by Alan Heil
An anxious world is waiting. As of dusk on the eighth day since a few Israelis evicted Palestinian residents from their homes in East Jerusalem, sustained retaliatory air attacks from Gaza and Israeli responses have set in motion the Middle East’s most serious fighting since 2014.
As nightfall approached in the region on May 18, NPR’s Steve Inskeep placed it in context: “Suppose you’re a Palestinian living in Gaza. You can’t easily leave. Israel and Egypt control the borders. Your government in Gaza is dominated by Hamas. And for the past week, Hamas rockets have flown out of Gaza while Israeli bombs have been falling in.
“That is the experience for Jamil al-Sharif and his family. As Mr. al-Sharif put it: “For a full week now, we couldn’t sleep for more than two or three hours in a 24-hour day. Children are screaming, shouting all the time and the situation is terrifying.”
Photos from the scene are terrifying: a three-story building — all wrecked floors sagging in a side view photo, a man desperately searching amid a pile of wreckage nearby as local policemen watched. Was he seeking to find a badly-wounded family member?
The U. N. Security Council met on May 16, and reached no conclusion because of the U.S. resolve to defend Israel in the tense standoff on the ground. The casualties, as of May 18, were staggering. In Gaza, more than 200 people were killed, as were ten Israelis in airstrikes from both sides.
According to NPR’s Steve Inskeep:
“President Biden has now said he would welcome a ceasefire in this week-long war. But for the moment, there appears to be no clear path to secure a pause in the violence, and the long-term outlook for the (Middle East) region may be even murkier.”
U.S. Ambassador Dennis Ross has served as a Middle East envoy for past administrations led at one time or another, by both Democratic and Republican presidents.
In an interview on the NPR program Morning Edition May 18, Ambassador Ross was asked a key question by Mr. Inskeep:
Q: Does the cycle of violence here, because there have been multiple wars like this, suggest that whatever the U.S. has been trying for decades just isn’t working?
A: “I think you could say that. I think one thing we could do in the aftermath of this, as it relates to Gaza: mobilize the whole world’s international participation to reconstruct Gaza, to do the equivalent of a Marshall Plan for Gaza and make it very public, one condition: Hamas has to give up its rockets.No one is going to invest in Gaza if Hamas at any point keeps its rockets and can launch (them) against Israel and Israel responds and destroys the investment.”
Also on May 18, London’s The Economist added: “With little hope for a better future, a good number of young Palestinians favour confronting Israel. That makes repeated fits of deadly violence inevitable. Only negotiations will bring lasting peace. Western and regional powers should press for them to resume; Israeli and Palestinian leaders should come to the table. Solving the conflict will be even harder than managing it. But talking is the one permanent way out.”
As midnight in Gaza approached May 18, Arab-Americans in the United States were criticizing Mr. Biden for not doing more to curb the latest Arab-Israeli strife in Gaza. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters: “The President has been doing this (diplomacy) long enough to know that it sometimes has to happen behind the scenes.” An anxious world will be watching around the clock.
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