Little has changed in the calculations of the main actors in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the dramatic upsurge in violence almost a year ago. To prevent a reprise, outside powers should push for interim steps as they revisit the core assumptions of their diplomacy.
Originally published in DAWN, Democracy in Exile section.
Violence continued to run high across Israel, West Bank and East Jerusalem, leaving three Israelis and over dozen Palestinians dead, as tensions flared at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade. In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police on second Friday of Ramadan on 15 April stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque firing rubber bullets, teargas and stun grenades, injuring over 150 Palestinians and arresting near 500, as some Palestinian youths threw stones and fireworks at police; rumours of Israel’s intention to restrict Muslim access spread on social media during month. Further clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians in and around Holy Esplanade 17, 21 April reportedly injured dozens. Israeli police 20 April stopped hundreds of ultra-nationalist Israelis from entering flashpoint Damascus Gate. Israeli police again raided Al-Aqsa on third and fourth Fridays of Ramadan 22, 29 April, injuring over 70 Palestinians. In Tel Aviv city, Palestinian gunman from West Bank city of Jenin 7 April killed three Israelis in bar; police next day shot dead suspected gunman in Jaffa, and Israeli soldiers 9 April raided house of gunman and killed Palestinian Islamic Jihad member in Jenin. Elsewhere in West Bank, Israeli forces killed over dozen Palestinians; notably, 2 April killed three Palestinian Islamic Jihad members at Arraba junction south of Jenin; 10 April killed four Palestinians including two women and teenager in separate incidents. Israeli troops 13-14 April reportedly killed at least six Palestinians, including 14-year-old, in Jenin city, Silwad town and Nablus city. Meanwhile, Palestinians 10, 11 April vandalized Jewish shrine Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. Israel 18 April shot down first rocket fired from Gaza since Jan 2022 and 19 April responded with airstrikes targeting alleged weapons manufacturing site in Gaza; 21 April carried out air raids in central Gaza, while several rockets were launched 20-21 April into southern Israel. Yamina party member Idit Silman 6 April quit govt coalition claiming it was not living up to right-wing values; defection stripped govt coalition of parliamentary majority. Regionally, Israel 9 April reportedly launched airstrike near Masyaf city in Syria’s Hama province; 14 April reportedly fired missiles at Syrian military positions near Syrian capital Damascus (see Syria).
The latest escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict brought important shifts in the status quo, underscoring the necessity of a political settlement. A peace based on equal respect for both peoples’ rights will take time, however. Steps to lower the temperature are urgent in the interim.
A cluster of coronavirus cases indicates that community transmission is occurring in the Gaza Strip. Israel should relax its blockade to permit entry of medical equipment and exit of seriously ill patients. Donors should respond quickly to requests for aid.
The coronavirus is now present in Gaza, the populous Palestinian enclave blockaded by air, land and sea since 2007. An epidemic would be calamitous. Hamas should tighten public health measures; Israel should loosen restrictions so that medical supplies can enter and afflicted Palestinians can leave.
Israel is pursuing new ways of cementing its grip on occupied East Jerusalem, further enmeshing the city’s Palestinians while maintaining a Jewish majority within the municipal boundaries. These schemes could spark conflict. The new Israeli government elected in September should set them aside.
A standoff looms between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police over a shuttered building at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade. Israel and Muslim religious authorities should reopen the building to lessen tensions at the sacred site, where small incidents have blown up into prolonged violence before.
Israel recycles the same heavy-handed response to what it sees as Palestinian provocation.
There is total despair and lack of any political horizon on the Palestinian front. Israelis have become accustomed to continuing the status quo with no price to pay.
We’ve seen significant tension in Jerusalem, which hasn’t died down since the last line of conflict. It only makes sense for Jordan to try and intervene in some way to quell tensions.
Israel's alliance with Morocco could mean that in the long-term Rabat becomes militarily superior to Algiers and dominant in the region.
Conceptually, Hamas put the Palestinians back on the radar and Jerusalem at the center of their issues. The [Israeli] government has realized that Palestinians are uniting; that the fragmentation isn’t as effective as they would like it to be; that they empathize with each other’s struggles, regardless of whether they are in the West Bank, Jerusalem or Gaza
Dispossession is central to the Palestinian struggle, and Jerusalem is a microcosm of that.
Crisis Group’s Watch List identifies ten countries or regions at risk of deadly conflict or escalation thereof in 2022. In these places, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, could enhance prospects for peace and stability.
In 30 November remarks to the UN Security Council, Crisis Group's Interim Vice President Comfort Ero laid out arguments for rethinking the framework of peacemaking in Israel-Palestine as well as steps various parties can take to improve the situation on the ground in the meantime.
Originally published in The New York Times
A new Israeli government is set to replace long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As Crisis Group expert Mairav Zonszein explains, however, not much but antipathy for the ex-premier holds the prospective cabinet together. It may well struggle to survive.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group expert Tareq Baconi about Hamas – the Palestinian militant movement governing Gaza – what it wants, how Palestinians view it and prospects for an end to violence while it rules Gaza.