Following the 11-day bombardment in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 230 Palestinian civilians and leaving the enclave in ruins, Israel and the Hamas militant group announced a ceasefire on Friday, 21 May. This truce was achieved with the pivotal help of Egyptian mediators, alongside the United States and Qatar. A week later on Sunday, high-level talks between Egypt and Israeli officials were held in both countries, aimed at negotiating “a permanent ceasefire” and helping rebuild the area. Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi has thus broken the 13-year diplomatic silence with Egypt, by holding the first public visit of an Israeli Foreign Minister in Cairo since 2008, as reported by the Israeli Embassy.
The discussions between the Egyptian and Israeli Foreign Ministers have served to revive and strengthen a “serious and constructive” mediation of the situation, according to Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry. He also said they reinforce the role that Egypt plays in the peace-building procedures in the Gaza Strip. Indeed, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pledged to support the reconstruction of the densely populated and devastated Gaza enclave by allocating $500 million in financial aid. In addition to the official discussions with Israel, el-Sisi has also communicated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, asserting “[E]gypt’s full support to the Palestinian people.” Overall, Palestinian officials reported the Gaza Strip’s estimated reconstruction costs to be tens of millions of dollars.
Figures released by Gaza’s Information Ministry show that the airstrikes ravaged around 74 public buildings and 1,800 residential units. United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres fully welcome news of the ceasefire, but the Security Council members stressed the necessity of “humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian civilian population, particularly in Gaza”. Furthermore, the U.S., known as an ally to Israel, has expressed interest in building a partnership with the Palestinian Authority to support the restoration of Gaza. Nevertheless, the U.S. accentuated the necessity of keeping the Hamas military group outside of this particular partnership, in hopes of preventing them from restocking their military arsenal. U.S. President Biden echoed the desire for peaceful restoration and cohabitation by stating his belief that “Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely, and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy”
While the involvement of Egyptian officials supported the progression of peace building in the Gaza Strip, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet warns about the “high level of civilian fatalities and injuries.” Thus, she calls for urgent humanitarian aid needed to alleviate the situation. International support has been known to be required for ensuring enforcement of a ceasefire. Additionally, a problem that should be addressed in the rebuilding of Gaza, and peaceful resolution of conflict, is the communal unrest between both camps. Civilian tensions have only increased earlier this month, with evictions threats targeted to several Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, and escalated with the involvement of Israeli police authorities at the al-Aqsa mosque.
Given the complex historical and religious implications of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a peaceful co-existence of both groups within the same territory is still a long way down the line. However, a more bottom-up approach could, at least, decrease the tensions in communities, if handled by apolitical organizations aware of political biases. Thus, peace accords beyond the ceasefire should consider the relationship between civilians implicated in the violent conflict and explore ways in which negotiations and programs can rebuild trust between them.
In conclusion, the “permanent ceasefire” agreements between Israel and the militant group Hamas call for a moderator, such as Egypt, to ensure its enforcement and the possibility of a two-state solution as the UN advises. However, in line with the resurgent sense of national identity, communal unrest should also be addressed with the intention of investigating and ultimately decreasing the systematic discrimination in Israel and Palestine.
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