IT’S not the tough questions that are troubling when it comes to the Middle East, it’s the failure to come up with the answers. Over decades of covering the region, I’ve lost count of the times Palestinians, Israelis, Iraqis, Syrians and others alike have reminded me of this. And how right they are. 

As the cries from the protesters on Britain’s streets call for a “ceasefire now” while Labour MPs inexplicably wrestle with their consciences over whether to support such a call, few among those outraged by what is happening in Gaza seem willing or able to provide answers to the question that ultimately matters – what happens after the fighting stops?   

There’s simply no escaping the fact that few other international political issues so quickly stir emotions, fill newspaper online letters pages, or cajole politicians to suddenly find a moral backbone where once there was none.  

But ask many of those “concerned” folk right now as to what they would like to see by way of concrete proposals for Palestinians in post-war Gaza and many quickly simmer down or glaze over. 

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Only compounding this problem are those – often senior politicians – who suddenly feel compelled to comment on an issue that often until now barely registered on their political radar.

In trying to appear knowledgeable too they sometimes make matters worse by offering half-baked answers to questions cut from the ill-fitting template of their party political position and without any meaningful grasp of either the history, politics, culture and complexity behind the myriad crises that grip the Middle East.  

This has been the problem for decades behind moving forward on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other flashpoints in the region, whereby politicians of every stripe throw their tuppence worth in but fail to get beyond a certain righteous indignation, outright sloganeering or using the headlines for their own ends.  

It’s hardly surprising then that repeatedly the result is that those Palestinians and Israelis at the sharp end are left bereft of both loved ones and a long-term answer that mitigates against them having to face a recycling of the violence, division and loss that bedevils their lives.   

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One can only imagine what those on the receiving end of the bombs and missiles in Gaza make of politicians who from a safe distance squabble over having a “humanitarian pause” or “ceasefire”.   

It doesn’t help that virtually no political leader right now among either the Israelis or Palestinians appears on the face of it to have any idea of what follows Gaza’s war. Their respective allies too are no better equipped and in some cases only making a bad situation worse through blithely providing weapons and support with no political conditions attached.

After more than a month of fighting and Israeli forces now encircling Gaza City, still the Israeli government is unable to agree on its post-war policy. 

As Brigadier General Eival Gilady, a former head of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Strategic Planning Division pointed out in the daily newspaper Haaretz this week, having embarked on its military campaign to destroy Hamas the Israeli government has three options – all bad. 

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The first is to assume responsibility for the Strip. The second is making do with eroding Hamas’ military capabilities but allowing it to continue as a weak entity still capable of governing. The third, meanwhile, is transferring the administration of Gaza to a different entity.  

That first option is largely only supported by right-wing zealots in Israel and dismisses the future of the Gazans outright. The second is simply a rerun of what Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has advocated for years – containment.  

As for the third option, the optics here are vital. For a start, it’s baffling that anyone would think that handing over the administration to the Palestinian Authority (PA) – even alongside the presence of an interim international or Arab force to fill the security and governance vacuum in Gaza – would make things better. 

For one the PA has even fewer supporters in Gaza than it does in the West Bank which it “runs”, in the eyes of many Palestinians on Israel’s behalf.

There is a whole question of legitimacy here given that the PA hasn’t held a presidential election since 2005, when its leader the now 87-year-old Mahmoud Abbas was first elected.  

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But that said, you can almost bet that this is the option the international community will adopt, mainly because Washington wants it to be.

That it’s almost guaranteed to fail is a given, evoking as it does comparisons with American thinking that resulted in the monumental mishandling of the so-called post-war situations in Iraq and Afghanistan that has left them volatile to this day.  But before anyone accuses me of only adding to the questions and avoiding giving answers of my own let me state the obvious and say of course there is no easy way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Support for a two-state solution among both sides has declined precipitously in recent years, but many still see it as the only viable way to resolve the conflict. 

If I can be bold enough to offer my own answer of sorts then it’s that the world must now consistently address this crisis rather than pick and choose moments only when things boil over. This has festered too long and will continue to do so unless a radical rethink is implemented.

What should that action be?  

Well, it must start with recognising that Israel is the archetypal settler-colonial society and for too long now it has been given free run by the international community. Difficult as it is, there’s simply no escaping the fact that international law needs to be upheld by Israel just as it does the Palestinians and that failure by Netanyahu and his right-wing allies will not be tolerated.  

Far from giving weapons, perhaps it’s time, as some Israelis themselves suggested to me during a previous visit, that sanctions and economic pressure must be brought to bear on Israel. This alongside bringing Palestinians to the diplomatic table at the highest level to work through a solution.  

In making such a suggestion I know there will be many who will dismiss the idea with the argument that it’s been tried before, but that is not reason enough not to do so again with greater vigour.   

The bottom line is that Palestinians must be brought into the global fold, given a seat at the diplomatic table and supported in their ambition for a state of their own.  

That there would appear to be a dearth of Palestinian leaders with such abilities and clout up to such a task, equally does not mean they don’t exist. Efforts then too must be made to give voice to Palestinians who want rid of their own zealots in Hamas and lethargic “old guard” within Fatah.

Such a new generation of leaders must be encouraged to come forward without fear or favour. As recent events have confirmed, the time is over for ignoring the rights of Palestinians.

The world must give them real answers as to their future beyond talk of ceasefires and humanitarian pauses.