Has Oslo Achieved Anything for the Palestinians?

March 6 2019

Taking a long view of the place of the Oslo Accords in Palestinian history, and frankly examining their many failures, Ghaith al-Omari nonetheless sees some positive outcomes. In the short term, he argues, Palestinians are best off seeking gradual improvements rather than a grand bargain:

While much can justifiably be said in criticism of the Palestinian Authority (PA), it has so far proved resilient and is fulfilling important functions for the Palestinians. Governance-wise, Palestinian leaders today manage a significant proportion of the Palestinians’ daily lives. While Israel maintains overarching authority, the space for Palestinian self-governance and exercise of political and national life is unprecedented. And despite the PA’s inherent limitations, its establishment brought about a measure of stability to Palestinian national institutions better than at any previous time in modern Palestinian history. [It] seems less vulnerable to dislocation than the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was during its time in Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia. . . .

It is also worth noting that the traditional alternative [to diplomacy and PA governance]—a return to armed resistance using violence and terrorism—also proved ineffective. Palestinians paid a steep price during the second intifada. After three wars between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which only produced disastrous results for Gaza’s population, the idea that independence will be achieved through armed action has lost all credibility. Even Hamas today seems content to limit its demands from Israel to the improvement of living conditions in Gaza. . . .

As for the peace process, . . . a [final] deal is unlikely given both the weaknesses and the divisions within the Palestinian body politic, with no Palestinian leaders today having the political capital necessary to make the hefty concessions needed to reach peace. Also, the current state of Israeli politics and its steady shift toward the right hurt peace prospects.

Instead, the only available option is a series of less ambitious yet concrete steps that impact the lives of Palestinians (and Israelis) such as modestly expanding areas under PA jurisdiction and generally reducing the footprint of the occupation in the West Bank. While such moves fall far short of Palestinian aspirations, they can create a sense of progress, allowing Palestinian leaders to claim that their commitment to diplomacy and non-violence is moving their nation, albeit slowly, toward de-occupation, while giving Palestinians a sense of hope that their future may be better than their present.

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Read more at Cairo Review

More about: Israel & Zionism, Oslo Accords, Palestinian Authority, Palestinians

Despite What the UN Says, the Violence at the Gaza Border Is Military, Not Civilian, in Nature

March 22 2019

On Monday, a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry issued its final report on last spring’s disturbances at the Gaza border. Geoffrey Corn and Peter Margulies explain why the report is fatally flawed:

The commission framed the events [in Gaza] as a series of demonstrations that were “civilian in nature.” Israel and its Supreme Court, [which has investigated some of the killings that occurred], framed the same events quite differently: as a new evolution in Israel’s ongoing armed conflict with the terrorist organization Hamas. Consistency and common sense suggest that the Israeli High Court of Justice’s framing is a more rational explanation of what occurred at the Israel-Gaza border in spring 2018.

Kites, [for instance], played a telltale role [in the violence]. When most people think of kites, they think of a child’s plaything or a hobbyist’s harmless passion. In the Gaza confrontation, kites [became] a new and effective, albeit low-tech, tactic for attacking Israel. As the report conceded, senior Gaza leaders, including from Hamas, “encouraged” the unleashing of waves of incendiary kites that during and since the spring 2018 confrontations have burned thousands of acres of arable land within Israel. The resulting destruction included fires that damaged the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which conveys goods and gasoline from Israel to Gaza. . . .

Moreover, the incendiary-kite offensive was an effective diversion from the efforts encouraged and coordinated by Hamas last spring to pierce the border with Israel and attack both IDF personnel and the civilian residents of the beleaguered Israeli towns a short distance from the border fence. . . .

The commission also failed to acknowledge that Hamas sought to use civilians as an operational cover to move members of its armed wing into position along the fence. For IDF commanders, this increased the importance of preventing a breach [in the fence]. Large crowds directly along the fence would simplify breakthrough attempts by intermingled Hamas and other belligerent operatives. The crowds themselves also could attempt to pour through any breach. Unfortunately, the commission seems to have completely omitted any credible assessment of the potential casualties on all sides that would have resulted from IDF action to seal a breach once it was achieved. . . .

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Read more at Lawfare

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Laws of war, UNHRC, United Nations