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.
Israel and Palestinian Authority (PA) reportedly resumed security coordination early Aug after PA 21 July said it was suspending coordination in protest against Israel’s installation of metal detectors at entrances to Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade, removed late July. Israel early Aug arrested dozens of Palestinians, mostly from Jerusalem, suspected of involvement in July protests over control of access to Holy Esplanade. King Abdullah of Jordan 7 Aug visited Ramallah to discuss tensions over Holy Esplanade with PA President Abbas (his first trip to Ramallah in five years), amid ongoing diplomatic tensions with Israel after Israeli guard 23 July shot two Jordanians at Israel’s embassy in Amman. Jordan 9 Aug reportedly told Israel it would not allow Israeli ambassador to return until embassy guard was investigated and tried (see Jordan). Egypt opened Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza 14-18 Aug allowing 2,500 Gazans to perform Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Hamas security forces 17 Aug detained two Palestinians attempting to enter Egypt from Gaza, one of whom, reportedly affiliated to Islamic State (ISIS), detonated explosives vest, killing himself and Hamas guard; attack allegedly aimed at Egyptian security forces. Israeli border police in West Bank 19 Aug shot dead Palestinian teenager who tried to attack them with knife. Abbas 1 Aug and PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah 14 Aug met Hamas delegations to discuss possible reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, potentially involving PA resuming control of Gaza. PA 9 Aug arrested five journalists, mostly working for pro-Hamas outlets, for “leaking sensitive information to hostile authorities”, released them 14 Aug; Hamas later released Fatah-affiliated journalist. After rocket fired from Gaza landed in southern Israel 8 Aug, Israeli planes same day struck two Hamas targets in Gaza.
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.
The next war between Israel and Hezbollah will be dramatic for Israel’s population and will have consequences for whoever is in power.
From an outside perspective, [the ruling Palestinian Fatah has] almost no control in Gaza today, so [an announcement by Hamas to dissolve its Gaza administrative committee is] better than nothing.
The main candidates to inherit from [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas all share his political programme.
We are seeing a dramatic crisis between Jordan and Israel which makes de facto joint management [of the Holy Esplanade in Jerusalem] much more complicated.
The sense among Palestinians, as they see the metal detectors [at the Holy Esplanade] being removed, is one of victory. They are thinking about how to capitalize [on] it.
There is a strong sense of humiliation, especially among the right wing [in Israel, following the removal of security barriers from the Al-Aqsa mosque].
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