Articles • May 22, 2012
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Further escalation?
By Mohamad Zakaria
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been ongoing for over 64 years and there is no evidence that the conflict will be resolved anytime soon. Since the beginning of the conflict, around 5 million Palestinian nationals have either become internally displaced within Palestine or have become refugees in other neighbouring countries.
Negotiations to end the conflict have not been successful for various reasons and so are the efforts to create an independent Palestinian state. As the outcome of the conflict, there are about 4500 Palestinian detainees in the Israeli prisons, out of which over 350 are detained in so called “administrative detention” which means detention without trial. Some of the administrative detainees are detained for over 4 years without trials. Recently, over 1600 Palestinian prisoners were on massive hunger strike for several days and some of them even for over 70 days demanding fair trial and/or improving their imprisonment conditions in accordance with international laws. Many of them could have died due to the hunger strike and the international community is doing too little to ease the Palestinian prisoners’ suffering. This is unlike the international community’s continuous pressure on the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza to free the Israeli army soldier Gilad Shalit, the Israeli army soldier, who was captured by various Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip and was detained for about 5 years because he demanded a release for the long-term Palestinian prisoners. The prisoners’ swap eventually materialised in November 2011 leading to the release of Shalit in exchange for 1000 Palestinian prisoners.
A unity Israeli government was recently formed after a coalition agreement between the two largest Israeli political parties, the Likud and Kadima parties. It is, most probably, formed to be able to create new policies for dealing with the economic crisis and high unemployment in Israel. However, the main reason is to be able to better resist the international pressures on the Israeli political leadership to find better political environment for peace with the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank. One of the main issues that the Israeli government has been fiercely resisting is the international community’s demand from the Israeli government to stop building further settlements on the territories of the future Palestinian state but mainly in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority leadership is considering the Israeli government‘s rejection to freeze building more Israeli settlements as the main reason for its decision to halt the peace negotiations with the Israeli government.
There are about 130 Israeli settlements built in the West Bank alone hosting more than 300,000 Israeli settlers. The majority of the global political powers consider the Israeli settlements as escalating the conflict even further. The International Court of Justice’s ruled that those Israeli settlements are illegally built according to the international law.
In addition to the forceful land-grab of the Palestinian properties, the Israeli settlers, who mostly belong to radical religious groups, and are heavily armed and protected by the Israeli soldiers, are also depriving the Palestinians in the West Bank from using the Palestinian water resources for personal and irrigation purposes while the Israeli settlers are using those water resources to attract tourists and to build swimming pools. This is causing more economic problems for the Palestinian farmers and the Palestinian economy in general. The major Israeli settlements are also built on strategic Palestinian lands in the West Bank depriving the Palestinians, allegedly due to security reasons, from the freedom to move freely within their territories making their lives very difficult. In any potential peace deal, the Israeli government is demanding that the ten largest settlements in the West Bank and the settlers should remain under its armed control calling for a land swap, mostly uninhabitable desert that the Palestinians conquered during the 1948 Israeli-Palestinian war. How can a viable Palestinian state exist, even in theory, in such conditions? Why should the Palestinians accept the bitter reality and concede to their occupiers’ unlawful demands?
The international community has a big responsibility to create the environment of peace. The international law and UN decisions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be the legal base for any peace deal. Otherwise, any peace agreement will be doomed to fail and the Oslo Accords are best example of such failure.
Photo: Creative Commons license, No land too foreign (Title: Palestine)
(The opinions presented in this article represent those of the author and are not intended to represent the views of UF in any way, nor are they intended to represent the views of any organisation or company which the author represents. UF is a politically and religiously independent organisation.)