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Palestinian Israeli conflict

As Palestine burns the full regional ramifications have yet to come

Rami Rayess

Published: Updated:

Eruption of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will most probably pave the way for a new chapter in the Middle East. The conflict will barely limit itself to the occupied Palestinian or Israeli territories: it has already spread beyond the holy city of Jerusalem, where it started, and where, theoretically it is supposed to end.

Tremendous ramifications across the region are expected. An outburst of an all-encompassing military confrontation that includes the neighboring Arab states does not seem imaginable yet.

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Nevertheless, political effects will mount on several fronts, and not excluding the signatory parties of the Abraham Accords. These were signed in the White House before the Presidential term of Donald Trump expired. They were expected to “change the course of history,” the former President and patron of the treaty said.

Well, they have not. The Accords (signed by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco) have succeeded in normalizing the official relations between those states and Israel, to a certain extent, but have not addressed the root causes of the conflict.

Tension remained salient until the recent explosion in Jerusalem that was ignited by Israel expelling Palestinians out of their homes in East Jerusalem.

The official normalization of relations through the agreements were supposed to cease the uninterrupted Israeli settlement expansion and provide economic support for Palestinians.

Failure on both missions was expected, not because of the signatory states themselves, but because of Israeli settlement policies. The state has never contemplated freezing expansion and this view never changed.

Not limited to Jerusalem all the occupied territories are in the line of sight of Israel and it will impose new demographic realities on the ground in its favor.

Inside a Gaza hospital, Mohammad al-Hadidi cradled his baby boy Omar -- his only surviving child after Israeli air strikes killed his wife and four other sons in the night. (File photo: AFP)
Inside a Gaza hospital, Mohammad al-Hadidi cradled his baby boy Omar -- his only surviving child after Israeli air strikes killed his wife and four other sons in the night. (File photo: AFP)

Ceasing settlement activities was never an option, and that’s as far back as the state was formed in 1948. Israeli cabinets have always pursued this agenda, regardless if they were left, center or right.

When expansion reached Jerusalem, it sparked immediate tension because of the sensitivity of this holy city and its symbolism for Christians, Muslims and Jews around the globe.

Minimizing the historical conflict between Palestinians and Israelis and tying the relationship as an economic conflict has never worked, and will never work in the future.

On these fronts, the Abraham Accords did not accomplish any progress. This could have been, probably, put aside, as self-restraint was exercised by the conflicting parties.

However, when the situation on the ground galvanizes through Israeli’s clear expansionist policies, maintaining the status quo becomes a difficult task.

When John Kerry served as US Secretary of State, he was clear that normalizing relations between Arab states and Israel before addressing the Palestinian question was doomed. He was probably right.

Yet, repercussions of the escalation taking place in the occupied Palestinian territories are not restricted to the Abraham Accords. It impacts on the surrounding states that also share borders with Israel.

Lebanon and Syria are influenced heavily by Tehran. Iranian support for militant movements in several Arab states offers ample opportunity to present itself as the defender of Palestine and the only regional power that is actually confronting the Israeli occupation.

New fronts against Israel forming do not appear imminent, but then, perhaps the time for that will only come if the Israelis themselves escalate military action with their neighbors.

This is unlikely because its best interests are not served fighting on multiple fronts simultaneously.

Tehran seems the only player possessing the power to galvanize the situation for its own best interests. The Vienna talks taking place to revive the nuclear agreement are running smoothly so far, and this benefits Iran greatly.

A new chapter in the region’s longest conflict when a cease fire is reached seems near. Who writes and sets out its content is anyone’s guess.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.