While many are still traumatised by the shock of the unprecedented humanitarian disaster brought about by the Israeli-Hamas conflict, it is essential to understand why the Middle East remains such a significant threat to global geopolitical stability.

While Israel’s total intelligence breakdown facilitated the horrific Hamas attacks, the root causes of the current Middle East conflict go deeper. In the last decade, the US and the EU leadership took their eye off the ball in managing the risks of the Middle Sea turmoil.

While relatively recent developments in the Middle East indicated that an eruption of violence was becoming inevitable, the US put the Israeli-Palestinian decades-long enmity on the back burner. President Joe Biden focused on the strained relations with China and Russia, believing that the status quo of no-war-no-peace in the Middle East was tolerable.

The Palestinian issue began to slip down the list of priorities because of weariness. Everyone had tried everything before and nothing ever happened.

The EU continues to be crippled by internal foreign policy divisions and has lost traction and trust among the stakeholders in Middle East politics. The UK, still cognisant of the consequence of its involvement in the Iraq war, also lost interest in Middle East affairs despite the red flags that were being waved.

In the last few years, there has been an increasingly hardline Israeli settlement policy and the radicalisation of the settler movement. The weakening of the Palestinian Authority, where the ineffectual 87-year-old leader Mahmoud Abbas is unpopular, especially in Gaza, cannot deal with the increasing brutal militancy of Hamas.

The expansion of settlements, the increase in violence, the absence of effective centralised Palestinian leadership and the election of the most right-wing government in Israel are the real issues that led to the present outburst of violence and retribution.

Hugh Lovatt, Middle East specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations, correctly argues that these developments are “symptoms of a collapse of the diplomatic architecture that had framed the peace process. The violence today is the ultimate expression of this”.

The two-state solution remains the most viable strategy to douse the fires of the Middle East conflict.

In his autobiography, US diplomat John Kerry warned: “In foreign policy, whilst it is very easy to speculate about the risk of acting, there is rarely enough focus on the risk of inaction. This is especially true about peace in the Middle East.”

The US, Saudi Arabia and Egypt must not aim to achieve the status quo normalisation to end the conflict. While Israel has every legal and moral right to defend itself, the Palestinians must not be sidelined in negotiations that should lead to them being recognised as citizens of the State of Palestine.

The Ukraine crisis may have distracted diplomatic efforts to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian perennial conflict. This resolution of the conflict has become just as essential to defuse the risks of increasing geopolitical turmoil.

Global political leaders must avoid what Lovatt describes as a “collective addiction to a set of illusions” – most of all, that the status quo and the impossible situation in Gaza can be managed indefinitely.

While the immediate priority must be to stop the armed conflict and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, diplomatic efforts must be intensified to achieve the two-state solution that has been so elusive for too long.

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