An Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in the foreseeable future is unachievable, as is a credible process for reaching one. Since 2002, Crisis Group has been working to advance a new, inclusive peacemaking model for Israelis and Palestinians and to reduce the likelihood of deadly conflict among Palestinians and between Israel and its neighbours.
Our Israel Senior Analyst Ofer Zalzberg joins nine leaders of Israel’s national religious community as they seek ideas for peace in meetings with the architects of Northern Ireland’s peace process. Unexpectedly, he finds the trip inspires subtle shifts in their thinking – and in his own.
Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas took steps toward reconciliation and formation of unity govt: Hamas 1 Oct released five Fatah prisoners; cabinet of West Bank-based Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) convened in Hamas-governed Gaza 3 Oct for first time in three years, with facilitation of Israeli govt. During cabinet meeting Hamas and Fatah announced intention to end decade-long division and hold talks in Egypt 10-11 Oct. Following those talks, parties 12 Oct signed reconciliation agreement, under which national consensus govt is to assume responsibility for Gaza’s administration by 1 Dec. Hamas 1 Nov handed over control of crossings on Gaza’s borders with Israel and Egypt to PA. Further talks in Cairo scheduled for 14 Nov and early Dec. Israeli PM Netanyahu 12 Oct said Israel objects to any reconciliation that does not include Hamas’s disarmament, and that Fatah-Hamas deal “makes peace much harder to achieve”. Israeli Security Cabinet 17 Oct said Israel would not negotiate with Palestinian govt “that relies on Hamas” unless seven conditions met, including Hamas disarming, ending ties with Iran and recognising Israel. U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt 19 Oct said Hamas must recognise Israel and commit to non-violence to play role in Palestinian govt. Israel increased pace of settlement expansion, reportedly began building some 1,600 homes 15 Oct in Givat Hamatos, East Jerusalem, and 16 and 18 Oct approved plans to build over 2,500 homes in West Bank. EU 18 Oct said settlement building hinders efforts to renew peace talks and is “illegal under international law”. Israel 30 Oct destroyed tunnel running beneath Gaza-Israel border, reportedly killing seven militants. U.S. 12 Oct announced its withdrawal from UNESCO citing organisation’s “anti-Israel bias”; Netanyahu praised decision and same day said Israel planned to withdraw.
The collapse of U.S.-led Israeli-Palestinian talks in 2014 led to political instability, rising violence and settlement expansion. To improve his successors’ peace-making chances, President Obama should push for a new UN Security Council resolution setting out the basic parameters of a deal.
A deceptive calm on Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade is unlikely to hold under pressure from the ongoing “third intifada”, widespread dissatisfaction among Palestinian youth and growing Jewish Temple activism. Bolstering the 1967 Status Quo arrangement remains crucial, but immediate attention must be on maintaining more recent understandings on access to the Esplanade as the religious holiday season begins.
Both Israel and Hamas recognise that another war is only a matter of time if Gaza’s fundamental problems are not addressed: the economy is a shambles; the acting government lacks the ability to collect or otherwise obtain the revenue necessary to pay salaries and provide services; and most residents cannot access the outside world.
Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade remains at the epicentre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With the holy month of Ramadan underway and the Jewish high holidays soon to follow, tensions are likely to increase. Calming the conflict’s symbolic core requires more support for the site’s status quo, including Palestinian participation and encouraging religious dialogue.
To achieve a durable ceasefire, not only must Israel significantly change its policy toward Gaza, but, no less importantly, Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organisation must take further steps to implement their reconciliation agreement in order to enable reconstruction and stabilise daily life in the Strip.
With Palestinians increasingly doubtful that the refugee question can be resolved within a two-state framework, the Palestinian leadership should seek to reinvigorate refugee communities as well as to reclaim its representation of them. When diplomacy emerges from its hiatus, the leadership will be able to negotiate and implement a peace agreement only if it wins refugees’ support or at least acquiescence.
[Israël devra faire face à un degré de violence] rarement vu depuis longtemps. Comment expliquer aux Israéliens que leurs fils meurent pour défendre les intérêts saoudiens ?
Israel possesses far greater ability to inflict pain, but Hezbollah possesses far greater capacity to absorb it, which means that any large-scale Israeli operation runs the risk of being open-ended.
For months now, [Israel] has been sounding alarm bells about Hezbollah’s and Iran’s growing footprint in Syria, and about the Lebanese capacity to produce precision-guided missiles.
There are now those in the [Middle East] who would like Israel to go to war with Hezbollah and fight a Saudi war to the last Israeli. There is no interest in that here.
Hezbollah knows its red lines, and every Israeli general will caution against military action. [But] you can't be sure what politicians will do.
[A] reason [Netanyahu] can live with the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza is it helps him say that there is no longer a partner (for peace).
Originally published in The New York Times
Originally published in The Times of Israel
As U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepare to meet, the fundamentals of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process hang in the balance.
U.S. policy threatens to undo not only the two-state solution, but stable relations with Israel’s Arab neighbors.
Originally published in The Cairo Review of Global Affairs