(CNN) – The current explosion of violence between Palestinians and the State of Israel has not yet left as many victims as the devastating conflict in Gaza in 2014, but in many ways it is a more bleak and foreboding episode. The confrontation is not limited to aerial bombardments and rocket fire on Gaza and southern Israel, but has spread to the streets of Israeli cities, to neighborhoods in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank.
The situation sinisterly feeds on a deepening polarization, in which the voices of militants on both sides are the loudest, and those of those who ask for coexistence are barely a whisper.
On September 13, 1993, on the White House lawn, the then Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, stood next to the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat, and declared: “We, who have fought against you Palestinians, say to you today loud and clear, enough with the blood and tears, enough.”
That was the closest the two sides came to breaking a century-long cycle of violence. The holy grail of a two-state solution seemed to be at hand. If that moment in 1993 was the high point of the dialogue, the region now seems trapped in a vortex of enmity. Meanwhile, the international community resorts to calls for “self-control”, but has no new ideas to attack the roots of the conflict.
Perhaps most alarming this time around, Israeli cities with Arab populations, such as Lod and Haifa, have been sucked into this spiral. Arabs represent about 20% of the population of Israel.
Even in 2014, and during the Palestinian intifadas, peace was largely maintained in these villages. However, in the past week, Palestinian and Jewish youth fought street battles, places of worship and homes were burned, and curfews were imposed.
“We completely lost control of the city, and the streets are witnessing a civil war between Arabs and Jews,” he said last Wednesday. the mayor of Lod, Yair Revivo.
The daily discrimination felt by many Arabs living in Israel adds to other burning motives that are part of this latest spasm of the conflict. It began with attempts by Jewish nationalists to have Palestinian families evicted from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. And it was fueled by clashes between the police and Palestinians around the Temple Mount / Haram al Sharif during Ramadan, which is always an incendiary time of year.
Hamas – and notably not the Palestinian Autonomous Government – enters and sets itself up as the defender of all Palestinians, demanding that Israel withdraw its forces from the Al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah mosque or pay a ‘high price’ ».
And in this way the extremes are maintained: confrontation is the only bargaining chip.
In a way, this serves both Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas. Through confrontation they reinforce their respective bases and drown out the voices that ask for moderation. Hamas can say that it is the true representative of the Palestinians, while the aging president of the Palestinian Autonomous Government, Mahmoud Abbas, postpones the elections. If negotiations promoted by the international community were resumed, Hamas would lose out, since its modus vivendi is armed resistance to the Jewish state.
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Emma Ashford, New American Engagement Initiative think tank, argues that the “recent cancellation of the Palestinian elections means that Hamas is desperate for a chance to prove itself, hence the rocket attacks and its attempt to tie its cause more closely to what is happening in East Jerusalem.”
For his part, Netanhayu relies on ultranationalists to stay in office and has successfully shifted the terms of the debate during his long tenure as prime minister. Two years ago, his rival Benny gantzMore than a center, he promised to “strengthen the settlement blocs and the (Golan Heights), from which we will never leave. The Jordan Valley will be our border, but we will not let millions of Palestinians living beyond the fence endanger our identity as a Jewish state. ” The once powerful left wing of Israel’s politics now seems devoid of energy and ideas.
Perversely, Netanyahu needs Hamas, according to some analysts. The alternatives are to regain control of that crowded open-air prison that is Gaza at enormous cost, or to see more militant groups like Islamic Jihad and ISIS-inspired Salafist groups prevail among a young population radicalized by every episode of violence.
The alternatives are to resume control over the overcrowded open prison that is Gaza, at enormous cost, or to see even more militant groups like Islamic Jihad or ISIS-inspired Salafist groups prevail among a young population radicalized by every chapter of violence. .
Beyond political opportunism, the cause of conflict — which means staying — has even deeper roots. In 2018, the Netanyahu government enacted a law enshrining the right of national self-determination as “exclusive to the Jewish people,” not to all citizens of Israel. It also demoted Arabic from the official language to one with “special status.”
He also promoted new Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. As of last year, more than 440,000 Jews lived in the West Bank, according to the Israeli human rights group Peace Now. Current attempts to evict Palestinian families in East Jerusalem fit this pattern.
This same month exactly 100 years ago, long before the State of Israel existed, riots broke out in what was then Jaffa. Dozens of Palestinians and Jews were killed. A British commission of inquiry (the United Kingdom controlled Palestine and received a mandate from the League of Nations to administer the territory in 1922) concluded that the riots stemmed from ‘a feeling among Arabs of discontent and hostility towards Jews due to political causes and economic, and linked to Jewish immigration.
Those underlying causes have never been erased throughout 1948, when the Jewish state was born in what Palestinians call al-Nakba or “the catastrophe,” the 1967 war when Israel took control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Loop; the Palestinian uprisings at the beginning of this century and the Gaza conflicts since then.
As CNN’s Ben Wedeman observed last week in Bethlehem incisively: “Young Palestinians throwing stones, their parents probably throwing stones too. And these Israeli soldiers firing tear gas, their parents probably did the same.
The two-state solution, which was the foundation of international diplomacy and is enshrined in UN resolutions, is becoming less and less viable as the West Bank has morphed into a mosaic of Palestinian cities and Jewish settlements, where the occupation began to look like annexation. An insightful report for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last month described the two-state solution as the “scaffolding (that) sustains the occupation and is structurally incapable of delivering peace and human security.”
A one-state solution that would give full citizenship to the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza is a demographic poison for many Israelis and inconceivable in today’s atmosphere.
This cycle, like the one in 2014, will likely end when the two sides feel they can chant “victory” despite the destruction and death of civilians, and when Egypt and the United States can design the terms of a truce. But it will be no more than a truce.
After the 2014 conflict, Hamas set about rebuilding its rocket inventory and tunnel complexes while strengthening its grip on Gaza. It is difficult to visualize anything other than repeating this same process.
In the words of Martin Indyk, who has decades of experience in the Middle East as a US diplomat, “the approach of the Biden administration thus far suggests that Washington will be comfortable accepting this unhappy ending.”