What’s Blocking Peace Between Israel and Palestine?
Before I attempt to dive into the Palestine-Israel debate, we should all be aware of how chaotic this situation is. The blame for over 100 years of the region’s conflict should be solely put at Britain’s feet. Promising land to both Palestinians and Zionists in World War One started this war; inflammation caused by our own mismanagement.
It is ironic that Brits attempt to highlight problems in the region when their only connection is studying it at school. However, the first thing anyone should know is that this is not simply black and white. Although I heavily support the Palestinian struggle, we must be careful to avoid the Peep Show sentiment of ‘Mark likes Israel, I’m Palestine. Makes it much more interesting if you pick sides.’
The USA – Problem One
For those who remember the Oslo Accords, we can remember a time where America was supportive in attempting to solve this conflict. It has also fuelled the conflict, using Israel as a pawn during the Cold War against USSR backed Syria, Iran, and Egypt, but Oslo 1993 showed fantastic efforts to take steps to peace. Arafat, leader of the PLO, and Prime Minister Rabin of Israel were both awarded Nobel Peace Prizes for their efforts during these years, showing signs of hope.
However, times have changed. With the threat of Israel losing its ‘buffer zones’, Americans’ perceptions have changed. 9/11 only increased Americans’ fear and hatred for Muslim countries, ending a lot of pro-Palestine support for some time.
America’s role is crucial. They are not the only ones who could encourage Israel to engage in talks, but they also sit on the UN security council. This gives them veto power over any UN decision, and they have constantly voted against Palestinian recognition. With no US backing, nothing will change.
The Golan Heights – Problem Two
The Golan Heights are an example of Israel’s worries and intentions here. For those who do not know, the Golan Heights were taken from Syria during the 1967 six-day war. Despite Syria’s 1973 offensive, Israel has managed to hold onto it. There is nothing economically valuable to the region, so why hold onto it despite it being Syrian land?
The reason is that it is of huge military significance. Holding the Heights allows you to easily repel any attack on the area, providing the perfect buffer zone from military invasion.
This is what is so key. Israel was born into war. Within 24 hours of Britain leaving Israel, an Arabian coalition invaded Israel and it was nothing short of a miracle that Israel repelled Palestinian, Egyptian, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. That list is not including several organisations banding together to also join in the fight. Since then, Muslim countries have been incredibly aggressive until Israel became the superpower in the region. Then the tables turned.
However, this fear of invasion will always remain, especially for civilians living in Israel. The land captured is a buffer zone protecting ‘actual’ Israel. This is why regions like the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights will not be abandoned without insurances.
Jerusalem – Problem 3
Notice I have not even started on religious differences. I still believe this is more of a war for land than religion and should be seen that way, but religion of course plays a massive part.
In every attempt for peace, both sides will refuse to give up ownership of Jerusalem. In this case, Jerusalem should be awarded to the UN. Put it under UN protection, and make it a realm of political and religious neutrality. That is the only way I can see this being resolved. Even then, this is a very big pill to swallow.
Benjamin Netanyahu – Problem 4
Finally, the man himself, Prime Minister – or ex-PM – Netanyahu. He is one of the most corrupt leaders Israel has ever had; using Palestinian conflicts as an excuse to keep hold of power. It is no surprise that just as it seems Israel might get rid of Netanyahu, Israel picks up its aggressive nature towards Palestinians to distract from actual problems. His aggression towards Palestinians most likely used a blanket to hide his years of ineptitude ignoring of course his somewhat surprising success dealing with Covid, which must be removed if peace is ever to be a possibility.
This article only touches on some of the problems. Despite this, Israel needs to be held accountable for its actions. Of course, Palestinians aren’t exactly clean of blood, but when ‘Palestinians throw stones, Israel sends a rocket’.
It was not long ago the tables were reversed when Zionists and Israeli terrorist groups were blowing up the King David Hotel in response to Palestinian rule. Both sides have been the ruler, the oppressed, and labelled ‘terrorists’ by the other side. There is so much history, and the conflict is crying out for someone to take the first step and follow Arafat and Rabin’s path. That first step comes with America realising its problem, and Netanyahu leaving.
Written by Publisher, Max Anderson
Problem Number Five: Hamas – A Conservative Response
My colleague raises some interesting and worthwhile points here. I am glad to see this article more nuanced than simply saying “Israel bad”. However, there is another key problem that is preventing peace which has not been mentioned.
Firstly, while America’s support has been labelled as problematic, it has prevented hundreds of lives from being lost. US support in developing and maintaining the Iron Dome defence system that has prevented Israeli civilian casualties is just one example. American support has helped protect Israel despite it being surrounded by enemies. While their support of Israel has been too unwavering, it ultimately has helped to save lives. The miracle of Israel repelling so many countries at once could not have been achieved without America.
Now, the problem of the terrorist group Hamas. Founded in 1987, the group broke off from the Palestinian Authority and took control of Gaza. Throughout the years it has carried out suicide bombings (intifadas) in opposition to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. These acts are what brought Benjamin Netanyahu to power in the first place, and have hardened Israel’s relationship with Palestine. If it were not for these attacks, more progress from the Oslo Accords might have been made.
