Which Way Pales­tine?

Southasia - - COMMENT - Syed Jawaid Iqbal

The lat­est round of Is­raeli atroc­i­ties in Gaza did not seem to af­fect gov­ern­ments and peo­ple around the world in any mov­ing man­ner though the way Is­rael wreaked havoc was sim­ply ap­palling. The con­flict in the densely pop­u­lated Gaza Strip between the Pales­tinian Arabs and the Is­raelis erupts ev­ery few years and has all but oblit­er­ated the much-talked about Pales­tinian-Is­raeli peace process that the late Yasser Arafat ini­ti­ated and that was taken up by his suc­ces­sor, Mah­moud Ab­bas. In re­cent years, there has also been talk of a two-na­tion so­lu­tion which would have al­lowed the Pales­tini­ans and the Is­raelis to live as neigh­bors but Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and the Is­raeli mil­i­tary have sim­ply de­stroyed the pos­si­bil­ity of any such devel­op­ment tak­ing place and have con­tin­ued to pum­mel the Gaza Strip. To counter this sort of high-hand­ed­ness, the peo­ple of Gaza, as­sisted by Ha­mas, have had no al­ter­na­tive but to show their re­sis­tance to Is­rael. The con­flict has cre­ated noth­ing but may­hem for the 1.8 mil­lion Pales­tini­ans who live in the ter­ri­tory and lead lives of penury. The lat­est carnage has ag­gra­vated ten­sions among the Pales­tini­ans to the ex­tent that a third In­tifada or up­ris­ing may just be in the mak­ing.

If Prime Min­is­ter Ne­tanyahu has his way, any Pales­tinian state on the West Bank would only ex­ist un­der Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion – some­thing that is ob­vi­ously not ac­cept­able ei­ther to the Pales­tini­ans or the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity which has always pushed for the two ad­ver­saries to make peace and live as two sep­a­rate na­tions. For this to hap­pen, the Arabs must ac­cept the ex­is­tence of Is­rael as a re­al­ity in their midst. At the same time, Is­rael must also stop its bul­ly­ing tac­tics and should not be bol­stered by all kinds of sup­port that it gets from the west, es­pe­cially the United States. It is very much clear that the Is­raelis are only con­cerned with their own se­cu­rity and what hap­pens to in­no­cent Pales­tinian men, women and chil­dren is not their bother. Their ag­gres­sive junta be­lieves that the coun­try’s mil­i­tary might is the only way that peace can be ham­mered to­gether in the re­gion. In or­der for them to do that, their fore­most pri­or­ity is to snuff out all mil­i­tant or­ga­ni­za­tions op­posed to the ex­is­tence of Is­rael, such as Ha­mas. Over the years, a good por­tion of Is­raeli so­ci­ety has also come to sup­port the hawk­ish Is­raeli stand, es­pe­cially since the 1993 Oslo Ac­cords broke down though they were de­signed to move a peace process to­wards a two-state so­lu­tion. De­spite the il­le­gal­ity un­der in­ter­na­tional law, Is­rael has con­tin­ued to con­struct set­tle­ments on the West Bank. Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu has par­tic­u­larly been very ac­tive in this pur­suit dur­ing his tenures. The set­tle­ments have con­tin­ued to sprout and it is ob­vi­ous that in such an en­vi­ron­ment, bloody con­flicts between the two sides keep oc­cur­ring from time to time.

Where are Pales­tine and Is­rael headed? None of the two sides have come up with a strat­egy aimed at bring­ing about a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to the con­flict. They are only en­gaged in short-term tac­ti­cal gains and will keep on fight­ing against each other for th­ese gains in the com­ing years, with­out pay­ing heed to the future of the peo­ple, es­pe­cially the Pales­tini­ans. A po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor has rightly de­scribed Is­rael as one of the world’s last colo­nial pow­ers and the Pales­tini­ans in the West Bank and Gaza as its un­ruly sub­jects. Will this ever change? Per­haps yes, if Is­rael finds it­self suit­ably chal­lenged, the west de­vel­ops a more bal­anced view of the con­flict and of Is­rael’s role in the re­gion and the Is­lamic world dis­plays bet­ter own­er­ship of the Pales­tinian cause.

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