In America, the holiday season is upon us. And as we prepare to sit around the table to give thanks for all that we have, many in the Middle East continue to struggle with the ongoing warring between Israeli and Palestinian forces. A little spoken of conflict throughout the now “old news” presidential campaign, this new upheaval has much more dire implications for a potential two-state solution or cease-fire between the factions. The Middle East is never a palatable topic of interest to most Americans. Many would rather ignore the death tolls of Palestinians in blind support of Israel. But, this most recent conflict may make that slightly more difficult than it may have been before.
The warring between Israelis and Palestinians has been peaking and dipping for over sixty years. In 1947, the United Nations decided that Palestine would become two states, one Jewish and the other Arab. And, the seemingly continuous conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip, densely occupied by Palestinian Arabs, has become synonymous when diplomats speak of lack of “peace in the Middle East.” Although each side claims legitimacy in the region, there are a host of religious, political, and geographical barriers to the proposed “two-state solution.” Though never full fleshed out or accepted by the separate factions, the two-state solution has been the go-to policy recommendation from the UN since the mid- to late-sixties. And, many current politicians refer back to the two-state solution whenever the conflict is brought up.
In present day, this conflict is much more complex than many may know. The Palestinian militia, known as Hamas, has often been blamed for instigating the riotous warring between Israel and Gaza. Because the general global support of Israel has long standing roots, Hamas has been seen in a predominantly negative light. Because of this, the borders of Gaza have been closed since 2005. And Israeli encroachment on the tiny territory has left Palestinians in perpetual poverty. The most recent conflict, which started last Wednesday, erupted when Hamas led rocket strikes on the cities of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. But, since Israel now has the Iron Dome, many of those missiles were shot down before reaching their targets. To answer these attacks, Israel has wielded its technological and military power by unleashing targeted strikes on Hamas militants in the civilian occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank. This week-long battle has resulted in the deaths of a top Hamas leader and many civilians and only incited further action from Gaza’s Hamas leadership.
Just yesterday, President Obama spoke to Thai diplomats regarding Israel’s retaliation in Gaza. He explained that he supported Israel’s actions against Hamas’ missile attacks.
“[T]here is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes. Let’s understand what the precipitating event here was that’s causing the current crisis, and that was an ever-escalating number of missiles that were landing not just in Israeli territory but in areas that are populated.”
He went on to admonish supporters of Palestinians and encourage a cease fire from Gaza.
“[T]hose who champion the cause of the Palestinians should recognize that if we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza, then the likelihood of us getting back on any sort of peace track that leads to a two-state solution is, is going to be pushed off way into the future. So if we’re serious about wanting to resolve this situation and create a genuine peace process, it starts with no more missiles being fired in Israel’s territory and that then gives us the space to try to deal with these longstanding conflicts that exist.”
What is most striking about the President’s words is that he insinuates that the real issue here is Palestinian missile attacks on Israel. When, in actuality, the real issue here is a lack of conspicuous diplomacy efforts in a region that everyone wishes would just figure it out on their own. The recent civilian deaths in Gaza have totaled over 100 in the past few days while Israeli deaths are less than 5% of that number. And, while many US politicians would like to suggest stale old solutions for this ever increasing problem, the shifting dynamics in the Middle East make this recent altercation much more drastic than its predecessors.
Without a real solution and meaningful dialogue about what a two-state solution might mean for both Israelis and Palestinians, any efforts by the UN to address this conflict are for naught. And, increasingly, Israel’s brash actions toward the fledgling military power in Gaza are garnering tough admonishment from its major supporters like the UK. De-escalation is obviously the answer. But, it seems this has become more of a political football and less of a real issue for most Americans. Both sides are in talks with the newly elected Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, who’s in a vicarious position after dictator Hosni Mubarak was ousted just last year. He must remain loyal to Israel in order to secure a better economic outcome for Egypt but also has a commitment to Hamas’ Islamic Brotherhood. So, the next few days will be critical indicators of whether or not peace can be struck between the warring nations.
While Americans feast with family, many in these regions will remain in fear of military occupation, ground militarization, or impending air strikes. And while it is extremely easy to forget that these drastic circumstances exist around the world, it is imperative that we, as global citizens, are made aware of the issues facing struggling nations abroad. The outcomes of this week’s talks could have lasting impacts on our economic and political policy for years to come. And simply accepting the status quo won’t have much of an effect on the decisions those in power make to solve these types of important issues. Whether one places blame with Israelis or Palestinians, what is important to understand is that the conflict can’t continue on in this way forever. And, the closer the UN can get the two groups to peace, the better we’ll all be in the end.