The Israel and Palestinian Conflict is seemingly intractable, affecting huge numbers of people for many years. In 2017 alone, over 500 people were injured as a result of this conflict. The tension continues to grow, particularly in the Gaza Strip, a region in Israel that is predominantly ruled by Hamas. Many would called Hamas a terrorist group, while others view them as freedom fighters – either way they are an armed Palestinian force that presents a challenge to the Israeli military. On 11 November, more than 400 rockets and bombs were launched by Hamas, injuring dozens of Israel residents. This was triggered by a mishandled Israeli military operation, as well as the economic hardship citizens in the Gaza strip are currently facing. According to Reuters, this was also the fiercest armed exchange since the Gaza War in 2014. The consistent violence has also affected their perspective towards each other, creating intergenerational hatred. To many, the apparent cause for this conflict is centered around territory. Both Palestinians and Israelis believe they have rights to the land based on extensive history in the geographic space. In fact, both sides have used the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to justify their rights to the land as native people. There is also an element of religious contention with Palestinians being predominantly Islamic and Israelis being of Jewish faith. Furthermore, some of the most sacred monuments to both the Palestinians and Jews are located in Israel like the Jewish Temple Mount also known to Islam as Haram esh-Sharif. However, the cause of the conflict is also rooted in intangible factors, like perceptions of one another or incompatible values and beliefs.
So far the actions taken to resolve this conflict have been reactive rather than proactive, which is why they have failed to mitigate the tensions between Palestinians and Israelis. The United Nations has hosted many peace talks with officials, and aid agencies have provided aid for civilians who have been affected by the conflict, yet the root of the conflict hasn’t been addressed. Diplomatic efforts have also been made by other states like the U.S.A.. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been tasked with brokering a Middle East peace plan, which Trump calls the “The Deal of the Century.” Although not a lot of details have been revealed about what the agreement, it will be centered around the Two State Solution, a mainstream idea since the 70s, and hotly debated during the Camp David Summit and Oslo Accords. The strategy of this solution is to divide Israel into two sovereign states for two groups of people, the Israelis and the Palestinians. Although this may seem the fairest and most obvious way to resolve the conflict, it has continued to be difficult to implement the solution.
There are two main reasons why the Two State Solution hasn’t proved viable. Firstly, much of the negotiation relies on traditional diplomatic meetings between high ranking delegates and world leaders and secondly, the plan focuses too much on the territorial dispute missing out on the latent causes of the conflict like the negative public opinions that both sides have towards each other and the desperate need for security.
In order to address these issues, international actors should be looking to utilise Track II diplomacy as a means of finding a holistic peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. Track II diplomacy is a form of non-governmental or informal diplomacy which brings together community influencers like teachers, businessmen and religious leaders – people who have direct connections with the rest of society. This method helps establish more local peace agreements, which are directly aimed at various groups of people. Although the agreements achieved from Tack II diplomacy tend to be low-level, they create practical, community-focused plans. For example, Tack II diplomacy has helped villages establish small ceasefire periods so children in that area can walk to and from school safely. This strategy also focuses on what the public who are directly affected by the conflict believe are the most pressing issues to be resolved, rather than only having resolutions which reflect the interests of the top statesmen and politicians. Although formal diplomacy is important for international relations, the agreements that are generated from many of the negotiations create a top-down effect that don’t always positively impact many civilians. However, Track II is a great strategy to utilise in order to assist these formal agreements, because it can ensure that everyone at every stratification of the population agrees with the outcome.
Track II diplomacy also increases community interaction, which helps opposing sides to build personal relations and breakdown any previously negative preconceptions. This is a crucial factor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that needs to be addressed because as it continues, propaganda and discrimination has amplified people’s hatred for one another, especially as oppression, violence, and the increasing fight for self-determination increases to instil hostility and fear. If we want to create a sustainable peace agreement then it is important that address this.
One of the major reasons why the Two State Solution has failed to be implemented is that Palestinians see it as unfair towards them. One of the reasons has been the economic disparity between Israel and Palestine. Israel is a wealthy country with, amongst other measures of wealth, a high rate of doctors per capita. If Palestine and Israel were to split into two sovereign states, Israel would be much better off, while Palestine would remain just as unstable as it currently is. So a Palestinian state can only be achieved through cooperation and help from their neighbours. Even though the governments themselves might not be willing to establish a partnership, there need to be alliances created between Israeli and Palestinian people. This is why Track II diplomacy is an effective strategy, because it has the ability to organise business opportunities and investment opportunities by bringing together entrepreneurs. It could also establish aid for Palestinian families who may have to relocate as a result of the two state agreement by gathering various NGOs. This goes to show that we need to stop looking at resolving conflicts purely from world leader perspective: there is only so much that can be debated at the UN; instead, the focus should be on people who know best what can help put them on the path to peace.