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.
Violence continued along Israel-Gaza border despite talks between Israel and Hamas and temporary relaxation of Israel’s blockade on Gaza. Gazan militants 8-9 Aug fired 150 rockets into Israel, to which Israel responded with airstrikes, killing at least three Palestinians. Egypt and UN Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov continued efforts to broker truce between Israel and Hamas; Mladenov 8 Aug urged both sides to step back from brink. After Gazans reduced rate of incendiary kite launches, Israel 15 Aug reopened Kerem Shalom crossing in south following July closure and restored Palestinian fishing area to nine nautical miles from shore. Gazans continued weekly protests at border; Israeli army 17 Aug killed two and wounded hundreds during clashes along border. Israel 19-28 Aug closed Erez crossing in north Gaza. At 15 Aug Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council meeting boycotted by various PLO factions and Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Abbas condemned possible Egyptian-sponsored truce between Israel and Hamas before intra-Palestinian reconciliation, threatening to make further cuts to Gaza. Abbas 16 Aug reportedly refused to meet Egyptian interlocutors, Fatah representatives held talks with Egyptians in Cairo 25-26 Aug. U.S. State Department 24 Aug said it would redirect over $200mn that would have paid for aid programs in Gaza and West Bank; Palestinian delegate to U.S. said move confirmed U.S. was “abandoning the two-state solution”. U.S. 31 Aug said it would no longer contribute funding for UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA); European and Arab countries criticised decision and promised to increase their contributions. Minority Druze community 4 Aug led tens of thousands in protests in Tel Aviv against law Israeli parliament passed in July that defines state of Israel as nation state of Jewish people. Tens of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel protested against law in Tel Aviv 11 Aug. Netanyahu 20 Aug during meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton called for “greater pressure” on Iran.
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.
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.
Overall Hamas is in the same corner it was a month or two ago. It simply doesn’t have an answer about how to get out of this predicament or even how to capitalize on these protests.
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