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How Macron's Call To "Internationalize" The Fight Against Hamas Could Revive The Two-State Solution

The French president expressed his solidarity with Israel while calling for a political solution for the Palestinians; but he also made a surprise proposal for an international coalition against Hamas, which faces several obstacles — but is also a way to "frame" the conflict so that the dormant two-state solution can return.

How Macron's Call To "Internationalize" The Fight Against Hamas Could Revive The Two-State Solution

The French President meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Pierre Haski

Updated Oct. 26, 2023 at 6:40 p.m.


PARIS — Should the open war between Israel and Hamas be "internationalized," as a way to limit the carnage?

This was the surprise proposal made by French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, during his two-day visit to Israel, the West Bank and other countries in the region.

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Macron, who was otherwise rather successful in his balancing act between solidarity with Israel and support of Palestinian rights, also put forward a brand new proposal: an international coalition against Hamas. It would be modeled on, or extending the scope of the one that has been assembled against the jihadist movement Islamic State (ISIS).

The proposal comes as something of a surprise, given that the coalition against ISIS includes, in addition to the West, the main Arab countries. It's hard to see them committing themselves to a proposal alongside Israel at a time when the Jewish state is ruthlessly bombing Gaza, arousing strong emotions across the Arab world.

The idea seems to have been improvised, as it was adjusted several times during the day on Tuesday.

In the end, it's more a question of sharing intelligence, controlling financial flows and imposing sanctions than of going to war on Israel's side. Nonetheless, the proposal raises several tough questions.

Trigger risk

Consider the context. Since Oct. 7, Israel has been bombing Hamas and the Palestinian population in Gaza, and massing its troops for a ground operation that appears imminent, and promises to be even bloodier in this densely populated territory.

Extending the fight against Hamas would therefore be a way of "framing" the Israeli response.

A ground operation also risks triggering a regional escalation, with pro-Iranian Hezbollah in Lebanon, and even with the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have already launched missiles in the direction of Israel, intercepted by the Americans.

Calls for Israel to respect international humanitarian law have come up against the anger of Israelis following the trauma of the Oct. 7 attack.

Extending the fight against Hamas across the region would therefore be a way of "framing" the Israeli response, keeping it "within the bounds" of international law. Even if "framing" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quite a challenge.

A large protest held outside the French embassy in Tunis to condemn France's support for the ongoing Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip after Macron's visit.


Three obstacles

The proposal faces three obstacles. The first is that it is only likely to succeed if it's backed by the United States, which is the only country with the necessary weight to influence Israel.

The second is that the Arab countries of the region, whatever their opinions, are affected by movements of opinion heated up by the images of Gaza.

The third is that equating ISIS with Hamas won't work so long as the Palestinian question is ignored, as it has been for far too long.

And this is where Emmanuel Macron was undoubtedly most relevant — he was the first foreign visitor since Oct. 7 to say loud and clear, both in Jerusalem and in Ramallah, his two stops Tuesday, that a political solution was "more necessary than ever." And that it requires two states. He repeated this Wednesday in Amman.

It was important to say it after years of neglect by the international community, which has left the field wide open to Israel expanding settlements in the West Bank, and tightening its colonial grip on the Palestinians.

But there will have to be some movement on this issue before the countries of the region really commit themselves. That's if the dreaded expansion across the region doesn't occur first.

What is the relationship between Hamas and Iran?

Iran supports several armed groups in neighboring countries, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Lebanon-based Hezbollah. Iran has provided training and weapons for Hamas, and has supported the development of the rockets the militant group launches at Israel. Hamas broke with Iran over the country's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the beginning of the 2011 protests in Syria, but the two sides reconciled in 2022 after Hamas voiced support for the Syrian regime.

What is the two-state solution?

The two-state solution is a proposed resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would involve the creation of two states, Israel and Palestine. The proposal dates back to before the Second World War, and has long been the solution preferred by the U.S. and other states, as well as the basis for peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians — but it has remained elusive.

Many international observers now question the viability of the two-state solution, noting that the continued expansion of Israeli settlements around Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank — which are illegal under international law — would make it increasingly difficult to form a contiguous Palestinian state.

Who is Mahmoud Abbas?

Mahmoud Abbas, also referred to by his Arabic nickname Abu Mazen, has served as President of the Palestinian National Authority since 2005, and is the leader of the Fatah party. Abbas was born on Nov. 15, 1935 in Safed, in the Galilee region of Mandatory Palestine, now Israel.

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