Term Paper: Current Affairs in Palestine

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¶ … Palestine

Politically, the Middle East region is a volatile area, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a continuously unfolding story. Efforts are constantly being made to improve the security environment for the two actors involved. Due to the complexity of the issue that has marked the political discussions for more than 50 years now, the conflict between the two parties and the consequences are not strictly confined to the Israel territory and the Palestinian one; more precisely, there is a certain spillover effect which automatically determines other countries to consider their own contribution to an eventual peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This is why, in order to have a proper image of the current state of affairs in Palestine, it is important to take into account the situation of the two main parties, as well as the contributions brought in by the countries representing the Quartet.

First and foremost, it must be pointed out the fact that the political framework for discussion between Israel and the Palestinians is given by the Quartet, a diplomatic mission established in 2002 in Madrid by Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, as a result of the escalating conflicting situation. According to the press release at the time, the mission of the U.S., UN, Russia and the European Union diplomatic framework was to "to assist the parties in implementing their agreements" (U.S. Dept. Of State, 2002). Therefore, it represents a political environment in which talks can take place on a system of mediation with additional parties involved.

The system proved to be effective taking into account the fact that in this context there have been numerous discussions and contacts between the parties. One of them took place in May 2007, in Berlin. At that time, it was considered that the meeting acknowledged the improving situation between the two parties, from the perspective of the previous evolutions of the situation, more precisely the withdrawal of Israeli troops from a number of settlements in the West Bank in 2005, as well as the removing of a part of its military troops from the Gaza Strip (World Statesmen.org, 2005). In this sense, it can be said that progress has been made.

However, in 2007, at the meeting of the Quartet in May, there were certain issues raised that were considered to be a policy failure from the part of the parties involved; more precisely, the analysis of the situation at the time inclined towards an accusation of the parties for their lack of political will in following the Road Map and the rest of the agreements supporting the diplomatic contact between the Israeli and the Palestinians. In this sense, "the Quartet expressed its deep concern over recent factional violence in Gaza" (Quartet Statement, 2007). The meeting drew the attention on the difficult situation on the ground, in the light of recent events that had transformed Gaza into an extremely unsecure area, both for the Israeli troops and for the Palestinian forces (Farouky, 2007). Moreover, the Quartet recommended that further talks should be pursued at the level of political leaders, both between the Israelis and the Palestinians, as well as in the wider diplomatic context of the Arab League.

Despite the multilateral framework in which discussions are held, the political parties that are actually involved in the process represent the main factors of decision. In this sense, the leading politicians of Israel and the Palestinians are the most important elements to be taken into consideration when discussing the issue of the ongoing peace talk process.

From the Israeli part, at least in theory, it seems that there is political will to succeed in achieving a peaceful security environment for both nations, the Israelis and the Palestinians. After the 2006 elections, Ehud Olmert and the Kadima party became the most important force in the Knesset and therefore it was considered at the time that there would be more political unity in the decisions being taken in the matter of the Middle East peace process. In this sense, his opinions and support for an eventual agreement that would be respected by all the parties involved are constantly expressed in his public statements, more recently while preparing the U.S. held summit in late November 2007. In a different context he expressed his views that "he hoped a peace deal with the Palestinians could be reached in 2008" (BBC News, 2007). Although there are serious differences of opinion among Israeli political parties, it is already accepted the fact that indeed, there is a need for a resolution to the conflict between the two nations and the international framework created at this moment could be an important element in furthering the talks.

On the Palestinian side, the death of Yasser Arafat was considered by some as a breath of fresh air and the revival of peace initiatives. Mahmud Abbas, the leader of the Fatah party, is seen as being more dedicating to the implementation and respect of the Road Map and the proposals made by the international Quartet. Moreover, he has stated the fact that he is willing to establish a direct connection with the Israeli side, as "there is no other way but direct negotiations based on international legitimacy" (Al Jazeera, 2006). In this context, his side offered a practical example of the commitment for a successful resolution of the conflict by refusing to continue the ties with the extremist movement Hamas, who has been labeled as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Taking into account the political pressures existing from the Israeli side, who "announced (...) it was severing all ties with the Hamas-led Palestinian government, regarding it as a hostile entity" (Al Jazeera, 2006), Abbas considered taking a stricter stand towards the Hamas militia. Thus, Abbas "issued a decree outlawing the Hamas militia and the Hamas executive force, although he did not outlaw the Hamas political movement" (CNN, 2007). Therefore, it can be said that there is a sense of political will, without refusing the cooperation a democratic system implies.

However, despite the willingness of both parties to come to a conclusion regarding the Middle East peace process, there are different voices and forces that pressure the leaders to refuse a compromise solution. In this sense, on the Israeli side there is the issue of the opposition of extremist factions and of parts of the population that consider further negotiations with the Palestinians to be an insult to the sovereign state of Israel and a threat to the territorial integrity of the nation. On the other side, the Hamas political forces represent a constant reminder for the moderated Palestinian authorities that the state of Palestine cannot be achieved but through an eventual war against the Jews and the destruction of the Jewish state. In this sense, terrorist acts are constantly conducted which sabotage any attempt to end the violence and follow a road to peace in the region. From this point-of-view, it is essential that the legitimate political force be able to exercise its control both on the security of its people, as well as the integrity of the territories they have in their possession.

The latest developments in the Middle East peace process include an international summit organized by the U.S. In the last week of November 2007. It is considered to be extremely important for various reasons. On the one hand, it represents an international initiative meant at bridging the gap between the parties, not only the Israeli and the Palestinians, but also the neighboring countries, such as Saudi Arabia. In the context of Olmert having met the Egyptian leader Mubarak preceding the summit, it can be said that the Annapolis meeting can have benefic results for the political equilibrium in the region. On the other hand, there is also the matter of the actual Peace talks… [END OF PREVIEW]

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