torsdag 17 juli 2014

Eyeless in Gaza

Yet again the Israelis are the baddies. It is easy to condemn from the security of Sevenoaks. However, if rockets were regularly fired in their direction, the residents of Sevenoaks would quickly demand that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

That said, there still enough Israelis who would be happy to see a deal done, if they were convinced that it would stick. If the Israelis were confident that the deal would hold, there is no reason why the militarily indefensible 1948 Armistice border would not be acceptable. And there's the rub.

The trouble is that the Palestinians have mishandled the situation since 1947. The state of Israel was declared on the basis of the 1947 UN award, which was territory that had mostly been purchased from landowners. It was then attacked by five of the neighbouring countries and when the armistice was agreed, that settled the border until 1967, with Jerusalem divided and no access by Jews to the traditional holy sites.

In the meantime, the Gaza strip was occupied by Egypt and the West Bank and half of Jerusalem by Jordan, both acting illegally. Throughout the period there were sporadic raids into Israel and regular firing from the Golan Heights, then part of Syria.

In 1967 Nasser asked the Swedish UN force to leave and assembled a huge invasion force and blockaded the port of Eilat. Israel launched a pre-emptive strike, whilst Jordan attacked, and the result of that was that Israel ended up in occupation of the entire West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Gaza strip and the Sinai desert. At the time, the Israelis were anxious to get out of all the occupied territories but nobody on the Arab side would even sit down in the same room and negotiate.

Sinai was handed back to Egypt as part of a peace agreement after Anwar Sadat took a personal initiative which cost him his life. The Israelis withdrew from Gaza and forcibly removed the settlers. The inhabitants of the Golan Heights are Druze, supporters of Israel, and the younger generation are applying for Israeli citizenship and join the Israeli army.

The problem for the Palestinians is that they missed the window of opportunity of dealing with the Israelis during the long period when the government was left-of-centre social democratic. Eventually the mood changed and the Israeli government is composed of hard-liners. If things are to change, the Palestinians will have to make sustained and reassuring noises.

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