On 16 Feb 2017, President Donald Trump met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the White House. The new President had been perceived as a strong supporter of Israel and after his election, Israel had stepped up settlement activity on the West Bank.
Can a new approach help with this seven-decade old conflict?
On 16 Feb 2017, President Donald Trump met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the White House. The new President had been perceived as a strong supporter of Israel and after his election, Israel had stepped up settlement activity on the West Bank. Israeli settlement activity in the war-occupied territory of West Bank, is illegal in International Law. On 23 Dec 2016, UN Security Council Resolution 2334 was adopted 14-0, with only the US abstaining. The Resolution states that Israel’s settlement constitutes a flagrant violation of International Law and has no legal validity. It demands that Israel stop the activity and fulfil its’ obligations as an occupying power, under the 4th Geneva Convention.
The Baggage of History
The Palestine-Israel conflict dates back to the time Israel was formed, in 1948. The world’s only Jewish state was established on historic lands, to which Arab Muslims, Jews and Christians have rightful claims, dating back centuries. Many stories of Palestine and Israel are common to the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Moses led the Israelites from captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land in Palestine, Jesus Christ lived, preached and died in the Roman province of Judea and Muhammed the Prophet is believed to have ascended to Heaven from Jerusalem.
What is the Two-State Solution?
The two-state solution envisages an independent state of Palestine, alongside the state of Israel, West of the Jordan River. It has also been proposed that Jerusalem with its’ priceless historical heritage, should become an international city. However, the boundary between the two proposed states is the subject of dispute and negotiations. The framework for the two-state solution was set out in UN resolutions dating back to 1974. However, despite diplomatic efforts spanning decades, no agreement has been reached on the borders of the new state of Palestine.
Can states created on religious lines live peacefully as neighbors? In 1947, India was bifurcated into a secular state and an Islamic one. India and Pakistan have fought at least three wars and shared an animosity spanning decades. If Palestine and Israel are to be modelled on India and Pakistan, it may be worthy of reconsideration. Firstly, in the 21st Century should people be divided on religious lines? And secondly, do religious states still have relevance in the emerging integrated and borderless world?
What is the Demographic Equation?
Israel has a population of eight million, including two million of non-Jewish origin. World-wide there are more than 6.5 million Palestinian refugees, with more than 3.5 million and their descendants registered with the UN. In the absence of a two-state solution can Israel remain a Jewish state?
What has President Trump said so far?
At the joint press briefing with PM Netanyahu, President Trump said, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.” At the same meeting President Trump also urged PM Netanyahu, to restrain Israeli settlement-building, on the West Bank. The same day, US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley confirmed that US ‘absolutely’ supported the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict. However, she said US was thinking out-of-the-box, as well; qualifying, “What does it take to bring these sides to the table? What do we need to have them agree on?”
The alternative to the two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict, would be one single, secular and democratic state with equal rights for everyone; Jews, Christians and Muslims, in all of historic Palestine. Is that an impossible vision? If a particular solution has not succeeded for 40 years, perhaps it is time to try a new approach.