Tagged: Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Future of the Two-State Solution

Some people could argue that the Israeli government’s continued policy of settlements in the Occupied Territories, in open defiance of large parts of the international community and also of Israel’s staunchest ally (the U.S.), reflects Israel’s disinterest in a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

What about the other party in the conflict? What about the Palestinians? Do they support the two-state solution?

This excerpt from an article by Nathan J. Brown and Daniel Nerenberg offers some interesting insights:

“But there are two other less visible but far more profound trends under way that may make the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians take new and less manageable forms. First, the institutions that have emerged over decades to speak on Palestinians’ behalf and lead them have lost their moral claims in the eyes of their own people. They are seen as ineffective and even co-opted; while they continue to occupy positions of authority, they can no longer lead. Supplanting the old guard is a new moral leadership, not linked to institutional politics, concentrating on a set of tactics to undermine the occupation and entertain new possible goals — perhaps unthinkable now — for Palestinian politics. Second is another portentous development: the whole raison d’être of the Palestinian national movement, the effort to build a Palestinian state, no longer exercises its hold. There is debate among Palestinians about ultimate goals and strategy, with the two-state solution and diplomacy losing their prominence. But nothing is clearly replacing them. There is some growing interest in various one-state alternatives somehow combining Israelis and Palestinians. But more significant is the tendency to defer questions of solutions in favor of developing tactics that can improve the Palestinian position — such as new forms of resistance and boycott.”

If this is the case, what form will these forms of resistance take? Will they be peaceful? Will they be violent instead?

The full article can be read here

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There is No Peace Process

Since 1972, the United States has used its veto power at the UN Security Council to shield Israel from more than 40 resolution that were somewhat critical of the Jewish state.

Recently US President Barack Obama said that the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process has made it harder for the United States to continue defending Israel at the United Nations. President Obama explained that “up until this point we have pushed away against European efforts for example, or other efforts. Because we have said, the only way this gets resolved is if the two parties worked together […] Well, here’s the challenge. If in fact, there’s no prospect of an actual peace process, if nobody believes there’s a peace process, then it becomes more difficult, to argue with those who are concerned about settlement construction, those who are concerned about the current situation, it’s more difficult for me to say to them, ‘Be patient. Wait, because we have a process here,’ because all they need to do is to point to the statements that have been made to say, ‘There is no process.’

Now France is co-sponsoring a UN Security Council Resolution that would set an 18-month deadline for completion of talks leading to the creation of a Palestinian state. Details of the proposed resolution have emerged amid warnings that if no agreement is reached in that timeframe, France, and potentially other countries, would go ahead and unilaterally recognise a Palestinian state.

What will the United States do? Will the United States use its veto power to stop the adoption of yet another resolution?

Some observers suggest that this time President Obama may decide to withhold US veto power. No doubt, such a decision would be a decisive shift in the traditional US Israeli policy.

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Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif, the origins of current tentions beween Jews and Palestinians

This is an informative piece I read on The Telegraph.

It is the spiritual core – and potential tinderbox – of a contest of beliefs that many fear could trigger an all-out religious war.

To Jews, the most sacred part of their faith is represented by the Temple Mount, a compound standing on what is believed to be same site as the ancient Jewish temple built by Herod the Great and later destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.

It is also believed to be the site of an earlier temple, built by King Solomon in 957BC and destroyed by the Babylonians more than 370 years later.

But to Muslims, the very same location is known as the Haram al-Sharif (or Noble Sanctuary), home of the glittering Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, from where the Prophet Muhammed is believed to have ascended to heaven.

The two structures were commissioned by Umayyad Caliphs after the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem in 637AD.

The tensions that have revolved around this ancient shrine spring from these competing beliefs and have been exacerbated by the Middle East’s convulsive politics.

The 1948 war which brought the state of Israel into existence left Jerusalem a divided city, with the Arab-dominated eastern sector – including the Old City and its associated holy sites – falling into the hands of Jordan, while the Israelis took command of the Western half.

When Israel conquered the entire city – along with the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and Sinai – in the 1967 Six Day War, it regained access to its religious sites. Yet the Haram al-Sharif continued to be administered by a Jordanian-appointed Islamic body, known as the Waqf, an arrangement that remains in place to this day.

While Jews are allowed to visit the site under supervision, they are not permitted pray there, a restriction which successive Israeli governments have observed.

Jewish worshipping rights are restricted to the Western (or wailing) Wall, which is situated beneath the platform of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and is believed to be the sole remaining part of the ancient temple.

Indeed, after the 1967 war, an Arab neighbourhood adjacent to the wall was demolished to create a platform where Jews can now pray.

