The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a conflict that has continued for almost a century now. It is rooted in the controversy over the holy land, which is significant to both parties’ religious facets and history, including Christians, Jews, and Muslims. In 1896, the publication of The Jewish State by Theodor Herzl prompted an increased number of Jews to move to Ottoman Palestine, a region dominated by Arabs. When they fled to Europe, the idea of a safe refuge for Jews in their homeland was born. A significant increase in the movement of the Jewish people occurred after the Holocaust, which occurred during World War II, during which Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews. “The end of World War II brought the central Arab states the sovereignty they had demanded since their creation in 1920”.
The United Nations General Assembly in 1947 voted to establish two states in Palestine where one was to e for the Jews while the other for the Arabs. Israel was later declared an independent state by the Jewish community, which prompted several the emigrations of several Jewish. The paper highlights the Palestine-Israeli conflict and its policy implications for United States interests in the Middle East.
Conflicts in wars between states, armed uprisings, and acts of terrorism have characterized the crisis. The Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War was a defining moment in the conflict. The United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 242. Security Council, calling for the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied lands. As a condition for peace, the United Nations sought to guarantee and respect the boundaries of countries. Even though the agreement lacked specifics, it served as a platform for future negotiations to resolve the issue. It is estimated that two million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, while another three million live on land in West Bank. There are many Arab citizens in the Israel population, even though the most considerable proportion of the population is Jewish.
Current Situation of the Conflict
The conflict which takes two countries into involvement has never come to an end. An Israeli court determined in October 2020 that numerous Palestinians residing in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah area must be removed by May 2021 under Israeli law. It orders the handing over of the land to families of Jews origin. There was a court appeal by several families of Palestinian origin who lived in the region in February 2021. They protested, with the main grievances being the appeal hearing and the ongoing conflict on property ownership. Additionally, they advocated for the ending of the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem.
April 2021 saw the beginning of a demonstration by the Palestinians in the streets of Jerusalem protesting the pending evictions. It saw the face of night sit-ins hosted by the residents of Sheikh Jarrah. In early May, a court ruling favored the removals, which prompted the expansion of the protests and increased deployment of force by the Israeli police to curb the demonstrations. Violence broke out at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on May 7 following the weeks of daily protests and a rise in protesters’ tension during Ramadan. The police used stun grenades, rubber bullets, and water cannons occasionally in the clashes wounding hundreds of Palestinians.
Jerusalem day celebration increased tensions throughout East Jerusalem after the clashes in Jerusalem’s Old City. On May 10, a militant group governing Gaza called Hamas and other militant groups from Palestine launched hundreds of rockets into the Israeli territory. It was prompted by the cumulative use of lethal and non-lethal force by the Israeli police to contain the violence. The Israeli response to the attacks was in the form of airstrikes followed by artillery bombardments against Gaza. Some of the airstrikes killed more than twenty Palestinians, some of whom were children. Israel claimed to target Hamas and other militant groups, including their military infrastructure, tunnels, and rocket launchers.
Accordingly, there was an expansion of the aerial campaign by Israel. The hotspot areas targeted include residential buildings, headquarters of media houses, refugee camps, and healthcare facilities. Therefore there were mass destructions following the attacks.
Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire on May 21, a move that Egypt mediated. Both sides claimed victory and no reported violations. The casualties were that more than two hundred and fifty Palestinians were killed, and approximately two thousand Palestinians wound up. It saw the death of at least thirteen Israelis within the eleven days of the fighting. Economically, tens of millions of dollars were estimated to have been loosed by the Gaza authorities. The United Nations estimate 72,000 Palestinians to have been displaced by the conflict.
Issues of Concern in the Conflict
There is a conflict on who is to control Jerusalem as both sides claim the city. As the site of the Jewish temples, Jerusalem is considered the holy place in Judaism. The Al-Aqsa mosque and the Isra and Mi’raj ceremonies make Jerusalem the third holiest city for Muslims. Christians believe that Jesus Christ was crucified at Jerusalem, and therefore they too hold it as a holy city. It is the location of the Israeli government after the Jerusalem law declaration in which they claimed the entire city was their capital; only Russia and the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In a U.S. plan made public at the Camp David and Taba summits, the United States said that a Palestinian state would be given Arab sectors of Jerusalem, but Israel would be given Jewish areas. The summit failed. Therefore, every side raises concern about the security of their residents in the town.
