At least 55 Palestinians dead in the Gaza Strip, 2,700 wounded. Is anyone surprised by this turn of events? If you are, you shouldn’t be.
It was inevitable. The peace process is moribund, and with it the hopes of the approximately 2 million people crammed into this narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean between Israel and Egypt. According to Alexandra Zavis in Monday’s Times, much of the water in Gaza today is undrinkable. Most homes get only a few hours of electricity each day. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Half the population is unemployed. Every few years there’s a new round of violence, usually involving rockets fired by militants into Israel, followed by a devastating Israeli counter-assault.
So what surprise is there that Palestinians in Gaza are without hope, fantasizing about a homeland they’ve never seen, willing to cross the border fence and face down better-armed Israeli soldiers in futile protest?
Of course the Israelis are right that there’s been violence at the recent protests; the photos of the rock throwers and the fiery kite fliers are pretty unequivocal. But the Palestinians counter, correctly, that the vast majority of the demonstrators are peaceful — and besides, don’t people who’ve lived under occupation for 50 years have a right to protest? But there is no occupation, comes the predictable retort — Israeli soldiers and settlers were pulled out of Gaza years ago. To which the Palestinians respond: Israel didn’t really leave Gaza; it still controls the ingress and egress of people and goods, thanks to a punishing blockade imposed in 2007.
What’s needed today is not blame, but renewed effort to bring the parties back to the table to negotiate a just peace.
And so it continues. The cycle of blame stretches back past the Hamas takeover of Gaza, past two intifadas, past 1973, past 1967, past 1956. “Original sin,” in the eyes of the Palestinians, is the establishment of Israel on Palestinian land 70 years ago Monday; to the Israelis, it’s the unwillingness of the Palestinians to recognize that fledgling country.
What’s needed today is renewed effort to bring the parties back to the table to negotiate a just peace that creates two secure, independent, sovereign states living side by side.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to see how that happens without the assistance of the United States. And this week, with its reckless, provocative and one-sided relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — thus conceding Israeli sovereignty over that much-disputed city — the Trump administration further undermined its claim to be an honest broker. That’s another step backward in the search for peace.