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Escalation in Gaza Took Place during the Stalled Israel-Palestine Peace Talks

Seven Palestinians were killed during conflict on the Gaza border last Friday, nearly six months after Palestinians in Gaza began protesting for the right to return. Health officials in Gaza estimate that at least 180 Palestinians have been killed since the protests began in March, and over 18,000 injured.

Israeli news sites, such as Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post, indicate that the Israeli government believes that Hamas is preparing for war, citing the worsening humanitarian crisis and failing reconciliation talks between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

 Youssef Abu Zarifa, a Palestinian boy, is treated for injuries from conflict on the Gaza border. Photo:  AFP

Youssef Abu Zarifa, a Palestinian boy, is treated for injuries from conflict on the Gaza border. Photo: AFP

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) runs schools that are attended by 300,000 students and employ 18,000 teachers and administrators, but because the U.S. stopped funding the UNRWA, their budget will run out this October. Many Palestinians are likely to become active demonstrators if school is no longer an option.

Furthermore, the World Bank warns that Gaza’s economy is in free fall, a state that can no longer be counteracted by foreign aid, the private sector, or relief from the PA. Gaza’s economic and humanitarian crises are setting the foundation for a willingness among Gaza residents to fight.

In terms of the broader conflict between Palestine and Israel, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to resume talks with the U.S. and Israel last week, despite Israel’s continued settlement construction and the U.S. favoritism towards Israel.

 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations General Assembly last Thursday. Photo:  AFP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations General Assembly last Thursday. Photo: AFP

However, the Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, met with representatives from over 40 countries last Wednesday, not including the U.S., to discuss a two-state solution. Maliki said that “As long as [Trump] is sticking to his decisions about Jerusalem, about settlements and about moving the embassy, there is no way” for diplomatic engagement. President Abbas’s and Foreign Minister Maliki’s opposing actions indicate a lack of coordination within governments that only further hinders peace efforts.

President Trump said on Wednesday that he plans to reveal a peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the next four months. He said that he likes a two-state solution, and additionally noted with regard to Jerusalem that he “took probably the biggest chip off the table. Israel got the first chip, and it’s a big one; there’s no question.”

The U.S. control over negotiations cannot result in lasting peace. But due to core issues involving Jerusalem, security, and refugees, President Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also are unable to negotiate a deal that suits both sides. As Gaza residents face worsening conditions, it is critical that all parties--Hamas, the PA, and Israel--be willing to engage in some form of negotiation. However, in light of current conditions and attitudes, the most likely scenario for the near future is one of escalated conflict in Gaza and minimal progress on peace talks between Palestine and Israel.