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August 15, 2020

Israeli impunity

Editorial

 
August 15, 2020

The agreement reached between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the UAE – that Israel would delay the annexation of further parts of the West Bank as part of an effort to normalize Middle East relations – does not mean very much at all. The agreement was announced with much fanfare by US President Donald Trump; Netanyahu has however made it clear that Israel will never give up the right to what it calls a historic homeland of the Jewish people. In this sense, the agreement really takes us nowhere at all and has been quickly condemned by Iran, Hamas, the leaders who control the Gaza Strip and several countries in the region. However, the UAE and Egypt have praised the US-brokered deal which they say will help bring peace in the region.

Peace in the Middle East has been elusive since Israel was created some 70 years ago. At least three wars have been fought over control of the territory, with Israel increasing its settlements in areas reserved for Palestinians over the years. The latest deal came as a surprise, with Hamas noting that Israel is in fact being rewarded for its crime and its acts of violence. US allies including the UK, a country which was instrumental in setting up Israel, have praised the agreement. The praise from Egypt, a country which has played an active role in the dispute between Arabs and Israel and in 1979 helped broker the first-ever peace treaty between the Zionist state and the Arab nation is more surprising.

Netanyahu’s assertion that Israel in no way gives up its claim over areas of the West Bank suggests the deal has little meaning. The region for now remains more polarized than ever before. If any kind of lasting settlement is to be found in the near future it will need much more flexibility on the part of Israel and its powerful allies. For now, there is no evidence that Netanyahu, a hardliner, is ready to make any concessions. The delay in taking over West Bank territories simply moves the time-frame for an agreement in the Middle East a little further back but does nothing to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The suffering of the Palestinians, squeezed into a tighter and tighter space in their own land has continued now for decades. Their children have been killed, treated worse than animals in their own land. And all this has been done by a brutal occupying force. The plan drawn up is not one that will change anything in the region. For now, Palestinian residents face continuing discrimination, relentless violence and no legal protections.