Jerusalem Old City from Mount of Olives / Photo by Wayne McLean, Wikimedia Commons
The United States should reevaluate its role and potentially recuse itself from all future decisions between Israel and Palestine.
By Joy Caroline Hicklin / 04.26.2018
Halfway through the month of May, most of us will be enjoying the warmer weather sneaking its way in past the winter. But in Israel and Palestine, May 15 will prove to be quite a divisive event. The current protests in Gaza are scheduled to last until the same day the US plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem. The tricky thing about protests, though, is that they often take on a life and heat of their own as time progresses. With Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Israel as key players, the lines are often blurred. Including any additional players will prove detrimental to the future of peace in the Middle East.
The international community is not known for its ability to act based on hindsight. Even with the advantage of a well-documented history, leaders across the globe still neglect to notice social and political issues that could be solved without arbitrary decisions.
The current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at a standstill; fruitless negotiations and forced pleasantries shine through more than any diplomatic genius. Potentially, the slow-moving wheels of diplomacy are a positive hallmark in this instance. Prior to US President Donald Trump declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel in December 2017, the international community was still focused elsewhere. However, after this statement, various religious and military groups voiced their concern and desperation at the president’s decision, and the spotlight was focused directly on the city of Jerusalem.
Fast forward to 2018, and President Trump is no longer certain that either side truly desires peace through mediation and compromise. Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has favored Israel, but these most recent comments likely illustrate what both sides have known for a while.
Some scholars argue that the sovereign state of Israel was only made possible because of the mass killing of Jews during World War II. Although the notion that “without Auschwitz there would be no Israel” is a bit extreme, a similar thought can be applied to Palestine today.
Continuing to unilaterally make decisions that drastically affect two questionably sovereign states will prove detrimental to President Trump’s foreign policy legacy as well as his current role in the administration. Furthermore, decisions that favor Israel completely over Palestine will prove fatal in efforts at reconciliation in the Middle East as a whole. Western involvement of any kind in Middle Eastern politics proves futile. Politicians simply do not know enough about the history and identity of the places with whom they’re toying.
Identity is the root issue at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If one strips away all political and social ramifications and asks an individual who they are, one will find that the answers vary drastically. Jews had a rotten end of history — even after World War II, in 1951 over 1 million Jews were expelled from Arab states. Similarly, if Israel continues to exclude Palestinians from decisions regarding disputed territory, these actions will likely foster the same phenomenon as Iraq in the 1950s. While Iraq assumed that as a state it would prosper while punishing the Jews, in reality, it helped bolster the formation of Israel.
At the close of the 21st century, likely no one will care or recall why the US embassy moved to Jerusalem, but they will remember the reaction of the United States and Israel. Rather than continuing to force discussions and failing to arrive at any feasible compromise, the United States should reevaluate its role and potentially recuse itself from all future decisions between Israel and Palestine. Withdrawing from certain negotiations and refraining from decisions that would further alienate one side will prove the best general strategy for the Trump administration. Currently, no peace plan is published publicly, which means there’s still time to take a step back.