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.
Originally published in The New York Review of Books
Israeli soldiers 6 March killed youth activist Basel al-Araj, in hiding from Palestinian Authority (PA) in West Bank, sparking protests against suspected cooperation between PA and Israel. PA security forces 12 March assaulted people protesting against PA’s trial of six activists arrested in 2016, including deceased al-Araj. Rate of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel continued to rise: non-Hamas factions launched five rockets 1-18 March, Israel retaliated against Hamas positions. Hamas blamed Israel for killing of senior militant 24 March in Gaza, Israel declined to comment. U.S. President Trump 10 March invited Palestinian President Abbas to White House “soon” to discuss peace process. U.S. representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt 13-16 March made first visit to Israel and West Bank, meeting Abbas. Abbas met Egyptian President Sisi 20 March ahead of Arab League summit 29 March and upcoming Abbas and Sisi meetings with Trump. Summit closing statement 29 March said Arab League members would “work to relaunch serious Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations”. Talks between U.S. and Israel 20-23 March in Washington D.C. failed to produce agreement on restricting settlement building in occupied territories. UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) 15 March published report accusing Israel of imposing “apartheid regime” on Palestinians; following pressure from U.S. and Israel, UNSG Guterres withdrew report, ESCWA chief 17 March resigned in protest. UN envoy 24 March told UNSC Israel had not stopped building settlements as demanded in Dec 2016 SC resolution. Following PM Netanyahu’s Feb pledge to house Jewish families evicted from illegal settlement Amona, govt 30 March approved plan to build new settlement in West Bank at Emek Shilo, 25km north of Jerusalem, first new settlement in over twenty years; UN, EU, UK, France, Germany condemned move.
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.
Israel is trying to de-incentivize future hunger strikes and is trying to basically embrace the 'no concession' policy… they are taking deterrent measures.
[The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement] has the potential [...] to become something much larger: a leading cause for advocates of free speech.
The pressures within Israel to do something regarding the humanitarian catastrophe [in Syria] are not accompanied by a politically realistic strategy.
[The new U.S. position on Israeli settlements] allows Netanyahu to use Trump as the pretext for avoiding annexation and at the same time [avoid] being labelled as Leftist by the settlers.
Essentially Netanyahu was presented with the choice between a one state or two [state solution]. But he is in favour of one state and a half.
Netanyahu is basically someone who is extremely risk-averse and wants to preserve stability at all costs.
Originally published in The Times of Israel
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
Once again Israeli leaders denounce UNESCO and tell their people with an odd tone of satisfaction: “The whole world is against us; we you told you so!”
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post
Defusing conflict over Jerusalem’s holiest site.