Israel-Palestine conflict is back in news with renewed violence and bloodshed. For the Palestinians, the unresolved conflict continues to deprive them of their cherished goal — an independent Palestine state. The ongoing violence has consumed more than 200 lives, including 61 children and seen an irreparable loss of material of the warring parties.
Though the international community is condemning the disproportionate use of force in the violence, the end of this state of affairs is far from over. While Israeli establishment may seek to use the situation to display its military might and the capability to defend its interests, the Palestinians contrarily have found another opportunity to present a united face as a way forward to seek what they believe belongs to them.
An escape route from the crisis at the critical juncture for both the warring parties is to unanimously cease the fire and come to the negotiation table: obviously no party would seek to concede defeat at the stage given the fact that a retreat would be seen as a weakness to withstand pressure. So both need to declare a ceasefire.
The assumption of office by Joe Biden as a new US president in January had raised hopes that his administration would work not for containing but resolving the conflict. To start with, Mr. Biden was to reverse the Trump era decisions which fully favored Israel. Hoping so, however, indicated a serious neglect of America’s domestic politics, i.e. the strong influence of the Israeli lobby on US policies. Since the birth of Israel some seventy-three years back through a UN resolution, America has been a staunch supporter and even defender of Israel’s policies and geopolitical interests.
During his entire term, the outgoing US president Trump stood firmly behind Israel and walked an extra mile in placing it in a more advantageous position at the expense of Palestine’s national interests. For instance, Trump recognized the entire territory of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Despite the international community’s resentment, the Trump administration was unmoved and went on to recognize the settlements that Tel Aviv has been constructing on what is said to be the Palestinian territory.
What came as a big blow to the Palestinians was the Trump administration’s ‘deal of the century’ drafted by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. The Kushner Plan, which limited the Palestinian territory to only 17 percent, gave everything Israel sought and made the formation of a separate Palestine state almost impractical — signified that the 1967 borders were no longer relevant, the UN resolutions notwithstanding. Finding that the Palestinians were hurt by the deal and they rejected it out rightly, Mr. Trump punished them by stopping more than $300 million annual contribution to the UN’s Relief and Works Agency. The agency is mandated to take care of the displaced Palestinians. Not only did the Kushner Plan received little international support but also the president of the Palestinian Authority decided to cut links with the Trump administration; dozens of demonstrations by the Palestinians against the Trump administration’s moves went unheard.
It is noteworthy that the Obama administration during its last days in office was the strong force behind the UN Security Council resolution 2334. Interestingly, the resolution denounced “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967,” including “the construction and expansion of settlements” and “the demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians.”
To begin with, the international community can restore the peace process by urging on both sides to the Palestine crisis to come to the negotiation table. This can prove a confidence building measure and allow both parties to understand each other’s perspective as regards the conflict. All measures which disappoint the Palestinian people and demolish their hopes of securing an independent Palestine state need to be discouraged if the ongoing violence is to be stopped.
Meanwhile, in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic, the ongoing violence involving Palistinians and Israelis is not a means to an end. It is the manifestation of anger, hate and an attempt to force a resolution to the issue. The unresolved conflict also attests to the failure of the international community to realize the gravity of the long-standing issue and work for its logical end. On one hand, Israel is playing a victim card to justify its actions and on the other hand, Palestinians are struggling to validate their victimhood. When Hamas kills innocent people, it is rightly called terrorism. However, when Israel kills innocent people, it is being portrayed as self-defense.
Resolving this long standing conflict is no longer a tough ask if big powers like US, China, Russia and the regional players like Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia show political will and decide to clinch the conflict favoring both Israel and Palestine. Granted that these countries deal with Israel and Palestine in accordance with their geopolitical interests but a separate Palestine state will justify their rhetoric and dispel the clouds of a war — the war is possible if the conflict meets no resolution and keeps on erupting time and again.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
Sheikh Shabir Kulgami is a Kashmiri (Indian) political commentator, analyst and columnist. He writes extensively on South Asia.