Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. Deuteronomy 19: 21
Time to stop Israeli – Palestinian violence for ever
By Roger Childs
Conflict in Palestine is sadly a regular occurrence. Whenever Hamas or any other group starts lobbing shells into Jewish settlements, the Israeli government follows the biblical injunction spelled out in Deuteronomy. Inevitably, the eyes, teeth and lives taken weigh heavily in favour of the state of Israel.
After 17 days of fighting, at least 700 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed by the air strikes and ground operations. Karen Shuey “Lancaster Online” July 26 2014
Both Jewish and Palestinian people have claims to this volatile area of the Middle East dating back thousands of years. A partition of the area sponsored by the United Nations almost occurred in 1947, but the opportunity was lost. It falls now to the world’s most powerful nation to sort out the mess.
Israel and the United States
There are more Jewish people living in the US than in any other country on the planet. Not surprisingly, the US government has been a staunch supporter of the State of Israel ever since it unilaterally declared independence in 1948.
The fledgling state had faced immediate invasion by nearby Arab states, but fought off the attacks with aid and armaments supplied by the Americans. There have been other wars with neighbours since that time and Israel has always prevailed.
Successive Americans presidents have tried to broker permanent peace in the area. There have been at least ten meetings, conferences and agreements. Bill Clinton famously had Palestinian Liberation Organization leader, Yasser Arafat, and Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, shaking hands at the Oslo Accords in 1993, but lasting peace has proved elusive.
The essential problem is that, while an independent Jewish state exists, the Palestinians do not have that international status.
If the Americans recognized a fully fledged independent Palestinian state and supported it in the way it has shored up Israel, the impact in the whole region from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean would be dramatic.
Obama’s opportunity before the end of 2016
Barack Obama intervened personally to try and head off a mounting clamour from Jewish donors and pro-Israel groups who objected to the dropping of a line supporting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel from the Democratic policy platform. Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian
Although American presidents have made strenuous efforts to bring lasting peace in the Palestine region, they have been hamstrung by the influence of the Jewish lobby in America. The quote above relates to controversy that erupted at the 2102 Democratic Convention. Because of the power of Jewish voters, any politician supporting an independent Palestinian state faces almost certain defeat in an election.
President Obama, like all his predecessors over the last 65 years, wants peace in the Middle East. However at the present time there are huge problems facing the UN, the Americans and other major powers in the region:
- civil war in Syria
- the break-up of Iraq as the ISIS Islamic group establishes control over parts of Syria and Northern Iraq
- ongoing political instability in Egypt and Libya
- continuing action by Islamic extremists throughout the region
- uncertainty over the role of Iran.
However the most volatile area over the last 65 years has been Palestine-Israel.
Obama does have a two year window of opportunity to bring lasting peace to Palestine. Under the constitution he cannot stand again for president, so he is not under electoral pressure in the time leading up to the 2016 presidential vote.
After a frustrating presidency which started with inheriting George W Bush’s disastrous economic management and foreign policies, Obama could seal his place in history with a monumental breakthrough in the Middle East.
American aid to the region
The United States is the most powerful nation on earth and, since 1948, has provided Israel with over
~ $US 130 billion in aid
~ $US 70 billion military aid
~ $US 30 billion economic aid.
The result is that Israeli is one of the most prosperous nations on earth with massive military resources including nuclear weapons. It is estimated that the US still provides $US 8.5 million military aid per day!
The Americans have also given millions in economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians, but no military aid.
Obama’s blueprint: the road to lasting peace
The crux of the problem is distrust between the Jews and the Palestinians which dates back a very long time. As a first step there would have to be acceptance on both sides of the other’s right to exist as an independent state.
There are plenty of barriers, such as the Israeli settlements built progressively on Palestinian land in recent decades and the intermittent violence carried against the Israelis by Palestinian militants.
If the Obama administration could get the right to exist acceptance (no easy task) the rest would be achievable.
The Israeli nation has received huge support from the US over the last 65 years and the Americans now need to give full support for the legitimate aspirations of the other main group in the area. The whole issue of continuing aid is a lever which Obama could use, however getting Congressional support for any policy changes would be problematic.
Obviously a first step in the present situation is to establish a lasting ceasefire and build from there. It would be a bold move for the president to state unequivocally:
The United States will give formal recognition to an independent Palestinian State by the end of 2016.
The world needs this to happen.