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Quarterly Open Debate on the Middle East (Israel/Palestine)

By Ghazal Rahmanpanah

On 23 July 2015, the Council held its quarterly open debate on the Middle East, with a focus on the growing tensions between Israel and Palestine. New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, held the presidency. This July marked one year since the most recent round of conflict between Palestinian armed groups and Israeli forces, and the launch of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, from 7 July to 26 August 2014, which resulted in the worst escalation of hostilities in Gaza since 1967.

Given that no political solution is seen in the horizon, the need for a gendered perspective of armed conflict is more essential than ever. Sexual violence, in particular, continues to be used as a tool to terrorise activists and civilians, by both governments and non-State armed groups. Furthermore, in refugee camps, reports have indicated sexual exploitation of women in exchange of humanitarian assistance. Unfortunately, references to the impact of conflict in the Middle East on women remained almost nonexistent, with only one reference made by the United States on the killing of women by ISIS. Iceland, on the contrary, directly spoke to the disproportionate impact of conflict in Palestine on women, ensuring equal participation of women as key to durable peace and reconciliation. It also stressed the need for inclusion of women in the peace process in response to their noticeable absence.

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