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The Sick Men Of Middle-East: Prospects for Peace – OpEd

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The conflict between Israel and Palestine that ensued on 6th of May 2021 has spiralled with heaviest flare-up since 2014 Gaza war. The conflict led to killing of over 200 Palestinians and 10 Israelis by 17th of May 2021. The conflict has escalated into one of the most intensive aerial exchange with barrage of rocket fires targeting Tel Aviv and Israel responding with aerial bombardments and ground strikes. The flare-up is not a recent phenomenon rather frequent occurring one, even on trifles. 

This time the clashes broke out over an anticipated decision of Israeli Supreme Court. The decision is pending about eviction of four Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood as part of a long legal battle with right-wing Jewish Israelis trying to acquire property in the neighbourhood. The case famous as ‘Sheikh Jarrah property dispute’ is going on since 1948. Hamas had already warned of a serious violence in case eviction is ordered. Israeli administration too was apprehensive about an escalation of violence amidst the pending decision or they may have their own intelligence about it. The site from where violence began has been al-Aqsa Mosque or al-Haram al-Sharif as Muslims call it or Temple Mount as Israelis address it. Recent spate of violence has jolted most countries of the world with Palestinian supporters protesting on streets and governments trying to impress upon Israel to calm down, but in vain. 

Several peace accords have been hammered out in the past from Camp David, Wye River, to Oslo have witnessed the evolution of ‘Palestinian Authority’ (PA) after a consistent struggle under the banner of PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). PA is way short of a full-fledged state in legal and political parlance. Hence, the conflict persists. Conflict have been managed to an extent but could not be mitigated and the extent of animosities that exist among both the communities at war with each other, seems unworkable for any endeavour towards conflict transformation. The co-habitation between the two communities seems next to impossible. Ever since the Belfour Declaration of 1917 that led to creation of Israel in 1948, a Jew’s State on Arab land, violence as the fate of Israel-Palestine, the sick men of Middle-East, has been sealed.  

Who is responsible?

Again, it is impossible to fix the responsibility. Fact remains that Israel has been curved out on an Arab land. Owing to subsequent support from Western countries mainly US and Britain, few thousand Jews population swelled to nearly nine million as of today. Undoubtedly, this grime fact of history would always remain contested by the Islamic world. On the other hand, Jews required to be settled with territorial state of their own. However, political leaders should have been visionary enough to visualize the future course of peace in the land where they wished to create a Jewish state, and also created the same. Broken families, perpetual violence, historical animosities between two religious’ communities, and an unsettled social and political life; this is what has been delivered to the people of Palestine through Western orchestrated erstwhile peace process. 

Under such circumstances, Muslims need to accept the fate of their land and territory and could have evolved a non-violent movement to pressure the West as well as Israel to bargain concessions for themselves. The violent protest has brought them nothing but permanent conditions of turbulence and unmaking of peace. Violence has made the conflict, a breeding ground of terrorism. Today, Hamas and Hezbollah are branded more of a terrorist outfit than representatives of people and political leaders. The entire dynamic of the conflict has gone haywire. Both the Palestine and the Israel are now the sick men of Middle-east. What could be the way out?

The Way Out?

Both Israel as well as the Palestinians need to bend and mend their ways to attain peace in future. The suggestions may sound trifle and standard ones. Nevertheless, following alone could be the way out to give ‘Peace’ a chance. 

Israel:

  • Israel has proved its intelligence, capabilities and technological prowess to the world. They have not only overcome the constraints of their geography but have transformed those constraints into their strength. With over 21,000 square kilometres of territories, they have more maritime zone i.e., Exclusive Economic Zone to their keg than land. Hence, under such circumstance peace would bring them more of prosperity and liberty for their citizens. Given its proven capacity, Israel can demonstrate the same prowess in the field of diplomacy as an instrument of toning down the conflict and usher into an era of peace. 
  • Israel has support of most Western countries and also in other parts of the world. Using such supports, they may enter into negotiations with different factions of Palestinians as they have an edge over them. Palestinians have always been at the receiving end of the conflict. Hence, they would be more than willing to negotiate peace with Israel; if not, Israel may use its intelligence infrastructure and acumen to prepare Palestinians for negotiations and resolve the impending issues in spirit of cooperation. 
  • Israel has successfully divided the unity of the Arab world by entering into deals with Egypt, Jordan and UAE then why not with Palestinians.    
  • Israel must not allow its internal political compulsions to prevail over its external relations with Palestinians. Netanyahu stands almost de-seated from political power and the internal political unity of Israel at this juncture seems to be passing through a testing time. Under such circumstances, many may have been thinking that Israel is resorting to high-scale violence to divert the attention of its own citizen to an external cause and dissensions to hold on to power. Political power may be temporary when it comes to serve the people, peace would be of historical importance for a political leader. 
  • A broken family ceases to be a stakeholder in society. Once, they feel they have nothing to lose, they become vulnerable to forces working at cross-purposes. Such members of society become potent force for recruits as terrorist, and resort to violence. Hence, Israel must think of restoring such families rather than breaking more families by resorting to violence. Terrorists are our own creations because of certain social and political fallouts. 

