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.
Originally published in The New York Review of Books
U.S. President Trump at joint press conference with PM Netanyahu 15 Feb said he was open to both two-state and one-state solutions; Palestine Liberation Organization affirmed its support for two-state solution. Netanyahu supported 6 Feb passage of controversial “regularisation law” that gives legal immunity to settlements and outposts built on seized private Palestinian land in West Bank. Netanyahu 2 Feb promised govt would establish new settlement as compensation for dismantlement, in accordance with Supreme Court decision, of small unauthorised Amona settlement; dismantlement began 6 Feb, sparked limited violence. Following cancellation in Sept 2016 of municipal elections in West Bank and Gaza set for Oct, Palestinian Authority (PA) early Feb said it would hold them 13 May; Hamas rejected schedule saying municipal elections should come after implementation of Palestinian reconciliation agreements. Hamas 16 Feb at meeting with Central Elections Commission rejected recent changes to electoral law. Mahmoud Alloul appointed Fatah deputy leader 15 Feb. Internal Hamas elections continued in Gaza: Yehya Sinwar, a military wing leader, elected head of Gaza political bureau. Unidentified Salafi-jihadist group 6 Feb launched rocket from Gaza toward Ashkelon in Israel; Israel retaliated by striking many Hamas targets. Another rocket fired from Gaza at Israel 26 Feb. Islamic State (IS) claimed to have fired four rockets from Egypt 8 Feb on Eilat city in southern Israel, Israel’s missile defence system intercepted three and one landed in open area, causing no damage; said Israeli unmanned aircraft 18 Feb killed five IS fighters in Sinai; IS 20 Feb fired two more rockets into southern Israel.
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.
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.
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.
We hear a lot of talk of Trump being interested in pursuing some kind of peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in the context of a regional approach to Middle East peace. That all sounds conventional to me.
[Netanyahu] feels that Abbas has been able to do this to him — to outsmart him and get the international community to support Palestinian views.
The Trump administration will have to deal with the fact that the European and Arab countries are saying: '[the two-state solution] is what we are committed to.'
Egyptian-Israeli relations are today at their highest level in history.
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.