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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More