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.
President Donald J. Trump on 6 December 2017 declared U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking decades of precedent even while saying the U.S. was not “taking a position of any final status issues”. In this Q&A, Ofer Zalzberg and Nathan Thrall, Senior Analysts for Israel/Palestine, examine what the decision means for Israelis, Palestinians and the future of their conflict.
In Gaza, four Israeli soldiers were injured by explosive device on Israel-Gaza border 17 Feb; in response Israeli tanks and planes same day attacked some eighteen targets in Gaza, most Hamas sites, killing two Palestinians. Palestinian protester, wounded by Israeli forces 16 Feb, died from injuries 21 Feb. Israeli forces killed Palestinian fisherman off Gaza coast 25 Feb. Violence increased in West Bank: Palestinian citizen of Israel stabbed to death Israeli rabbi near Ariel 5 Feb; Israeli forces killed six Palestinians – one in Ramallah 30 Jan, two in Jenin area 3 and 6 Feb, one in Nablus 6 Feb, one in Karmei Tzur 6 Feb and one in Jericho 22 Feb. At UN Security Council meeting 20 Feb, Palestinian Authority President Abbas proposed international peace conference by mid-2018; U.S. rejected Abbas’s plan and said it was finalising details of its own peace plan. Tensions between Israel and Iran escalated over Syrian conflict: after Israel shot down alleged Iranian drone launched from Syria, which entered Israeli air space 10 Feb via Jordanian airspace, Israeli jets carried out retaliatory raid on Iranian drone control site in Syria. Syrian anti-aircraft missile shot down Israeli jet on its return. Israel launched second, more intense bombing raid against Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria. Israeli PM Netanyahu 18 Feb warned Israel would, “if necessary”, act against Iran itself, not just its proxies. Dispute between Israel and Lebanon over land and maritime border escalated, particularly in relation to offshore drilling: Lebanon 6 Feb said border wall being built by Israel infringed on Lebanon’s sovereignty; Lebanon 9 Feb struck deal with foreign firms to explore Mediterranean gas field claimed by Israel; Hizbollah 16 Feb said it could take out Israeli oil facilities “within hours”; Lebanon rejected U.S.-mediated deal, which would have granted Lebanon most of disputed maritime area, instead demanding settlement of all border issues, including relating to disputed land border, under UN framework.
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.
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.
We’re caught in a crisis of identity. People [in Israel] are worried about globalization, about a sense of losing tradition. It’s the autonomy of the individual versus Jewish tradition.
The leadership in Ramallah is deliberately careful and low-profile with its public messaging now, not knowing whether and to what extent the Trump-sponsored ‘ultimate’ plan has been updated.
[Israel's Prime Minister] Netanyahu finds himself unable to voice opposition to [U.S. President] Trump despite some significant differences of opinion.
The Israeli government’s assessment is that Hezbollah/Iranian presence near the armistice line [in the Golan Heights] is bound to lead to the establishment of offensive infrastructure in the area.
Instead of reacting to every sound coming from (Washington), the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah is focusing on preparing their strategy for the U.S. plan, which may be published imminently.
[The Trump administration] is content allowing Israel to take the lead in pushing back against Iranian and Hezbollah influence in Syria.
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
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post
Trump may have earned himself goodwill in Israel, but at the cost of inflating annexationist sentiment and stirring trouble at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade.
Originally published in Carnegie Endowment for International Peace