Another Cycle Of Violence In The Holy Land

A tower in Gaza City, which housed the offices of The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike on Saturday.

Credit: Hosam Salem

What started as a dispute over mental barricades in Jerusalem has now brought Israel and Gaza on the brink of war. Since May 10th, Palestinians have fired more than a thousand rockets at Israel, which has carried out airstrikes in return. It is by far the most violent warfare since 2004.

Israel claims to have destroyed the homes of Hamas leaders. Both sides have threatened more violence despite the call from the United States, EU and Arab countries (some of which supply weapons to Hamas). Tor Wennesland, UN's envoy to the Middle East, warned that the conflict might be escalating towards full-scale war.

The trouble started with a clash over land, later intensified by religious leaders in Jerusalem. In this case, it was a sunken plaza around the Damascus Gate, one of the accent entrances. In April, the holy month of Ramadan, the Chief of Israel police decided to fence off the area for security reasons. The decision was later reversed, but the damage was already done, especially between young Palestinians and police.

On May 10th, Jews nationalist marched as they do every year- a holiday marking the capture of Jerusalem. The last-minute order from Prime Minister Netanyahu angered the marchers. At the same time, Hamas fired their rockets on Israel, setting off air-sirens.

Whether Israel can defeat Hamas without shedding blood may affect how Israel thinks about Netanyahu's long-running policy of managing rather than solving problems with Palestinians. However, most of Israel's politicians have ignored the conflicts, and most Israelis seem to be comfortable with Netanyahu's "anti-solutionism" policy.

Palestinian leaders have made it effortless for Israel to give up on peace. Hamas is more engrossed in firing rockets than enhancing the lives of Gazans. Its rival, Fatah, has not done much better in the West Bank. Mahmoud Abbas's leader is in the 17th year of a four-year term as Palestine's president. He seems concerned essentially with preserving his own authority. On April 29th, blaming Israel for restricting voting in East Jerusalem, he indefinitely postponed Fatah's elections.

With little hope of a better future, a good number of young Palestinians favor confronting Israel. That makes repeated fits of deadly violence inevitable. Only negotiations can deliver lasting peace. Western and regional powers should push for them to resume; Israeli and Palestinian leaders should come to the table. Solving the conflict will be even more challenging than controlling it. But talking is the one permanent way out.

-Kabir Kalia

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