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.
Israel and Hamas stand on the brink of another full-scale confrontation in Gaza. The only viable exit from the ongoing cycle of escalation is for international actors to use carrots and sticks to bring about intra-Palestinian reconciliation, thereby allowing the Palestinian Authority (PA) to govern the Gaza Strip.
Deadly clashes escalated between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces at Gaza-Israel border, while rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli bombing there increased, leaving at least eighteen Palestinians dead. Israel responded with force to Palestinian protests at Gaza border each Friday: Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians 5 Oct and six 12 Oct. Israel 16 Oct gave Hamas 19 Oct deadline to end protests; Hamas 19 Oct kept smaller protests at greater distance from border. In response to more protests 26 Oct, Israeli forces shot dead five protesters. Israeli air strike 28 Oct killed three Palestinian boys between twelve and fourteen whom Israel claimed were trying to blow up border fence. Rocket fired from Gaza landed in Be’er Sheva in Israel 17 Oct, Hamas and Islamic Jihad denied responsibility; Israel responded with airstrikes on twenty targets in Gaza, killing one Palestinian. Islamic Jihad 26-27 Oct fired some 39 rockets into Israel, in response Israeli air force bombed around 100 targets in Gaza; Islamic Jihad 27 Oct announced ceasefire after talks with Egypt, Israel accused Syria of ordering attack, with Iranian involvement. UN and Egypt continued efforts to hold ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas; Palestinian Authority (PA) PM Hamdallah 8 Oct refused to meet UN Special Envoy Mladenov, accusing him of having “stepped outside of his role” in trying to secure Hamas-Israel deal; PA continued to demand that Hamas cede control of Gaza before UN and Egypt broker ceasefire. Israeli media 22 Oct reported that as part of Gaza ceasefire deal, Qatar would pay for Gaza’s fuel and pay civil servant salaries for three months; in response, PA discussed possible measures against Gaza, including calling new elections and halting all PA payments to Gaza, including for civil servant salaries, healthcare, fuel and electricity. Palestinians protested in West Bank against new PA law cutting social security benefits. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council 30 Oct called for PA to end security coordination with Israel and suspend its recognition of Israel until Israel recognises Palestine; PA President Abbas and PLO Executive Council yet to decide on moves. Abbas met Omani leader Sultan Qaboos in Omani capital Muscat 22 Oct. In unexpected visit to Muscat, Israeli PM Netanyahu met Qaboos 26 Oct, first visit of any Israeli leader to country since 1996. Omani FM 27 Oct said Oman is offering ideas to bring Israel and Palestinians together.
Facts on the ground in Syria are defining the contours of the country’s political future and also the geography of a looming clash between Israel, Hizbollah and other Iran-allied militias. Russia should broker understandings to prevent a new front from opening.
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.
Even if Israel and Hamas manage to avoid war and continue based on the understandings they have reached, these will be rickety and subject to collapse.
By punishing the Palestinians, the [Trump] administration unwittingly is liberating them from former restraints under which they had operated since Oslo in order to placate the U.S. and Israel.
What is the reason [President] Netanyahu views a Palestinian state as a security risk? He thinks Palestinians will continue to teach their children that Zionism is unjust and that the state next door should not exist as a state for the Jewish people.
Israel wants the Palestinian Authority to control Gaza, but it is wary of the elections the authority would have because Hamas could win a place in a Palestinian government.
Israeli public opinion is demanding that something be done about the incendiary kites. It has been proposed that if Hamas stops the kites, the situation can go back to what it was half a year ago. The problem is that Hamas doesn’t want to go back to where it was half a year ago, or a year ago or two years ago.
What's different today is that there is no expectation on the part of Hamas that if there were a big war today that it would result in Gaza or Hamas being in a better position in terms of the blockade.
US mediation will have to help the sides identify a middle path toward resolving a tension potentially inherent in this approach between purely professional interests and each stakeholder’s agenda.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post
Protests in Gaza on Friday 30 March, at which Israeli forces killed more than a dozen Palestinians, were the largest of their kind in several years and are likely to grow over the coming weeks. In this Q&A, Nathan Thrall, Director of Crisis Group’s Arab-Israeli Project, says the series of planned marches reflect the Palestinians’ determination to take matters into their own hands after losing faith in outside mediation.
Joost Hiltermann, Crisis Group's Program Director for the Middle East and North Africa talks about a new phase in Syria’s war that augurs escalation with Israel.
But following the hostilities over the weekend, does Putin want to?
Originally published in The Atlantic