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In Israel and the Palestinian territories, decades of conflict have not offered ripe soil for mutual understanding and peace on reasonable terms. Endless confrontation has eroded hopes for successful negotiations. Nonetheless, the frequent reference to a ‘status quo’ in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is mistaken – in my opinion, it’s pure political rhetoric and this conflict is anything but one of attrition.

Every day, new settler houses are being built in the West Bank and east Jerusalem – on Palestinian land. Everyday bricks are added to the anti-terrorist fence (or apartheid wall, as some call it), thereby outcasting communities of shared history, as well as hindering commerce and splitting communities (and families) apart. The Israeli government, meanwhile, has authorised the building of hundreds of thousands of new settlement houses in the West Bank and the so-called ‘barrier’, which is in part a 26 ft tall (8metres) concrete wall, will soon reach completion. This construction and the ongoing settlements are durable problems that will hinder any proposal for a peaceful solution. Israeli politicians will never surrender land they claim to control for security reasons (the wall does not follow the UN’s ‘green line’ but includes an extra 10% of the West Bank). ‘Status quo’ may refer to stalled political negotiations, but it certainly does not reflect reality on the ground. Israelis are taking over Palestinian land and expropriating it on flimsy grounds, day-by-day.

Israel is paranoid about its security – for good reasons. Yet, what its government is orchestrating in the West Bank’s areas B and C (respectively 60% and 22% of the West Bank) is the use of security as an alibi to permanently station its military forces, control Palestinian mobility, and seize unoccupied (or partly occupied) Palestinian land.

Never will I come to terms with such practices. Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention is clear about the military occupation of land: the occupier may not under any circumstances exploit and profit from the resources of occupied lands. But this is exactly what is happening.  Israel’s practices in the Jordan Valley are a case in point: settlers monopolise access to water and grow scores of palm trees for dates; and they also farm fish, grow passion fruit, bananas, etc. – on deprived land where locals lack the ability to farm for themselves. A mere afternoon with an Israeli NGO in the West Bank is evocative of the scale of the settlers’ enterprise on land that was more-or-less extorted from local farmers, who, ironically, often end up working for those who exploit their land.

Economic use of foreign territory is bad enough, but expropriation and the violation of basic rights is worse. A new Israeli government should be more reasonable and recall its military from the West Bank’s area C and return most of the occupied land. But removing settlements  (that are now authentic communities and villages) is politically unimaginable, meaning that politicians will never negotiate on the basis of fair claims for both parties. Furthermore, the situation in Hebron‘s H2 zone, where Palestinians survive (their existence cannot be described as a ‘living’) under constant threat of arbitrary arrests and persecution is unacceptable from any state claiming to be democratic.

Trying to keep the peace (Flickr)

The end of the abominable barbed wire and check points that separate two peoples who have lived side by side for millennia is not foreseeable, but nor is it impossible. The main problem is a lack of political will on the Israeli side and growing antagonism on the side of the Palestinians who experience constant injustice. The latter is unfortunately manipulated by Hamas and other groups favouring armed resistance against Israel.

 

Meanwhile, European and American foreign policy towards Israel is toothless.
Israel has no immediate interest in ending its policies in the West Bank and Gaza. Settlements expand Jewish influence in the West Bank and relieve Israel from housing shortages; the separation wall cuts off Jerusalem’s Arabs from Ramallah and the rest of the West Bank; and the on-going control of Gaza by Hamas’s extremists justifies Israel’s harsh clamp down on West Bank inhabitants. Clearly, allies are not genuinely pressuring Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition. Now that Iran is coming back onto the agenda, Israel will be key to the US in defusing a potential Iranian-initiated nuclear proliferation. Surely, if Iran were to acquire the A-bomb, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – not to mention Egypt and Syria – would be next. But power politics of this sort keep swallowing up concerns over the daily life of the Palestinian people.

Let’s not forget them. We, the west, started this mess by failing to uphold our promises before and during World War I and allowed it to develop  because we felt guilty – and rightly so – about World War II. We ought to try harder to solve the dispute, especially whilst the wise Abbas is still around. I do not dare to imagine what could happen under more radical Palestinian leadership. Today,  at least, radical policies and rhetoric come mainly from Netanyahu’s government, including extreme views from Avigdor Lieberman, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and others who, in my opinion, use Hamas and Gaza as a scapegoat time and again. Israelis should stop buying into their discourse and demand that both parties reconcile to negotiations.