The Israeli authority highlights the reluctance of Arab countries besides Jordan to grant nationality to Palestinian Arabs who live inside their borders as an explanation for the Arab refusal problem. The refugees are therefore faced with poverty and economic issues. There is a conflict on whom to accommodate the refugees rightfully. As long as there is a future Palestinian state, Israel will recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return home. Israel, on the other hand, maintains that the return of the refugees into the existing state of Israel poses a serious threat to their nation’s stability. There is fear that the destruction of Israel may come from an increased influx of Palestinian refugees. Thus, a bond of contention remains between Israel and Palestine on who precisely should assimilate the refugees.
The imposition of a blockade on Gaza by Israeli is allegedly justified by international law. The Israeli government cites security reasons to be the reason for the move. Furthermore, the action is approved by the United Nations as legal. Accordingly, the Israeli government’s electricity sale directly to Gaza was reduced beginning in February 2008, a move done efficiently as the humanitarian level of calories required was calculated and met. At the Nahal Oz fuel facility, two Israelis were killed in operation to provide fuel to the depot. Thus, the constant legislation released by the Israeli security cabinet governing the blockage is an issue of contention.
The conflict has had substantial economic effects on Palestine, given the future market reduction. Agricultural markets in Gaza suffer from Israeli restrictions, such as the closure of the borders. The Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza estimates the losses in 2006 alone to be 1.2 billion U.S. Dollars. Accordingly, there have been reduced imports and exports from Palestine, which again distorts Israeli exports. Tourism between the two countries is cut due to the fears of political instability and terrorism. It has put both countries at the helm of losing the opportunity costs of what they could otherwise have sold.
Israeli Military Occupation of the West Bank
It was during the Six-Day War of 1967 when Palestinian forces occupied East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Israeli claimed that the area was initially not claimed by any power and that the acquisition of the land was in tandem with the diplomatic laws. Precise borders between the two states have been the bone of contention. Both sides of the conflict have constantly pushed for a two-state solution that contains the notion of having two separate borders has continuously been made for by the United Nations. Palestinians were estimated to have 94 to 96% of their land during President Clinton’s administration.
In the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, Palestinians assert that they have complete sovereignty. However, Israel claims that it is justified not to cede all the land, citing security concerns. Additionally, Israel notes the inadequacy of valid diplomatic agreement as a foundation that the boundaries and ownership of the land are still under discussion. They view any move to reduce the claim by Palestinians as depriving them of their rights and against the people’s interests. Thus, Hamas viewed the peace restoration process of the organizations as forbidden by their religious alignments and that they were not willing to conceive of the decision politically.
Impacts of the Conflicts on the Countries
The conflict has catalyzed an increase in the number of people living in poverty in Palestine. The improvisation came with the Gaza strip blockade in 2007. The cost of living in Palestine has correspondingly increased, given the state’s extravagant spending on wars. There is an acute reduction in water supply, compromising sanitation, and a reduced electricity supply. Cease in external trade has also seen a decrease in access to essential goods. The poverty is perpetuated by the economic sanctions put on them by Israel. Israel also saw a loss of lives due to the attacks by Hamas. Therefore, the countries have seen gross loss, economic, social, and psychological.
Interests of the U.S. in the Dispute
The Middle East has been of great interest to the U.S. from the early political years. United States successive administration regimes have been at the core of interrelated goals such as securing the vital energy resources that the Middle East enormously endowed. Additionally, the Soviet Union and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s influence has constantly sought to be reduced. “The American-led group sought to establish client relationships with the northern tier of nations, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, to thwart Soviet aspirations.” The U.S. is also significantly involved in ensuring Israel’s security and the allies in Gulf, which entails countering terrorism directed at the country.
Accordingly, democracy and the reduction of refugee inflows have been at the core of American interest in the Middle East. Therefore, the U.S. has constantly been seeking a resolution which has prompted a hunch of regional dynamics as recently observed. As a result, they must balance their own interests with their support for The government and the stability of the area as a whole.
Thus, the American Jewish population, as well as evangelical Christians, both of which strongly support Israel, have expressed their dissatisfaction with this development. The United States’ participation in the conflict dates back to the investigation of 1946, when it partnered with the United Kingdom and proposed the resettlement of 100,000 Holocaust victims to Palestine. After recognizing Israel as a national entity in 1948, the U.S. became the first nation to do so.
Economically, the conflict is a blow to the U.S. interest in energy stability. In response to the U. S., Arab oil producers have placed an export ban on U.S. customers. The Arab League officially recognized the Palestine Liberation Movement as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people as a result of the War in Gaza. Efforts of the U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger helped in de-escalating the War between 1974 and 1975. Thus, the American interest in acquiring stable energy resources in the Middle East has constantly been thwarted by the violence that induces instability in the prices and, consequently, supply.
