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Palestinians following an air strike in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday.
Palestinians following an air strike in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

'Solutions are possible, but we are lacking political will': Is there any hope that Israel and Palestine could reach a peace agreement?

Violence has escalated between the two sides in recent weeks.
May 15th 2021, 9:30 AM 9,801 0

THE CONFLICT BETWEEN Israelis and Palestinians has reached its worst levels since 2014. 

Violence has escalated in recent weeks in the occupied Palestinian territories, east Jerusalem and Israel. This has sparked international concern and condemnation.

The conflict has resulted in more than 100 deaths, including over 30 children. More than 800 people have been injured so far. 

The conflict and search for peaceful solutions between the two sides has been ongoing for decades.

Let’s take a look at whether a peaceful resolution is possible, and the issues currently standing in the way of an agreement. 

‘Disaster unfolding’

Adjunct assistant professor in international peace studies at Trinity College Dublin, Dr Yaser Alashqar, said there is a “disaster unfolding” in Israel and Palestine.

Alashqar, who was born in Gaza, teaches conflict studies and Middle Eastern politics.  

“I am concerned about the escalating situation, for sure,” he told The Journal. 

“There is a lot of suffering on the ground, certainly in Gaza. There is a lot of violence, there are a lot of attacks.” 

He does not see anything changing in the short-term, however. “Most likely we are not going to see a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue in the near future,” he said. 

I think political solutions are possible, but what we are lacking is the political will.

israel-air-strikes-in-gaza-palestine-12-may-2021 Smoke rising from a building destroyed by Israeli air strikes this week. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

He said there are a number of obstacles in the way of any possible solutions, including the “right-wing movement and leaders in Israel at the moment”.

Israel held elections in March, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor the opposition parties winning a governing majority. 

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and his allies won 52 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

This was Israel’s fourth election in the space of two years. The three previous elections were inconclusive and Netanyahu had been hoping for a decisive victory that would allow him to form a government with his traditional ultra-Orthodox and hard-line nationalist allies.

He has since failed to form a government coalition, and now his political rivals have to try and form one in the coming weeks. 

Alashqar said another issue is the “divided” European Union which he says has played an economic role giving aid to Palestinians, but not enough of a political role.

He said the differing approaches in EU member states is an obstacle in its overall political involvement. 

israel-air-strikes-on-gaza-after-hamas-rocket-attacks The Gaza Strip this week. Source: Mahmoud Khattab

He also said that division within Palestinian politics and parties also “does not help” the peace process.

Palestinians are ruled by two governments – one led by Fatah in the West Bank and the other by militant group Hamas in Gaza.

Mahmoud Abbas, the 85-year-old leader of Fatah, recently cancelled planned elections.

These were the first elections scheduled since 2006 and Abbas currently faces unprecedented challenge from political rivals.

Alashqar said: “I am concerned about the escalating situation but we also have to understand that the war in Palestine has been going on since 1948. 

“Since then, we have seen this war that is continuing until today.” 

Foreign Affair Minister Simon Coveney told the Israeli Ambassador at a meeting this week that the loss of life in Gaza was “completely unacceptable”. 

Coveney tweeted that the cycle of violence must end, stating that Ireland will continue to raise concerns in the United Nations Security Council, where Ireland is a member.

This council will meet tomorrow to address the conflict as Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a “cessation of hostilities”.

‘Really worrying’  

Mona Sabella, board member of NGO Sadaka, the Ireland Palestine Alliance, is originally from Jerusalem but now lives in Dublin.

She is currently in Jerusalem where she has been visiting family for the past month. 

186382598_1735574796623026_1269340529851053349_n View from the roof of Sabella's grandparent's home in Jerusalem. Source: Mona Sabella

“I haven’t seen my family for like a year-and-a-half and I’d been really looking forward to seeing them,” she told The Journal. 

“Of course, the situation has been ongoing since then, but it’s an issue that has been ongoing for many years.” 

Her family lives in a Jerusalem suburb, so Sabella said they are “relatively safe”. 

“The situation all over is really worrying.

“I have family living in the Old City. My aunts and uncles have been witnessing a lot of Israeli solider aggression, particularly against Muslim worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan.” 

She said the recent conflict is something people living in the city are used to at this point, but believes the heightened tensions in the past few weeks have made people across the world “realise what is really happening”. 

“I think because of the situation in Sheikh Jarrah – a neighbourhood where there’s a good few Palestinian families at risk of being forcibly removed from their houses – they have been great in terms of building a movement of solidarity,” she said. 

185919113_937477597089043_840902704030529447_n The entrance to the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem in 2019. Source: Mona Sabella

“People are starting to understand a little bit more what is really going on here and that it’s a systematic issue and problem that has been going on since 1948.

It’s a very difficult situation and everyone is really concerned about the flare up.

She believes there is a “real possibility that things will escalate if there is no international intervention”. 

“One would hope that we would end up having a just solution where the two sides can live equally with rights respected and so on, but at the moment how things are going, I’m very, very doubtful of any kind of resolution as long as there’s these very active movements to annex more land.”

She said there’s “no foundation” for a peaceful solution at the moment and that “this is where the role of the international community comes in”. 

“It’s difficult to think about a possible peaceful solution or a peaceful agreement right now.”  

Human Rights Watch said last month that Israel is committing the crime of “apartheid” by seeking to maintain Jewish “domination” over Palestinians and its own Arab population, an allegation that was fiercely denounced by Israel.

Currently under investigation by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, Israel blasted the NGO’s accusations as “preposterous and false”, accusing the group of having “a long-standing anti-Israeli agenda”.

HRW said its finding that Israel is “committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution” against Palestinians was based on robust sourcing including government planning materials and statements by public officials.

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The group said its findings apply to Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, the blockaded Gaza Strip, annexed east Jerusalem as well as Arab Israelis – a term referring to Palestinians who stayed on their land following Israel’s creation in 1948.

israel-air-strikes-on-gaza-after-hamas-rocket-attacks Ambulance crews treating a man with a head injury after Israeli strikes in the northern Gaza Strip. Source: Ahmad Hasaballah

Events in recent weeks  

Peace talks for Israel and Palestine have been ongoing for decades, but no resolution has yet been reached.

The US recently formed a peace plan under former president Donald Trump. It was described as the “deal of the century” by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but was dismissed by Palestines as one-sided.

Much of the recent unrest between the two sides stems from the long-running legal effort by Jewish settler groups to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

The case in question dates back to before the creation of the state of Israel.

The Middle East Quartet – the US, Russia, EU and the UN – have expressed “deep concern” over the escalating violence. 

Netanyahu said on Friday that Israel had no plans on relenting in its attacks against Hamas in Gaza, after heavy bombardment targeting the Islamists in the Palestinian enclave.

“They attacked our capital, they fired rockets at our cities. They’re paying and will continue to pay dearly for that,” he said.

“It’s not over yet.”

- Additional reporting by AFP.

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Orla Dwyer

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