The Irish Times view on Gaza ceasefire: No going back

Weakness of Netanyahu has helped bring marginal far-right parties into mainstream

Palestinians inspect the destroyed building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media, after it was hit last week by Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City.  Photograph: Hatem Moussa/AP

Palestinians inspect the destroyed building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media, after it was hit last week by Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City. Photograph: Hatem Moussa/AP

 

After 11 days of violence that killed 243 Palestinians and 12 Israelis, an Egypt-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect yesterday. But it’s a fragile truce, and unless steps are taken to confront the deep-rooted causes behind the latest conflagration, it is all but guaranteed to be temporary.

It is tempting to see the violence of the past 11 days as merely the latest iteration in a grim cycle of hostilities. But, in several respects, this time was different, and it showed exactly why nobody who yearns for peace can seek a return to the status quo. For the first time, clashes spread to towns inside Israel’s 1967 borders, where security forces intervened to keep Jews and Arabs apart.

There were stirrings of a new dynamic in Washington, where the Biden administration’s reluctance to become entangled in the Israeli/Palestinian question has come up against the demands of a rising Democratic constituency that seeks a more assertive US defence of Palestinian rights.

And it was more apparent than ever that it will not be possible indefinitely to keep a lid on the mixture of anger and disenchantment that young Palestinians feel as a result of the Israeli occupation, the expansion of illegal settlements, the blockading of Gaza and their own sclerotic, divided leadership.

Political stasis on both sides is making things worse. The weakness of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has helped bring marginal far-right parties into the mainstream, while the recent postponement of Palestinian elections has highlighted the high cost of underlying tensions between Hamas and Fatah.

While the optimism of the Oslo accords has long ago faded from memory and the prospect of a two-state solution looks increasingly remote, the basic template – an internationally-facilitated push to bring the players towards the negotiating table – is the only feasible way to kickstart a peace process.

The past two weeks, when the United Nations security council and the European Union were all but rendered mute by their own divisions, do not augur well. But the idea of “managing” the crisis has never looked more misguided.

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