is not practical, workable, reasoned, or productive and thus leads to nowhere.
Is a cease-fire desirable because it makes the rest of the world more comfortable but does nothing to address the factors and issues that have sustained this conflict for decades? Is a cease-fire that is temporary and allows for triage but not for a cure anything more than delaying the death toll?
What is required by our world leaders, the parties directly involved, those acting behind the scenes, the diplomats, and the rest of the world’s citizenry is a more comprehensive approach to defining and implementing a path forward to if not stop hostilities to manage them. The lack of a plan and structure in which the conflict can be managed is where the diplomats are failing. They need to learn new techniques and approaches to conflict resolutions of this type. Just because you have a hammer doesn’t mean that the hammer is a salient tool that will be effective in planting a new crop. Trying to help is very humane and we would hope is what all nations would want to do here (though this is probably not universally true) so yes we are trying, but trying and trying and trying over again is likely an indication that the desire to succeed is not matched by the ability, competency or wisdom to succeed. This doesn’t mean that there are not effective and acceptable approaches to attaining a cease-fire and better yet a resolution to the conflict but that those engaged in defining and developing the solution are not properly equipped to do it.