Sunday, August 18, 2013

Israeli-Palistinian conflict part 3

   This is the third and final post on the Israeli-Palastinian conflict. I will start where I left of.
   In late March of 2013 Israel resumed funding for the Palestinians in the west bank. Later that month President Barack Obama arrived in Israel on his first trip to the nation during his presidency. Very little was expected of him, and most people thought the trip was made just to maintain the status quo. The skeptics proved to be wrong. A poll from the Jerusalem Post taken after the trip showed that the president improved his image among the Israeli public. Also, the president managed to get Prime Minister Netanyahu to apologize over the flotilla operation.

        On April 7, 2013, Holocaust Memorial day, Hamas fired rockets into Israel from Gaza. In response, Israel closed the border to Gaza. Once again, this shows that Gaza has little respect for Israel and does not want peace.

      Then on April 13, 2013, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad resigned. Prime Minister Fayyad was well respected by Western governments, and the Israeli one. He built confidence among Westerners and some Israelis for the Palestinian authority by introducing accountability and transparency. He also restored stability to the West Bank after he took office in 2007. Because of this and his moderate views, he did a great job fundraising for his cause. However, he was unpopular with many Fatah leaders and his people. He has become a scapegoat for senior Fatah leaders, who blame him for all of the Palestinian Authority's problems, and by the people of the West Bank for worsening economic conditions. President Abbas failed to back him up in public. This could be a major blow to the peace process, and makes peace even less likely. 

     On April 30, 2013, the Arab League proposed to continue negotiations. It stated it would accept what it called "minor" changes to the pre-1967 borders. A letter from the office of the Prime Minister  of Israel said that it welcomed the statement and it was prepared to restart negotiations right away, but without preconditions. On May 1, 2013, Netanyahu said that no peace deal could be reached until the Palestinians recognized Israel as a Jewish state. This is crucial, because there entire two state solution agreement is based on a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. There are two possibilities for why Abbas refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. The more likely one is that Abbas is appealing to his base. Although this signals he cares more about staying in power than peace, it means he could be convinced to do so, and could still be a partner in peace. The second possibility is that his ultimate goal  is to have one Palestinian state and not Jewish state. Although this possibility seems unlikely, it still makes Israel reluctant to agree on a peace plan. Until the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, it is likely that the peace process will be at a permanent impass. 

       On May 7, 2013, Netanyahu paused the building of new settlements. However just two days later 300 new housing units in a settlement in the West Bank were approved. That same day, the Defense Deputy Minister Danny Danon announced Israel will not freeze new settlements buildings. Danon rightly pointed out that the freezing of settlements have not worked in the past; however, that does not mean it shouldn't be tried again in order to re-start peace talks. The series of incidents happened before a trip by Secretary of State John Kerry, and furthermore are bizarre and counterproductive. On an unrelated note, Danon also said that he will make sure orthodox jews have to serve in the IDF.

     On May 27, 2013, John Kerry, the Secretary of State for the United States, preposed a four billion dollar investment in the West Bank economy. This would improve the living conditions in the area, and may make it less likely for people in the West Bank to turn to terrorism. However, he was vague in his proposal, by failing to say where the money would come from, what the money would be spent on, or when the money would be spent. Despite the fact that this seems to be a good idea, until further details are given, it would be wise to remain skeptical that this will happen.

     On June 2, 2013, Abbas appointed Rami Hamdallah as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority.
He is was an academic for a long time. Later, on June 16, the finance ministers of Israel and Fatah met, and agreed on increased co-oporation on economics in the future. In a bizarre move though, on June 24, Abbas accepted his resignation, not even a month after he was appointed.
     On July 19, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a deal in which Israel and the Palestinian Authority would re-start negotiations, which have not happened in over three years. They would be based on the 1967 borders. Knowing the history of negotiations between the two sides, it is unlikely that they will accomplish much, but never the less it is a positive step forward.

     On July 27 Israel released 104 prisoners ahead of negotiations in order to help them make progress. I do not support this, because I feel Israel should not compromise its security in order to help the peace talks, especially since some of the prisoners have been convicted of being involved in lethal attacks. I am convinced this is a foolish decision. They are doing this to help please Abbas, and the Palestinian Authority. It sends a poor message that people can get away with helping terrorist attacks against Israel. Around the same time, Palestinian police clashed with protesters who did not want the PLO to negotiate with Israel. Based, on what I know, I think it is plausible that neither Fatah nor Israel are willing to compromise to get peace, but at the same time agree to negotiate in order to look good in the eyes of the international community. Israel's plans to build new settlements, which were announced on August 10, 2013, supports this idea. The next day, Israel announced it would release an additional 26 prisoners.

       There are many problems facing negotiations right now. One of them is the fate of the Palestinian refugees. Currently there are about 5 million Palestinian refugees, up from 750,000 in 1950. That means that  vast majority of the refugees have never set foot on Israel. Furthermore, it would be one thing if they were defended from victims of a crisis, but this is not the case. It was the Palestinians who originally invaded Israel and set out to destroy Israel, not vise-versa. Besides the questions of whether or not these people deserve to go back, there are two other problems facing the "right of return." The first is that if this was allowed, Israel may not have a Jewish majority. Right now, there are also 6 million jews in Israel. According to google (google Israel's population) the population of Israel is  is about 7.77 million people. This means there are about 1.77 millions arabs and Palestinians living in Israel. Since Israeli Jews and Palestinians have been hostile to each other for the past 60+ years, this would make Israel unstable.  The entire point of a two state solution, which I support, is to have a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. Even if this there was still a Jewish majority, there is still the problem of what to do with all of these new people. Many of them would be very poor, and without a job. It would cost Israel a huge amount of money to support all of these people, and it would take more natural resources to support them, something Israel is already low on.  If this condition is kept, it is incredibly unlikely that Israel will accept the offer. However, a very limited right of return seems plausible.

   Another problem currently facing negotiations is borders. Currently, the negotiations are based on the 1967 borders, with the exception that Israel would keep the Golan Heights. However, the exact borders have not yet been identified, and there are a few issues that need be addressed. The first one is what will happen to Jerusalem. Under the 1967 borders Israel would lose access to the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall, a condition they would never accept. At the same time, the Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their capitol. There are two possible solutions to this. The first one is that Jerusalem would be given to the U.N., but this is unlikely, because this would mean neither country would have any sovereignty over the city. Another solution is that Israel would be given sovereignty over the Jewish, Christian, and Arminian Quarters of the old city of Jerusalem, while the Palestinians would be given control of the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem and the temple mount. The new city of Jerusalem would remain under Israeli control. Another issue is the fate of the Jewish settlers in the West bank. This issue would be tough politically. This is because many of the Jewish Settlers view the West bank as rightfully Jewish because it was in the bible. At the same time, if the settlers stayed, this would undermine Palestinian sovereignty over the areas which contained Israeli settlements. The most likely solution is that most of the settlers would have to leave their settlements, like they had to in the Gaza Strip, but with a few mutually agreed swaps. Lastly, there is the problem of whether these borders are defensible. Israel would like to see a demilitarized Palestinian State, which would mean that the short distance between Tel Aviv and the West Bank would not be a problem. Also, Israel does not want a repeat of what happened with Hamas in Gaza. However, in the case that the Palestinians do not except this condition, the borders would have to make the distance between the West Bank and major Israeli cities longer, and possibly a peace treaty in order for Israel to except it.

   The two sides are still far apart on these issues and others, and past negotiations have not been fruitful. Because of this, the current round of negotiations are highly unlikely to be successful. There is much distrust between the two sides, little reason for either of them to compromise, and no end in sight for this conflict.


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