Marina S: Response Paper #6

Arguably the greatest obstacle to reaching a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is Israeli resistance towards peaceful negotiation and compromise. The Israeli government wants subordination, not peace, and the United States is their strongest backer. The governments of Israel and Palestine cannot continue to exist the way they do and hope to find a path towards peace. In order for the violence to end and for Palestinian civilians to live with human security, there must be major changes made to the fabric of the societies and the institutions of both states. Unless focus is placed on improving relations from the top-down (i.e. policy-making and diplomacy) and from the bottom-up (i.e. human development and public opinion), the conflict cannot reach a true, permanent resolution. These changes must begin in Israel, as they hold more power, and have historically often been the first party to either shut down or violate attempts at diplomatic problem-solving.

Considering this, the first move would be for the United States to begin reducing their influence in the region. As explained by scholar Stephen Zunes, the US has been an active player in encouraging the rise of violent extremism in Palestine and the increased infringement upon the human rights of Palestinian citizens. On several separate occasions, the US interfered with peace negotiations, blocked the United Nations from enforcing international law in Israel, sought to destabilize democracy in Palestine, defended Israel’s use of deadly force against Palestinian civilians, and supplied arms in massive numbers to Israel and certain Palestinian parties (Zunes 2009). The US must therefore also step back as a mediator for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, as they are not now, nor have they ever been, an impartial actor capable of producing just and balanced outcomes. The influence of American Zionist lobbyists is simply too strong to allow for this (Gelvin 275).

Once a proper means of mediation has been found, the parties must address the ever-present issues of land rights and statehood. This is where the international community and institutions of civil society can have a major role to play. The international community, particularly Western countries that support Israel, can put greater pressure on the Israeli government to abandon illegal settlements and condemn the use of unnecessary violence against Palestinian citizens. They can also encourage the further development of Palestine as an independent state. For decades now, in spite of concentrated outside efforts to oppose it, the people of Palestine have pursued the creation of a democratic system of self-governance. Because of Israel’s fear of losing its status as a Jewish homeland, it has incentive to deny citizenship and basic human rights to Palestinians and migrant workers brought in to replace them (Gelvin 277). The people of Palestine have the right to live under a government that is meant to serve them, and is not built off of a history of their own oppression.

Aside from political struggles, an equally important undertaking on the path towards peace is the creation of mutual understanding and respect between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. The greatest source of contention for Palestinians, and the reason for the emergence of violent radicalism amongst them, is the pattern of severe human rights violations at the hands of the Israeli government. Israel and the United States can and should offer support through money and resources for Palestinian-led initiatives to encourage the development of democracy, economy, media, and human quality of life within Palestine. In the recent past, Israel and the US have specifically tried to destabilize the Palestinian government, first by dismantling the PLO, then by fuelling violence between different political factions in an attempt to abolish the Palestinian parliament. Israel’s sanctions and blockades have also led to the devastation of the Palestinian economy. These actions, along with many others, have encouraged right-wing extremism and plunged many Palestinians into destitution (Zunes 2009). Their effects must be reversed through collaborative efforts to rebuild stability in the region, but it must be done on Palestinian terms.

Muslims and Jews living in the West have the opportunity to exercise their influence by acting as role models for interfaith cooperation. Community-building between the two faiths can serve as both a sandbox for positive interaction and a source of strength in a time when people of both faiths are being threatened by right-wing extremist groups in Europe and North America.