Ending the Gaza Crisis
August 5, 2014
By Priyanka Bhide
Israel’s recent military action in Gaza has left the world numb. For the past several weeks news channels and newspapers around the globe have been flooded with horrifying images of death- dead infants, dead children, dead men and dead women. “Operation Protective Edge” launched by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on 8 July 2014 was targeted at Hamas, as an escalation of on-going tension between Israel-Palestine. However the images that we see are all of civilians – people like you and me that have never been trained or prepared for combat.
According to the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of 3 August 2014, at least 1,176 civilians have been killed, of whom 377 are children and 196 are women. Around 485,000 people have been displaced, staying in emergency shelters or with host families. An estimated 1.5 million people are not in shelters and have no or extremely restricted access to water. As we all know, this is not the first time that the people of Gaza have suffered death, destruction and displacement. How long will this repeated bludgeoning of the land continue? What is the solution to bringing some form of peace to the people?
In a recent blog post, Lord John Alderdice, a member of the House of Lords writes “It has been clear to me for some years that there was no prospect of an end to violence between Israel and the Palestinians without Israel talking to both Fatah and Hamas”. Lord Alderdice speaks from his vast experience in the area of peace processes. He played a key role in the Northern Ireland peace agreement.
Lord Alderdice draws a parallel between the conflict in Northern Ireland and the recent bloodshed in Gaza. He recounts his experience in Northern Ireland and the difficulty faced (both on a personal as well as political level) in the 1990′s in making the decision to involve the Irish Republican Movement in the peace process. The peace that exists today in Northern Ireland would not have been possible without the involvement of all major players including the controversial Irish Republican Army.
Lord Alderdice points out one significant difference between the situation in Northern Ireland and Gaza. Northern Ireland was encouraged by its friends - the Governments of US, UK and Ireland- to engage with all parties, including those considered terrorists. In the absence of dialogue, the current Israeli offensive will only result in an increase in the cycle of violence; Lord Alderdice predicts “The refusal to talk to Fatah in the past led to the rise of Hamas. Attempts to destroy Hamas will not result in an outbreak of moderation, but instead will lead to the rise of a more extreme ISIS-type replacement of Hamas.”
Israel has turned down any suggestion to engaging in peace talks with Hamas. Israel’s friends – the US Government, European Union and British Government – have also discouraged dialogue with Hamas. However in the United Kingdom, which maintains a close allegiance with Israel, several voices have risen in support of a peace dialogue between Israel and Hamas.
British deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has voiced his support for direct talks between Israel and Hamas. In an article for the Guardian he writes “It is time for the Israeli government to talk to the Hamas political leadership in Gaza. Israel’s refusal to engage with President Mahmoud Abbas’s new unity government, because it includes Hamas, must be reversed.”
There also seems to be a weakening of Tory Support for Israel in the wake of the recent Gaza violence. Several Senior Conservatives have spoken against Israel’s actions in Gaza. According to a report in the Guardian, Margot James, the Number 10 policy adviser and parliamentary aide to William Hague, has written to the new Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond calling Israel's actions disproportionate and asking that “the government rethinks policy towards the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories”.
The voices speaking out in the UK give rise to a hope that the UK Government can be convinced to support a peace process that would involve Hamas, as they have done in Northern Ireland in the past. Now more than ever the friends and allies of Israel need to come together in support of talks between all the warring factions of the conflict. The cost of this conflict is being paid in the blood of innocent civilians. There will be no victor in this war; dialogue between all parties is the only way forward.
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