Israeli and Palestinian activists and scholars are critical of the escalation of the conflict, which leaves the main issues unresolved. For a Palestinian Catholic, “internal conflicts and tensions [in Israel and Palestine] mirror the failure of political leaders.” The two sides must change leadership. Israeli activist says military victory is no way “to achieve peace”.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Days of violence, rockets and bombs raining down on helpless civilians in Israel and the Gaza Strip have killed hundreds, including scores of children.
In the Palestinian enclave, which is more like an open-air prison, fragile structures are collapsing after the 11-day conflict. Now both Israel and the extremist Hamas and Islamic Jihad claim “victory” over the enemy, when in fact there are no real winners.
The issues that seemingly triggered the violence – Israel’s political crisis, the property dispute in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, free access to Haram esh-Sharif (Temple Mount) – are far from finding a solution, exacerbated by domestic tensions.
Bernard Sabella, a former Fatah representative and currently executive secretary of the Palestinian Refugee Service of the Council of Churches of the Middle East, is convinced that both sides “have lost”. In this situation, “what is left is a deep sadness for the victims, who were senselessly killed.”
After 11 days of war, “we are still at the starting point,” Sabella told AsiaNews. “We need more international cooperation to continue peace negotiations, but the rift remains unchanged: the Israelis say that the Palestinians do not want peace, while the Palestinians accuse the Israelis of not wanting it.
“When news of the truce came, I was live on a television programme and some Israeli leaders were against it, because they wanted to continue until Hamas was completely eliminated.”
Yet, for Sabella, “No one has won; everyone has lost”, and “internal conflicts and tensions [in Israel and Palestine] mirror the failure of political leaders to develop a peace project.
“I do not think that dialogue can start again under these conditions; the leaders of the two peoples are weak, for different reasons, and lack a vision, even on the Palestinian side.
“One cannot discuss without developing a unified approach to regulate relations with Israelis in the future. Palestinian weakness does not help; failure is linked to flaws on both sides.”
For the Palestinian scholar, there is some hope on the horizon “emerging from groups of young people who are calling for solutions to the conflict and are fighting for peace.”
However, “as Palestinians we must renew our political leadership and return to the negotiating table based on international law and a stronger post-conflict and land-sharing vision.
“In this sense, support from Europe and the United States is needed. So far, this has been missing, thus implicitly or explicitly favouring the land grab by Jewish settlers.”
Jeremy Milgrom, an Israeli rabbi and member of the NGO Rabbis for Human Rights, slams the latest round of fighting, a conflict without winners. In his view, “it has fuelled propaganda on all sides, that of Hamas in the Strip and that of Netanyahu who only wants to keep control of the government” to bypass his legal troubles.
For the rabbi, “All this is terrible. It will not lead to anything good for the civilian population. We need to change the way we think and stop seeing military victory as a way to achieve peace.”
“I am convinced that many Israelis are happy that the violence is over; some of them are really sorry for the injuries inflicted on the Palestinians”.
However, the many unresolved issues, including security in southern Israel near the Strip, as well as access to places of worship for prayer could lead to more violence in the future.
After the latest elections, “steps had been taken towards greater integration into the government of [Israel’s] Arabs,” Milgrom said, but the rockets slowed things down, and perhaps nipped the process in the bud.
Ultimately, for Sabella, “injustices and violence only generate further instability and do not help the process of change. Faced with a difficult situation, we must not lose hope; instead, we must continue to work for peace and justice.”