INTERNATIONAL efforts are underway to consolidate the ceasefire that ended recent violence between Israel and the Palestinians. The hope is also to seek a path towards a renewed peace process; but the prospects for progress appear limited.
The renewed diplomatic engagement comes as the region begins to recover from the trauma of the latest conflict. More than 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have been killed in clashes in the Holy Land.
Egypt, which played a leading role in negotiating the truce between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Israel, called on both sides to end all practices that lead to an escalation. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, after talks in Cairo with his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, said the two sides should “take into account the special sensitivity associated with East Jerusalem, the al-Aqsa mosque and to all Islamic and Christian holy places. ”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited the region in the aftermath of the violence, said the priority was to meet “the immediate needs of the people and then take the necessary steps which I believe , can create better conditions in which we can try to move forward on two states ”.
The call for movement on the diplomatic front was echoed by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland. Addressing the UN Security Council, he said that “these recent events have once again highlighted the costs of perpetual conflict and loss of hope.” He continued, “Only through negotiations that end the occupation and create a viable two-state solution. . . can we hope to put a definitive end to these senseless and costly cycles of violence.
All the attempts made so far to find a diplomatic solution have ended in an impasse. As a writer in the magazine the New Yorker said: “It’s easy to confuse a stalemate with stability.” As long as the current ceasefire lasts, “there will be even fewer reasons than before to confuse this state of calm with peace.”
It’s hard to see a way forward. Israel is still trying to get out of a protracted political crisis. The Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank is weak and garners little popular respect. Hamas in the Gaza Strip, at odds with the Palestinian Authority, is barred from US diplomats because it has been designated as a terrorist group.
Christian Aid’s Middle East chief William Bell said as the fighting drew to a close, a new approach was needed. “If we are serious about a just peace, then we must recognize both Israel and Palestine as equals. We don’t need to hate one side and love the other. But we must be prepared to hear and learn uncomfortable truths. “
According to Palestinian Christian commentator Daoud Kuttab, writing in the newspaper Arab News, an essential first step is for the major world powers, including the United Kingdom, to recognize the State of Palestine. These powers should then encourage Palestine and Israel to negotiate “in the presence of honest and neutral intermediaries on how to manage relations between these two.” Issues such as settlements, Jerusalem, refugees and settlers must be agreed – not whether the State of Palestine should even exist. “