Room For Debate: Which Side is Right in the Israel-Palestine Conflict?
Question: Which side is right in the Israel-Palestine conflict?
Pro-Israel, written by Noah Redlich, California
There is an overwhelming consensus in the United States that it is crucial to have a pro-Israel foreign policy, but what exactly would that look like? This question is a source of huge contention that divides Jewish communities, political groups such as J Street and AIPAC, and ultimately, Washington’s politicians. Should we be more assertive in the Middle East? Can we afford to criticize Israel’s government yet still remain their strongest ally? By expressing concern about Palestinian rights and Israeli settlements, do we perpetuate anti-Israel and ultimately anti-Semitic sentiments around the world?
For almost two decades, neoconservatives in both parties have argued for regime change in the Middle East, whether it be in Iraq, in Libya, or in Syria. Hawks like Dick Cheney, William Kristol, and John McCain have repeatedly stressed the need to implant American-style democracy in the Middle East, even if that necessitates unprovoked warfare. The Washington establishment has listened to those voices over and over again, and unfortunately, this has led to instability in the region. By toppling stable governments, we have created power vacuums that Iran and radical Islamic terrorists, both enemies of Israel, have exploited.
President Trump may have promised to take a different, less warlike approach to the Middle East, and there was some hope in his Inaugural speech, when he talked about not imposing ourselves upon the world. However, it is clear today that President Trump has reversed course and has chosen instead to continue our unilateral, militaristic foreign policy, launching missiles into Syria, dropping the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan, and supplying arms to the Saudis. Supplying these arms will erase Israel’s military edge in the region and will perpetuate more warfare in Yemen, where these weapons will surely be used. If we truly want to stand with Israel, we have to examine our own policies and ask whether they promote peaceful values or add to the region’s violence and instability.
Furthermore, there is a long-held notion that it is disloyal for Americans to criticize Israel’s government. There is a sense that if you criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his support of settlement expansion, then you are being anti-Israel and forcing Israel into even more of an international pariah. One of the very first votes in the current session of Congress was to condemn the United Nations for its December 2016 resolution against Israeli settlements. This was a slap in the face to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry who allowed this resolution to pass by abstaining from the vote rather than vetoing it.
But, it is important to realize that you can love a country and still have problems with its government. As someone with harsh criticisms of President Trump, I do not consider myself anti-American just because I oppose our leader. Many of the people who demand unconditional support for Netanyahu also viciously opposed President Obama, but they never would have considered themselves anti-American for doing so.
Ultimately, as Israel’s most powerful ally, we have to remember that we have Israel’s ear and can influence their policies. By pushing Israel towards a two-state solution, we are using our leverage to better Israel’s own self-interest. Given the growing Arab population, Jews cannot sustain their majority in Israel. Unless Israel allows for a Palestinian state, Israelis will have to accept a state that is no longer Jewish and no longer democratic. Given the long history of persecution, the still recent memories of the Holocaust, and the rampant anti-Semitism still spread throughout the world today, the former option is unacceptable for the security of the Jewish people. But the latter option would contradict Jewish values of fairness and drastically lower Israel’s moral standing in the world. This is a scenario that would only increase anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments around the world.
Overall, a pro-Israel American foreign policy would strive more for peace and stability in the Middle East and less for displaying our military might and for imposing our values on other countries. We would have Israel’s back, supplying them with military and other foreign aid as President Obama did, but we would have the resolve to criticize their government whenever necessary. We would use our leverage to push Israel towards a sustainable two-state solution, which would be consistent with Jewish values and would allow Israel to maintain its moral leadership in its region and in the world.
Pro-Palestine, written by Tallal Ahmad, Pakistan
The recent visit of President Donald Trump to Israel and Palestine exhibits that the return to dialogue will not be easy. During a meeting in Bethlehem between US President Trump and Palestinian leader Abbas, Trump declared that “if Israelis and Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process of peace throughout the Middle East.” However, Trump did not discuss how he planned to initiate these peace talks.
Meanwhile, Abbas stated that “we are ready to work with [Trump] to reach a historic peace deal between [Palestine] and Israel,” adding that the Palestinian’s main issue regards occupation and settlements. At the same time, Trump didn’t even speak of the right of Palestinian self-determination nor the two-state solution nor what his vision was, once more.
From day one, Palestine has been declined their promised right of being an independent Muslim state. When the British left the region, they planned to divide Palestine into two states: one Jewish state (Israel) and one Muslim state. But soon after the declaration of the state of Israel was the subsequent invasion of neighboring Arab countries, and the Armistice Agreement gave East Jerusalem to be ruled by Jordan. This agreement had no legal effect on the UN’s partition resolution for the internationalization of Jerusalem.
After that, Israel declared Jerusalem as part of the state of Israel. After the 1967 war, Israel declared that Israeli law must be applied to East Jerusalem, and Israel expanded its boundaries, almost doubling its size. This initiative was considered illegal by other states and the UN Security Council as well as the General Assembly described the annexation as a violation of the rights of the Palestinian population. In 1980, Israel declared Jerusalem as “Jerusalem, complete and united is the capital of Israel.”
I believe that Israel’s barbaric actions were accomplished due to the silence of the international community and the United Nations on this issue. On paper, many countries, including those of the UN, have tried their best to solve the issue between Israel and Palestine. But the ground reality is the complete opposite. If any sincere action would have been taken by the international community, Palestine might not have been fighting for their survival to this date.
Palestinians must be given their promised right to live as free people in their own land. As Napoleon once said: “The world suffers a lot: not because the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of the good people.”
Now it's Time for Your Input:
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most divisive issues of our time. Due to the complexities of its social, cultural, religious, and historical context, it is often times an issue that many people do not grasp. This does not make it any less important, no matter where you're from and now matter how much you know.
Whether you're an advocate of a one-state solution or a two-state solution, pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, experienced or a novice, we'd like you to share your thoughts. We need as many viewpoints as possible in each of our debates - only then can we begin to bridge our divides.