PARIS - Intense negotiations are underway in the Middle East. Diplomats are scrambling to negotiate a ceasefire and to end the latest confrontation in Gaza between Hamas, now armed with real military firepower, and the Israel Defense Forces. While an Israeli ground offensive would once again plunge this tortured territory into the abyss, there is, however, every reason to believe that the best a de-escalation can guarantee is a status quo ante – a return to the way things were before this latest confrontation. And it's just a matter of time until the next outbreak of violence.
It is clear that Hamas will never abandon a military approach, considering it has brought them more success than the diplomatic avenue championed by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party. On the other side, Israel will never tear down its merciless blockade that surrounds this narrow strip of earth. From now on, Palestinian civilians will always blame Israel over the Islamists, no matter how much they retaliate with missiles and rockets.
But that doesn't mean we should forget Gaza! The decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict show this, from the First Intifada in 1987 to Hamas seizing control 20 years later: it is both stupid and vain to ignore the fate of this territory.
There are, however, many who would prefer to deny what history has taught us. After 30 years of occupation, the Israelis locked the doors to this open-air prison in 2005. Two years later, the Palestinian Authority was chased away from Gaza by the Islamists and was forced to regroup in the West Bank. Being consistently pressured by the Israeli occupation, it has struggled to achieve any of its goals– something which would have been nothing short of surprising.
A strip of earth, a dead end
In the Western world, we have obstinately boycotted Hamas, despite its influence amongst the Palestinian people. The West has turned its back on Gaza, while the hefty sums of financial support with which it showers the Palestinian Authority only serve to pay the salaries of the party officials, who take orders from the Islamists anyway.
In reality, this inconvenient strip of earth represents nothing more than a dead end for the Middle East, which means the continuation of three things: the conflict between Hamas and Israel, the cold war between the two main factions of Palestine, and the sparring rhetoric between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Over the years, everything has been done to widen the intra-Palestinian divide, both politically and territorially. But what has been the result? Isolating Gaza and Hamas has not brought the other two protagonists in this conflict together. The offensive against Hamas could even be seen as a precedent to Israel "punishing" the Palestinian Authority.
This will no doubt be judged to be true when it makes its bid to become a “non-member observer state” at the United Nations on Nov. 29. The symbolic success of this "restricted recognition" has been designed to mask the catastrophic aftermath of decades of failed negotiations.
And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hardly alleviate the situation, by stubbornly refusing to negotiate on three topics: the division of Jerusalem, the return to the 1967 borders, and finding a reasonable solution to the question of the refugees of 1948.
So the very most we can hope for is a ceasefire, not peace.
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