On 15th June, 2021, Israeli ultranationalists held a celebration at the Damascus Gate, the entrance to East Jerusalem. The rally, known as the March of the Flags, is a celebration of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem at the end of the Six Day War in 1967. The march featured inflammatory chants such as, “Death to Arabs” and “Jerusalem is ours.” A group of Palestinians initiated a counter protest, and the Israeli police responded with arrests and injured dozens. The ongoing war between Israel and Palestine continues to harm civilians caught between the actions of these two nations. For eleven days in May 2021, the two countries clashed, leaving over two hundred people dead, many of them children. In the wake of this recent conflict, the Israeli government and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire, but tensions remain as high as ever.
Before the Six Day War, Palestinian territories were occupied either by Israel or by neighboring Arab states. After the war, Israel obtained control over the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, and the Syrian Golan Heights. While Israel has given up most of these conquered territories, it still maintains a strict military occupation of the Gaza Strip and has established civilian settlements in the West Bank. Ever since the end of the Six Day War, the two nations continue to exchange attacks and tensions remain high.
In a BBC report, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said of the March of the Flags through Jerusalem last week; “It’s inconceivable how you can hold an Israeli flag and shout ‘Death to Arabs’ at the same time… These people are a disgrace to the nation of Israel.” While the condemnation of these marches is an appreciated gesture, it was hardly enough to calm the outrage and tension between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The possibility of war between Israel and Palestine is always likely, a fact proven by the short conflict in May. There is no reason to assume that the events of June 15th would not spark more tensions between the two nations. While Foreign Minister Lapid has condemned these actions, the new Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, has yet to respond to the march. In the interest of pursuing peace, it is essential that Prime Minister Bennett denounces the ultranationalists and signal clearly that Israel does not support racist attacks against the Palestinian people. However, it can be difficult for this action alone to cease the tensions between Israel and Palestine, so long as the overall conflict between them has no clear resolution. For the two nations to coexist peacefully, there must be more radical changes for both Hamas and Israel.
For example, Israel must end its military occupation of the Gaza Strip, recall civilian settlements from the West Bank, and grant Palestine its long-awaited independence. Additionally, Hamas must halt rocket attacks on civilians, stop hiding its weapons and military personnel among Palestinian civilians, and acknowledge that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state. Each side of the conflict must understand the legitimacy of the other’s narrative and put the values of peace before their own independent desires for geopolitical control of the region.
To ensure security and stability in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must come to an end as soon as possible. While it’s unrealistic to think the violence will end soon, the pursuit of peace must be the top priority. The provocative actions of the Israeli ultranationalists this past week reflect a carelessness regarding the maintenance of peace, and thus, must be internationally condemned. In order for peace to be durable, both Israel and Palestine must reach a common ground. Of course, this will not be easy, with the decades of built-up tension and dogma around the conflict, but compromise must be the priority for peace to last between the two nations.
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