The Financial Express

Whither Israel-Palestine peace

Whither Israel-Palestine peace

While this write-up was being prepared in the midst of Israeli air attacks on the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip, with occasional landing of missiles on the Jewish cities, the world didn't fail to foresee a changed scenario in the confrontation. It occurred finally in the form of a ceasefire, in place from May 21, which was brokered by Egypt. The proposal had been mooted by US President Joe Biden following telephonic talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, theIsraeli Prime Minister. Meanwhile, the brief conflict, with Israeli bombardment killing 243 Gaza-based Palestinians, reminded outsiders of the region's legacy of occasional flare-up of limited wars in the last few decades.

The latest conflict was the spinofffrom the all-out Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip bordering Egypt and Israel. After an Egypt-Israel peace treaty in 1979,the administrative responsibility of Gaza went to the Palestinians. It was the period, when the militant Palestinian leaders opposed to PLO began coming to the limelight in the vast anti-Israeli swathes in the West Bank and Gaza. The ceasefire ending the 11-day violence involving Israeli air attacks on Gaza and the retaliatory missile attacks spearheaded by the Hamas-led Palestinians has been spontaneously greeted by world powers. Fearing any relapse to violence, the UN Secretary General has made appeal to both Israel, and Gaza's Hamas administration to go by the ceasefire. The world body chief also underscored thrashing out a reconstruction package "that supports the Palestinian people and strengthens their institutions."

Unlike on previous occasions, the present war-like situation sparked off on May 10 following weeks of a fraught atmosphere around Jerusalem --- the Al-Aqsa Mosque premises being the centre. According to eye-witnesses, the tense situation this time led to 'communal unrest' between the minority Arab Israelis and the Jews, a rare event in the area. With the still-volatile Palestinian- Israeli ceasefire in place, few international observers believe there will be remarkable progress towards resolving the fundamental issues in the immediate future. There are no signals of an end to Israel's decades-old military grip over the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and its blockade on the already devastated Gaza enclave, in which 2 million Palestinians are settled under hard-line Hamas rule.

Surprisingly, the present conflict and the following ceasefire haven't seen any role or presence of the PLO. Notwithstanding this lacuna, world leaders welcomed the ceasefire deal. Against this backdrop, President Joe Biden said the US would work together with the UN agencies and the Palestinian Authority, but not Hamas, to rebuild Gaza. The European Union insisted that working towards a 'two-state solution' was the only viable option. Meanwhile, Russia and China have called for a return to peace talks.

Apart from the superpowers including the UK and France, a number of regional influence-wielding powers might also make their presence vocal at any UN session taking up the Israeli-Palestinian peace. Had not the raging Covid-19 pandemic created an edgy situation in the world, a special UN session could have made a dentin the stalled talks, long overdue. These cherisheddevelopments are set to receive the needed backing from new-generation leaders in many countries.

The US has got a new President, who has not yet shown any anti-Palestinian stance like his predecessor. The aging Netanyahu may have started feeling tired of making way through the difficult Palestinian maze. To some extent, this feeling of exhaustion also applies to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Unlike the battle-hardened yet diplomatically savvy Yasser Arafat, Abbas may not find it wise to be drawn into a new phase of Palestine- or Palestinians-based imbroglio. The global politico-diplomatic scenario, especially those in the Middle East, has lately been witnessing unthought-of changes. They centre mainly on mending fences, and searching for openings to get closer to their past adversaries. There are exceptions, though. Despite openings for new eras of national reconstructions after the invaders had left, domestic and civil war hostilities still haunt countries like Afghanistan. They are dubbed by the disappointed international political watchers 'lost cases'. They find it painful to see the countries like Afghanistan and Syria still being debilitated by seemingly never-ending anarchic situations. Even before the post-Cold War thaw, the case for a settlement of the Palestinian impasse came to the fore. Prior to the Oslo Peace Accords signing in the 1990s, the recognition of Israel by Egypt and the signing of a peace treaty in 1979 on US initiative, heralded a new era of peace in the region. But the future peace prospects in Middle East derailed despite the historic White House shake-hand meet between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin on September 13, 1993.

The whole Arab world, the persecuted Palestinians, as well as the global peace movements, waited with bated breath to see how the peace initiatives unfold in the West Bank. There were little changes. The Israeli soldiers continued their brutalities. The infuriated Palestinian male and female youths continued their fierce retaliation aimed at the illegal Jewish settlements on their ancestral land. The electoral victory of Jewish supremacist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kept aggravating the pervasive bitterness in the vast area. With the death of the PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in 2004, the Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects had been found in a veritable limbo.Arafat was admired for his conciliatory moves in dealings with Israel. Although misunderstood by his militant colleagues, the leader was trusted by the common Palestinians.

Passing through many hard realities, Israeli-Palestinian peace still remains elusive.

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