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Ending the Israeli-Palestinian impasse

THE ongoing military action in Gaza, Palestine, fuelled by the continued bombing by the Israeli authorities calls for serious appraisal in view of the precarious situation in the Middle East and indeed, global peace.

This latest conflict was precipitated when some yet-to-be-identified assailants kidnapped three Israeli teenagers, only for their mutilated corpses to be found a month later.

To the Israeli authorities, this dastardly crime could have been hatched by no person or group other than the camp that is sympathetic to the Palestinians. This in turn led to the reprisal murder of a Palestinian youth after weeks of invasive security sweeps by Israeli troops accompanied by mass arrests of several suspects.

Operation Protective Edge, named by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, is the most recent in a long line of military operations against the Palestinians, was a massive onslaught, as the Israelis continue to bomb schools, mosques, cafes, private homes and even facilities for the disabled, which Netanyahu said would continue until Israel was guaranteed “peace and security”. Hamas, the militant arm of the Palestinian authorities, retaliated by unleashing rockets on Israeli towns and cities.

As a fall-out, nearly 2,000 Palestinians were reported to have been killed out of which 75 per cent are civilians, according to United Nations preliminary information. On the Israeli side, at least 67 people were killed, mostly soldiers. Going down memory lane, Gaza, a small piece of land, was captured by Israel during the Arab-Israeli War and was handed over to Palestine for self-rule after the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993 alongside with West Bank that was administered by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, PLO. By 2005, the Israeli authorities had removed all Jewish troops and settlements and a year later, this short peace became shattered when Hamas won legislative elections and began launching attacks on Israel.

This reaction elicited Israeli reprisals and military action as the Hamas violently dislodged the Fatah faction of the PLO and began a rocket campaign against Israel. This hostility has continued till date.

The Middle East crisis is complex and highly political. There seem to be three divides in understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For Hamas, its relevance and the loyalty of the Arabs can be sustained solely by its fanaticism and capacity to inflict brute assault, psychological and propaganda damage on Israel and its citizens because its founding charter tends to support the obliteration of the Jewish state, as propagated through bombings, kidnapping and rocket attacks. Extremist Israeli Jews on the other hand insist that the West Bank should remain part of Israel while the extremist Palestinian Arabs on the other hand are demanding for total possession of the West Bank and the rest of Israel as rightful Arabs.

Hamas, no doubt, rejects Israel’s right to exist and Israel on the other hand sees the group as a mere terrorist organisation. Aside this, another contending matter central to the imbroglio is the issue of land. Hamas is seeking an end to territorial and coastal blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007, which Israel is seriously opposed to.

To Hamas, it will not end its hostility until Israel agrees to lift its blockade of Gaza and frees the funds Hamas badly needs to run its government. Although, Hamas does not seems to enjoy the track-record of being trusted in the sense that whenever Israel relaxes its Gaza restrictions, it responds fast by importing more armaments and finances in its war machinery and offensive. With this posturing, there appears to be no end in sight in stopping the war.

Disagreement over land matters is also central to the Palestinian-Israeli enmity. The land dispute is borne out of political, economic and security interests had resulted into the killing of several people over the years. In 2008, Israel sent soldiers into Gaza killing an estimated 1,300 people, many of them civilians, were killed in Gaza before a declaring a ceasefire; 13 Israeli soldiers also died; in 2012, at least 167 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed during an Israeli operation after an eight-day ceasefire was declared with both sides promising to stop attacks. This perennial problem could be resolved by endowing residents of the territory an equal claim to the disputed land. And to whom would the rent be paid? Is it to the Israeli or the Palestine?

Instead, there could be an arrangement that looks like a confederation of the two governments whereby they will be accorded full and independent access to entitlements. The concept of sharing the land has been well recognised by many scholars of Middle East politics. For instance, Martin Buber, in his “Socialism and Peace”,  bserved that the only thing that can bring about enduring peace to Israel is “a just distribution of the soil and the formulation of small communities which would be organic cells of this new economy and this new society”. If this economic option can be sorted out and faithfully implemented, then the Israelis and the Palestinians can hopefully live together in peace.

Resolving this age-long challenge will also require sincere and unbiased mediation of the major power players such as the United Nations, United States of America, European Union and the Arab League. They should be honest enough to tell the truth without minding whose ox is gored. The polarised disposition of these superpowers is unhelpful. The USA should muster the courage to tell Israel that its excesses are unbecoming and should be condemned in strongest term. Egypt has been a mediator in the talks between the two sides by meeting separately with each party.

This should be further encouraged. Other major Palestinian demands that could bring about enduring peace are the establishment and recognition of its nation as an independent state, the construction of a sea port and reopening of an airport as agreed in the Oslo agreements more than 20 years ago. Hamas is also demanding the release of about 100 prisoners, including dozens of members of parliament, possibly in return for the two captured Israeli soldiers.

Another key issue worth considering is the flow of money into Gaza, currently blocked by Israel. While Israel may shift grounds, Hamas leaders should realise that they may never garner any international support with the continued use of rocket attacks, terror raids and kidnappings. Israel should also be made to know that nothing meaningful can be resolved through violence. Effective diplomacy should be deployed to bring about the desired peace in the Middle East by ensuring that Israel and Hamas end this war without further delay and the onus lies more on the UN, USA and Arab League.

Adewale Kupoluyi wrote from the Federal University of  Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State.





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