News / Middle East

US Mideast Peace 'Framework' Likely to Ignore Gaza

Secretary of State John Kerry is seen in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 17, 2014, during President Barack Obama's meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Secretary of State John Kerry is seen in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 17, 2014, during President Barack Obama's meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Virtually nothing is known about a framework Mideast peace deal U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to unveil in the coming weeks.

U.S. officials have released very few details about the plan, which they hope can serve as a basis to extend the fragile peace talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

What has largely gone unmentioned, is that the deal will almost certainly ignore Gaza, a narrow and densely populated strip of land that is crucial for any comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

U.S. negotiators have little choice.  Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a hardline Islamist group that firmly rejects negotiating with Israel and is listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

In a telephone interview with VOA, Hamas spokeswoman Israa al-Modallal slammed the talks.  She said she thinks Abbas, a longtime Hamas rival based in the West Bank, will achieve nothing for the Palestinian people.

"We didn't ask him to go and speak in our name. And this is a big mistake that Mahmoud Abbas did," she said. "So Kerry's project, we are against it 100 percent, and we say that we want it to stop today."

Gaza Strip key to negotiated settlement

Without Gaza, many analysts think there is little chance the talks can lead to a negotiated settlement to the decades-old conflict or help create a viable and independent Palestinian state.

President Barack Obama (r) shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, March 17, 2014.President Barack Obama (r) shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, March 17, 2014.
x
President Barack Obama (r) shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, March 17, 2014.
President Barack Obama (r) shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, March 17, 2014.
​But U.S. officials are pushing forward anyway. In December, President Barack Obama said that if a "pathway to peace" can be created in the West Bank, "that's something that the young people of Gaza are going to want."

Stephen Zunes, a professor of Middle East studies at the University of San Francisco, agrees that Hamas may feel pressured to make compromises if "a viable Palestinian state at peace with Israel can thrive on the West Bank."

"If [Palestinians in Gaza] can look to the West Bank as an alternative, it will encourage the moderate forces and then could force the more hard-line elements of Hamas aside and lead to Palestinian reconciliation as part of a new viable state," he said in an interview with VOA.

But some are not convinced the strategy will succeed, mainly because Israel is not likely to agree to the level of concessions needed to satisfy Gazans.

Lisa Goldman, director of the Israel-Palestine Initiative at the New York-based New America Foundation, said it is unrealistic to assume that Gazans, most of whom trace their heritage to areas inside what is now Israel, would be enticed by any framework deal.

"I really don't see how that could be a realistic scenario.  Gaza is 80 percent refugees right now. And they don't come from the West Bank, they come from Israel proper and they're still living in refugee camps," she told VOA.  "So if the framework doesn't include any kind of nod toward the rights of the refugees and the resettling of the refugees, then it simply doesn't speak for the Gazan people."

Israelis, Palestinians hold fast to bedrock positions

Israeli leaders have long insisted that those who fled or were forced out of what is now Israel during the country's creation in 1948 will never be allowed to return, fearing this would challenge the Jewish nature of their state.  Sixty-six years later, Palestinian activists say the refugee issue remains the single most important unresolved aspect of the conflict.

But Palestinians are also upset at Israel's other restrictions on Gaza. Israel currently controls almost all of Gaza's borders (except for the Egyptian side), as well as its airspace and its Mediterranean coastline.  It also tightly enforces what the impoverished territory can import and export.

Gazans say the blockade represents collective punishment and has helped create what many Palestinians call the world's "largest open-air prison."  Many in Gaza struggle to secure basic goods, such as food, fuel and building materials. Joblessness is also a problem.  The most recent figures suggest unemployment stands at a staggering 39 percent.

Samer Badawi, a Palestinian-American writer and Middle East analyst, told VOA that under such conditions, Palestinians have little choice but to stick with Hamas, whom they elected in 2006.

"Where the United States and indeed Israel hope that an alternative to Hamas will come from, it is simply not possible when every one of the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza is suffocating.  So in order to create an alternative to Hamas, you have to give people the freedom to seek out that alternative," he said.

Security concerns a major factor

But Israel insists security concerns keep it from loosening the restrictions.  Those concerns were highlighted earlier this month by the dozens of rockets that were fired into Israeli territory from Gaza, all of which were either intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system or landed without injuring anyone.

Israel responded with a series of air strikes on what it said were terrorist sites in Gaza.  The increased violence has threatened to unravel the already shaky peace talks, which, without an extension, are set to expire at the end of April.

While the expectations are low that the negotiations will succeed, many analysts say the risks of even more violence are high if the talks break down.

Zunes said it is becoming clear that the talks may represent "the last best hope for peace" and a two-state solution.  He warns that a collapse in the talks could further empower those calling for a single state solution, who he said are "gaining in ascendancy."

"And combined with the growth of the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the demographics are making it much less likely that a viable two-state solution will emerge," he said.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: JohnWV from: USA
March 21, 2014 6:42 AM
Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, a racist state, and will never accept a non apartheid democracy with a Jewish minority. Continuing illegal annexations, settlement expansion and ethnic cleansing have also precluded any negotiated two state solution. The Jewish State must be forced, by whatever means necessary, to recognize an armed Palestine with externally enforced autonomy, eviction of all settlers, true contiguity encompassing Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem together, neither pinched nor parceled, and pay punitive reparations. American foreign policy may then again serve American interests, not the Jewish state's paranoid pursuit of invulnerability, territorial conquest and racist empire in and beyond the Mideast.

by: Daliea from: Alabama
March 20, 2014 8:52 PM
If Islamic countries laid down their weapons there would be peace in the middle east. If Israel laid down their weapons they would be wiped out.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs