Resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict
FOR much of the world, the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem remain occupied, by Israel since 1967.
Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005but it remains blockaded, as Israel controls its airspace and coastline.
The recent clashes in Gaza and Jerusalem that shocked the world were unmistakably precipitated by this occupation and according to the NYT; they caused ethnic violence inside Israel, divided Jews around the world and fed anti-Semitism in Europe.
While a delicate ceasefire stands, the 170 UNGA and 150 UNSC resolutions, addressing the root causes of the conflict, remain unheeded.
Thus, the truce can fall apart any time, and it appears that Israel or its patrons at the US and elsewhere haven’t learnt much from the history of the imbroglio, created by them. But these developments have re- shaped the environments too.
It has united all Palestinian factions, enhanced the status of Hamas and its affiliates, threatened regional peace, enraged the 57 OIC states and undermined many moderate governments, specifically the seven Muslim countries, which have recognized Israel.
Why then does the US continue to pursue such a paradoxical policy in the ME? Why does the US Congress rarely question billions of yearly aid to Israel, despite pervasive violations of human rights and established legal and ethics of international behaviour by it? There are four main reasons for this and the foremost among these is deeply rooted in religion, though the US constitution provides for a wholly secular government.
The Christian Right, (coalition of fundamentalist, Evangelical Protestants and Catholics), with millions of followers and the support base for the Republican Party, has committed its immense media and political support for Israel, based on their faith that sees the assembly of Jews in Palestine as a precursor for the second coming of Jesus(PBUH)and that grants the entire Palestine to Israel, risking war and disregarding all international laws.
Though questioned by mainstream Christians( Postmillennialists), neo-conservatives and extremist Christians interpret the Biblical prophecies in a manner that even justifies war, to expedite the ‘Armageddon’, the ‘End Times’, the conversion of Jews and others into Christianity and the establishment of the ‘Golden Age’.
Although the Jewish eschatology significantly differs from this belief, yet the official Israeli response to it is mostly neutral or positive, to receive US aid and to accelerate their own version of the ‘End of Days’ and arrival of their own messiah .
The second reason for the US support is political, though that is also influenced by religion.
Affluent orthodox , Jewish and Zionists Americans vote and donate for election campaigns of sympathetic US legislators to impact US policies for promotion of Israeli interests and their own dogmas.
Pro-Israeli groups contribute generously to US political candidates and during the 2020 campaign, they contributed about $31 million.
This is augmented by effective Israeli lobbying through Christian Zionist and American Jewish organizations like the ‘Christians United for Israel’ with over seven million members and the ‘American Israel Public Affairs Committee’ (AIPAC).
The AIPAC has 17 regional offices and sponsors visits of hundreds of US lawmakers to Israel, while its annual conference in DC, features regular appearances by top US politicians.
The third argument cited for American support to Israel is protection of US interests in the ME, containment of Iran, radical Islamic parties or Russian influence and ensuring the free flow of hydrocarbons.
While these reasons appear genuine, the perpetual conflict, unrestrained Israeli hubris and megalomania have actually induced the opposite effects, as evidenced by reactions to the recent Israeli military actions.
These include anti-Americanism; damage to US partnerships with its allies, projection of a callous and hypocritical image of the US worldwide, acting as a ‘recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda’ and encouraging violent extremism and terrorism, with potential of a repeat of 9/11 like attacks against the US and elsewhere.
Of course, like the past, the reasons and timings of the present flare up are related to domestic Israeli politics and the trial of Netanyahu, on charges of corruption, fraud, breach of trust and bribery that could cost him his job or even jail sentence.
Thus, he escalated the conflict to cling to power, notwithstanding the killings and destruction, violation of international law and the founding principles of Israel’s creation in 1948, which guarantees ‘— equality of — rights to all its inhabitants, irrespective of religion —’. Perhaps, as perceived by an Israeli newspaper ‘Haaretz’, no one can undo Israeli occupation or settlements — and ‘The only power in the world that can save Israel from itself is the Israelis themselves’.
But equally important is rationalization of the US support for Israel. As noted by a former Israeli Knesset member, General Mattiyahu, this could ‘encourage peace activists inside Israel to change their country’s intransigent’ policies.
Netanyahu’s perception that “America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction,” also needs negation.
Essentially, the ideal US support to Israel could be to convince it to live within its internationally recognized borders and to accept the ‘Two State Solution’ mandated by the UN.
Besides, ‘Separation between Church and State’ in the US, desired by Thomas Jefferson must be respected and all theological lobbies restrained, to obviate control of US foreign policy by them.
These measures can truly enhance the US, Israeli and their allies’ strategic security and serve their long-term interests.
They can also enable the UN, EU, OIC, Arab League etc., to manage and gradually resolve this conflict, and to end anti-Semitism.
Attaining this will be challenging but necessary for moderate politicians, voters and scholars in Israel, the US and UK (the architect of the Belfour Declaration), the ‘Reformist’ bands among the Jews and the liberal and progressive media.
There can be no bigger incentive for these endeavours than achieving interfaith harmony, an enduring peace and prosperity, protection of human rights, salvaging democracy and circumventing the ‘Apocalypse,’ or ‘Armageddon’.
— The writer, a retired Lt Gen, is former President of National Defence University, Islamabad.