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

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines 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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid