The Fragile Israel-Palestine Ceasefire: Is There A Way Towards Permanent Peace?

On May 10th, the Gaza Strip transformed into a battleground for 11 days as Hamas and Israel clashed violently yet again. After 11 days of fighting, both parties finally agreed to a ceasefire on 21. May. The negotiations were mainly helped along by Qatar, Egypt and the UN.

So far, the brokered agreement has held firm despite continued tensions in East Jerusalem. The very same day the agreement was announced, Israeli police forces fired tear gas at Palestinian civilians while they were leaving a mosque after the evening prayers. More than 240 people died during the 11-day bloodbath, with the majority of victims being Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, many of them children.

As the news of ceasefire broke and both sides claimed victory, the reactions of the international community have varied widely. US president Joe Biden welcomed the peace agreement, stating that both Israeli and Palestinian citizens deserve to live in peace. On the other hand, Jordanian and Iranian officials have condemned Israeli actions in occupied Palestinian territories, but have both recognized the peace agreement to be a necessary first step towards a more permanent solution. The EU has taken a largely neutral stance as the European Council president, Charles Michel, emphasized that the opportunity for peace must be seized. Meanwhile, the UN reiterated the need to foster more permanent peace solutions and end the Israeli-Palestinian division.

While the ceasefire is certainly welcome, these current developments can in no way be considered a permanent peace. Hamas and Israel have clashed repeatedly in the past two decades, with the most violent skirmishes taking place in 2006, 2008 and 2014. In the past, the international community has also tended to ignore the Israel/Palestine question as long as rockets are not being launched and the guns are silent.

Still, the Israel-Palestine conflict cannot be solved by pretending it does not exist. The proposed two-state solution and infamous green line technique have not worked out and what is more, this ideology has set a harmful precedent; making it seem as though this is a fight between two equal participants. While the Palestinian Hamas is undoubtedly a terrorist organization, it is Israel, who has been forcing ordinary Palestinians into living in apartheid-like conditions for decades.

As the recent 2021 April Human Rights Watch report underlines, Israel has maintained military rule over the Palestinian territory for almost 73 years, ever since the 1948 occupation of the Palestinian territory. During this time, they have granted Israeli citizens superior legal rights and fostered large settlements in Palestinian territories, all the while depriving Palestinians of access to land and fundamental civil rights. The limited self-rule that Palestinians have in their homeland, is largely illusory as Israel controls the trade, airspace and security of the entire region.

The assumption that the occupation is solely temporary is a harmful myth that is still making the rounds in the international community. Instead, the one-state rule is increasingly becoming a reality as millions of Palestinian people have no rights to even vote for the government that has forcefully subjugated them. More effort should be made to restart realistic peace negotiations and get both sides at the table as the modern-day Israel is increasingly starting to resemble the Republic of South Africa of three decades past. Soon there may be no return from this.

Overall, the situation in Palestine looks unbearably grim despite the recent peace negotiations.  Neither state is helped by their incompetent leaders: the corrupt Netanyahu and the discredited Mahmoud Abbas do both Israel and Palestine more harm than good, but the violent and oppressive Hamas is also not a solution.

Still, the fact that there currently seems to be no good solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict must not discourage world leaders. In fact, an even bigger international effort is urgently needed so that one day there can be peace.