In the interest of America in maintaining peace and stability in Israel, the Bill Clinton administration in 1998 was at the core of Israel and PLO negotiations which produced the Clinton parameters to establish a two-state solution. It was successively followed by the Road Map to Peace by George Bush and then Six Principles by John Kerry, and Peace to Prosperity by Donald Trump. America has protected Israel from international criticism, which has constantly been cited as the primary roadblock toward resolving the conflict.
Because of the United States’ desire to retain tighter connections with Israel, former President Trump relocated the American consulate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He made Jerusalem the capital of Israel. The Palestinian government did not receive the move, which immediately broke relations with the Trump government. However, President Biden has championed the re-establishment of the ties with Palestine. Therefore, a conflict of interest arises due to the legislation passed by the predecessors barring future leaders from amending the restrictions.
Israel has remained the most strategic U.S. partner in the Middle East as it receives sophisticated support from the U.S. government in the provision of aid. It comes as both countries have the ambitions of curbing Iranian nuclear ambitions. The government also pledged to ensure that their military sales do not back the enemies of Israel, thus maintaining Israeli qualitative military edge over others. On the other hand, the U.S. government provides aid purposefully to support the government and the necessary humanitarian programs. Because of their terrorist status, the United States has made it its mission to eliminate Hamas off the face of the earth. Therefore, the conflict interrupted the supply of humanitarian aid to Palestine, thus interfering with the U.N. interest in maintaining utmost diplomatic relations in the Middle East.
Recommendations of Policy Actions to be used by the U.S.
Rebuilding Ties with the Palestinian People
In pursuing her interests, the U.S. will have to reverse several steps taken by the Trump administration that undercut U.S. Palestinian relations. Moving the capital of Israel back to Tel Aviv will escalate even more the conflict and consequently deter the links with their close ally. However, Washington should be in support of both parties having their capitals in Jerusalem. Negotiations as a tool will be of great help in the annexation of the mission. The government should also be committed to making independent diplomatic ties with the government of Palestine without making the engagement a subsidiary of the relationship with Israel. It will thus call for the U.S. government to reopen the U.S. mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Furthermore, it will involve a return of the consulate over the West Bank. Reopening the PLO mission in Washington will be crucial.
Humanitarian assistance in Palestine should also resume. The bilateral economic support through the United Nations for the refugees will help regain diplomatic relations. Humanitarian aid is necessary to curb the high level of poverty that struck the Gaza strip following the cut in trade ties and the destruction of income-earning businesses. A focus should be directed on enhancing the freedom of movement accompanied by investment in resources to increase water and electricity supply which are scarce. The United States must deter Israeli annexation and expansion of settlements. In the solution of the order, conflicts should be based on mutually agreed land swaps. These policy reforms will help the U.S. form a basis for negotiating with the Middle East countries, which side with Palestine on energy supply and prices.
Re-Designing the U.S. Role
Initially, the U.S. monopolized the peace-making forums in the conflict. Correspondingly, they have constantly used their veto powers to influence the decisions of other acts and let the actors follow them. Assuming a more flexible approach will allow other players with dynamic and unique leverage on specific issues about the conflict to play their part sufficiently. Additionally, there is a need to strengthen the engagement with Jordan. “The United States has signaled a desire to limit its involvement in and commitment to its Middle East interests” (Bell 10).
This approach will help achieve binding ties between Israel and the Arabian Gulf states to promote positive Israeli-Palestinian relations. The tool for this approach should be conflict management tools, as negotiation is seen as unviable. Therefore serious U.S. contingency planning on the alternatives could help the U.S. annex their interests in the Middle East.
Benefits and Repercussions of the Policy Suggestions
All of these policies are meant to rebuild the U.S. and Gulf nations’ tight relations. The U.S. interest in achieving stability in their energy supply is possible if the relationship is resumed. Palestinians also will benefit from the resumed humanitarian support in a bid to reduce the poverty level. However, the approaches seem to be curtailing the Israeli military operations in the occupied areas. It would reduce the very close ties with the United States, which have been for strategic reasons. Therefore, a balance in the approach is required to reduce the overlapping of the roles.
Andersen, Roy R., Robert F. Seibert, and Jon Wagner. Politics and change in the Middle East. Pearson Higher Ed, 2011.
Bell, Michael S. United States interests and policy choices in the Middle East: We didn’t start the fire…. Washington, DC 20005: Atlantic Council, 2020. Web.
Cleveland, William L., and Martin Bunton. A history of the modern Middle East. Routledge, 2018.