George Protopapas, Research Associate - Media Analyst at Research Institute of European and American Studies (RIEAS)
The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. George Protopapas, Research Associate - Media Analyst at Research Institute of European and American Studies (RIEAS) has presented his view on the Israel - Palestine conflict. His article “ Israel and Palestine: The prospect for settlement and the regional balance of power is here published in its entirety.
Israel and Palestine:
The prospect for settlement and the regional balance of power
The Israel- Palestine conflict influences the regional balance of power of the Middle East and it relates to foreign policies of the USA and Iran. The resolve of the Palestinian problem is considered to be extremely difficult due to the conflict interests of Israel and Palestine. The American administration of Barack Obama promotes the two –states solution but the hopes for an agreement between the West Bank and Tel-Aviv seem to be very limited. The government of Israel tries to convince the international community that Palestinians, especially the Islamic movement Hamas, are terrorists. Tel – Aviv thinks that can use the threat of radical Islam to justify the aggressive rhetoric again Palestinians and Iran. Palestinians characterizes Israel as an occupation force and criticizes Tel- Aviv for the brutal violations of their rights. They want to persuade the international community that Israel has exercised a strategy of elimination against Palestinian population.
However the two sides exaggerate in some cases the facts to promote their national interests and to win the support of international community. The settlement of Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more complicated due to the national interests of the regional powers.
A significant problem that hammers the revival of the peace talks is the lack of domestic unity of the two sides, Israel and Palestinians. The political system of Israel favors the participation many political parties in Knesset. The winner party of the elections is extremely difficult to win the majority of the parliament. The governmental coalition is hostage to the political interests of the parties that participate in the government. The sensitive balance of power within the coalition does not permit the exercise of a realistic foreign policy. Palestinians as well as have their own problems. The prime –minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu (leader of center-right party Likud) is a hardliner politician but the minister of Justice Tzipi Livni (leader of liberal party Hatnuah) is a moderate figure. The hardliners and moderates also split the Palestinian side, as the president of the Palestine Authority Mahmoud Abbas criticizes the Islamic movement of Hamas for the unilateral aggressive policy. Hamas also accuses Abbas for concessions towards the Israeli government. The reality is that Palestinian Authority and the Islamic movement of Hamas antagonize for the power on the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Authority dominates in West Bank and Hamas controls Gaza that is under siege from Israel.
The parameter of radical Islam
The rise of radical Islam emerges as a significant parameter that could influence the outcome of the Israeli- Palestinian affair. The radical Islam that poses an important threat for Israel and the West could be reducing by a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. One of the reasons for the rise of radical Islam is the Israeli policy against Palestinians. In addition, the implementation of american neo- conservative doctrine of the change of regimes in the Middle East and Washington undisputed support to Israel had increased the level of hatred feeling of Muslim populations against Israel and the USA. The radical Islamic terrorism groups use the American- Israel alliance as a justification to attract new members. A settlement of Israel – Palestine could decrease the radical Islam voices, within the Palestinians territories and also in the Arab world and to weaken the aggressive politics of Hamas.
Besides the Islamic movement that control Gaza has lost a vital ally, the former Islamist president of Egypt Mohamed Morsi who was removed by the army. Furthermore, Turkey another essential ally of Hamas seems to be isolated by the developments in Middle East. The agreement between Washington and Moscow on the Syria’s civil war (the control and destruction of chemical weapons of Bashar Assad) does not favor Ankara’s foreign policy that has desperately desired the fall of Assad. The prime-minister of Turkey Tayip Ergodan as well as, lost Morsi and the opportunity to persuade West that Turkish Islamic political model is the best alternative for the states of “Arab Spring”. The Muslim revolutions in Libya and Egypt prove that Arab populations do not have the structures and the institutions to achieve a type of democracy, suitable to the bloody history of Middle East and the Arabic culture.
In addition the Israel-Palestinian settlement is influenced by the foreign policy of Iran and its conflict with Washington and West. Iran is a traditional enemy of Israel and a threat for the national security of the USA. However, the situation has started to change due to the new president of Iran Hassan Rouhani, a moderate personality who exercises a “charm” foreign policy to the USA and West. The first round of the peace talks between Iran and G5 +1 group created great expectations for a peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear program. If Iran and West manage to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem, the possibilities for an agreement between Israel and Palestinians would be increased. However the prime – minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu insists to a hard-line western and american policy against Iran and he has characterized any concessions towards Iran as “historical mistake”.
In conclusion, a peaceful solution of the Palestine conflict desperately needs the establishment of a “road map” that would be based on mutual compromise and confidence - security buildingmeasures. On this context the following steps should be adopted: (a) the declaration of an indisputable truce by the two sides (Israel – Palestinian Authority, Hamas) and the end of siege of Gaza, (b) the control of Palestinian extremists groups those operate in Gaza by the security of Hamas (c) the creation of the common committee (Israel – Palestinians) in monthly base in order to prevent tension and to resolve problems. Finally the revival of the peace talks under the auspice of the United Nations, the US and the European Union. A draft of the two –states solution should be focused to the security of Israel and the economic and social development of Palestinian territories. Palestinians have the basic state infrastructures and under the control of the international community could be a viable state. Palestinians fight for their freedoms for decades and they want desperately to become a free state. If Palestinians do not achieve their independence the situation will favor the rise of the radical Islam.