Conflict is like everything else – people get labels assigned to them based on their supposed political party, even though those parties do not represent the best interests of their base. Therefore, in the light of the meltdown over Palestine, and the number of Jewish-loving born again Christians, especially in the United States, it is high time to take a closer look at what the roots of the current violence is—not an easy undertaking.
Most pundits and politicians are so involved in discussing the political and funding side of the Arab-Israeli conflict that they are unwilling to accept that its root cause is land and not religion. It is like beating a drum—and Trump claims that he has merely accepted what was already a reality, as Jerusalem is functionally the capital of Israel.
Not so simple
I am reminded of one of my former graduate students in academic writing, who wanted to write a paper on the Arab-Israeli Conflict and was surprised when I told her that the topic was too large. I explained that it would keep her busy for the rest of her life, and how she needed to find something more focused to get her assignment done.
Naively, the young girl, from a country with its own rich history of Jewish culture and community, asked me… “then what are they fighting about.”
I told her the conflict was not about religion, as Jews, Arabs and Christians were all able to live side-by-side, as it was part of [our] religion to get along. It was not until the UN decided to decant the remnant of Jews in Europe to an artificial state it had set up itself, based on the mess the British had left in their Palestine Mandate, that the trouble had begun. “It is all over land and who has the most right to it.”
This view may be an oversimplification, but it gets to the crux of the matter. Alan Dowty, Professor of Government and International Studies and Fellow of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, confirms this: “The core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the claim of two peoples to the same piece of land.”
However, the more recent standoff over the rights of Palestinians is rooted in new forms of nationalism which have developed simply because the attitude of the rest of the world has encouraged the conflict to frame itself in these terms. Combined with so-called security walls, land grabs and foreign interventions, these artificial nationalisms of the Macedonian type complicate any potentially lasting solution, whether it be grating equal rights in the UN-created State of Israel for all citizens, or adopting the two state solution envisioned in various peace accords, such as the Camp David Agreement, Oslo Agreement, Wye Plantation etcetera.
The politically motivated US decision to move its Embassy to Jerusalem, despite this being illegal under international law as this is occupied territory, further complicates an already complicated mess. However it comes as no surprise, considering who backs Trump, that he has decided to overturn the Camp David Accords of 1978, which established that the legal status of Jerusalem would be decided between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
Jerusalem is off negotiating table
Trump can justify his actions as diplomacy by claiming that the status of Jerusalem has been a stumbling block to any negotiation, as the topic crowds out any other discussion. Now he has taken a distinctly position, he can claim he has moved the peace process forward because such discussion is moot.
Trump even claims that Israel will pay a “higher price” in peace negotiations with the Palestinians because of his decision to move the American Embassy to Israel, simply because they have now been bought off. While speaking at a political rally in West Virginia in late August, he said that the Palestinians will “get something very good” in return for the embassy move “because it’s their turn next.”
But it is no coincidence that the US earlier decided to trash the agreement with Iran over nuclear proliferation, ignoring other countries, and forgot to remember that this deal was reached in agreement with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The US still uses the Israeli interpretation of Iran’s hostile rhetoric as justification for its policy shifts, but then thinks these are a bribe, not a solution, and that bribery is appropriate behavior for the United States.
More recently, as part of a larger political deal between the US and Israel, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced the appointment of a Special Representative for Iran to coordinate US policy, as the administration looks to ramp up pressure on Tehran after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal, or “horrible Iran deal” as Pompeo put it.
Pompeo said that “we’re committed to a whole-government effort to change the Iranian regime’s behavior, and the Iran Action group will ensure that the State Department remains closely synchronized with our interagency partners.”
It is not by happenstance that early on in his campaign Donald Trump set his sights on Iran. He decided that by derailing the nuclear deal he could kill several birds with one stone. Syria has been saved not only due to the intervention of the Russian Federation but help from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which happens to be the biggest thorn in Israel’s side, because it has the capacity to prove the IDF invincible – as it has on several occasions.
This body of actions, taken much to the dismay of professional diplomats, leads us to understand that a larger game is in play. By destroying all that has been achieved in the peace process or on the battlefield, the Trump administration and its hawkish backers are showing themselves more focused on the Iran stand-down. But their policy has more to do with the region than Iran itself, at least from America’s geopolitical perspective.
Any purported understanding of “the Iranian threat” must be viewed in the light of Israel, and the very powerful people involved in protecting it. These are not Zionists or the usual suspects. The aim is regional hegemony, at any cost. War is on the horizon, and it will resolve many issues, push new rival Turkey to one side and make sure the region of nation states will be transformed into a den of tribal rivalries.
The Palestinians and their neighbors, and even Turkey, Iran and the EU, are pawns to be sacrificed as needed. This may give too much credit to Trump and his Machiavellian methods. But as it says in Sun Tzu’s Art of War, … “every battle is won before it is fought.”
The US has never been known for keeping agreements. Just ask the American Indians, who found out the hard way that the US was willing to break treaties and kill off their buffalo en masse, as a means of getting the rest of their land and gold after it had been set aside for them under various treaties.
Nothing has changed – the US is still all about getting something that does not belong to America, even when it means compromising everything that America once stood for. Meanwhile, we can see the symptoms of the crisis on the ground. Gaza as the world’s largest open prison, division among the Palestinians – especially on the leadership level, much in part due to outside meddling by the US is who is the legitimate voice of this people in determining their fate.
Big Mess of Things
As a Jew I am so sick of hearing about Biblical Jews, as they too made a big mess of things, and both Palestinians and Jews, regardless of their origins – are the only legitimate stakeholders to the conflict. They have far more to gain than all outside interests in coming up with a solution, call it whatever you may: two state solution, Israeli with equal rights, or even Palestine.
One thing is certain in resolving the problem, demographics in the end will speak louder than words—and Israel proper will eventually find itself losing its Jewish majority, perhaps the best thing that could happen in the name of a peaceful and lasting solution. There must be peace through compromise, over land and bible stories—no more violence and war.
Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.