Too much of the current cycle of destruction, violence and loss of life in Palestine and Israel feels eerily familiar. Dead bodies being pulled from under the rubble in Gaza, the obliteration of an already eroded infrastructure in Palestine, Israelis cowering and scared in shelters, the United States blocking a UN Security Council statement calling for a ceasefire, blame being assigned to all sides and no one really taking responsibility for the devastation on the ground.
All of it has happened before, carried on live television, news websites and across social media. And, as with each time, the intensity of the war and the loss of life have devastating consequences, particularly for the families of those losing loved ones to the violence. The helplessness of Palestinians locked in Gaza is matched by the helplessness of those wanting to end the violence. The pattern of heartbreak and tears of families losing loved ones, flurries of diplomatic calls, angry posts of indignation on social media and wall-to-wall mainstream media coverage – it’s all futile if it cannot be turned into a tangible solution.
And yet, some things have changed. There is stronger support for Palestinian rights in the US, among some members of Congress particularly, than has been demonstrated before. Be it the hugely popular Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders or the famous Hadid sisters from the world of fashion, American voices calling for respect of Palestinian rights and the stopping of violence are louder than ever before.
Furthermore, the Abraham Accords signed last year mean that Israel now has ties with four more Arab countries – the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – and has a lot more to lose now if it continues to escalate against the Palestinians. None of the signatories of the Abraham Accords accept attacks on Al Aqsa Mosque; nor will they give up on Jerusalem’s status as the capital of a future Palestinian state; nor can they tolerate the killing of Palestinian civilians. The longer the attacks go on, the more tenuous Israel’s external position becomes, particularly with its new friends.
Some of the protagonists – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah – have all been key actors during past battles and have been part of the reason no solution has been reached.
As for the Palestinian leadership, both in Fatah and Hamas, a failure to bring about any tangible improvement in the lives of their people makes them even more vulnerable to the ramifications of a drawn-out war. The cancellation of elections a few weeks ago means that those political leaders will continue to bear the brunt of the failure of diplomatic efforts.
Furthermore, Joe Biden’s administration has yet to complete six months in office and its foreign policy moves are being closely watched by friends and foes of the US alike. And while Mr Biden did not make the Palestinian-Israeli conflict a priority, his team is aware of its effect on Washington’s ability to influence events in the region.
In one week, the US used its privileged status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to block a joint statement calling for a ceasefire. And even though an American delegation, including one of the most senior Arab-Americans in office, Hady Amr, is visiting Israel and Palestine, reports of its inability to shape events on the ground are being noted in the region.
Ultimately, halting the indiscriminate killing is a priority. Stopping rocket attacks and the possibility of a ground invasion of Gaza is vital, as is ensuring that the Arab identity of Jerusalem is protected, with evictions from Sheikh Jarrah threatening to further erode it. All of these are important priorities.
Yet, without a durable solution, which includes ending the occupation of Palestine and giving Palestinians the same rights as Israelis, the violence is guaranteed to flare up once again. It would be a matter of when, not if, that violence spirals out of control once again. How can the children who survive this cycle of violence be protected from the next one? That rests in a long-term solution to end the occupation of Palestine.
Managing the “crisis” of the occupation of Palestine has become the norm on the international stage. But management, rather than resolution, has only brought more pain to all involved, except for the extremists. These extremists from all camps appear to benefit from and thrive on anger and the rallying of their opposing sides. The mantra of all-out destruction of the other side to get a solution is one touted among far-right Israelis and proponents of extremist ideology in Palestine.
However, those who have advocated for peace and diplomacy have little to show for their efforts of the past decades. Diplomacy has not failed; those officials who have been behind limiting diplomatic efforts have. They are culpable in the current loss of life, and will be responsible for the next life lost – unless they break the cycle.
Mina Al-Oraibi is editor-in-chief of The National