How do disasters influence conflict and diplomacy in conflict areas? The scholarship shows that while they can provide opportunities for cooperation and 'disaster diplomacy' between parties to a conflict, they can also intensify tension and hostility. This article uses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the COVID-19 pandemic as a case study, exploring the impact of the crisis on relations between the rival parties and examining the conditions under which an ongoing pandemic might lead to either conflict or cooperation in a conflict area. The research is based on within-case analysis, comparing three conflict arenas: Israel-Palestinian Authority relations in the West Bank; relations between Israel and the Palestinian community in East Jerusalem; and Israel-Hamas government relations in the Gaza strip. The article outlines the possibilities and limitations of 'disaster diplomacy' in intractable conflicts and contributes to the literature by identifying how different contexts, relations and actors in each conflict arena affect the development of patterns of conflict and cooperation with regard to the pandemic. The study analyses the factors that shape how the pandemic affects the conflict, and the COVID-19-related diplomacy, in each sub-case, with attention to three main variables: The structure of the conflict arena, domestic politics and the developments in the pandemic. The analysis addresses the unique conditions of an ongoing global pandemic, as opposed to an isolated disaster event, and traces the changing impact of the pandemic on the conflict and on disaster-related cooperation at various stages.
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- Israeli-Palestinian conflict
- Middle East
- conflict resolution
- disaster diplomacy
- peace processes