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
Representatives of some 70 countries gathered at Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Paris 15 Jan amid uncertainty over implications of U.S. presidential transition for diplomatic process; concluding statement underlined continued feasibility of two-state solution, called for “swift steps” to improve humanitarian situation in Gaza and exhorted both sides to refrain from actions and policies that endanger two-state solution. President Abbas 9 Jan warned that if new U.S. President Trump acts on his campaign promise to move U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) may rescind recognition of Israel. In Israel, annexationist supporters of settlement expansion increased pressure for bills to legalise settlements built on private Palestinian lands; for formal endorsement of 2012 Levy report which holds that Israel has right to build in West Bank; for application of Israeli law to Ma’ale Adumim settlement east of Jerusalem; and for renewing access of Israeli Knesset members to Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade. Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem 8 Jan drove truck into crowd of Israeli soldiers in E Jerusalem, killing four; Israeli forces launched crackdown on Palestinians throughout E Jerusalem. Israel carried out demolitions of illegally built homes in Arab town Qalanswah 10 Jan and of homes in unrecognised Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran 18 Jan, during which one resident and one police officer were killed; more demolitions scheduled. Large demonstrations held in Gaza over worsening electricity shortages, including 10,000 in Jabaliya refugee camp 12 Jan. Hamas blamed crisis on Ramallah’s decision to re-impose full taxes on fuel entering Gaza; Palestinian Authority (PA) demanded Hamas hand over control of Gaza if it wanted crisis resolved; Qatar and Turkey provided assistance for fuel. Following talks in Moscow, Hamas and Fatah 17 Jan announced they had reached new agreement to form unity govt to prepare for elections for PA and PLO parliaments; announcement greeted with scepticism among many Palestinians. Ahead of 1 Feb evacuation of small (40 houses) Amona settlement on basis of Supreme Court order, Israel announced construction of 5,500 residential units in settlements in move to reduce antagonism among pro-settlers forces; vast majority of units lie within Israeli-defined settlement blocs, definition Ramallah rejects but which U.S. President Trump is seen as highly likely to accept.
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.
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.
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.
Originally published in Forum for Regional Thinking