Opinion

Condemned to understand each other, even if they don't want to

Palestina Israel

There are several conclusions that can be drawn from the current climate of violence that is spreading these days in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

The first is that the signatories of the Abraham Accords were mistaken if they thought they could dispense with the Palestinian problem in order to normalise diplomatic relations. Their signature initially sent a signal to the world that the Arabs, tired of the deadlock in the peace process, preoccupied with more pressing problems such as Iran, and chastened by several military defeats at the hands of Israel, could dispense with the Palestinians who until then had had a veto over diplomatic acceptance of the state of Israel. What is happening now puts the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco in a very awkward position, as they cannot look the other way as if the wounded in the Al-Aksa mosque and the dead from Israeli bombings were not with them.

The second is that Israel was also wrong to interpret the Palestinian silence since the last outbreak of violence in 2014 as a kind of tacit resignation to live indefinitely under occupation. Tel Aviv then became preoccupied with Iran and stopped paying attention to the Palestinian problem. The proof is that in the last three Israeli elections there has been no mention of the issue, while the settlement policy in the occupied territories not only continued but accelerated. Donald Trump's unstinting support for Israel, manifested in his recognition of Jerusalem as the sole and indivisible capital of the Jewish state, the transfer of its embassy there, his acceptance of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan, his support for the settlement policy and perhaps also for the annexation of other parts of the West Bank, while closing the aid fund for Palestinian refugees, probably also contributed to this mistake. All this created a sense of invulnerability in Jerusalem that is as real as it is false.

The third is that you cannot build solidly when the foundations are weak, and this is what has happened now when a clap of thunder unleashed a storm as Israelis celebrating the conquest and reunification of Jerusalem coincided with Palestinians celebrating the Night of Power, the holiest night of Ramadan and of Islam in general. A spark on the embers of provocations by the radical Israeli group Levada and evictions in the city's eastern neighbourhood was enough to spark the tragedy that Hamas rockets on Israeli cities and Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip have helped to amplify. As was the case with the two Intifadas of 1987 and 2000, a flash fire like the current one can only be explained when there is a lot of smouldering embers that no one has taken care to extinguish.

The fourth is that the situation in which the Palestinians live both in Israel and in the occupied territories is far from good and is worse when compared to that of the Israelis in terms of freedoms, income, social services, etc. They are second-class citizens to the point of being second-class citizens to the point of being second-class citizens to the point of being second-class citizens. They are second-class citizens to the extent that the NGO Human Rights Watch compared their situation a couple of months ago to apartheid. It is very strong. It is a situation that fuels resentment and hatred and explains why the conflict is spreading with the characteristics of civil confrontation to cities where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side.

The fifth conclusion is that Israel's policy of occupation comes at a very high price for Israel because demographics play in favour of the Palestinians and democracy can be swept away if their rights are not given due attention. Moreover, their revolt prevents Arab countries that were cautiously moving closer to Israel, such as Saudi Arabia, from continuing to do so, while other Muslims, such as Turkey, eager for regional dominance, increase their criticism and condemnation of the Hebrew state. It puts the rest of us in a very uncomfortable situation because we do not doubt Israel's right to defend itself, but we also think that the Palestinians deserve our attention. And finally because time is against Israel as long as it does not change its attitude because more and more accusations like those of Human Rights Watch will gain more and more ground accusations such as those of Human Rights Watch or the International Criminal Court itself that speak of war crimes in the occupied territories will gain more and more ground.

The sixth conclusion is that the current outbreak of violence is between two weak contenders. Israel seems headed for a fifth election after four in the last two years, the parliament (Knesset) is badly divided and unable to form a government, and its current prime minister is facing corruption charges. On the Palestinian side, President Abbas does not seem to have much control and divisions between the PLO and Hamas have led him not to call elections for 15 years. Some are fed up with voting and others are lacking and as a result the respective leaderships are weak. The result is dangerous because weak leaders are more unpredictable and tend to have their own agendas over national interests.

Seventh, the enormous discomfort with which the Biden administration views what is happening has become apparent. Its attitude to Israel is not that of Donald Trump, without questioning a firm commitment to its security and its right to defend itself. But he also seeks more attention and respect for the Palestinians. While the Republican Party accuses him of being weak in his defence of Israel, Biden gives the impression that he would like to avoid being dragged into this problem because he knows that none of his predecessors managed to solve it and because his real concern is in China, far away from the Middle East. His doubts have so far prevented the UN Security Council from taking action. And someone has to do it to stop a violence that will not solve anything and that will only increase the pain of Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinians and Israelis, who are called to understand each other, even if they do not want to see it.

Jorge Dezcallar Ambassador of Spain