Is Trump a Reliable Broker for Peace in the Israel-Palestine Conflict?
The United States funds over $3 billion to the Israeli military every year. Most of this aid is funded for military assistance since Israel’s economy has been fairly strong. At the United Nations, Israel does not have a stronger advocate than the United States. And when it comes to the never-ending peace process with the Palestinians, critics say that Israel does not have a more favorable broker than the U.S.
On former Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Israel in 2013, Secretary Kerry stated that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will “continue to work, and I promise Israelis that America will stand by the side of Israel every step of the way. We believe [peace] is something that is possible, that is good for all, and that it can be achieved.” And all the while, Israel’s expansion of settlements and its constant human rights violations against Palestinians has shattered Palestinian dreams of statehood.
In regards to Palestine, Israel’s main objectives for their survival are defense and security, especially from a Hamas government that has hidden rockets and missiles in Palestinian schools and hospitals. In addition, Israel faces threats on all fronts, ranging from the dangers of Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon, the Syrian Civil War near the Golan Heights, the Iranian development of a nuclear weapon, and of course the Jerusalem issue with the Jordanians, which are multiple issues Israel has to deal with to protect the sovereignty of the Jewish state. However, Israel feels that taking a risk by trading land for peace could cause a backlash and it feels that defense and security is more important for securing the Jewish state rather than risky peaceful negotiations, especially because geographically Israel is a Jewish state surrounded by Arab states.
It has fought off Arab wars in 1948, 1967, and 1973 and because of these wars, Israel has gained more land including the Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai, but gave the Sinai back to Egypt in exchange for peace, Israel has rampaged Southern Lebanon to contain Hezbollah influence, but the West Bank and Gaza still have no statehood.
On the Israel-Palestine issue, the United States should be able to be a broker in the peace process, but it has been unable to do so. Secondly, the United States has done nothing to put pressure on Israel which serves as a roadblock for a two-state solution. Historically, the United States has been a broker in Israel-Egypt relations in 1979, Israel-Jordan relations in 1994, although Israel-Jordan relations are somewhat tense, and now, the U.S is working on Israel-Palestine relations. Of course, we should continue to strengthen our alliance with Israel, but the U.S. should put more pressure on Israel to stop the illegal building of settlements in the West Bank and treat Palestinians as equals to Israeli citizens and not as outliers. In addition, the U.S. has to afford credibility to both sides and not just to the Israelis. The United States is, of course, pro-Israel, but it is also pro-peace and for stability in the Middle East. Also, the United States has never given up on the peace process and it is better to keep trying and fail than not to try at all. The Israel that everyone should believe in is an Israel that is at peace with its neighbors, especially with the Palestinians.
Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians have been quite barbaric when it comes to human rights. Many Palestinians are treated as outsiders in their own land by the Mossad and Israeli military. Also, the settlements have been recognized by the United Nations as a violation of international law which has displaced many Palestinians from their homes where they have been living for so many generations. According to the Human Rights Watch, Israeli security forces have constantly used “excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators and suspected attackers, raising the specter of extra-judicial killings.” However, the Hamas government has also been accused of human rights violations by torturing people, including journalists and reporters. Palestinian security forces have also arrested students for expressing their criticisms against the government.
When the U.S steps in when Israel violates international law, it does nothing. According to the U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee, “the United States has vetoed 42 anti-Israel resolutions since 1972.” However, nobody has held Israel accountable for violating international law for constantly violating Palestinian rights, and how can the United Nations use their leverage to pressure Israel to follow international law and not allow Israel to be above it. In regards to the settlements, officials time and time again fail to recognize that the process is more important than the peace and this is a serious problem that both sides have undermined.
To say that the peace process had made progress is controversial. Some experts say that it has made significant progress, but others say that it has not. Some argue that Palestinians recognize the state of Israel. Case in point, Israelis have shaken hands on the White House lawn with Palestinian leaders like Yasser Arafat, but in terms of the partner Israel needs to make peace, the United States remains that partner. On the other hand, the critics of the peace process argue that the multiple bombings of Gaza and the continued expansion of settlements have slowed down the Israeli-Palestinian issue. If Israel does not find a way to make peace with the Palestinians, the Jewish state and its democracy will be in serious jeopardy. There is also a demographic consequence in the peace process. By around 2020, even 2025, there would be no Jewish majority in Israel, and this is a demographic threat to Israel.
According to former Ambassador from the United States to Israel and former Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, Martin Indyk, Israel should not “have to make that choice between being Jewish and being democratic. But we are at that point.” But the two-state solution is dead for now because the land that is needed for a two-state solution is filled with Israeli settlements. In addition, Israel is already one state, and it rules another people and it occupies Palestinians as part of one state. Many Palestinians see Israel as an occupier and an invader while the Palestinians are being seen as the occupied on their own land.
According to Dr. Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian author and academic, Israel is an ‘apartheid state’ that “it is a discriminatory state operating an apartheid-style system against the Palestinians with impunity.” If there is a pathway for peace, the two-state solution must be the way, and the world should put more pressure on Israel to stop the expansion of settlements, and respect the rights of Palestinians