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What is next for Israel and Palestine?

Publié le, 24 octobre 2005 par

Par Sarah Ozacky-Lazar


ISRAEL - After a deadly hot Middle Eastern summer, dominated by the unilateral withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip, autumn is here bringing light winds, chilly nights, and trees full of new juicy fruits.

This year the holy Muslim month of Ramadan coincides with the holy Jewish month of Tishrei. Muslims and Jews are engaged in fasting and eating, family gatherings, social visits, prayers and wishes for forgiveness and renewal.

But politics is stuck! No new ideas, no breakthroughs, no moves towards each other. There was a hope for a summit meeting between Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas, but it was cancelled before even agreeing on its topics.

Israelis feel that they have paid high price by evacuating more then 20 settlements and uprooting thousands of people from their homes. The disengagement, as in was called here, ended fairly smooth with no serious clashes and no casualties among the security people or the settlers themselves. Those who predicted a major national trauma, a civil war, or unhealed wounds proved to be wrong. Some of the evacuated families still live in temporary residence or hotels, but it seem like the Israeli society has recovered sooner then expected from this major event.

The question is what is next for the two rival sides? What has the withdrawal achieved? Who is supposed to make the next move?

Theoretically the Palestinians should now respond to the huge compromise from the Israeli side. But the fact of the matter is that this was done unilaterally and with no mutual agreement, so the Palestinians do not see themselves responsible for any consent from their side. In the first week of October, when everyone was expecting at least a symbolic gesture for the Holidays, the Palestinians canceled the meeting between Sharon and Abbas claiming that no agreement has been reached concerning the release of Prisoners from Israeli jails. People in Israel see this as an ungrateful step, whereas the Palestinians demand more and more good will measures from the Israeli side.

Life in Gaza has not changed for good despite the Israeli withdrawal. After a few days of joy and spontaneous crossing of the wall that divided the city of Rafah for many years, the gloomy reality of poverty, unemployment, lack of hope and the feeling of living within a huge prison has prevailed. Gaza cannot survive without the Israeli oxygen. Food, medicine, patrol, goods and above all work, all come from Israel. Gaza has no self supplies. This is one of the most crowded places in the world with the highest birthrate. No wonder that in this atmosphere of dispair and hopelessness, the fundamental Islamic movements find fertile ground for their activities. Hammas, the Palestinian rebellious movement is becoming stronger and stronger, challenges the Palestinian Authority and in fact controls Gaza. The internal situation is one of chaos and disorder. Palestinian police and government cannot impose their power and decisions and the result is internal insecurity. The militant groups continue their attacks on Israel despite agreements with their Authority. The Israeli army responds to every attack and the cycle of violence does not end.

One should expect that the holiness of this month and the Holiday season would influence the leaders and peoples of both sides to come together and seek new channels of communication and dialogue. There are good naïve people in both sides who continue their efforts despite the despairing situation. But unfortunately we do not see at the moment any immediate solution to this long bitter conflict.

A combination of several steps can bring some hope to the region – improvement of the economic situation of the Palestinians, direct talks between the political leaders, stronger measures by the Palestinian Authority to impose itself on the street and graduate steps by Israel to ease its grip on the Palestinian population. All this and more should be done with the help of the international community in order to bring to an end this too long conflict which had claimed so many lives.