US Warning To Israel Over West Bank Settlements Signals New Backpedaling by Trump

Since the end of World War II and the creation of Israel, conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has characterized the geopolitical climate of the region. Numerous attempts at peace and intervention from foreign powers, particularly the United States, are frequent in the history of the area along with flare-ups of violence. The problems between Palestinians and Israelis is rooted in British intervention. Promising a homeland to the Zionists of Eastern Europe, the British permitted the mass migration of Jews to current Israel under the Balfour Declaration, disrupting those living in Palestine. The ensuing years gave way to violence, intervention and as a result, a divided Middle East ridden with anti-Semitism. In 1978, the United States took action to facilitate a lasting peace in the Middle East; requiring Egypt to recognize Israel, Israel to withdraw from its military involvement in the Sinai Peninsula, and the possible autonomy of the West Bank for Palestinians. This failed miserably, leaving the Arab world feeling neglected and outraged at the power held by the US and Israel. The ensuing decades are defined by Arab nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism and anti-US sentiments, making the Middle East a hotbed for US foreign policy stratagems focused on establishing peace. The US has remained an ally of Israel since the cold war, and has complicated the humanitarian aspect of US policy in regards to relations with Israel.

In the past, the international response to the crisis between Israel and Palestine has been a two-state solution. The US has remained a faithful ally to Israel, making support for a two-state system a challenging line to walk.

President Donald Trump’s policies regarding the issue includes moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but lacks a mention of a Palestinian state. However, recent developments have shown that he is becoming more forgiving to the Palestinians, saying he was open to “either a two-state or one-state solution, as long as it was through an agreement with the Palestinians.” Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, expresses support for a two state solution.

The problem between Israel and Palestine persists because of mismanaged intervention. The United States, the world’s greatest hegemonic power, has been incredible influential in the area due to inconsistency and failed attempts at facilitating diplomatic and peaceful talks. One of the Obama administration’s final acts in the UN regarding a creation of a Palestinian land “mocks history” as one news source cites, and oversimplifies the situation.

Under the Trump administration, the President is already sending mixed signals to both Palestinians and Israelis about how he will support settlement construction. He is backtracking on his position and promises to the Israeli people, not contacting Palestinian leaders and not coming up with ways to improve the situation or build upon the developments of his predecessors. Nabil Shaath, foreign relations advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, says that the US position “regarding settlements on the Palestinian lands is not clear to us.” He wants direct contact with the US to solidify the President’s position to make developments for his land and people.

Zohar, an Israeli coalition that has suggested that Israel annex the West Bank, provides a one-state system under which Palestinians would be living in Israel, but would only have limited citizenship, no right to vote and no rights to hold positions in parliament. Netanyahu does not support this proposition, though many in his coalition are open to the idea. Zohar stated to an Israeli TV channel that “the two-state solution is dead”. Opposition to the one-state proposition in Israel argues that would threaten Jewish democracy and character, and Palestinian leaders believe that this system would lead to more racially and culturally charged violence.

So far, the two-state and one-state systems are front running solutions, though they fail to address needs of the Palestinian people who want sovereignty in their former land, and the desire for Israel to be a solidified nation-state.

The two-state system would solve the problem of Palestinian negligence. The fact that so many Palestinians are displaced and oppressed by the Israeli government is a humanitarian disgrace; especially because many of those affected by the violence are women, children and families whose lives are severely impacted by political instability. The one-party system basically reconfirms the situation in Israel; the West Bank is primarily Palestinian and all that is missing is the recognition from other states. I believe in a two-state system because not only would the Palestinian people be appeased, but the Arab world would find security in the recognition of Palestine, which could potentially improve relations between the US and the Middle East. This obviously does not come without upheaval from Israeli officials who believe strongly in the alliance between Israel and the US, though it is necessary to facilitate diplomatic peace talks between the leaders of Palestinians and Israelis to attempt again to sort out a lasting peace.

In addition, foreign aid could flow to Palestinians for humanitarian causes such as refugee protection and education initiatives. Providing education for children in violence stricken areas that are neglected is an indirect way for Western countries to promote peace. With education and the prospects of a better life, Palestinians and Israelis will turn away from violence and religiously driven sentiments that are outdated to modern science, medicine and technology. This does not mean to disregard or undermine the legitimacy of religion in the region. Israel is rich with cultural and religious history that predates the current conflicts between Palestinians and Israelis, of Muslims and Jews. The anti-Semitism in the Middle East is ingrained in many Arabs, and the appreciation for all people regardless of race or religion is a fairly modern mindset. However, it is a mindset that has grown out of lack of educational resources. Israelis and Palestinians do not want to fight with each other, but it is the only thing they have been taught due to religious fundamentalism and closed mindedness.

It is very difficult to say how to proceed. It seems incredibly straightforward to disregard religious and cultural ties that date back thousands of years, but it also is frustrating to imagine that the historic past roots too deep to establish peace between the rivaled sides. It is idyllic to say that a two-state system is the key to success for Israel and Palestine. The United States needs to formally create a plan for protecting the people directly influenced by the political instability. Israel views itself as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. However, if aid helps those living in poverty in Palestinian territories to change their lives and become part of the global community, democracy and stability could change the political environment and create lasting peace in the area.

Eva McLafferty

Eva McLafferty

Undergraduate student studying International Relations and Antrhopology. Passionate about human rights and politics.
Eva McLafferty