It not only has a terrorist wing, but also a political wing. In 2006 they won legislative elections, and in 2007 they ousted the rival Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas. Since Hamas has only tightened their grip. The group has fought three wars against Israel, and keeps firing thousands of rockets at civilian areas. Mahmoud Abbas, the successor of Arafat, viewed Hamas’ rocket fire as counter-productive, and I agree. Egypt also has continued to blockade Hamas in Gaza along with Israel.
The group is also firmly opposed to the Oslo Accords. They are not willing to negotiate. Despite their 2017 charter softening their language the group still refuses to recognise the state of Israel or enter into talks. Hamas are a strong roadblock to peace in the Middle East, yet have failed to get even a mention.
I would even argue they are the biggest problem, as it is extremely hard to stop them without causing international outrage. The other problems with which my colleague identifies, while are difficult to resolve, are not impossible. Netanyahu will not last forever, (indeed, he is now the ex-PM), and under Biden a change in stance compared to Trump is evident.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
The USA Stands in the Way of Peace – A Labour Response
America’s stance has not changed. Israel’s stance has not changed. Hamas are still fundamentally against a situation in which the country remains a Jewish nation. This is the stalemate the region finds itself in.
The total amount of aid given by the US to Israel since the modern state was founded in 1948 is over 150 billion USD. This aid is mostly in the form of military equipment and funding for military activities. American politicians and journalists have shown unequivocal support for Israel, and are often heard exclaiming that ‘Israel has a right to defend itself’ and that ‘the onus is on Hamas’.
This response will not be long enough to explain the multitude of reasons why the US supports Israel so wholeheartedly. However, what should be clear to everyone is that the military strength of Israel far outweighs that of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran. This is just one reason why Israel’s military operations in Gaza cannot be seen as justified. There is a total lack of proportionality in regard to the ability to do harm.
The Iron Dome stops roughly 90% of the rockets fired out of Gaza by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The same cannot be said for the Israeli airstrikes which rain down on Gaza. The use of F-35 warplanes by the Israeli military to target civilian housing blocks, schools, and international press offices is wrong. America is not simply complicit in these acts but, as the ONLY UN security council member to vote against (and veto) calls for a ceasefire, they are actively supporting Israel’s actions.
Both of my colleagues have mentioned the Oslo Accords as a moment of light in the troubled past of Israeli and Palestinian relations. Unfortunately, what once seemed like a beacon was extinguished with the assassination of PM Rabbin and the ascension of the Israeli right who profit politically from continued war. The Camp-David summit was derailed because the terms were laughably punitive toward the Palestinians. This marked the end of the accords.
On the subject of peace talks and the reasons they fail, America again must bear responsibility. Since Hamas came to power, no one from the West has been willing to engage with them. In 2009, Hamas government ministers invited an American Obama-era delegation to talks with the aim of de-escalating tensions. This invitation was rejected because America labels Hamas as a terrorist group. Regardless of which moniker you apply to Hamas they represent Gaza, they have to be brought into conversations about peace or all talks will fail.
I am also imploring Kieran to do some reading about the goods blockade on Gaza and the economic effect it has on the people there. I am in no way condoning the violence of Hamas. But it must be understood that the people of Gaza (most of whom are refugees from the wars of the 20th century) have been trapped in an open-air prison regularly without access to basic things like electricity, clean water, and medicine since 2007. They are bound to lash out, and as can be seen very clearly by looking at the death toll of both sides is having an extremely minimal impact upon Israel.
I agree with Max’s suggestion that Jerusalem becomes a neutral territory operated by the UN for the time being. But the first and easiest step would be for the US to move its embassy from Jerusalem and reverse Trump’s inflammatory decision.
Perhaps most importantly, and it is a shame that neither the Liberal or Conservative pieces have covered this, this most recent flare-up was caused by the evictions of 27 Palestinian families in Sheik Jarrah during Ramadan. This cannot be seen as an isolated incident.
Since 1948, the approach of the Israeli state has been expansion and erasure of Palestinian culture. Whether it be the bulldozing of over 3000 olive trees in Area C of the West Bank, or the stripping of residency rights from nearly 20,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites since 1967; these are the aggressions of the state of Israel that have sparked the various conflicts over the years.
I am currently in my second year of reading Politics at the University of Exeter. My first interaction with politics was at the tender age of four years old.
Hello, my name is Kieran Burt and I am going into second year at Nottingham Trent University studying Politics and International Relations. I first developed an interest in politics through reading the Dictator’s Handbook by Alastair Smith and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, when I was 16, and have furthered my interest by studying politics at A level and now at university.
I am entering the third year of a BA in History and Ancient History at the University of Exeter. I have a fascination with the past otherwise and you would hope so, otherwise I may have chosen the wrong degree. But, writing for POI gives me the opportunity to talk politics which is something I simply can’t avoid.