Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 378, 19 May 2021

Israel-Palestine: Who wants what?
Udbhav Krishna P

In the news
On 18 May, a White House statement stated that President Joe Biden had extended his support for a ceasefire in the Israel- Palestine conflict during the phone call with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As of 18 May, Gaza health officials reported that at least 212 Palestinians had been killed, including 61 children and 36 women, in more than a week of fighting. Meanwhile, ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children. Around 3,350 rockets have been fired by militants from Gaza, and retaliatory air and artillery strikes by Israel have killed 130 Palestinian combatants.

On 16 May, Israel destroyed a 12-storey tower block in Gaza, that housed the US-based Associated Press and other news media, saying the building was also used by the Islamist militant group Hamas.

On 13 May, Israel carried out airstrikes on the Gaza strip, increased their deployment of troops and tanks along the Gaza border despite international calls for calm. Later in a statement, the Israeli army denied that any such ground offensive had started.

Issues at large
First, what does Israel want? In the immediate future, Israel would want the militants in Gaza to stop their rocket attacks and also disarm. Israel would also prefer the Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood to vacate their homes after the court ruling that Jewish families held historical claims to the land. In the long run, Israel would want the whole of Jerusalem as their capital. Israel would not let Palestinians claim more land for themselves as this could threaten the overall demography of the region, threatening the survival of the Jewish state.

Second, what does Palestine want? Immediately, Palestine would want an end to the police violence in East Jerusalem and West Bank and the air and artillery strikes on Gaza. They demand the non-eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. In the long run, Palestinians would want East Jerusalem to be the capital of the State of Palestine. However, the Palestinians are highly divided. The Palestinian Authority believes in a two-state solution and diplomatic negotiations with Israel; it does not want more Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In contrast, Hamas, which governs Gaza, believes in an armed struggle against Israel for Palestinian statehood. Hamas wants to gain more support in the West Bank as they feel Fatah is weak and they are the only strong resistance of Palestinians against Israel. 

Third, what does the Arab world want? The Arab world has uniformly condemned the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and Israeli police invasion into Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque. The UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, which had recently recognized Israel, also openly criticized Israel's policies and called for the support of Palestinians and defence of Jerusalem. Egypt, Qatar and Jordan are trying to negotiate a solution to the crisis. In the long term, they too agree with a two-state solution. 

Fourth, what does the US want? The US wants a ceasefire and violence to end in the region. They have sent an envoy Hady Amr to diffuse tension between Israel and Palestine. In the long run, the US would want Israel to find an acceptable solution and accommodate the interests of the Palestinians.

In perspective
First, the international failure. The UN and other big and regional powers have failed to reach an understanding. They could not end the violence, pressurize the actors and broker a ceasefire. The United States, an ally of Israel, has blocked any statement from the UN. Second, countries like Egypt could not force Hamas to stop firing rockets and reach a ceasefire.  Countries like Turkey are trying to garner support for the Palestinians and establish themselves as their messiah and improve their regional standing in the Middle East.

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