Israel is the Middle East’s only democracy – at least for Israelis. It should start acting like one. Israeli public opinion should let its government know they are heading straight to a dead end. Let’s not wait until the great people of Israel and Palestine bleed each other dry. Israeli policies are dangerous and harmful for the Jewish state, for the stability of the region, and for Israelis and Jews worldwide. The tragedy is that everybody loses in the end. Building walls and ghettos will not protect anyone; it will only nurture revenge and hatred. Israel is increasingly on the wrong side of history. It is planting the seeds of its own demise.

Maximilien Berg is an MPhil student at Oxford University.

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3 Comments

  1. Eliza
    April 4, 2012 at 3:04 am — Reply

    The Israelis use Hamas and Gaza as an excuse? Actually, the hundreds of rockets that were launched from the region and targeted at Israeli civilian towns were very real.. And yet entirely ignored by the west. How much more radical can the leadership get if it calls for the demise of Israel, not a peaceful negotiation for a state. Israel is the land where Arabs enjoy the greatest liberties in the Middle East, no matter what gender. The Arab neighbors oppress their own people, but no one speaks up. How many of the Arabs living in Israel would relocate to other Arab lands. Very, very few. The reality is, the west and the Arab world thinks
    It’s okay to tell Israel to give back lands that it won through war. What they counties would ever give up their land? How about American lands are
    Given back to Native Americans or the African countries or Turkey surrenders it’s European lands, or gives Kurdish minorities equal treatment. There is a lot of injustice in the world, in my opinion, the least of which is caused by Israel. The ARabs know how to exploit western sympathies and make it a Jewish vs Arab conflict. The truth is, the Palestinian authority has to have a moderate government that cards about its citizens before it Issrael can negotiate with it. Bet many of you haven’t heard that Israel warns Palestinian authorities before it launches rockets to kill terrorist leaders that hide in schools and hospitals so they can evacuate. Next thing you know, the thing you know, kids are the ones that are dead. Try fighting against a people that have so little regard for each other that only the common hatred of Israel can bring them together. It doesn’t take much to prove the point: just look at the Middle East and how many Arabs kill one another on a daily basis.

  2. bla
    April 25, 2012 at 11:05 am — Reply

    Who are you? I certainly hope that this is a joke, I wouldn’t know where to start…

    You’re right on one point, launching rockets on civilians is condemnable. Yet are they really civilians? Colons are probably worse, and even more violent than the army itself…
    Have you actually taken a look at the Israeli ‘Peace Proposal’? I take it you haven’t, otherwise you’d realise how otherworldly it is, and how humiliating it is for the Palestinians.
    Israel is the land where Arabs enjoy the greatest liberty in the Middle East? From who’s point of view? Which criteria are you using? Just because your beliefs lead you into thinking this, in no way does it make it a truth (ethically speaking). Besides, have you ever been to Israel with a Jordanian passport (I haven’t either, but witnessing it is the easiest thing)? Have you ever tried to travel in Palestine/Israel/Occupied Territories with a Palestinian passport (oh sorry, there isn’t such a thing, you either have an East Jerusalem residency or you won’t even make it into the city…)?
    The Arab neighbours oppress their own people and no one speaks up? Maybe it’s just you who needs to read the news a bit more often.
    WHY WOULD THEY NEED TO RELOCATE??? It is their homeland, of course they don’t want to leave it, that’s precisely the point!!
    That it won through war? As in, colonising? As in, taking over Palestinian homes whilst the owners are away and then getting the army to protect them? As in building walls in between families? As in controlling the water supply for Palestinian homes? Shall I go on?
    The Arabs know how to exploit Western sympathy? Do you even know how much money Israel receives from the US every year? How Israel controls media coverage of the area (I thought having a gun pointed at you because you took a picture of a valley only happened in North Korea…)?
    About your entire last paragraph, I suggest you simply look up the list of War Crimes committed by Israel lately…

    • May 20, 2012 at 10:12 am — Reply

      Are we talking “time to fly”, or by the clock? Flying time uualsly means the flight time is reduced by taking advantage of the jet stream, e.g., using less fuel, as opposed to flying “into the wind” against the jet stream. – Hide quoted text Show quoted text -Avidor Roy wrote: > Hi all > My family and me had a late Friday argue. > We could find a reasonable solution for this question: > ” If you get a flight from west to east and back the time it’s took to > do those separate flight is different. > From Israel to USA is 14 hours and the other way is > Less (13 hours)” > Why is that? > any answer, please send to > Thanks, > Avidor roye

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