In the Israeli/Palestinian issue, the recent focus has been on the ever foundering US-brokered peace talks, the seemingly increasing internal divides within the two peoples and the endless row over who can and can’t build where in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Naturally, most commentators have been despairing that an end to the peace process will never be in sight, yet it is easy to overlook one factor for which all sides should be grateful.
The bulk of the coverage of the conflict in the last decade was just that - coverage of conflict. From the moment Yasser Arafat rejected Israel’s offer of a two-state solution at Camp David in 2000, the first ten years of the 21st century seemed to bring only violence and death.
Led by Arafat, the Palestinians then launched a second Intifada (uprising), this time characterised not by the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails, but by armed militant attacks and suicide bombings on civilian targets. The Israelis responded by trying to gut the Palestinian militant structure using all possible means, including the recruitment of collaborators and support of Palestinian moderates, as well as targeted assassinations of terrorist leaders and full-scale military operations.
Eventually, Israeli forces did manage to quell most of the violence; unfortunately, this came at a cost to everyone.
Not only were Palestinian lives lost, inevitably including some civilians, but military necessity required the construction of a physical barrier designed to separate Palestinian and Israeli communities, as well as a complex system of internal checkpoints and curfews in the West Bank.
Both of these strongly inconvenience and anger many ordinary Palestinians. In the aftermath of the violence, Israel instituted a total withdrawal of all Israelis from Gaza, and also evacuated four West Bank settlements.
Even this did not completely stop the violence. No longer able to penetrate into Israeli territory, terrorist groups in Gaza resorted to haphazardly firing rockets towards Israeli civilian centres. This greatly intensified after Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from the enclave in 2007, leading Israel and Egypt to blockade the strip in an attempt to prevent weapons from entering and to weaken Hamas’ rule.
After Hamas refused to renew a fragile 6-month truce in December 2008, Israel conducted a full-scale incursion into Gaza in a bid to finally buy itself some peace. This also came at a huge cost, both to the Palestinians living in Gaza and to Israel in terms of its standing in the international community (though Hamas recently admitted that the majority of the Palestinians killed in that incursion were combatants.)
And yet it is because of both Israel’s West Bank security measures and Gaza military actions that the headlines can speak of construction and negotiations rather than death and destruction.
It is easy to overlook the progress that has been made as a result of this relative calm. Having grown weary of violence and seeing a greater existential threat from Hamas than from Israel, the Palestinian Authority has been cooperating with Israeli security forces on an unprecedented level, helping to penetrate terror networks and bringing violence in the West Bank down to virtually nil.
In return, Israel has removed most internal checkpoints in the West Bank and every-day life has become increasingly normal for the residents there. Arguably the most important Palestinian figure has been PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is the first Palestinian leader in history to push for his people to break out of the mentality of victimhood and “resistance” and rather focus on actually improving their lives.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
9 posts so far.