Hopes of Mid-East settlement steadily fade


Palestinian protesters run for cover from teargas fired by Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 14, 2018. AFP

There is a remarkable novel by well known Israeli writer Amos Oz titled 'Judas' that students of the Middle East issue, and other quarters with an interest in the problem, could benefit immensely by reading and reflecting on. In the novel, a principal character of a cynical bent, Gershom Wald, says that inasmuch as two men coveting the same woman, and consumed by jealousy of each other, would 'fight it out to the death', two groups of people aiming to own the same plot of land, would tend to be constantly daggers-drawn and averse to being reconciled with each other. How this situation becomes emblematic of the Middle East conflict is plain to see.

Current developments in the Middle East could incline even the more impartial observers of the conflict in question to agree with our cynic in Oz's novel. Hardly any progress has been made since 1947 in the direction of an enduring political settlement of the Middle East problem and the main antagonists to the conflict have remained essentially entrenched in their adversarial positions. To be sure, on and off there have been reasons to have hopes of a political settlement but these interludes of hopefulness have been brief. Most often than not it has been a case of 'War, war, war' and not productive 'Jaw, jaw, jaw'.

Gershom Wald in 'Judas' is in agreement with Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion's policy position of allying Israel with the then imperialist powers, Britain and France, for his perception is that this policy served Israel's vital interests best and the foremost among these were survival and security. Not surprisingly, under conservative, Right wing administrations, including the present one under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's national priorities have tended to remain almost the same. But this time around, it is mainly the US under the hawkish Trump administration that is playing the role of Israel's main ally and protector and not so much the former imperial powers or the EU.

Conservative opinion in Israel could not have found a more reliable ally than the Trump administration. They could not have hoped for a grander gesture of support than the recent establishment of a US embassy in Jerusalem, which action emphatically underlines US support for the state of Israel, regardless of the progress made in the direction of a political settlement in the Middle East. The Ben-Gurion foreign policy legacy is being persisted with, then, very vibrantly by the present Israeli government.

President Trump's recent decision to withdraw the US from the nuclear accord with Iran, further underscores US support for Israel. Iran is being seen by Israel as one its fiercest adversaries in the region and the withdrawal marks willingness on the part of the US to get on to a confrontational course with Iran for the sake of Israel.

Nevertheless, all Rightist Israeli governments, including the one headed by Ben-Gurion, subscribed to the 'Two State' solution in the Middle East. Surprisingly, even the Trump administration pays lip-service to it. This is something progressive opinion on the conflict could be happy over, but militarist approaches by Rightist governments in Israel and on the part of their main foreign ally are undermining hopes of a political settlement in the region and this is starkly evident in the region at present.

One would expect US governments to engage positively with Israel with a view to building further on the latter's 'Two State' policy. However, under Trump, the US seems to be adamant in undermining the possibility of such a constructive course. The dire results of this policy trajectory are today plain to see. The vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence in the region is spiralling well out of control. As this is being written, over 55 persons have been killed in the Gaza strip as a result of fresh clashes between the Israeli security forces and Hamas militants. The Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the Gaza border is intensifying the material hardships of the Gaza residents and the chances are that more and more Gazans would take to arms in an effort to redress their deprivations.

Meanwhile, growing hostility to the US in the Palestinian camp is having the effect of turning even the moderate West Bank administration under President Mahmoud Abbas against the US. While, the US should be in an effort to attract more and more moderates to future peace efforts, the hard line policy followed by the Trump administration could have the opposite result of turning even moderates into radicals. The possibility is great of the anti-US constituency growing in the Arab world.

On the external front, the hostility of states, such as Iran and Syria, towards Israel and the US is bound to be on the upswing. For example, current Israeli attacks on Iranian targets in Syria in retaliation to attacks on Israeli targets in the Golan Heights, have the potential of triggering a regional war of sorts, although some restraint could be expected to be exercised by the main parties.

Accordingly, the decades-long problem of Israeli and Palestinian insecurity remains hardly addressed. Both parties to the conflict are in dire need of clearly-defined territory they could call their own. This is the prime need that is crying out to be met. Our cynic in 'Judas' was right in pointing to the prime factor in the Middle East as being hotly contested land. But unless and until the land is peacefully shared, the bloody conflict would continue. The two sides need to be convinced of the virtue of sharing. This is the task before the world community. Unfortunately, the US is not contributing constructively to this cause. History would prove the inescapability of the sides recognizing and talking to each other. The 'Two State' solution remains the answer to the Middle East imbroglio.

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...