Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Conflict and catastrophe: Gaza’s never-ending tragedy

For the Gaza Strip, crisis is routine, conflict annual and humanitarian catastrophe inevitable.

The crisis stems from the Israeli blockade that has lasted nearly seven years. The result is a pressure cooker situation, once again close to explosion. The 1.8 million Palestinians living in the area are not permitted to enjoy a normal existence. The most basic necessities of life, including water, power, food and medicines, are not a right but privileges that can be denied at will or reduced. Palestinians in Gaza are trapped, cannot travel and cannot trade. All this has been exacerbated by regional crises. The new government in Egypt closed the tunnels under the border that once numbered nearly 2,000 and provided much of Gaza’s food, fuel and other needs. The Syria crisis has led to slashes in funding as donors struggle find the dollars.

And conflict? Diplomats might be excused for not foreseeing the events of 2011, yet with Gaza this is not the case. The chances of a full-scale resumption of major hostilities last seen in November 2012 are increasing daily. Earlier this month, Israeli forces killed three Islamic Jihad fighters leading to the largest barrage of rocket fire in two years, and then Israeli attacks on 29 targets in the strip. An major Israeli offensive would be Operation Cast Lead round three, the third major assault since December 2008. It may not happen this month but at some point an Israeli prime minister will either want, or feel compelled, to act, not least for fear of looking weak; a disaster in Israeli politics.

The Gaza catastrophe has also been well signposted. By 2020, U.N. agencies have reported, Gaza will not be viable. The U.N. asked what happens when the aquifer becomes unusable in 2016 and Gaza runs out of water? What is worrying is not just that nobody has come up with the answer, but nobody seems to care.

Unimpressive international response

If one audits the international response to these challenges it is singularly unimpressive. Nothing has radically changed to the blockade since 2007, even though all know it is unsustainable. There is no genuine attempt to broker a political solution to the situation in Gaza that could ward off another round of hostilities. Whilst the U.N. posed all the right questions, supported by data, which state has formulated a plan to offset the catastrophe? Moreover, international donors continue to foot the bill of political failure. more


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