Middle East | 25 May 2021

Israel/Palestinian Territories: An opportune crisis?

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May 2021 has seen violent confrontations in various cities between Jewish Israelis on one side and Arab-Israelis and Palestinians on the other. The initial reason for the clashes was the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers. The violence escalated when rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip and Israeli forces retaliated with airstrikes. Leaders from a variety of churches and Christian organizations have condemned the eruption of violence, for instance in a joint statement published by the "Patriarchs and Heads of Churches of Jerusalem", as reported by Vatican News on 11 May 2021. World Watch Research analyst Michael Bosch comments: "Church leaders in Jerusalem have regularly published joint-statements appealing for calm in times of tension. However, this round of conflict is different in that it involves widespread violent clashes between Jewish and Arab Israelis in many cities. This could damage future peaceful co-existence in those cities, which is why many moderate Jews and Arabs have recently organized reconciliation events (Haaretz, 14 May 2021)." Michael Bosch continues: "Meanwhile, for Prime Minister Netanyahu, the crisis could not have come at a more opportune moment: An unlikely coalition of anti-Netanyahu parties (including an Arab-Israeli party which allegedly has ties to Hamas) was about to form a government and remove him from power. After such violent outbursts between Jewish and Arab Israelis, the coalition collapsed and is unlikely to be pieced together again in the foreseeable future (Bloomberg, 13 May 2021). Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the other hand, has once again been able to present himself as the strong man saving Israel. With probably no other solution than a fifth round of elections, the prime minister can stay in office for at least a few months more, despite all accusations of corruption (BBC News, 8 February 2021)." Michael Bosch adds: "Peace and stability are fundamental for sustaining the presence of the small Christian minority; the recent violence has been very discouraging for the Christian communities in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories. For the tiny Christian community in Gaza, life has become even more dangerous through the Israeli bombings (National Catholic Reporter, 12 May 2021). For all Christians in the country, it is one of the highest priorities that this sort of violence ceases and that a sustainable solution is found for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."


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