Between 1996 and 2001, Prospect columnist Alex Renton reported on Israel and the Palestinian territories for the London Evening Standard. This February, he returned to Gaza for the first time to find a region that has in many ways moved backwards rather than forwards—the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation still more distant, and the political rhetoric on both sides more uncompromising than ever.
In a web-exclusive article for Prospect this week, Renton recounts his visit, which coincided with a bloody Israeli retaliation for the ongoing launching of Qassam rockets from Gaza City and a controversial announcement from Israeli deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai. The only glimmer of hope lies, he suggests, in the apparent gulf between public opinion (which favours talks with Hamas) and political orthodoxy (which favours “a dialogue of fire”). But the way ahead for Gaza, 80 per cent of whose citizens now depend on UN food aid for survival, is a dangerous and deeply uncertain one.
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Image, above: an elderly couple who have been waiting half an hour for the first of the gates in the Israel-controlled Erez crossing point to open