Exercising Dehyphenation: Israel-Palestine

The Israel-Palestine issue has made the Middle East more turbulent than ever, severely changing the geopolitics within not only the region, but the whole world. India is one of the strongest assets to both the countries for bringing reconciliation, which many residents in these states are currently longing for.

Imagine being a country following the Non-Aligned Movement, which is constantly asked to provide support between two hostile nations, while it cannot afford to lose relations with either of them due to necessary neutrality. India’s case is quite similar, where it finds itself trying to mitigate a never-ending struggle between one of the longest and bitterest feuds in human history.

India’s relations with Palestine:

Being a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, India wanted to consolidate its relations with Arab countries. During this undertaking, the country of Palestine was a major target. As it is known, India was the first non-Arab country to accept the Palestinian Liberation Organization as the lone and legitimate representative for the Palestinian population in 1974, which formally recognized Palestine as a country in 1988. Since then, India's foreign policy has included concern for the Palestinian cause and has promoted camaraderie with the Palestinian people. Besides bolstering support to the Palestinian movement on an international level, India has also provided monetary, project, cultural and trade assistance on a bilateral level.

India’s relationship with Israel:

The concept of India’s relationship with Israel can essentially be viewed metaphorically as one seen between two schoolboys who initially dismissed each other due to societal pressure, but went on to be good friends by the time they ended high school.

The non-acceptance stage stood in accordance with the views of leaders during India’s struggle for independence, such as Mahatma Gandhi. They believed that although Israel’s claim for the land had a justifiable cause, their country could not support it since it was being done on a religious basis. Hence the leaders chose to give support to the Palestinian cause. Thus, they voted against the partitioning of Palestine in 1947, as well as the admission of Israel to the UN in 1949.

A particularly peculiar fact about this scenario is about the time when Albert Einstein wrote a letter to Pt. Jawarharlal Nehru to persuade him about the setting up of the separate Jewish state, which Dr Nehru declined.

On 17th September 1950, India officially recognised the State of Israel, albeit it remained neutral in its relationship with it throughout the years, due to its Pro-Arab policy, and the fear of losing domestic Muslim votes if it sided with Israel. However, all of this came to a halt in 1992, when India formed its embassy in Tel Aviv.

Both countries have reaped enormous benefits since forming diplomatic relations. The cornerstone to rising India-Israel relations is in security and defence cooperation. This strategic partnership is seen as India is the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment, and Israel is the second-largest defence supplier to India. Both countries have also seen increasing progress in many other spheres such as technology, agriculture and finance.

The dehyphenation policy:

India, as a country had remained relatively neutral with both the countries, but continued to engage in the military scheme with India. A historically significant event that took place was from the 4th to the 6th of July, 2017, when the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, visited Israel. With this visit, the policy of dehyphenation was formally operationalised. This policy was responsible for ensuring equidistance, where India would not become biased towards or against either of the countries.

Application of the dehyphenation policy:

Before the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, the government of India remained relatively unbiased in their approach towards Israel and Palestine. Although India has formally introduced the dehyphenation policy, several contradictory incidents have happened in the recent past. Some examples of these are:

  • In 2014, the Indian Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, visited Israel but did not visit Palestine.

  • In July 2015, India abstained from voting on a resolution against Israel at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). This resolution condemned Israel for the “alleged war crimes” in Gaza offensive of 2014.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s solo visit to Israel is also to be duly noted as one of the most major incidents which took place, depicting a certain bias.

Recent actions taken to resolve this issue:

The United Nations had called for a ceasefire at their headquarters in New York, between Israel and Palestine, on 20th May 2021. A statement was made by Secretary-General António Guterres, which was as follows:

“I welcome the ceasefire between Gaza and Israel, after 11 days of deadly hostilities.”

He also personally commended the countries of Egypt and Qatar for their efforts in helping resolve the issue between the two countries.

Outcome of the ceasefire:

The ceasefire was to ensure that the two countries involved, i.e. Israel and Palestine, had a duty to their country and its citizens, to provide them with peace and calm. However, along with this, they were told to resolve the conflict by addressing its root cause, retrospectively throughout their turbulent history.

After eleven days of fighting, the ceasefire brought to an end the vast massacres which took place in Palestine, killing over 250 people. most of whom lived in Gaza.

Ever since the truce, the people of Gaza have been able to move freely in their hometown in relative safety.

A Hamas official told the press that the ceasefire that was announced, should be coined as a “victory” for the Palestinians.

-Anushka Srivatsan & Varnit Pandey