ON THE CUSP OF CONFLICT?

Author:Darwish, Adel
 
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After last month's failed peace talks in London Adel Darwish warned that the Palestinians were running out of both time and patience. This month he outlines some early signs of the deep discontent which pervades the region.

One month after the London conference failed to revive the moribund Israeli Palestinian peace process, it was business as usual in the Middle East.

Shooting and rioting; Damascus calling for an Arab summit and urging countries that made peace with Jewish state to sever relations; while Hamas leaders renewed calls for the destruction of Israel and Jewish settlers' acts of provocation were once again back in the headlines.

On 8 June Jewish Settlers moved into four homes in Arab East Jerusalem and scuffles broke out between them and Palestinians backed by Israeli protesters from the Peace Now movement, who claimed the settlers acted with the tacit approval of the Israeli government.

The settlers legally bought the houses from absentee landlords, but such practice has, in the past, led to internal violence on the Palestinian side, including the brutal murders of Arab estate agents involved in the deals. Meanwhile, human rights organisations have accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) of tacitly sanctioning the murders.

A day later, Israel's Interior Ministry gave the go-ahead for the construction of 58 homes for Jews on the Mount of Olives in annexed East Jerusalem. The land had been designated for an Arab girls school. Palestinians responded by asking the UN Security Council to take action against Israel for approving the construction but there was no indication the Council was prepared to act on the issue. The PA subsequently called for a "general mobilisation" of Arabs against Jewish settlement policies.

The militant Islamic movement Hamas went on burning Israeli and American flags vowing to "make Israel pay dearly in blood," if the movement's spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, undertaking a tour of Arab countries, was, as was threatened, barred from returning home.

After debating for weeks whether the Sheikh poses a greater danger from outside or inside Gaza, the Israeli authorities eventually decided to allow him back. "The choice is not between what is good and better, but between what is bad and worse," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Israel Radio.

What appeared, earlier in the month, to be glimmers of hope were vanishing fast. First was a secret meeting held in London between two top Palestinian officials and the...

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