Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Learn more about the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and see what both sides have to sayBy Published On:
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Introduction

Context

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a focus of American political discourse for decades, with the issue only becoming more pressing in recent years. In modern times, the political divide has become increasingly jarring. The younger and more progressive arm of the Democratic Party has rejected the establishment position of support for Israel and has issued harsh criticism towards the country's behavior on the world stage. Whereas the Republican Party has maintained a firmly pro-Israel standpoint.

The Balfour Declaration, published in 1917 by the British Empire, promised Jewish land within the state of Palestine and marked the beginning of the modern-day Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Following the Balfour Declaration Zionists joined forces with the British army to fight against the Ottomans. Eventually the Jewish forces became strong enough to force Britain into a retreat, and in 1948 after WW2, Israel was established as a nation in the Eastern Mediterranean. The area had long been inhabited by Ottoman Muslims but was officially ruled by the United Kingdom. Most of the Middle Eastern nations did not take kindly to the fact that a Jewish state, as Israel was created to become, was suddenly superimposed upon the several centuries of predominantly Muslim culture in Jerusalem, with other notable locations close by. However, it must be stated that before the land was inhabited by Arabs, Jews lived in modern-day Israel, but they were forced to leave their homeland by the Romans in the second century CE. As Israel was created in such a religiously and culturally motivated part of the world, several agreements had to be made to appease both the Palestinians and the soon-to-become Israelis. Alas, the peace did not last, and the United Nations had to step in, forcing both sides to sign ceasefires. Israel was officially admitted to the UN in 1949. A series of formal and informal wars have taken place between Israel and Palestine, including but not limited to the Six-Day War in 1969, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the First Intifada from 1987 to 1992, and the Second Intifada from 2000 to 2005. Israel currently occupies several territories that officially are a part of Palestine, and neither country formally recognizes the other. This short history of the conflict is very brief and skips over several details, but it is a helpful baseline to start with.

Republican

Republicans generally support Israel for several reasons. First, Republicans believe that Israel has a strong historical and biblical claim to the land that predates that of the Palestinians’. Furthermore, they assert that Israel is governed by a parliamentary democracy that supports western values much more than any other regime in the area, including Palestinian territories governed by the hostile terrorist group Hamas. Illustrating Palestine's unfavorable "government," their stated goal is conquering and replacing Israel with an Islamist state, and they have not held an election since 2006. Furthermore, Republicans highlight that if Americans want to support liberal values such as democracy, freedom of religion, gender equality, and a market-driven economy, Israel should be supported since they are the only country in the region that promotes such concepts. For example, they note that in Israel, women have similar rights to their American counterparts, but in Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, women can't even open a bank account. Furthermore, even after winning multiple wars, Republicans highlight that Israel has repeatedly made concessions to the Palestinian territories to achieve peace. These include land, such as the Gaza strip, sacred places of worship such as the temple mount, and they provide important resources such as food, electricity, and medical care. Republicans also cite that Hamas, the de-facto leader of the Palestinian territories, has repeatedly targeted civilians with their airstrikes and has used human shields and highly populated areas to launch airstrikes so that Israel is forced to respond with civilian casualties. In contrast, Israel calls ahead of their strikes, trying to minimize civilian casualties and only aiming to take out military infrastructure. Finally, as Hamas has called for the destruction of Israel, Israel believes that it needs to occupy the Palestinian territories for its own defense. Republicans recognize that Israel is the world's main safe haven for the Jewish people, who have historically been the target of multiple genocides, both in Europe and in the Middle East.

Democrat

Democrats tend to side with the Palestinian cause. They see Israel's occupation of several parts of Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank as unjustified because they believe that the Palestinians are the rightful inhabitants of the land, have a historical claim to the land, and have been displaced by Israelis in a violent and unfair manner (a reference to the Nakba which led to 800,000 becoming refugees). Democrats highlight that Palestinians are being oppressed by more robust and technologically advanced Israeli military forces. They stress that the fight is an unequal one. Furthermore, as a means of justifying the Palestinians’ historical claim, Democrats often cite the unjust and oppressive Israeli occupation of territory captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. They believe that this occupation creates a system that denies Palestinians basic human rights. Due to this systematic setback, Democrats believe that Israel should provide additional economic resources and assistance to the Palestinians. Recently, more criticism has befallen Israel with the Gaza bombings of May 2021, which led to the deaths of nearly 270 Palestinians, compared to 12 Israelis. Moreover, Palestinians believe that they, like the Israelis, should be granted the right of return so that any Palestinian from anywhere in the world should have the opportunity to become a full citizen of Israel and Palestinian territories. In short, Democrats believe that the Palestinians should be allowed to form an independent nation, free from Israeli occupation and control, and allowed to live in peace with Israel.

Currently, the party is somewhat split; the more progressive Democrats want to see an end to arms deals with Israel in the wake of the recent violence, while the more moderate wing wants to preserve the economic and national security benefits that remain as allies with Israel would have, much like the reasoning of Republicans. While great effort has been taken by progressives to end US support for Israel, mainly the arms deals with Israel, the party as a whole is shifting to take a more pro-Palestinian stance in the dispute.

Discussion Question

  • What is the best short-term solution to appease Israel and Palestine, both as states and as people?
  • What policy should the US take in regards to this conflict?
  • Should we focus on short-term solutions now? or long-term solutions? which ones are truly feasible?
  • Should other nations or organizations, such as the UN or the US, step in? How should they approach the conflict?
    • If so, which side should the United States back?
  • If peace cannot be achieved, what's the next best solution for both sides? For the US?

Sources

BBC. "Profile: Hamas Palestinian Movement." BBC News, May 12, 2017. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-13331522.

Marshall Fraser, Peter. "Palestine | History, People, & Religion." In Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/place/Palestine.

Sicherman, Harvey, and William L Ochsenwald. "Israel | Facts, History, & Map." In Encyclopædia Britannica, March 13, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/place/Israel.

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