A ceasefire is in effect for Israel/Palestine, but violence could start again, Mason expert says

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Richard Kauzlarich

Even though a ceasefire came into effect on May 21 for the conflict in Israel and Palestine, the violence could start again, said George Mason distinguished visiting professor and former U.S. ambassador Richard Kauzlarich.

“What makes the current situation different from previous cycles of violence is that this one involved communal violence between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens,” Kauzlarich said. “The total lack of apparent leadership from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides is also a factor.”

The ceasefire comes after 11 days of violence between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group in Gaza. At least 227 Palestinians in Gaza and 12 people in Israel were killed.

“Today, Israel’s prime minister is only worried about his political survival, and no one speaks for Palestinians inside Israel or in Gaza,” he said. “This is a dangerous situation because any extremist act from either side could easily set off another round of violence.”

If the violence were to escalate again, Kauzlarich said it threatens to become a U.S. domestic political issue that opens the question of how much President Joe Biden supports Israel in the face of opposition in his own party to supplying arms to Israel.

Kauzlarich said such an escalated situation would require U.S. leadership, through active and visible diplomacy, and with the support of European allies and friends in neighboring Middle East countries, to build on the ceasefire that just went into effect.

“Telephone calls to Israeli and Palestinian officials would not be enough,” he said. “Quiet diplomacy would not be enough.”

Kauzlarich said the continuation of violence plays into the hands of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“It solidifies the prime minister’s base for another election while undercutting the ability of a weakened and divided opposition to form a government,” he said.

Kauzlarich served as a Foreign Service officer, and as an economic counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Israel in the early 1980s, a time which also saw the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

He said he has never observed the amount of widespread violence in Israel, Jerusalem, and Gaza as the world is seeing today.

“We are seeing the consequences of the Trump Administration’s pandering to Netanyahu while ignoring the Palestinians,” Kauzlarich said.

“This unbalanced approach undermined U.S. leadership on U.S.-Palestinian issues and created an environment where Hamas could strengthen its hold among Palestinians,” he said. “The Biden Administration has its work cut out for it, and must decide, [as my former colleagues from the Department of State Daniel Kurtzer and Aaron David Miller recommend], to use the ‘leverage and currency in the bank…to mitigate the risk of more conflict.’”

Richard Kauzlarich can be reached at rkauzlar@gmu.edu.

For more information, contact Mariam Aburdeineh at 703-993-9518 or maburdei@gmu.edu.

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 39,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility. Learn more at www2.gmu.edu.