Another year of attempted compromise has once again failed to resolve a conflict which appears so frequently in the media that, day by day, any solution to a lasting peace now looks increasingly out of reach.
Israel-Palestine –the world’s biggest oxymoron – has, yet again, not failed to disappoint the sceptics who believe that no solution can ever be found. It was in September this year that President Obama launched his effort to conciliate the two sides and find a way to establish a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank. Sadly, although enthusiasm
and determination were not lacking, the facts on the ground and the lingering mistrust once again drove the peace-process under.
Yet again, the same issues of Jerusalem’s sovereignty, borders, settlement building, return of refugees and security have proven insurmountable. The negotiators of Benjamin Netanyahu (Israeli Prime Minister) and Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian President.) Have been unwilling to make the big concessions needed for a lasting peace.
The main issues are:
Security: A contentious issue – Israel says that a future Palestinian state cannot be guaranteed. Hamas controlled Gaza and the murder of Israeli civilians by Palestinian extremists is a prime example of security failures. However, Mahmoud Abbas argues that a future Palestinian state cannot function with Israeli troops on its territory- an army which does not protect Palestinians from Ultra Orthodox Jewish settler attacks. Right-wing Israeli cabinet ministers such as Avigdor Lieberman state terrorism as the main threat towards Israel’s reluctance to stop settlement building and Israeli military
Land and Borders: The Palestinians insist on leading negotiations on the pre 1967 border basis. (The West Bank and Gaza were annexed by Israel from Jordan and Egypt respectively after their extraordinary defeat during the Six Day War in June ’67). The Israelis would like to keep East Jerusalem and some settlements in the West Bank.
Jerusalem: A religiously important city for Christians, Jews and Muslims, Jerusalem has been fought over for thousands of years. Israel argues that it whole city is theirs while the Palestinians want East Jerusalem. Building in East Jerusalem by private Israeli contractors is deemed illegal under international law and has, for now, halted direct talks between Israel and Palestine.
Refugees: The Palestinian refugees displaced by the Arab-Israeli conflict demand to be allowed back into Israel to settle back on their land (there is contention as to whether it was Israeli military action or the pressure of invading Arab armies which led to the evacuation of Palestinians). This would alter demographic s in Israel, where now 20% of Israel is Palestinian; the balance would shift against the Jews in what they consider their own state. Israel would prefer ‘compensation.’
Settlements: Palestinians would prefer no remaining Israeli settlements in their future state, but are prepared for land exchanges. Israel is also ready for compromise (except on Jerusalem) but the details have yet to be decided on.
Looking forwards into this New Year, the predictions for peace between two neighbours looks as grim as ever, however both the Israeli and Palestinian populations dream but for one thing; lasting peace. Will their leaders step forwards and close the deal which Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat started in 1995 through the signing of the Oslo accords?