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What’s the end game in Israel-Gaza and Russia-Ukraine wars?

While it is in Biden’s own interest to rein in Netanyahu as soon as possible, Trump's potential re-election may tilt the other war to Russia's advantage

What’s the end game in Israel-Gaza and Russia-Ukraine wars?
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Looking at humanity and human suffering, it is right to view war as a disease that must be cured as early as possible. However, it is not an easy task to rid humanity of wars. 

Let us look at two major ongoing wars with no visible sign of any ceasefire: the Russia–Ukraine war that erupted in its present form on 24 February 2022 and the war that Israel has waged against the Palestinians since 7 October 2023.

Since Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza has killed more human beings in a much shorter time, let us start with that.

Israel’s war on Palestinians 

It is wrong to assume that the war was caused by the raids carried out by Hamas and other militants on 7 October. 

It is important to discuss the reasons why the militant group carried out the attacks. 

The primary cause for the raids was Israel’s failure to vacate the territories it occupied in the 1967 war. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 dated 22 November 1967, accepted by Israel and the US, requires Israeli forces to withdraw from those territories.

Another is Israel’s brazen violations of International Humanitarian Law as an occupying power and its policy of apartheid. The fact that Israel considers Palestinians as lesser human beings is demonstrated by defense minister Yoav Gallant’s public speech referring to Gazans as “human animals”. 

Who is responsible?

The two people primarily responsible for the continuation of the genocidal war are Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden. 

Israel has been able to repeatedly violate the UN Security Council resolutions and international law only because of the unwavering support of the US.  

In its war on Gaza, Israel is bombing Palestinian lands using the weapons supplied by the Pentagon, including 1000-ton and 2000-ton bombs. 

Despite waging a war for over 110 days, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have failed to defeat the Hamas militants.

The war has resulted in the death of 27,000 people, the majority being women and children, with around 9,000 men killed, not all of whom were combatants as on 28th January 2024. 

Despite Israeli intelligence estimating at least 30,000 militants in Gaza, and Hamas claiming 40,000, Israel’s continued attacks on Gazan civilians highlight its failure to achieve Netanyahu’s stated goal of eliminating Hamas.

Future of Israel-Gaza War

Another important development in recent weeks is that support for Israel in the West has started declining, with the European Parliament adopting a resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire last month.

A poll conducted in December showed that only 31% of Democrats sympathize with Israel. Analysts have warned that Biden might lose the election, partly on account of this. He has also faced repeated protests and heckling by young voters at public meetings.

As the 2024 election approaches, Biden will have to compel Netanyahu to agree to a ceasefire, as the electoral dynamics will leave Biden no choice. 

Netanyahu will resist any calls for a ceasefire as his political demise is likely to follow when the war stops. But even Netanyahu cannot defy Biden for too long.

Though Biden has publicly advocated the establishment of a Palestinian state, we cannot be sure of his sincerity.

Taking these factors into account, there is a possibility of a ceasefire with a vague formula for consultations between the Palestinians and Israelis to agree on the boundaries and other conditions for declaring a state of Palestine.

Netanyahu has also been doing his utmost to expand the war by provoking Iran. If he succeeds, though the chances thereof are slim, the scenario we described will change in his favor at an unconscionably huge cost to human lives.

The attack on 28 January by the Iraqi Islamic Resistance, supported but not controlled by Iran, killing three US military personnel and injuring many more is a sad reminder of how easily the fire can spread. 

Biden finds himself in a catch-22 situation. If he orders strikes against Iran, there will be more body bags arriving, and the candidate Biden will pay heavily for that. 

It is in Biden’s own interest to rein in Netanyahu as early as possible. 

Russia-Ukraine War

In this case as well, it is wrong to claim that the war was caused by Russian President Vladimir Putin by sending in his forces into Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

The Russian forces have been in Ukrainian territory since 2014. 

Who is responsible? 

Three presidents—Vladimir Putin of Russia, Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, and Joe Biden of the US—are responsible for starting this war and its continuation, though in unequal measures.

Zelenskyy pursued Ukraine’s NATO membership even when he knew, or should have known, that there was no earthly chance to get it.

Biden publicly encouraged Zelenskyy to persist in his bid for NATO membership though he knew that it was not politically possible to admit Ukraine.

Biden did more.

Washington signed a Charter on Strategic Partnership with Ukraine on 10 November 2021 wherein Ukraine was promised assistance to recover Crimea, a practically unattainable goal.

Putin tried to resolve the matter by proposing a treaty on NATO expansion and sent a draft to Washington in mid-December 2021. Biden publicly rejected it.

If Biden had agreed to talk to Putin, Russia might not have started the war two months later.

Future of Russia-Ukraine War

Coming to the current situation, the Ukrainian counter-offensive in 2023 summer to recapture territory has failed miserably despite the huge military supplies from the West led by the US and Germany.

The US Congress has not approved Biden’s demand for more money to support Ukraine. 

The European Union finally cleared $54 billion in aid to Ukraine after weeks of negotiations with Hungary. The amount will be disbursed over 4 years and the terms and conditions have yet to be agreed to.

The latest US assessment is that additional assistance to be given to Ukraine is meant not for recapturing territory but to resist further aggression by Russia. 

Biden’s assessment in 2022-23–that the Russian economy would collapse, Putin might fall, and Russia might even break up–have all proved wrong. 

If Republican Donald Trump gets elected this November, Putin can continue the war on Ukraine, which is unlikely to get more military aid from the West, and might even capture Odesa.

When it comes to reconstruction in the truncated Ukraine, Western powers might not be in a hurry. Poland, on the other hand, might even try to capture a part of Ukraine.


KP Fabian is a diplomat who served in the Indian Foreign Service between 1964 and 2000. He is currently a distinguished fellow at the Symbiosis Law School in Pune. More

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