The contested city of Jerusalem : City of peace or city of conflict ?

    28-May-2021
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Daryal Rocko Anal
Contd from previous issue
Then in 1980, Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital, but most of the international community doesn’t recognize this unilateral declaration. During 1987-1993, the First (Palestine) Intifada (Uprising) which was a sustained series of Palestinian protests and violent riots in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and within Israel started in December 1987 protesting against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza that had begun twenty years prior, in 1967. The intifada lasted from December 1987 until the Madrid Conference in 1991, though some date its conclusion to 1993, with the signing of the Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel. The Second Intifada (2000-2005) began with the failure of the 2000 Camp David Summit. The violence started in September 2000, after Ariel Sharon made a highly provocative visit to the Temple Mount. The visit itself was peaceful, but, as anticipated, it sparked protests and riots which the Israeli police put down with rubber bullets and tear gas. Many consider the Second Intifada ended with the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit (2005).
In 2017, the 57 member Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) declared East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine while in 2018, the United States gave official recognition to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by relocating its embassy to Israel to Jerusalem in 2018, as did Guatemala.
THE IMMEDIATE CAUSE OF THE PRESENT CONFLICT:
The spark of the present crisis is the 6th May 2021 Palestinians protesting in Jerusalem over a forthcoming decision of the Israeli Supreme Court regarding the eviction of four Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestine neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. The area is informally annexed to Israel but under international law remains part of the Palestinian territories. The protests quickly escalated into violent confrontations between Jewish and Palestinian protesters.
 The following day, the major Islamic holy site and the holiest to Judaism, known as Al-Aqsa Mosque compound or Temple Mount, was stormed by the Israeli police using tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades against firecrackers and stone-throwing Palestinians. The Israel Supreme Court ruling was then delayed to reduce tensions. On 10th May 2021, Palestinian militant groups Hamas and others began firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza, hitting multiple residences and a school which resulted in Israel launching numerous airstrikes thereafter against Gaza in the name of self-defence.
Palestine is composed of two strips of land i.e. West Bank (bordering Jordan) and Gaza (bordering Egypt). The West Bank is administered by President Mahmoud Abbas while Hamas (a Palestine political cum militant organization or called by some as terrorist organization) runs the de-facto Government in Gaza.
The cause of the recent conflict cannot be totally unrelated to the domestic political crisis resulting from the last fourth National Parliamentary election (inconclusive since 2019) in March 2021 in which no political party could secure majority in 120 member Parliament (Knesset) to form the Government. Unlike India, Israel‘s electoral system follows proportional representation system. At the same time, the longest serving Israel PM Netanyahu and his right wing political party Likud got 30 seats and with allies 52 seats but short of majority (61 seats) to form the Government. The president of Israel Reuven Rivlin gave 28-day window to Netanyahu i.e. 5th May as deadline to acquire majority to form the Government but he failed.
Then the Israel President turned to the Opposition leader Yair Lapid (centrist) to try to form the Government from 6th May 2021 with 28-day window during which Netanyahu will continue to be the PM. Then the current issue erupted on 6th May 2021 providing opportunity to Netanyahu (who is on trial for alleged corruption) to consolidate his position, win domestic support and reclaim his office. National election for the fifth time is possible now in Israel.
On the other side, the current issue provided the Hamas group to gain strategic political mileage over the Fatah party and claim leadership of the West Bank as well as the 2021 Palestinian Legislative and Presidential Election which was supposed to be held on 22nd May 2021 but the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas postponed the planned elections over uncertainty whether Israel would allow the elections to take place in East Jerusalem, occupied areas of West Bank and Gaza amid Israel internal political crisis.
The domestic political instability and internal power struggle in both Israel and Palestine added to the current surge of violence.



(To be contd)