Christian Leaders Urge 'Two State Solution' for Israel and Palestine as Gaza Truce Holds in Second Week

Israel Palestinian Conflict
A Palestinian woman holds her daughter as they stand in front of their house, which witnesses said were destroyed in an Israeli offensive, during a 72-hour truce in Beit Hanoun town in the northern Gaza Strip, Aug. 12, 2014. |

A Christian leader in the Holy Land has said that a "two state solution" for Israel and Palestine is the only way to achieve long-term peace in the region as the truce held out a second week; but another warned that reconciliation between the two societies remains a far away goal.

"It would be wonderful to see two states developed as this is the only way to keep lasting peace and for Islamic radicalism to be contained," Munir S. Kakish, chairman council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land, told The Christian Post in an email on Thursday. "A two state solution is good for both Israel and Palestine."

The long-term ceasefire agreed on by Israel and Hamas last week was brokered by Egypt and made in the hopes of stopping the fighting, which began in July and killed over 2,200 people, mostly civilians.

Israel targeted terror tunnels and Hamas sites across Gaza that were used to launch rocket attacks on Israeli territory, and accused the Palestinian militants of hiding out in residential areas and using people as human shields.

Hamas, on the other hand, blamed Israeli aggression for the high death toll, and said that a heavy economic blockade on Gaza had made life there extremely difficult.

"They want a meaningful ceasefire to end the seven years of blockade and travel restrictions that make Gaza one large prison. They want a deal to make life livable," Kakish told CP in a previous interview. "The West did not address the problems in the Gaza strip. The blockade, travel restrictions, economic disaster, lack of any healthcare have all created a condition where life is not acceptable."

A report by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development added that even before the beginning of the violent conflict in July, Gaza's local economy was "in a state of total collapse" due to the blockade and previous military operations between Israel and Hamas in December 2008 and November 2012.

Liran Dan, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said last week that the terror tunnels had been destroyed, and despite the partial lifting of the Gaza blockade, Hamas failed in its goal to open a seaport and airport.

Some Israeli newspapers, such as Maariv, called the outcome of the conflict a "draw," Voice of America noted.

"Both have gained. Psychologically, Hamas has broken the idea that Israel can win wars. Also, the borders have been opened to bring in food, gas, and other materials that are badly needed. Neither side reached their initial goals. So far Hamas is not happy with the borders as they are not wide open, but they are claiming victory in the wake of destruction. Time will tell about airport and sea port," Kakish said on Thursday.

"Israel gained by destroying many tunnels but did not accomplish long term peaceful borders and disarmament of Gaza."

A ministry director of a group working to bring Israelis and Palestinians together told CP on Friday that, despite the long-term truce, reconciliation between the two societies is still a long way off.

"I don't think our societies are moving toward reconciliation, not only among Israelis and Palestinians, but also because there are many internal divisions within Israeli society and Palestinian society that need to be dealt with. Also, while this remains, both communities will continue to experience the economic pull of the conflict," said Salim J. Munayer, the director and founder of Musalaha Ministry of Reconciliation.

He added that if the fundamental issues behind the conflict are not addressed, namely "security, recognition for both Israelis and Palestinians and an end to the occupation for the Palestinians," then the violence is bound to flare up again.

"From my point of view, peace is the best means for there to be security as well as economic security," Munayer said.

Kakish agreed that war could erupt again in the future. He added that Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization are unlikely to agree that the PLO should rule Gaza.

"With their PLO soldiers of about 1,000 on each border, the unity government will collapse. This is what Israel wanted all along. Israel knew that the PLO rule in a unity government will not last. Both parties, PLO and Hamas, are working hard and arguing how best to work together as Palestinians," Kakish said.

"PLO leadership and the Palestinians are fed up with no solutions. Israel showed weariness and weakness in her latest wars with Hisballah and Hamas. This gave momentum for [PLO Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas to propose his latest proposals — ask for a Palestinian state with a deadline to end Israeli occupation."

He added that Abbas could use Palestine's upgraded status at the U.N. to take Israel to the crime courts if the terms are not agreed, while Israel could do the same with Hamas.

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