SANTA CRUZ, August 10, 2014 — For decades, there has been violence and unrest in the middle east, particularly in and around the Israeli occupied territories of the West Bank, Golan heights, and Gaza strip. U.S. presidents for decades have repeatedly made overtures to mediate a peaceful end to the cyclical brutality, yet little has changed. Historically, conservative Americans have been in ideological lockstep with Israel, regardless of Israel’s culpability in the continuing hostility, while for liberal Americans, it is challenging to determine which side to be on, or if any side can be truly supported.
The state of Israel, established in 1949, was expanded to the occupied territories after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War in 1967. Israelis believe that these lands are sovereign to them, while citizens of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, along with displaced Palestinians, argue that the land was taken illegally. Their grievances are supported by the United Nations Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and the International Court of Justice; Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem (1980) and the Golan heights (1981) are still not officially recognized by any other country.
International observers are puzzled at the unconditional backing Israel receives from the U.S. and its allies. While nobody can discount that atrocities have been committed by both sides in the Israel/Palestinian conflict, Israel’s have been more frequent and egregious, and often committed with U.S. military aid and support.
It is a difficult situation for Americans, many of whom have family in Israel or even dual citizenship. They see their homeland surrounded by hostile parties, threatened with violence on a daily basis. They know that Syria, Egypt, and Jordan would like to see Israel disappear off the map, and that radicalized Palestinian factions will never cease their attempts to reclaim the land they feel was stolen from them. Conversely, Israel’s neighbors are incensed at Israel’s continual defiance of international law, and America’s complicity in it. In the minds of the more radicalized among them, they see every Israeli citizen, even children, as an enemy, perhaps due to Israel’s conscription laws, which compel every citizen to participate in military service.
Every time a rocket is launched into Israel, or a suicide bomber detonates inside the country, the Israeli government tightens its grip in the occupied territories and strengthens its resolve to evade or defy any offered peaceful solution, particularly one which would establish a sovereign Palestinian state.
For the U.S. to play any meaningful role in a peace process here, it must prove itself more transparent to the international community. The U.S. must hold Israel to the same accountability as any other nation, and refuse to look the other way if Israel violates international law or commits war crimes. The U.S. can help Israel to argue its points and offer to mediate discussions, but only as a fellow member of the international community, not as Israel’s chief military ally. America’s efforts, ernest as they might be, will be forever viewed with suspicion by Israel’s arab neighbors, as long as the U.S. is seen as taking Israel’s side before talks can even begin.
Every American, regardless of political leaning, wants to see an end to to fighting and killing. It is important to view the afflicted parties outside the polarizing scope of U.S. politics. Most Israelis are good, peaceable people, who only want the ability to live their lives and raise their children in relative peace. The same thing could be said of the majority of Palestinians, who are even now digging their friends and children from beneath the rubble caused by Israeli bombs. Palestinians will never be able to compete militarily with Israel, especially while Israel enjoys an uninterrupted flow of arms and money from the U.S.
For America to play a meaningful role in any mideast peace process, it must remove itself from either side of the conflict, assuming a neutral, objective position. Perhaps it is fear of losing Israel’s trust which has prevented this in the past. Relationships can be repaired, and there can be no doubt that the U.S./Israeli one is special, but in the interests of a lasting peace, the U.S. must put it aside for the greater good of the region, one whose fate has the ability to affect geopolitical relations which extend far beyond the disputed region itself.