For Palestinians, 2022 has been a challenging year marked by escalating Israeli crackdowns and the anti-Palestinian right-wing bloc's victory in Israel's parliamentary election, which have further dimmed the peace prospects.
Chile to Open Embassy in Palestine
Since the beginning of the year, the violence between Palestinians and Israeli security forces has intensified. Israel launched the "Operation Breakwater" in March to crack down on Palestinian militants by carrying out frequent raids and arrests in the West Bank.
A total of 146 Palestinians were killed by Israel in the West Bank in 2022, the deadliest year since 2006, according to figures released in December by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. In addition, 35 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority has so far reported 167 Palestinian deaths in the West Bank as result of Israeli attacks this year.
ELUSIVE TWO-STATE SOLUTION
Witnessing the continued deterioration of the security and economic conditions in the West Bank intertwined with the escalating clashes with Israel, the Palestinians have become more convinced that peace will remain out of reach for the foreseeable future.
What made the matters worse for the Palestinians is the continued one-sided support to Israel by the United States, which largely ignores the Palestinian rights adopted by the international community.
In July, U.S. President Joe Biden made a short trip to the region, during which he spent about 40 hours in Israel but limited his stay in the West Bank city of Bethlehem to barely an hour.
During the stop, Biden admitted that "the goal of the two-state solution may seem unattainable." As if in compensation, he agreed to provide US$200 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to support its critical role in the region.
"There is no doubt that the U.S. does not care about the political peace between the Palestinians and Israelis," said Abdul Majid Sweilem, a Ramallah-based political analyst and writer for the al-Ayyam newspaper.
Instead, Washington tries to push the Palestinians to abandon their long dream of establishing their own independent state, by providing meager economic aid to them, he added.
Sweilem added that successive U.S. administrations have been partial toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue in favor of Israel, by taking no real actions to push Israel to return to negotiation with the Palestinians.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has stalled since 2014 after rounds of negotiations sponsored by the U.S. failed to achieve tangible progress. Since then, Washington has taken no real actions to revive the process, while focusing on brokering new peace deals between Israel and Arab states to ease the international pressure on Israel.
SMALL PROGRESS IN RECONCILIATION
Moreover, the 15-year internal division between the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, continued to harm the Palestinian cause.
"The escalation of Israeli practices requires intensifying Palestinian diplomatic actions toward forming the international public opinion," said Hani al-Masri, director of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies.
Al-Masri stressed that the Palestinians have to unify the representation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and "adopt all forms of resistance against the Israeli occupation."
Without returning to the national reconciliation process to unify all Palestinian organizations, the Palestinians will not gain any principal political goal in its struggle with Israel, he added.
Small progress was achieved on the reconciliation issue in 2022 thanks to the mediating efforts made by Algeria.
In October, 14 Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas, signed the Algeria Declaration of National Reconciliation, agreeing to hold legislative and presidential elections within a year. Still, doubts remain whether the Palestinian factions will achieve genuine reconciliation.
"However, all the reconciliation efforts will fail," Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a Gaza-based political expert and lecturer at the al-Azhar university, said, citing that Fatah and Hamas failed to catch the opportunities to unify during Israel's four large-scale wars against Gaza in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2021.
Saada argued that the Algeria Declaration was "incomplete" and did not deal with all the issues of the internal Palestinian divisions, such as rebuilding the PLO and forming a national unity government.
Following the Israeli "military escalation" under the administration of outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid, the situation is expected to deteriorate even further in 2023, he added.
On Nov. 1, Israel's former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing bloc won the Israeli parliamentary election by garnering 64 out of the 120 seats in parliament.
Sweilem said that the upcoming political landscape in Israel "will be darker and more difficult" for the Palestinians as the peace process will be harder to produce any breakthrough under the extreme right-wing Israeli government led by Netanyahu.
Ahmad Rafiq Awwad, a political science professor at the Al-Quds University, said that Israel will form an "extremist right-wing government that does not believe in peace with Palestinians."
He expressed worries about the inclusion of ultranationalist leaders in the new Israeli government, including Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the anti-Palestinian Jewish Power party, and Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism party which advocates for settlement expansion and annexation of the West Bank.
"Both Ben-Gvir and Smotrich will contribute to escalating the situation in the West Bank as they will use their radical ideologies in dealing with Palestinians," Awwad warned.