Is Peace Possible in the Holy Land?
by Daphne Chow on Friday, December 7th, 2012
The latest chapter in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict concluded on November 21st, with a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction in control of the Gaza Strip. The conflict, which has raged intermittently and with the participation of regional and international powers since 1948, has in recent years centered on the status of two territories Israel conquered during the 1967 Six Day War: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but in 2006, the Palestinian National Authority elected a parliament dominated by Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, and the European Union. Since then, Israel has blockaded Gaza, and Hamas has made a habit of firing rockets at Israeli population centers, often provoking sharp Israeli aerial responses. Before this latest flare-up, the most significant conflict between Israel and Hamas occurred in 2009, when Israeli airstrikes killed over 1,000 people, civilians and militants, in Gaza.
This November’s exchange of ordinance ended when the United States and Egypt stepped in. President Obama sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help lead peace talks, and newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi contributed as well. The United States government has had strong ties with Israel, whereas Morsi, as a member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, has what Time terms “deep ties to Hamas,” which was originally an offshoot of the Egyptian brothers.
Though the intervention of Egypt and the United States has ensured that the bloodshed will not reach 2009 proportions, a permanent solution is elusive, particularly given the mistrust between the two sides.
The tension between Palestinians and Israelis has not resulted merely from boundary disputes. Saree Makdisi, a professor at UCLA, argues that because “the population of Gaza is constituted by refugees… driven from their homes elsewhere in Palestine in 1948 for the creation of a Jewish state,” Israel views Palestinians as a “demographic threat” that could change Israel’s status as a Jewish state. In other words, Israel worries about the social effects of an increasing Palestinian population. Most Palestinians simply want their rights as a separate state, without any restrictions imposed by Israel.
Numerous past attempts at a resolution have failed. In the 1993 Oslo Accord, both parties agreed, among other articles, to “renounce terrorism.” And yet, acts of terror continue. Other attempted agreements, like the 2000 Camp David Summit, have failed to end the fighting. If those efforts for peace did not prevail, why will this time — with much less serious international attention — be different? Even if the two parties settle on a compromise, both sides will always believe that they deserve even more from negotiations.
In short, though many have praised the recent American and Egyptian moves, foreign intervention is only the beginning of the road to peace. More concrete steps from Israel and Palestine are necessary to end this conflict.
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