Britain needs to recognise Palestine as an independent state

It’s time to get off the fence and resolve this most toxic of global conflicts in the only way possible
Israeli airstrikes in Gaza
Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. ‘Amid speculation about what happens next, one thing is certain: it could all happen again, any time.’ Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Images

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, coinciding with the start of the Ramadan fast for Muslims and the run-up to Israel’s Independence Day, it was touch and go whether the latest outbreak of violence – fatalities on the border, rockets fired into Israel, airstrikes against the Gaza Strip – would escalate into all-out war. Twenty-five Palestinians and four Israelis was a modest death toll compared with summer 2014, when 2,250 Palestinians and 67 Israelis were killed in Operation Protective Edge.

The ceasefire negotiated by Egypt and the UN should ease the punishing blockade imposed by Israel since the Islamists of Hamas took over Gaza in 2007. Millions of dollars donated by the Gulf state of Qatar will continue to pay official salaries and help needy families. Palestinian fishermen will be able to operate farther out to sea. Electricity and fuel supplies should be boosted.

Amid speculation about what happens next, one thing is certain: it could all happen again, any time – before or after 2020, when Gaza reaches the point, long predicted by the UN, of being “uninhabitable” for its 2 million population. “The war hasn’t been averted, only postponed,” as one Israeli minister commented on Twitter. Cynics suggest that Israel may launch military action after the Eurovision song contest is held in Tel Aviv next week.

The immediate trigger for this round of violence was the wounding of two Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border, where over 200 Palestinians have been shot dead in the year-long “marches of return.” These have highlighted hopelessness and sustained the culture of resistance generated by Israel’s siege, reinforced by the mutual hostility between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Israel’s newly re-elected prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, putting together the most rightwing government in the country’s history, had little to say about this bout of fighting. He has been heavily criticised for failing to defeat Hamas and in effect using it as a partner in his struggle against Palestinian statehood by maintaining the debilitating split between Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

Netanyahu has, of course, been emboldened by the unstinting support of Donald Trump – who recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, closed down the Palestine Liberation Organisation office in Washington, slashed aid to the UN agency dealing with Palestinian refugees, and on the eve of last month’s Knesset election recognised Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. Netanyahu responded with a pledge to start formally annexing illegal settlements in the West Bank.




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