Photo: Nickolay Mladenov (on screen), the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefs the Security Council. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas - Photo: 2018

Israeli-Palestinian Escalation Ends But Peace Nowhere in Sight

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK (IDN) – The Israeli-Palestinian conflict “doesn’t seem to have a solution”, says the renowned conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim who has been striving to promote peace through the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, comprising young musicians from Israel and the Arab world.

Yet, as a Messenger of Peace, he puts hope in the United Nations to resolve the conflict whose roots are traced to the late 19th century, with the rise of national movements, including Zionism and Arab nationalism.

The world body indeed has a solution meanwhile: it calls for “two states for two groups of people.” The two-state solution envisages an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, west of the Jordan River.

But in order to materialise, the solution must be supported not only by the international community and the five permanent members of the Security Council – USA, Russia, China, Britain and France – but also by Israel.

“If any side fails, every side fails,” Nikolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the Security Council on November 19 – against the backdrop of some of the fiercest fighting since the 2014 Gaza conflict, from November 11-13.

This was another dangerous escalation of violence in Gaza that risked unleashing an armed conflict with “catastrophic consequences for two million impoverished Palestinian people who live under the control of Hamas and have endured three wars and crippling Israeli closures,” he said.

The escalation was triggered by an operation by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) inside the Gaza Strip in which a local commander of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades and six other Palestinians were killed. One IDF officer was also killed and a second was injured in the incident.

In the hostilities, some 450 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel by militants in Gaza, and in response, Israel carried out airstrikes on 160 militant targets, including a Hamas-affiliated TV station and a hotel.

In the following two days, militants in Gaza launched some 450 rockets and mortars at Israel, including at the towns of Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot, killing one Palestinian civilian and seriously wounding one Israeli civilian. An IDF soldier was also seriously wounded by a targeted anti-tank guided-missile strike on a bus transporting military personnel in K’far Aza.

The IDF responded in turn with a series of airstrikes on 160 militant targets, including a Hamas-affiliated TV station and a hotel, resulting in the killing seven Palestinians – at least four identified by the Israeli Army as members of armed groups.

“The fragility of the situation underscores the urgency to fundamentally change the dynamics on the ground, that address the underlying political issues,” Mladenov told the 15-nation Security Council, adding: “Two million Palestinians in Gaza cannot be held hostage to political grandstanding and brinkmanship. Their lives matter and they deserve real leadership that addresses the real problems of Gaza.”

This outbreak of violence came just as the United Nations and its partners were intensifying efforts to alleviate Gaza’s deepening humanitarian and economic crises, and to provide space for ongoing Egyptian-led efforts to advance intra-Palestinian reconciliation. “This is essential to ending the occupation and resolving the wider political conflict,” said the senior UN official.

Significant headway had already been made on the implementation of the package of urgent interventions endorsed by the September Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) meeting in New York.

In October, the United Nations started importing and monitoring the delivery of donor-funded fuel to Gaza’s power plant. This resulted in the greatest supply of electricity since March 2017, a minimum of eleven hours per day – thanks very much due to the  Government of the State of Qatar for its generous funding to this end.

The impact has been immediate: water supply has increased, the risk of sewage overflow has been reduced; hospitals are less dependent on precarious generators; street lights are on again; children can study and play more; and families have more cash in hand to meet their daily needs.

These improvements however are temporary. They provide much needed relief, but can do little to reverse the longstanding, structural problems affecting Gaza, driven by years of crippling closures and Hamas control.

Implementation of the other urgent humanitarian interventions in Gaza must also be expedited. Mladenov and his team are continuing to engage with the Palestinian Government, with donors and partners on the ground, to support several initiatives.

These include finding a sustainable solution to Gaza’s electricity and health problems, increasing the supply of potable water, medical supplies and sewage treatment. These should take place alongside concerted efforts to rescue the economy through cash-for-work and other emergency measures.

Yet, the international community cannot bear the burden of addressing Gaza’s problems alone. The primary responsibility falls on the parties themselves. “The clock on intra-Palestinian reconciliation is ticking,” the senior UN official said.

He has urged all Palestinian parties to not waste time and engage in earnest and achieve visible progress in the coming six months. This is in the interest of the Palestinian people. It is in the interests of peace.

“The success of international efforts in Gaza depends on the parties’ willingness to confront the inevitable hurdles, withstand the internal political consequences, and stay committed to the reconciliation process over the long-term,” Mladenov told the Security Council.

He is of the view that Hamas and militant groups must stop all provocations and attacks, Israel must significantly improve the movement and access of goods and people to and from Gaza as a step towards the lifting of the closures, in line with the Security Council Resolution 1860; and the Palestinian Authority must strengthen its engagement in Gaza, which is an integral part of the Palestinian territory. [IDN-InDepthNews – 22 November 2018]

Photo: Nickolay Mladenov (on screen), the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefs the Security Council. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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