The Netanyahu-led government's announcement of its decision to annex nearly 1,000 acres of Palestinian land in the West Bank between the Etzion settlement block and Jerusalem amounts to nothing less than a reckless and offensive act that only further undermines Israel's moral international standing and has dire future consequences.
The new ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has immediately raised the same old question: Will it last, or is it merely just another pause, providing the prelude for the next round of fighting à la previous ceasefires? I believe the current ceasefire is different as it was achieved under completely different circumstances and may well last.
The Palestine Monetary Authority has kept cash flowing to a besieged population struggling to survive in a devastated economy. Gaza's 45 bank branches have been mostly closed during the nearly month-long conflict, with working ATMs depending on the availability of generator fuel and the daring of bank staff to maintain them.
At a time when hundreds of rockets are fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from Gaza against Israel -- threatening population centers, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv -- criticizing Israel's occupation of the West Bank would seem inappropriate at best. Many Israelis justify the continuing occupation in light of the intensifying violence. They argue that Israel cannot allow the West Bank to become under any circumstances like Gaza -- a staging ground for rocket attacks that could cause unimaginable death and destruction. The repeated acts of violence emanating from Gaza and the relative calm in the occupied West Bank are used to "validate" this claim. In reality, the occupation itself is the root cause behind the unending Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the current deadly flare-up between Israel and Hamas.
With the security barrier and long-term closures of the West Bank, and the effective embargo of Gaza, Palestinians seem increasingly foreign to Israelis. But Palestinians are among the most democratically minded populations in the region. If genuine democracy has any chance in the Arab world, it should be with the Palestinians.