The relationship between Israel and Palestine is truly a tale of two realities where, over the decades, people on both sides had their lives prematurely taken from their loved ones. Strong leadership committed to peace and prosperity on both sides for both sides is needed to resolve this dispute as well as the United States leadership returning to the role of Honest Broker instead of its recent overt pro-Israel posture.
On one side you have the Israelis who represent the only vibrant democracy in the region. In this country, everyone, including the Arabs, has equal rights and representation in the Israelis Parliament, the Knesset.
However, the Israelis have a problem trusting their neighbors for good reason. Before it achieved nationhood, its mandate to establish a homeland in Palestine was reduced by roughly two thirds when the British, in the first land for peace deal, called the Palestinian Territories east of the Jordan River Trans Jordan (later just Jordan) and gave it to the Arabs. Not satisfied with two-thirds of the land, the Arabs in the Jewish third of Palestine wanted that too. Giving into Arab protests, the British decided to divide that parcel up in a similar way that they haphazardly partitioned India and Pakistan (whose eastern boundaries would become Bangladesh). This arrangement was doomed to cause future conflict as the future states of Israel and Palestine were born. In the war for independence, Israel, despite the odds, survived increasing its territorial holdings on lands Palestinians abandoned at the leading Arab elites request (thinking they would return after Israel was defeated) or when the Israelis ejected them. Whatever was left was scooped up by Jordan and Egypt in the occupation nobody seems to remember in the history books. In the later Six Day War in 1967, Israel acquired the remainder of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, Gaza, and the Sinai Peninsula. Israel offered to return all the captured lands in exchange for peace and the Arab countries rejected the overture. Only later when Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979 was the Sinai returned. Gaza was also offered back to Egypt but the Egyptians did not want the headache. Jordan probably felt the same way when it did not insist on the return of the West Bank when it made its peace treaty with Israel in 1994.
So, since its birth 70 years ago, Israel has been attacked by multiple nations three times (1948, 1967, and 1973), been routinely victimized by terrorist attacks, and hit with rockets and militia fire from areas they once occupied (South Lebanon, Gaza, and the ungovernable parts of Sinai). This uncomfortable situation would make any nation insecure about its borders and embrace a leadership (even one with fascist and apartheid overtones) that promises safety by building walls along the West Bank, shoot to kill protestors throwing stones, burning tires, and Molotov Cocktails at border fences, and allow ultra-religious settlers to live in occupied areas where they violently assert themselves on the local population.
On the other side of reality, you have the Palestinians. These people have been sold a bag of goods by Arab elites for close to 100 years. They were told to rise up and then some were thrown out by the Israelis in 1948. Others were told to temporarily leave while the Arab armies threw the Jews into the sea, Instead, they were never able to return and became propaganda tools in refugee camps in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan because that suited the interests of the Arab elites and later the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (who could afford comfortable lives pleading for their cause around the world) who blamed the Israelis for their people’s misfortune. When the prospects for peace were dashed in 1999-2000, Palestinian leadership (Yasser Arafat who many say lacked the will to take the final step to peace) either could not control the terrorist elements in the territories they oversaw or actively supported it. This led to the Second Intifada and more suffering for the Palestinians. Even when Israel left Gaza, Palestinians did not embrace it as an opportunity. Instead, Hamas took it over and instead of bettering the lives of the people, used the territory to launch rockets into Israel. The Palestinian people have been used as pawns by their leaders and have been reduced to being confined on lands that they cannot even call home. They, like the Kurds and other stateless ethnic groups, have a right to the territory they can call home.
The Peace Process has been pretty much dead since 2005. Hamas controls Gaza and the people are suffering. The P.L.O. control the West Bank and while the people are better off there, it is not by a large amount. The Israelis have walled (ghettoed) off the West Bank (the fulfillment of Prime Netanyahu’s father and his Revisionist Parties dreams) and have erected a fence separating Gaza. The Israelis also control the sea traffic going into Gaza to rightfully make sure no weapons are shipped there that can be used against Israel.
At this time, there really are no strong leaders on either side who can promote peace. The current leaders really are either not interested or weak. The people suffering helps keep Hamas in power and Abbas of the P.L.O. is relatively weak and unappealing to the younger populace. The current alt right Israelis leadership, having an Iron Dome, a superior military and intelligence network, see no reason to alter the landscape now, especially since their political survival depends on the support of zealot settlers in the Occupied Territories. The Israelis opposition lack the power right now to effect changes in policy. Today, they even put up with Anti-Semitic American Evangelical Pastors leading the welcoming ceremonies for the opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem. This foolhardy move by the Trump Administration, with Jared and Ivanka celebrating with the Netanyahu’s while Israelis soldiers were shooting at protestors with burning tires and Molotov Cocktails, cost us trust among the Palestinians as no one, especially after our violating, with Netanyahu’s encouragement, the Iran Nuclear Deal, views us as an honest broker.
The sad part is peace is possible that can create better lives and stability for both parties. The ingredients are there. All that is stopping it is intransigence with Palestinians wanting the right of return (not happening and the only ones who remotely deserve monetary compensation are the families of the ones the Israelis threw out in 1948) and Israelis wanting their settlements to stay in the West Bank (when the time comes, they need to find new homes in the Negev or some other part of Israel like the former settlers in the Sinai and Gaza). Everything else (the status of Jerusalem, final boundaries, and access to holy sites should be easy to resolve: most of these were very close to solutions in 2000). All that is needed is strong leadership on both sides with a commitment to peace and the United States back as an Honest Broker who will champion the interests of both sides. Then we could all embrace the reality of peace.