• Arwa Hanin Elrayess

Simplifying Two Decades of Palestinian/ Israeli Disputes: 2000-2020 (Part 2)

The 1995 Oslo accords were expected to establish a new era of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Below an elated George Bush, Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, hesitantly shook PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s extended hand, accepting a promising peace plan that left the region drunk on the possibility of long-awaited stability.

But the thrill slowly began to subside as cracks surfaced in the Oslo exterior. The newly elected prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the peace plan a ‘deeply flawed’ threat to Israel, whilst Palestinians themselves considered the deal an embarrassing surrender.

The conflict remained in limbo for a couple of years, until right-wing Israeli Ariel Sharon tipped the balance.

In an unconcealed attempt to provoke Palestinians, Sharon and a thousand of his guards, approached Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, repeating ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands.’ Frantic with spite, surrounding Palestinians fought off Sharon’s security, leading to several deaths.

This incident, along with the growing frustration of neglected Palestinians in self-rule territories, triggered the second Intifada.

Unrest spread all over Israel as Palestinians protested the progressive denial of their human rights and denounced the ‘peace processes’ leading to nowhere.

Many attempts to pacify the escalating violence took place over the years, such as the Taba Summit of 2001 and the ‘Road Map’ of 2003.

Nonetheless, the unstoppable expansion of Israeli settlements, an upsurge of Palestinian rebel groups, and the interference of various international interests meant that any prospects of peace were doomed to fail.

Increasing hostility from the Gaza strip ultimately led to Israel’s complete withdrawal from the area in 2005. Yet, they continued to dictate airspaces, coastal waters, and the availability of many basic utilities, resulting in the strip being deemed ‘unliveable’ by many international organizations.

A few months after Yasser Arafat’s mysterious death in 2004, Mahmoud Abbas, one of the founders of the Fatah political party, was elected as the president of the Palestinian Authority. However, his Fatah-influenced rule didn’t last long.

In 2006, the second official Palestinian elections shocked the region when military organization Hamas won a landslide victory over previously-in-control Fatah, spiraling tensions between the rival groups.

Although defending the same purpose, Fatah and Hamas have long been in dispute.

Originally an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, unlike the PLO and Fatah, are convinced that the establishment of Israel is entirely illegal.

Hamas’s election severed contact ties with the U.S., suspended aid from the EU, and received harsh condemnation from international powers.

Shaken by Hamas's unanticipated victory, Israel tightened its blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip and dedicated their remaining man-power to abolishing any Palestinian threats, igniting a rocket fire showdown that virtually crippled Gaza’s economy.

Unable to halt rocket fire from across the border, in December 2008, Israel launched a full-scale invasion of Gaza. Although they claimed to have only targeted buildings linked to terrorism, their mid-morning attacks on medical facilities, houses, mosques, and schools argued otherwise.

By the end of the conflict, more than 1200 Palestinian lives had been lost, compared to 13 Israeli deaths.

The killing of Hamas’s Gaza military chief by Israeli airstrikes in November 2012 introduced Israel’s next offensive: ‘Operation Pillar of Defense.’

Hoping to strike terror organizations, heavy Israeli bombardments rained on the Gaza strip. Despite Israel’s claim that the offensive was merely for security reasons, the goal of the operation was clear: as Israeli interior Minister stated, “to send Gaza back to the middle ages.”

A ceasefire was ultimately reached but the destruction had already been made.

Unemployment rates averaged at 33%, 95% of water became unfit for human consumption, and more than half of Gazan households were considered food insecure.

Building frustration fed into the rise of the “Knife Intifada” of 2015-2016, characterized by more than 300 instances of stabbing attacks by Palestinians.

In total, it is estimated that 34 Israeli’s died from this uprising, whilst retaliatory Israeli extrajudicial killings left nearly 200 Palestinians dead.

Trump’s election in 2016 saw America’s support for Israel intensify, as a military aid package worth $38bn was agreed upon. In 2017, Trump went a step further by publicly recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel- crossing a sensitive line that no one had dared to cross before.

Trump’s decision ignited protests all over the world, from Tunisia to London, whilst demonstrations near the Gazan border grew increasingly brutal, as mass crowds attempted to cross the wired fence separating Gaza and Israel.

Through the heavy smoke, Palestinians could be seen sending burning kites over the border, or throwing Molotov cocktails, whilst Israel responded with rifle fire and tear gas.

In January 2020, the conflict was used, yet again, as a political distraction by both Trump, who was in the midst of his impeachment, and Benjamin Netanyahu, who faced charges of corruption and bribery.

Their desperation to avoid international scrutiny brought forth the ‘Deal of the Century’, which has been internationally criticized for its blatant bias in favor of Israeli benefit.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas rejected the document almost immediately, and as Israel revealed their intentions to annex more land from the West Bank, Abbas severed all ties with the U.S. and Israel, including security ones.

Mahmoud Abbas had long threatened to dissolve these connections, however, he had never carried through.

Nonetheless, Trump’s ‘peace plan’, which has been described as a setback to 3 decades of peace, may have finally tipped him off the edge

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