“Beyond Business as Usual in Israel-Palestine”

In August, the International Crisis Group and the U.S. Middle East Project published an in-depth report on events in Israel-Palestine between April and July. Based on over 100 interviews with Israeli, Palestinian, U.S and European Union officials, including interviews with Hamas and Fatah officials and Israeli intelligence chiefs, the report, titled “Beyond Business as Usual in Israel and Palestine,” examines how events in East Jerusalem led to widespread Palestinian protests  and the 11-day war in May between Israel and Hamas. Tahani Mustafa, an analyst with ICG who contributed to the non-profit think tank’s report, discusses how the threat to evict Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem combined with heavy-handed Israeli police actions in Jerusalem, including firing on worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque and desecrating it, created an incendiary situation, causing Hamas to issue an ultimatum to Israel that was ignored and the brief but deadly war that followed. Mustafa discusses how the flaccid response of the international community to the incidents leading up to the war enabled it, the growing irrelevance and unpopularity of the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas’s strategic decision to intervene on behalf of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, prioritizing its role as a national liberation movement over its governing role in the Gaza Strip. The report notes that the recent escalation in violence underscores the urgent need for a political settlement and calls for interim steps to be taken by all sides until such a settlement can be reached. These include free and fair Palestinian elections so Palestinians can renew their leadership, an end to provocative Israeli actions in Jerusalem, including new colonization there, and a change in the international community’s relation to Hamas.

 


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