Both on campus and across the country, Israel has faced slanderous attacks from groups labeling the nation as an “apartheid regime.” This, of course, is nothing new. Israel has been fighting for its survival for decades. While these demonstrations have been futile, it has brought to the forefront the serious and complicated issues which drive the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The state of Israel has always been a controversial subject since its founding in 1948. Many opposition groups, like the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement, have grown to voice their opposition to Israel and its alleged oppression and transgressions on the world stage.
The BDS Movement, founded in 2005, is a global campaign promoting various forms of boycotts against Israel. The BDS Movement has sought for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories it acquired in the Six-Day War in 1967, including the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights, and to pressure Israel to grant full equality to Arab-Israeli citizens.
A counter-response has emerged in response to the BDS movement emphasizing the goals of the movement as ineffective, counter-productive to peace and security, contrary to norms of academic freedom, and is even considered anti-Semitic. However, it has gained support from three members of the so-called “Squad,” including Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). We have seen anti-Israel sentiment become increasingly louder on college campuses across the country and even here at GW. Moreover, it may grow as a pressing issue in American politics going into the future.
Movements like this have grown in support in recent years due to the growing amount of Israeli settlements being built in the West Bank. International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlements on the land to be illegal. The Israeli settlements are also viewed as major obstacles in peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinians want for their future state. The Jewish population in the West Bank has increased by more than 330,000 people and eight settlements have been built in the West Bank over the past three decades. More than 380,000 settlers currently live in the West Bank, over 40% of them outside the settlement blocs. More recently in October of 2018, the Palestinian Authority has denounced an Israeli decision to expand an illegal settlement in the heart of Hebron city, describing the move as a “declaration of war” against the Palestinian people. Netanyahu’s Government supports and encourages the development of Israeli settlements in the West Bank because of the Jewish people’s historic ties to the region. In Netanyahu’s most recent re-election bid, he pledged that if re-elected he would look into annexing parts of the West Bank. Even proponents of the two-state solution who vote for Zionist center-left parties such as Labor, Meretz and Benny Gantz’s newly established Kahol Lavan (Blue and White Party) don’t rule out at least partial annexation of the West Bank to Israel. In total, 42% of respondents support some form of annexation. The results also show that 20% of non-Jewish respondents, most of them Arab citizens of Israel, support annexation if their Palestinian neighbors are granted political rights. This is more than double the number of Jewish Israelis (9%) who back such a scenario.
Because of these numerous settlements, it has been very difficult to propose maps to foster peace between the two nations and all attempts thus far have been rejected by Palestine.
Extreme opposition to the settlements can be seen through groups like Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist militant organization, whose goal is to liberate Palestine and modern-day Israel from Israeli occupation. However, Palestinian extremists like Hamas have fought to take complete control of the region and eradicate the State of Israel from the map. Both sides have their faults, but if peace is the ultimate goal, then concessions must be made to finalize a two-state solution. It is the most reasonable proposition, as the Israelis would not want to be governed by a Palestinian government and vice versa.
From the outset, Hamas has been closely interconnected with the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, which has provided it with a wide range of doctrinal, political, moral, and material support. Hamas has also enjoyed the support of Islamic movements in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Algeria, and Tunisia, not to mention of the Islamic communities and organizations in the United States and Europe.
Hamas must end its reign of terror on the Israeli people if they hope to achieve full statehood. One step to combat Hamas would be for the UN to condemn the terrorist organization, but unfortunately we aren’t there yet. If Hamas continues its violence against the citizens of Israel then I fear that peace in the region will become a distant imagination.
On December 7th, 2018, a UN vote to condemn Hamas’ heinous acts of rocket fire and use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes failed due to opposition from all the Arab countries, despite a concentrated effort by Ambassador Nikki Haley and the Trump administration to ensure their support. Even Arab countries that have reportedly warmed up to Israel recently, such as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman, voted against denouncing Hamas on the world stage. The same was true for Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.
One solution for peace between Israel and Palestine could be to grant Palestine statehood with full autonomy over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel would have to relinquish its Israeli settlements in the West Bank because the map of Palestine would be dotted across the Jordan River Valley, which would leave it unable to function efficiently as a contiguous state.
This may cause mass migration of Israelis and Palestinians back to their respective countries. Citizens of each nation would be able to cross the border, but a strong vetting procedure should be put in place to make sure anyone entering Israel or Palestine does not have malicious intentions. It would be a multilayered system that addresses Israel’s security concerns in which Israel retains the right of self defense as well as the capacity to defend itself by itself, but ensures this is only necessary in extreme circumstances.
In order for this to work, concessions must be made by both sides. The Palestinians must recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and if this is done then Palestine should be able to govern its own state, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, from East Jerusalem. Though, Israel must guarantee that no more settlements are to be built in the West Bank. So, in these troubling times we cannot abandon Israel or Palestine, a two-state solution can be established, but we must all work together to make it happen.
The Republican Party must continue to make US-Israeli relations stronger, but it also must recognize the complexity of the situation both Israel and Palestine face. President Trump took a leap, like no other president before him, to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, using the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 which was passed by both chambers of Congress. It was a step in the right direction to legitimize Israel’s sovereignty and strengthen US-Israeli relations; however, the president must also denounce Netanyahu’s efforts to encourage the development of more settlements in the West Bank. President Trump should actively work with both the Israeli and Palestinian governments to enact a ceasefire. The US, with the backing of the UN, can act as an arbiter to try to devise a plan that can potentially be agreed to by both sides. The US has the ability to protect its own interests abroad by supporting a two-state solution; and, in doing so, it can thwart attempts by other aggressors in the Middle East, like Syria and Iran, from using the current regional destabilization to grab a stronger hold of power and influence.
Abu-Amr, Ziad. "Hamas: A Historical and Political Background." Journal of Palestine Studies 22, no. 4 (1993): 5-19. Accessed December 09, 2018. doi:10.1163/2468-1733_shafr_sim220070064.
Al Jazeera. "Palestine Denounces Illegal Israeli Settlement Plan in Hebron." GCC News | Al Jazeera. October 15, 2018. Accessed December 05, 2018. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/palestine-denounces-illegal-israeli-settlement-plan-hebron-181015064919113.html.
Bakan, Abigail B., and Abu-Laban, Yasmeen. "Palestinian Resistance and International Solidarity: The BDS Campaign." Race & Class 51, no. 1 (2009): 29-54. Accessed December 07, 2018. doi:10.1177/0306396809106162.
Berger, Yotam. "How Many Settlers Really Live in the West Bank? Haaretz Investigation Reveals." Haaretz.com. April 24, 2018. Accessed December 05, 2018. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-revealed-how-many-settlers-really-live-in-the-west-bank-1.5482213.
Goldenberg, Ilan. "A Security System for the Two-State Solution." Center for a New American Security. May 31, 2016. Accessed December 09, 2018. https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/advancing-the-dialogue-a-security-system-for-the-two-state-solution.
Kraft, Dina. 2019. "Haaretz Poll: 42% Of Israelis Back West Bank Annexation, Including Two-State Supporters". Haaretz.Com. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/israeli-palestinian-conflict-solutions/.premium-42-of-israelis-back-west-bank-annexation-including-two-state-supporters-1.7047313.