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From Gaza to Yom HaAtsmaut

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photo from the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony, Tel Aviv May, 7th

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This sentence Albert Einstein is supposed to have said could almost apply to the living conditions of the people of the south of Israel and of Gaza. Except that the policy carried out for years in Gaza by the Israeli right should not be attributed to some forgivable madness, but to indifference and cynicism towards the plight of the people. As for the Hamas, it does not care for the Palestinian populations and has exploited  their distress for fifteen years in order to stay in power.

Since Netanyahu is Prime Minister, is strategy towards Palestinians has not changed: do as much as he can in order to prevent the creation of a Palestinian State, which would imply the return of almost all the occupied territories of the West Bank. During the Obama years, that strategy was to ride it out if he received pressure from the US,  and to play the Republican Congress against the White House. This policy was successful. Since Trump’s election, Netanyahu does not need anymore to hide his support to the development of colonization in the West Bank (3808 new housing units planned in 2018 and 3154 in 2017, and only 42 in 2016 and 560 in 2015).

With the American President’s active support, he continues to weaken the Palestinian Authority, especially by blocking the VAT refunds collected by Israel for the P.A., as a retaliatory measure after the paying of pensions to the families of perpetrators of attacks. Flouting the real Israeli interests (including those of the settlers whose safety depends mostly on the military cooperation with the Palestinian police, which, according to Israeli military officials, has prevented dozens of attacks in Israel and the West Bank), Netanyahu chose a long time ago to favour the Hamas over the Palestinian Authority, which remains committed to the Two State Solution. Israel thus allows Qatar to transfer tenths of millions of dollars to the Hamas, a big amount of which will refill the coffers of the terrorist organization. Netanyanu openly declared in March, during a meeting with the Likud deputees: “Whoever is opposed to the Palestinian State must support the transfer of funds to the Hamas. It reinforces the separation between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas in Gaza, and helps us to prevent the creation of a Palestinian State.”

In spite of all the warnings of the officials of the Israeli security forces who alert them regularly on the humanitary conditions in Gaza, Israeli leaders did not exploit lulls between outbursts of violence to take the least political initiative. And decisions taken to improve the living conditions in Gaza, like the widening of the fishing zone, are far from enough to change the everyday life of the population. Of course, the Hamas is largely responsible for this situation, as illustrated by its recent and violent repression of popular demonstrations following its decision to increase taxes on imported products. This is why we were not surprised by the recent outbreak of violence during which the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad sent almost 700 rockets on the south of Israel, killing 4 Israelis and wounding 194 (the Israeli retaliation—and according the Israeli army, somme Palestinian rockets fallen back on the Palestinian territory— having killed 25 Palestinians and wounded 177). In the Israeli population of the South, and in the Gaza population, no one is fooled. Everyone knows that the last cease-fire obtained through the Egyptians will only last till the next outburst. This situation will persist as long as the Israeli policy does not change drastically towards the Palestinian Authority, in order to reinforce it in relation to the Hamas in the eyes of the Palestinian people, by restoring the hope that a Palestinian State will be created soon enough beside the Israeli State.

It is time to put an end to a policy that takes hostage civil populations and the results of which we already know. It is time to put an end to these alternating cycles of violence and lulls. It is time to offer both peoples another future than, for Israelis living in the south of the country, a perspective of raising their children near the shelters and, for Palestinians living in Gaza, of dreading the next reprisals.

On May 8th, Israel has commemorated Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day). A day when Israel remembers its soldiers killed in action and civilians killed in attacks, a day aimed to recall the lives of these  23741 men and women, often cut down in their youth, a list started in 1860, to which have been added 56 new names this year, and a second list of 3150 civilians victims of terror. On this day, even more than on all the other days of the year, we must ask ourselves if we could find another way of putting an end to that continuous cycle of mourning. Such was the message passed on this year, and for the fourteenth  year in a row, by the Parents Circle Families Forum, and the Combatants for Peace, two Israeli-Palestinian NGO’s, during the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony for all the persons dead because of the conflict,  attended by 9000 people, which took place in Tel Aviv. We welcome the decision of the Supreme Court to allow 100 Palestinians from these NGO’s to enter Israel in spite of the ban of the government.

Yom HaZikaron was immediately followed by the festivities of Yom HaAtsmaut, Independence Day. We join all the people of Israel to wish happy birthday to the State of Israel. Hoping that the new year will see the return of hope for these two peoples who have been tearing each other apart for too long in an endless conflict.

 

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