Pressure and motivation for Palestine

Monday, 2018-10-22 15:53:10
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Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – Russia has signalled a willingness to host an official summit between Israel and Palestine in the context of Palestine’s opposition to the United States being the only intermediary in the Middle East peace process. Tensions in the Gaza Strip now require international diplomatic efforts, aiming to put out the “flame of conflict” that threatens to spread and push Palestine’s coastal land to the brink of a humanitarian disaster.

At a recent meeting of the United Nations Security Council, many nations expressed concern over the prolonged and deadliest deadlocks in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They called on the UN to actively participate in efforts to restore the political process in the Middle East. Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, warned that the increase of violence once again in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has caused the humanitarian crisis in Gaza to worsen. He said that the UN Security Council should require the parties concerned to comply with the 2014 ceasefire agreement, in order to avoid the outbreak of a widespread violent conflict.

Violence in the Gaza Strip has become increasingly serious after Israeli soldiers shot at Palestinian protesters in mid-October, killing at least seven people and injuring hundreds of others. Since the outbreak of protests in March, more than 200 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli troops. Stemming from the misery suffered by more than two million Palestinians over the past decade when Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip but continued to blockade the region, some 15,000 Palestinians took part in protests near the border fence. Many people commit extreme acts, such as burning tires and throwing stones and explosives towards Israeli forces. Protesters demanded the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

Meanwhile, in response to rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, Israel launched several air strikes on the positions of the Hamas movement. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently ordered the suspension of fuel and gas deliveries to Gaza, through Israel, due to violence at the border.

The UN has repeatedly warned of the risk of a serious humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as Israel maintains hostile policies against the Palestinians, and the US has cut its budget for the aid fund to Gaza. In face of the dangers, the European Union (EU) is committed to providing an additional EUR40 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to support education for children and provide health care services in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The EU’s decision aims to offset a US$217 million budget deficit after the US cut its US$350 million contribution to UNRWA. This shortfall led to 113 jobs being reduced and 584 staff positions moving to part-time jobs. The EU also called on the US to reconsider its “unfortunate decision” related to UNRWA.

The policies of the US administration under President Donald Trump were criticised for pushing the Middle East peace process into a dead end. After recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the US embassy to such a “sensitive” holy area, the US recently announced plans to merge its Consulate General in Israel in charge of Palestinian affairs with the US Embassy in Jerusalem. This decision shows the unchanged US policy towards Palestine.

Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), has issued a statement opposing the US decision, arguing that it is “ideological”. Palestine opposes the US’s mediating role in the Middle East peace process as Washington sits on Israel’s side. People in this Middle Eastern land continue to persistently struggle for the dream of establishing an independent Palestinian state, with the capital of East Jerusalem and the pre-1967 borders.

The struggle of the Palestinians has won the support of the international community. Despite suffering pressure from the US and Israel, the UN General Assembly recently approved the appointment of the observer state of Palestine to temporarily chair Group of 77, a coalition of 134 developing nations at the UN, designed to promote its members’ collective economic interests. This is a new motivation for Palestinians to continue their decades-long struggle to regain their fundamental rights and the right to live in peace without the fire of war.