Foreign Policy
• Published
June 21, 2021

The Possibility for Peace in Israel

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Israelis and Palestinians are locked in one of history’s longest and most polarizing land disputes since 1917. Following the Balfour Declaration in the same year that gave support to “a national home for the Jewish People,” the Jewish population in Palestine began to increase. The conflict began when Palestinians who owned much of the land were slowly displaced by Jews who were resettling in their land. The pace of the displacement increased greatly during World War 2. Since then, numerous peace treaties have been proposed to the two nations, which have all failed and only served to exacerbate the conflict, wars, and assassinations. Over 53 years of Israeli occupation, along with several failed peace treaties, have proved that lasting peace cannot come from an accord, summit, or U.N. resolution. Today, even if significant numbers of Israelis and Palestinians collectively agree on a peace plan, outside countries with a vested interest in the conflict and a rise in ideological extremism will eliminate the hope for lasting peace. 

Despite the wishes of their people, Palestinians cannot make peace due to other parties appropriating their cause. The Iranian government is at the helm of this appropriation, with a history of prolonging the conflict for their own gain. In 2005, Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Ahmadinejad, made his interests clear, saying, “Israel must be wiped off the map,” in a speech reiterating the words of Ayatollah Khomeini. Iran is also the largest financial supporter of the Shia Islamist militant group Hezbollah, providing them with well over 100 million dollars every year, although the number reportedly increases when Hezbollah carries out successful attacks. Iranian cargo planes also regularly fly from Iran to Syria, delivering advanced weapons, missiles, and firearms to Hezbollah. Since the Israeli military left Lebanon, Hezbollah, often recognized as a terrorist organization, has made its goal to support the “Palestinian cause.” In 2006, a war began between Israel and Hezbollah when the terrorist organization kidnapped two IDF soldiers. Israel engaged in a retaliatory attack, prompting Hezbollah to launch further attacks. Massive airstrikes and artillery fire followed as over a thousand Israelis and Palestinians died, and parts of Lebanon were left uninhabitable. These fundings and violent acts are a result of Iran's interest in undermining efforts for Israeli-Palestinian peace and further destabilizing the conflict using Hezbollah as its proxy. Iran wishes to extend its territorial dominance by continuing the dispute. Conflict allows them a presence in the region, and continuing it is their incentive to stay and succeed in spreading their surrogates throughout the Middle East. Iran is currently playing a key role in stifling the hope for lasting peace, and its incentive in the region will not disappear with another peace treaty.

The investment of the U.S. in Israel's military has also contributed to making peace unattainable. Although the U.S. does not have the same wish to continue the conflict, they have been giving Israel's military a blank check of over three billion dollars since the Camp David Accords of 1978. The Camp David Accords were a historic agreement that strengthened the relationship between Israel and Egypt. Israel's military receives far more foreign aid than any other country the U.S. is not currently at war with. The IDF has become overfunded and often violates the rights of Palestinians. According to B’Tselem, the IDF has demolished 1400 homes in the West Bank since 2006. The IDF also regularly detains Palestinian children on the street, and a U.N. report in 2013 classified the treatment of children at the hands of the IDF as torture. These egregious acts create distrust between the Palestinian people and the Israeli government that cannot exist if the two nations are to be at peace.

The rise of extremist ideologies inside both countries has sabotaged the possibility of any two-state solution. Israel's recent government has adopted a dangerous form of right-wing Zionism. Last year, Israel decided not to renew its Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH). TIPH was a civilian observer mission that condemned a massacre in Hebron. It was created specifically to provide a feeling of security for the Palestinians in the region. In 2019, Netanyahu allied with a fringe extremist group advocating for Jewish theocracy and the forced removal of Palestinians. Netanyahu even said in a 2001 video on Palestinian people, “Beat up Palestinians… so it hurts so badly, until it’s unbearable.” This form of Zionism in Israel has furthered the division between Israelis and Palestinians by popularizing far-right politics that equate to bigotry. Netanyahu’s ideology is not the birth of new hope for peace, but the death of the real dream of Zionism. Benjamin Netanyahu is merely a successor of Jabotinsky, whose rhetoric and policy have inspired a far-right Zionist movement intent on denying Palestinian self-determination. 

Although there once could have been an opportunity for peace, it would have required years of realistic social change initiatives instead of territorial changes, for which the opportunity is now gone. Even if peace is to occur, extremist groups and other nations will not allow it to be a “lasting peace.” Decades of disunity, extremism, and the greedy agendas of other countries have made peace unattainable.

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