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COVID-19 pandemic may raise tensions between Israel, Palestine, expert says

The President for the US/Middle East Project said that there may also be countervailing trends as "Palestinians being more in need of cooperation with Israel but less able to achieve the necessary Israeli response"

MOSCOW, April 16. /TASS/. The coronavirus pandemic creates the risk that tensions between Israel and Palestine could escalate further, President for the US/Middle East Project and a Valdai Discussion Club expert Daniel Levy told TASS.

"This moment of crisis demonstrates that, despite the efforts of the PA [Palestinian Authority], there is one political ruling entity, and that is Israel. The absolute dependence of the Palestinians, whether in Gaza or the West Bank, on Israel, is being reinforced," he pointed out. "Might this encourage a sharpening of choices - in other words, a separation paradigm versus a one-space reality; going forward is there a greater clarity on the need to either create a Palestinian entity which does actually have authority (in other words, de-occupation, sovereign statehood etc.) or to translate the existing one-space reality into a paradigm for political planning," the expert specified.

"There may also be countervailing trends in this respect - Palestinians being more in need of cooperation with Israel but less able to achieve the necessary Israeli response," Levy added.

According to him, "there are reports of Covid-19 cases in Gaza and there are also reports of quiet contacts between the governing Hamas authority in Gaza and Israel in responding to this situation." "A Covid-19 outbreak would place Gaza even more at the mercy of Israel and Egypt - who are not predisposed to respond favorably to the needs of the Gazan population, who are focused on their own crisis management but who also have exposures to any severe Gaza crisis," the political analyst noted.

Levy said that "given the extent of Palestinians incarcerated by Israel and the central political salience of that population for the broader Palestinian public, attention should be paid to a possible outbreak amongst Palestinian prisoners." "There have been reports of small numbers of cases and quarantines going into effect in the Megiddo prison. A severe outbreak could lead to a public backlash amongst Palestinians and become a major source of friction," he added.

"Such scenarios could either be premised on Covid-19 related concerns (for instance, an Israeli lockdown on a particular Palestinian area, town or village, especially in Area C as a Covid-19 hotspot) or as a result of ongoing Israeli military actions such as a night raid leading to arrests," the expert said. "In a period of heightened anxiety and frustrations, such flashpoint moments have a greater potential to spiral out of control," Levy emphasized.