Israel and Palestine face ugly rumors of peace

Over the last week Israeli and Palestinian leaders have spoken of different ways to attain peace, but the rockets still fly. Meanwhile, the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip widens as the Palestinian Authority accuses Hamas of negotiating with Israel and Washington behind its back.

Tensions reached new heights when Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA), announced that Palestine would submit a proposal for its independence to the the United Nations. In the address to members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Algeria, Abbas sounded confident that the world was ready for the end of Israeli occupation. “All the states in favor of freedom, justice and peace support the Palestinian struggle.” Abbas called on those states to  actively support his proposal to “help end the occupation” so that the Palestinian people could have a sovereign state. Reactions all over the world were mixed, but the U.S., with its deciding vote on the UN Security counsel, made its stance on the proposal quite clear. “It would be D.O.A. – dead on arrival,” said Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE). “It’s a waste of time.”

Israel responded with an announcement that such a move would prompt it to annex parts of the West Bank. It followed this threat with action, announcing on Wednesday that it would build 900 new dwellings in Palestinian East Jerusalem. UN Chief Ban-Ki Moon released a statement admonishing Israel. “The secretary-general deplores the government of Israel’s decision today to expand Gilo settlement, built on Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.” Britain and the U.S. followed in suit. “Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally pre-empt, or appear to pre-empt, negotiations,” said Obama’s Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Through his lawyer, jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti encouraged Palestinians to begin a popular resistance. Last month he told them that anyone who believed negotiations with the current Israeli government were possible is delusional.

Also on Wednesday, rockets from the Gaza Strip hit their Israeli target. On Thursday Israel responded by bombing Gaza, specifically, two tunnels at the Rafah Crossing (Gaza’s border with Egypt) and a facility said to be occupied by Hamas’ armed wing, the Al-Qasam Brigades. All of this as media outlets allege that Israel is negotiating the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier that has been held by Hamas for years, through a German mediator.

But are rumors of negotiations just rumors? In an interview, Mahmoud Abbas declared that Hamas was negotiating with Israel behind the PA’s back, claiming they are working with Washington on a two-part deal. In the first part, Israel would establish temporary Palestinian borders and slowly pull out of the territories. In the second part, permanent Palestinian borders would be established in exchange for recognition of Israel’s right to exist. Hamas flatly denied that these plans exist, saying that they “do not negotiate with the occupation.”

Distrust between Palestinian factions has been a major hindrance in the peace process since the brief civil war in 2007 that expelled the Palestinian Authority from Gaza. The split in leadership has lead to crises of legitimacy for Hamas as well as the PA. In the PA-controlled West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to resign and, in an effort to avoid a crises of leadership, pushed back elections to be held this winter. Israel blames Palestinian disunity, in part, for the failure of peace negotiations. Hawkish Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that, “During Operation Cast Lead, the Palestinian Authority pressured us to crush Hamas…Then, a month later, they submitted a complaint against us to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.”

On Saturday, Nov. 21, Hamas announced that it had reached an agreement with all militant factions in Gaza to temporarily cease firing rockets at Israel. On Sunday, Israel attacked Palestine, targeting more weapons facilities and tunnels. Now Palestinian factions are saying they never signed a cease-fire agreement, and they will not honor it. Hamas’ political adviser, Ahmed Yusuf, called the attacks “an invitation to escalate the conflict.” As all sides point fingers at the other, the world hopes that some of the rumors of peace are true.

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  1. Daniel

    Who wrote this article?




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