But in recent times, radical Right-wingers have refused to be satisfied with this and have begun clamouring for prayer rights inside the compound itself. This has led to an increasing number of visits to the mount by Israeli activists, some of whom are said to have prayed surreptitiously, triggering clashes between Palestinians and the security forces.

This in turn has fuelled Palestinian accusations – refuted by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government – that Israel is intent on overturning the status quo on the compound, which forbids Jewish prayer and cedes administrative control to Jordan.

Yet the idea of Jewish prayer on the site is anathema even among many religious Jews. Many refuse to visit the site lest they enter an area where the Holy of Holies once stood, the most sacred part of the ancient temple and the place where the high priest – who entered only once a year on Yom Kippur (the Jewish day of atonement) – is said to have communicated directly with God.

According to tradition, ordinary Jews were forbidden to go to the Holy of Holies – whose precise location is unknown – because they were ritually impure.

The Current Crisis in Gaza is a Product of Years of Preparation

Ilana Feldman, from George Washington University, recently wrote a piece that provides essential background to the current crisis in the Gaza Strip.

She argues that mobility management has been a longstanding Israeli tactic in Gaza.

Mobility management started right after the 1948 conflict when thousands of Palestinian refugees were separated from their homes and possessions by the “provisional” border defined by the Egyptian-Israeli armistice. During the twenty-years of Egyptian rule, Palestinians in Gaza were allowed to cross —with a permit—the southern border into Egypt.

In 1967, Israel occupied Gaza. Palestinian movement was relatively unimpeded for the first twenty-five years of the occupation. Israel wanted Palestinian cheap labor, so people were allowed to cross the border from Gaza into Israel to work and visit – though not to reclaim their former homes. A few years into the first Intifada (late 1980s), Israel began to impose restrictions on Palestinian movement from the Occupied Territories (while simultaneously bringing in foreign laborers to take the place of Palestinian workers). The first steps in developing a comprehensive “pass system”  required Palestinians who wished to move to get a security-services approved magnetic card (in addition to the ID card required of everyone). Israel developed a full “closure policy” in 1991 according to which any Palestinian movement required a permit.

The 1993 Oslo Accords that were signed between Israel and the Palestinians consolidated such restrictions. The Strip was fenced off and movement between the West Bank and Gaza became impossible for most Palestinians. Freedom of movement for goods was still allowed but people could no longer reach the other parts and people of Palestine.

The beginning of the new millennium has witnessed increasing restrictions on Palestinian movement. During the second Intifada (early 2000s) Israel began also to restrict foreigners’ entrance into Gaza. After the organization Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections, Israel, with Egyptian backing and US support, imposed a full blockade on Gaza. The blockade stopped the entrance of many goods into Gaza, along with the export of Gazan products abroad. The “tunnel economy” that has emerged since then is one Palestinian response to such restrictions.

Professor Feldman concludes by painting a dire picture:

…Gazans are immobilized in every sense: cut off from other members of their community, isolated from the “international community,” deprived of economic opportunity, basic goods, and access to advanced medical care…

It’s all about perspective!

Given the current situation in the Gaza Strip I felt necessary to begin this blog with a post on the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

According to a recent report by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA):

“Between July 7 and 16, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza killed 214 Palestinians (164 of whom were civilians) and injured 1,585 (including 435 children and 282 women). To date, 22,600 people have been displaced and are living in UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools, because their homes have been destroyed or damaged or their neighborhoods are unsafe. Since the start of the emergency, 79 schools and 23 health care facilities in Gaza have sustained damage, at least 25,000 children are estimated to be in need of specialized psychosocial support, and 900,000 people are currently without water supply.”

As noted by Pia Wanek of the Middle East Institute, a DC based think-tank:

“To fully understand the significance of these numbers, one must remember that these losses occur within a protracted humanitarian crisis that has intensified since Israel imposed an illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007.” (The Israeli blockade, sanctioned by the United States and implemented with the help of the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt, was primarily a response to the 2006 Palestinian elections that brought to power Hamas).

Last Wednesday 16th US President Barack Obama publicly commented on the crisis:

“[…] we continue to support diplomatic efforts to end the violence between Israel and Hamas. As I’ve said repeatedly, Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people. There is no country on Earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets. And I’m proud that the Iron Dome system that Americans helped Israel develop and fund has saved many Israeli lives. But over the past two weeks, we’ve all been heartbroken by the violence, especially the death and injury of so many innocent civilians in Gaza.

I am left wondering if President Obama had been provided with the UN OCHA report or if he had read Wanek’s article before making his comments on the crisis in Gaza…