A durable solution in the Middle East can only be achieved if Hamas weapons in Gaza no longer present a constant military threat to Israel and if the people in Gaza can hope for an improvement in their living conditions, writes Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a guest article for the Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag (3 August 2014).
Note: When the article went to press it was still widely assumed that the Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin had been abducted by Hamas.
The abduction of an Israeli soldier on Friday morning has, for the moment, destroyed people’s hope of a humanitarian ceasefire. The abductors are provoking a renewed escalation and putting the lives of many innocent people at risk. We demand the immediate release of the soldier Hadar Goldin and the return to a ceasefire before there are more civilian casualties. The stream of terrible images of bombed schools and dead children must stop.
The change in the situation in the region has further hampered the efforts to achieve peace. Egypt’s position in the Arab world has certainly shifted, yet its geographical location alone means it remains an indispensable partner for any solution. Rivalries between neighbouring countries are not making dialogue any easier, which is another reason why it is so difficult to make even small steps forward in this conflict.
However, for there to be a lasting ceasefire we need a comprehensive solution for Gaza. The recurring military confrontations of recent years show that the status quo is not tenable, for nearly two million people live in extremely close quarters, cut off from the outside world, and over half of them are children and adolescents. Furthermore this city of millions is controlled by a group which rejects Israel’s right to exist and stores its weapons in apartment blocks and schools.
There can only be a durable solution in the Middle East if Hamas weapons in Gaza no longer present a constant military threat to Israel and if the people in Gaza can hope for an improvement in their living conditions.
One feature of this could be an opening of border crossings, under international monitoring in order to prevent the smuggling of weapons. My French counterpart Fabius and I have proposed reactivating the EU border mission, EUBAM Rafah.
A pre requisite for this is a legitimate and trustworthy partner on the ground. Hamas cannot act as such, as it is still calling for the destruction of Israel, rather this role must once again be taken on by the Palestinian Authority of President Abbas.