The world has looked on in horror at the events of the past few weeks in Gaza. The sight of, in particular, children being killed and schools bombed has shocked public opinion, even among those traditionally supportive of Israel.
But even if the latest ceasefire holds, what then? A return to the previous status quo will be a sure-fire way of guaranteeing renewed conflict in the future.
It is surely time for all to admit that the step-by-step “peace process” initiated by the Oslo accords has not achieved its objective. Step-by-step has been an incentive for Israel to change the landscape between steps, by making the negotiations long and drawn-out while building new settlements on the West Bank, changing the demographics of East Jerusalem, building a separation wall that makes major incursions beyond the internationally recognised border, and on the Palestinian side, for Hamas to dig tunnels and accumulate rockets.
The cycle of violence and conflict has now gone on for seven decades, with ever more sophisticated weaponry, and with ever greater bitterness and hatred. It affects not just those directly involved, but the whole region and the world.
Step-by-step isn’t working. We need both sides to negotiate a comprehensive overall settlement including the final status issues. Refusal to negotiate, or a failure to do so in good faith, should be met by the international community imposing a solution through the UN, as President Hollande has suggested.
After all, the key contours of a definitive settlement have been clear (and in theory accepted by both sides) for years: two states, based on the 1967 frontiers with some land swaps, Jerusalem as capital for both with a meaningful presence for Palestinians there (not an enclave surrounded by an Israeli land grab), a corridor to link the West Bank and Gaza (possibly as part of the interesting idea of a three-way land swap with Egypt), Gaza’s economic driver to be as the port and airport for Palestine, security for both sides. Of course the devil is on the detail — and details here are not minor — but those details do need to be at last addressed before another generation sufferers the appalling consequences of failure.