UNRWA, the U.N. Relief And Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, warns the peace process in the Middle East is doomed unless the cycle of Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli border closures stop. A senior UNRWA official tells VOA that heavy-handed Israeli tactics are radicalizing young Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and this does not bode well for peace. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.
UNRWA notes there is an increasing gap between the rhetoric of peace and the reality on the ground. It says the tit-for-tat retaliatory measures pursued by Israel's government and Palestinian militants in Gaza are causing a crisis which is destroying the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people in the Palestinian territory.
In an interview, UNRWA's Deputy Commissioner General, Filippo Grandi, tells VOA it is important for both sides to create an atmosphere conducive to peace.
"This includes the launching of rockets," said Grandi. "The United Nations and UNRWA have condemned many times the launching of rockets. This is something that should not happen. That is a violation of international humanitarian law and affects the lives of civilians. So, this should also stop in this effort to bring peace to the region."
Grandi says the closure of crossing points from Israel into the Gaza Strip and the lack of freedom of movement is causing social and economic distress in the lives of Palestinians in Gaza. And, this ends up alienating and radicalizing young people.
"This is a longer term risk that we hope the Israeli government will consider because a radicalized, very large young population without access to employment, without opportunities, without ability to move is a bombshell on the banks of the Mediterranean," said Grandi. "And, nobody should want that. And, what is happening now is creating this problem I would even venture to say it is a political disaster waiting to happen."
Grandi says the private sector in Gaza is almost dead. He says the closure of the border crossings has virtually stopped the export of all agricultural produce and other goods.
"We are alienating young people who would be the future of the Gaza Strip, who would be politically moderate, who would be in favor of a democratic system, who would be in favor of all that we say Palestine should be in the future," said Grandi. "And, yet we are undermining them and not allowing them to prosper."
The UNRWA official says these young people either will leave Gaza to seek opportunities elsewhere. Or, some will remain and become disillusioned and radicalized. This, he warns, would be dangerous and a missed opportunity for peace and stability.