by Alan Heil
- Full-blown conflict in Israel and Gaza, triggered by Israeli seizure May 10 of several Palestinian homes and expulsion of their residents in east Jerusalem…
- Hundreds of civilians or soldiers killed or injured in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel itself during the initial week of this latest tragic chapter of Arab-Israeli tensions…
- The U.N. Security Council, in an emergency crisis meeting May 16, failed to reach a consensus on ending the war…
Based on the intensity and seemingly unstoppable forces at play in Israel/Gaza this past week, a continuation of hostilities seems inevitable unless there’s a just ending to the current flareup.
Events of the past week are the biggest challenge since 2014 to official and citizen diplomats globally. Once again, Middle East tensions are the lead story. That region has been plagued by at least four wars since World War II: in 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982.
Is an easing of the crisis possible?
In Foreign Affairs magazine essay May 14, Mideast specialist Martin Indyk assessed the prospects. As he sees it: Washington must actively focus on easing Middle East crises endangering global security.
Washington Post correspondents Karen de Young and Shira Rubin on May 17 reported that the death toll in the Gaza fighting had reached 192, including 58 children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
Earlier, President Biden had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that while Israel has a right to self-defense, he hoped the fighting would be over “sooner than later.”
Dr. Indyk’s optimism, however, is understandably cautious. “We’ve seen Israel-Hamas wars before,” he writes.
“The last one was in 2014, and we know how they go. Hamas in Gaza fires off its rockets (at Israel) indiscriminately. Israel responds forcefully.
Both sides bury their dead, clear the rubble, and go back to business as usual while Israeli defense forces and Hamas brigades prepare for the next round.”
It’s clear to this former VOA Mideast correspondent and acting director that the current flareup appears to be nowhere close to ending. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it on May 16: “The Israeli military attacked more than 1,500 targets in the first week of action.” He said the conflict will extend as “long as necessary,” at least several more days.
Any viable path toward peace ahead?
One approach might be an immediate cessation of attacks by Hamas against targets in Israel, with reciprocal actions by Tel Aviv. At the very least, a “cooling off” period would enable diplomats from the U.S, European Union and the Middle East itself to mandate a more permanent ceasefire with guarantees of an end to the strife. Too many lives of innocent civilians on both sides are at stake to do otherwise.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More