Israel carried out more airstrikes in Gaza on Wednesday as the military and political conflict between Israel and Hamas intensified.Stephen M. Walt, the Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), discusses the factors behind this latest outbreak of violence between the sides, and what the international community can do about it.HKS: What prompted this latest escalation in violence?WALT: The proximate cause was the kidnapping and murder of three young Israelis on the West Bank, followed by the seizure and murder of a Palestinian teenager. But the background causes are just as important: the increasing radicalization on both sides of the conflict, the collapse of the peace process and the “two-state” paradigm, and the failure of Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. political leaders.HKS: What is the current state of political relations between Israelis and Palestinians, and how much has changed since the collapse of the American-led peace talks?WALT: As U.S. Middle East envoy Martin Indyk recently acknowledged, there is pervasive mistrust on both sides, which is hardly surprising. The Palestinians believe — with considerable justification — that the current Israeli government is more interested in colonizing the West Bank and completing the creation of “greater Israel” than it is in making peace or permitting the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. The Israeli leadership believes — with somewhat less justification — that their Palestinian counterparts secretly hope to reverse Israel’s creation and replace it with a state of their own. At this stage, there is little trust or good will on either side.HKS: What can and should the international community be doing right now to diffuse tensions?WALT: Unfortunately, the international community has rarely been willing to take bold action to end the seemingly endless cycle of violence. The United States and European Union have considerable leverage over both sides, but neither group has been willing to use its influence constructively. Halting the present violence will save lives in the short-term and would therefore be desirable, but only a genuine peace agreement will prevent it from breaking out again at a later date.HKS: What would be the possible repercussions from a ground invasion by the Israelis?WALT: A ground invasion would cause additional deaths and great human suffering, but it will not eliminate Hamas or end the Palestinians’ desire for a state of their own. It would be a one-sided event that would further tarnish Israel’s deteriorating image, including its support here in the United States. The past three U.S. presidents have all understood that a two-state agreement was in Israel’s long-term interest, and it is deeply regrettable that they have been either unable or unwilling to use U.S. influence to achieve that goal.
After conceding defeats in their semi-final matches of the ongoing National County Sports Meet, Margibi and Nimba Counties will today face each other in the 3rd place playoff of the tournament at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.Margibi on Tuesday lost to Montserrado County 5-3 in a penalty shootout, while Nimba were on Wednesday edged out by Maryland in a 2-0 encounter at the ATS.The last time the two teams met in the finals of the competition was in the 2011 when Nimba defeated Margibi and 2012 when Margibi defeated Nimba two goals to nil to clinch the trophy.Also in kickball, Grand Bassa will go against Montserrado for the third place at the ATS.Bassa were on Wednesday defeated by Margibi in the their semi-finals match 2-1 to overcome them by three to two points, while Montserrado were on Tuesday beaten eight to one by defending champions, Nimba County. The third place play bronze medal game or consolation game is a single match that is included in many sporting knockout tournaments to decide which competitor or team will be credited with finishing third and fourth.In another development, ahead of Sunday’s finals between Montserrado and Maryland Counties, the coach of Montserrado, Samuel Sumo has expressed confidence of his capturing the trophy against the Marylanders.According to Coach Sumo, his boys are fully prepared finals and will use his same system that qualified his side to the finals.The last encounter between the two sides in the second group stage of this year’s edition ended in a one-all draw.According to records, the last time the two met in the final was in 1956 when Maryland won the trophy and did not reach the finals until 2017.Montserrado, this will mark the fifth time the county has appeared in the finals, but are yet to win the trophy.It is now a challenge for Coach Sumo of Montserrado to end the county’s record of losing in finals and also a huge task for Maryland’s Coach Emmanuel Baffoe to make a historic win for Maryland after 61 years. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)