The Irish Times view on Israel’s war: latest events point to a dangerous escalation

It is time now for far more determined and co-ordinated international moves to press for an immediate ceasefire

Israel’s war on Gaza has reached a moment of qualitative escalation which endangers regional peace and many Palestinian lives. The attack on Iran’s consulate in Damascus which killed two of its top generals and the destruction of Gaza’s main hospital during a battle against Hamas fighters are defended by Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Israeli government. It has apologised for the killing of seven humanitarian aid workers, though Netahyahu said that “these things” happen in wartime – and it remains doubtful that a timely and rapid investigation will take place.

The consulate bombardment is the most dangerous of the recent events in terms of widening the conflict, since it is a calculated attack on Iran itself after years of Israel’s shadow warfare with Iran’s Hezbollah allies in Lebanon. That war, too, has escalated since the Hamas atrocities against Israel on October 7th last year, though in a subdued fashion. Netanyahu explicitly supports war with Iran and any Iranian retaliation directly in kind against Israel could draw the United States into the war. This is so however reluctant Joe Biden’s administration is to see it happen ahead of presidential elections. His opponent Donald Trump shares Netanyahu’s view of Iran as Israel’s principal enemy.

International opinion is moving against Israel after nearly six months of this war waged so disproportionately against Gaza’s civilian population, as the destruction of al-Shifa hospital, looming famine conditions and now the attack on the US-led humanitarian aid convoy attest. These facts are revealed to a more and more appalled international audience by courageous reporting from Gaza, despite many targeted killings of journalists there. Unfortunately they are under-reported in Israel, where media focus on the intense trauma which followed the Hamas murders of 1,200 people and the taking of some 250 hostages on October 7th.

Israeli opinion has nevertheless swung against Netanyahu’s far-right government because voters are dissatisfied with its conduct of the war, failure to return the hostages, impatience with settler and religious extremism and growing fears of international isolation from allies and friends. Liberal Israelis are demonstrating forcefully to demand new elections and an end to Netanyahu’s rule, but as yet do not appreciate just how profoundly dangerous and damaging it has become to their country’s reputation and human rights credentials. International friends of Israel need to make these facts far better known within Israel itself.

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It is surely time now for far more determined and co-ordinated international moves to press for an immediate ceasefire, the release of Israeli hostages and longer-term peace and reconstruction initiatives.

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