A couple of days ago, there were reborn hopes that peace talks could resume between Israel and Palestine. Obama was writing letters, Abbas was in Saudi Arabia and Netanyahu was in Cairo. Now reports have two Gaza crossings are open; carnations are being exported and fuel is being imported. After Netanyahu was in Cairo, Egypt was optimistic for peace; Israel proposed an Egyptian peace summit; and, as it turns out, Egypt wants to host such a conference. Meanwhile, casualties were down in the West Bank (though up in Gaza) and ultra-orthodox Jews visited Gaza. Could the timing actually be right for a successful peace conference? Israel wants to and Egypt wants to and crossings into Gaza are open; what could be wrong?
Unfortunately, Israel forgot to tell the PA about the proposed peace conference. This might seem like a minor issue and in some ways, it is. However, it is just another of many small setbacks to peace that continuously occur. Despite the ‘settlement moratorium’ declared by Netanyahu last month and despite the fact that a settlement freeze is a prerequisite for peace talks to resume, settlement construction is booming (despite the presence of the IDF) due, in part, to the absence of the Civil Administration who is responsible for enforcing the construction freeze. Reports also have Israeli settlers bulldozing Palestinian houses and cutting of a town’s water supply in order to expand a settlement. Israeli forces bulldozed two other houses belonging to Palestinians because of permit issues.
As a UN report was released saying that Israel had bombed Gaza ‘back to the mud age,’ Palestinian fighters sent two homemade projectiles into Israel (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and clashed with Israeli forces (An-Nasser Brigades) in northern Gaza on Thursday. The Popular Resistance Committees (the umbrella group for the An-Nasser Brigades) claimed that Israel attempted to assassinate its secretary-general on Friday as well. In response, Israel bombed targets in Gaza and opened fire on Palestinian farmers on Saturday.
As if this violence was not enough to put a damper on the peace talks, a Gazan 8 year old boy was shot in the head with a rubber bullet during a wall protest on Friday; the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) reported the Israel covers up its torture practices (see report here); and Fatah vowed to continue its struggle (albeit nonviolent struggle) against Israel.
With events like these taking place every day, it is difficult to be optimistic about the proposed peace talks or Obama’s letters of guarantee. It is possible that the talks could move forward, progress cannot truly happen without the inclusion of Gaza (see: Hamas) in the talks and without the end of the cycle of violence. Here is to hoping that 2010 will bring, if not peace, less violence to the region.