BEIJING, May 16 (Xinhua) — Washington’s transfer of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has resulted in protests along the Gaza Strip border on Monday, leading to the death of at least 63 Palestinians in clashes with the Israeli forces.
The protests coincided with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence, a day before what the Palestinians call “Nakba” (Catastrophe), which marks the displacement of some 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland during the Arab-Israeli War in 1948.
Seventy years later, war and conflict continue to ripple across the region, and a peaceful Middle East remains elusive.
PANDORA’S BOX OPENED
In 1948, Israel declared statehood, sparking an eight-month war with a number of Arab states, known as the First Arab-Israeli War.
During the war, Zionist forces took control of the western part of Jerusalem, which is considered the holy city for three major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
In 1967, Israel swept to victory over its Arab neighbors in the Six Day War, also known as the Third Arab-Israeli War, and took control of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
For years, the Palestinians have been seeking to establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital city in light of a UN-proposed two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders.
The 1948 Arab-Israeli War seems to have opened a Pandora’s Box of military conflicts in the Middle East. Since then, fighting has been used to solve disputes, relentlessly tearing the region apart.
Over the last 70 years, five Arab-Israeli wars and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts have led to over 80,000 deaths.
In recent decades, clashes in Yemen, Lebanon and Turkey, the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War and the Syrian conflict altogether have killed some two million people in the region.
Seven decades after the First Arab-Israeli War, a new Pandora’s Box has opened, this time featuring the U.S. relocation of its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear treaty, and the Israeli and Iranian tit-for-tat strikes in Syria.
Observers say that the reckless, aggressive Middle East policy by the Donald Trump administration is set to escalate the already tense situation in the region, which is no different than “pouring oil on the fire.”
Washington’s transfer of its embassy to Jerusalem completely eliminates the “opportunity for peace between Palestine and Israel,” said Libyan researcher and Middle East expert Jalal al-Fitouri.
“The United States must take full responsibility for blindly supporting Israel, especially when it contradicts all international protocols and conventions,” said Abdelfattah Mourou, the first vice-president of the Tunisian parliament.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have not met in four years, with the peace process frozen. After the embassy relocation, which is viewed as a major provocation by the Palestinians and the Arab world, chances for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations seem ever slimmer.
A WAY OUT
Devastated by long-term turbulence and continuous economic downturn, the conflict-ravaged Middle East now craves security, stability, and prosperity more than ever.
After years of frustration, more countries in the region have begun to realize the futility of the Western approach, turning their eyes to the East.
China’s proposal of political settlement in the Middle East has gained wide support from the region. The Chinese concept of promoting peace with development, epitomized in the Belt and Road Initiative, has also been warmly received.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described Tuesday what happened in Gaza a day earlier as “a terrible tragedy,” saying that “this only shows how important it is to have a political solution.”
A combination of a political settlement and economic development is the only way out of the long-run Middle East conundrum, observers say.
“We must collectively call on all to refrain from unilateral measures that only steer us away from a peace process and instead work to end the occupation and advance the goal of a just and sustainable peace, culminating ultimately in two states, Israel and Palestine … living side by side in peace, security and prosperity,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said on Tuesday.
The path to peace won’t be a stroll in the park. But we have to keep walking.