Palestine:

  • Palestine needs to understand that if they fall into the hands of terrorist groups external to their territories, then they would be losing grounds with Israel and even the world communities would stand against them and would be critical of them. Hence, they treat the conflict as endogenous barring any outside interference. 
  • Palestinians need to think with pragmatic approach that their own brethren in the Islamic world have been betraying their cause, except that at some times they just pay lip service to their cause for solace to them. Under such circumstances they have to fend for themselves. Violence would not bring them their land, but there are possibilities that peace may deliver what they desire. Over last 70 years they have given to violence to attain peace; why not they should think of giving another 40 to 50 years to peace to attain perpetual peace. 
  • History bears witness to the fact that violence has only taken toll on life, it has never ever provided peace to the people. Today, France, Germany and Britain who fought ferociously two world wars have successfully come out of the quagmire of violence and are prosperous nation-states of the world. All territorial disputes have gone silent among them. History, thus provides cruel lessons to the world community. Palestinians must learn from the history and should not allow to repeat it in their life and region.
  • Terrorist outfits like IS and al-Qaida are predatory in nature. They keep looking for disturbed regions and disgruntled communities in the Islamic world, so that they may exploit their vulnerabilities to serve their vested interests. Conflict prone regions are safe havens for such outfits to foment further violence on the name of protecting religion and culture. What they say, they hardly ever mean. Their ambitions are different. Terrorism today is more of a business, with serious economic dimensions than political. Hence, Palestine must not become a victim at the hands of such forces. They can use their international clout to prevail over Israel through the instrumentality of Diplomacy.   

Imperatives for Both Israel and Palestine:

  • Both Israel and Palestine need to understand that US would provoke Israel by recognising its ‘right to defend’ against Palestinians and would provide solace to Palestinians that violence is not the way out, and that they are working with Israeli leaders to broker a ceasefire. Violence is the product of geopolitical imaginations of major powers of the world like US, Russia, China, France, Germany etc., who are stakeholders in the Middle East. Thus, to keep the geopolitics in their own favour they would keep the region disturbed. Hence, both must understand and avoid falling into big-power traps. 
  • Both must not also expect from multilateral organizations like UN or its agencies that they would be instrumental towards negotiating a peace for them. Rather both must understand that these multilateral organizations are also the handmaiden of major powers of the world. These organizations themselves suffer from ‘crisis of legitimacy’, in the eyes of international community, hence how far they would be able to deliver legitimacy to the cause of peace, between the parties at war with each other. Hence, both need to evolve their own mechanism minimising their reliance on international organizations. 
  • In the contemporary world order, when military diplomacy has given way to economic diplomacy, why both Israel and Palestine must depend on war as an alternative means of diplomacy. Both need to understand that prosperity would usher only when there is peace in social life. Hence, Israel can play a larger role towards facilitating prosperity through enhanced economic engagement of Palestinians. Greater economic engagement would make the population as stakeholders in social life and hence in peace. Therefore, both must explore possibilities of enhanced economic activities and engagement of their youth. 

Conclusion:

Both the sick men of Middle East are victim of great power politics and of their own doings and blinkered approaches. Nature of conflict has also undergone changes with changing geopolitical equations in the region. Unlawful activities, discriminations, excessive use of force would never beget peace. Peace would remain eluded from the region, unless good sense prevails on both the sick men. Direct negotiations and dealings between Israel and Palestine, is the only way out as most other powers will be motivated by their own vested geopolitical interests. 

*Alok Kumar Gupta, Associate Professor and HoD, Department of Politics and International Relations Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Central University of Jharkhand 

Dr. Alok Kumar Gupta

Dr. Alok Kumar Gupta, Associate Professor Department of Politics and International Relations, Central University of Jharkhand Ranchi, Jharkhand, India

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