The Great Divide
Michael Allan Galvez
It’s almost sacrilege.
Just over a month ago, people all over the world celebrated the holidays—fun and relatively peaceful times for all.
Except in Jerusalem.
Christmas Eve: an Israeli worker was sniped as he worked on the fence that separated Israel from Palestinians occupying the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian girl was killed by shrapnel from an Israeli airstrike meant to avenge the worker’s death. An Israeli police officer was stabbed just outside the Palestinian-occupied West Bank.
Then there was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu’s declaration that Israel will act on a policy of fierce opposition so that whomever thinks of attacking Israelis would have to reconsider.
Oh, and let’s not forget how Jewish activists rallied around the ancient site of the Jewish Temple Mount, where the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock now stand, expressing their desire to Zionize the area.
That sounds a little bit too far, right? Sacrilege? Some people might think not. Palestinians have caused nothing but trouble with their suicide bombings and rocket attacks, so why not?
Well, for starters, let’s talk about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most people would only point to, or care to talk about, the UN resolutions regarding the potential for a Jewish state and a Palestinian state on the UN Mandate of Palestine as the start of the conflict. It’s not.
Unpopular fact: Arab and Israeli nationalists were friendly once. After the end of WWI, an agreement for cooperation and coexisting was signed by future King of Iraq and Syria, Emir Faisal, and Chaim Weizmann, future co-founder of the Israeli state.
So what happened?
A lot of complicated machinations done by a lot of people seeking power, and now we’re stuck in Israeli and Palestinian foreign policies centered on anger and a desire to hurt the other party.
It’s just like how a drawn out divorce proceeding would pan out if you give both parties arsenals that can blow each other’s brains out a thousand times over.
And, as usual, the US is in the middle of it. US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the region a couple of times last spring to renew the bid for peace. Quite unsuccessfully, at that.
Here’s the deal: Palestinians have been causing trouble for Israel not just for the heck of it, but because they’ve been trying to make a point that Israel has been ignoring for decades. Due to some hubris on their part or maybe due to some miscommunication, they refused the UN partition that would’ve given them the state of Palestine.
Even so, the land that Israel stands on, the land that was once the UN Mandate of Palestine was once their home too and none can deny that.
Israel dislikes Palestinians because they see their attacks as another affront by another Arab group to Jewish state sovereignty. Israel was first attacked immediately after it proclaimed itself a state by all of its Arab neighbors. Israel won and it persisted. Not only during that war, but all others. Since then, Israel has been living with constant attacks by various Arabs. Palestinians, especially the violent Hamas faction, are just another number on their list of enemies.
Israel and Palestine need to admit to themselves that the costs of war, no matter how small or unorganized, can only rise with the times. The world community also should address the unevenness of the status quo regardless of whether they support Israel or have a personal vendetta against what it stands for. Palestinians have no power and Israel enjoys too much of it.
Both countries should understand that Israelis and Palestinians want the same thing at their core: the home history bequeathed them. Peace will forever be unlikely if neither party publicly recognizes the fact that the establishment of two separate states, peacefully coexisting, with Jerusalem as an international city administered by the UN just might be the best solution to end this conflict.
The problem with this is that it sounds too good to ever come true. Just like the Faisal-Weizmann agreement before it.
Right now, it seems that all anyone could do is to stare at the great divide further brought into reality by the tall walls and fences of the Israeli-made West Bank and Gaza Barriers.
There is no happy new year here.
Maybe one day, these barriers would have the same fate as the Berlin Wall. One can wish.