The United States of America launched its newest policy last month in the Kingdom of with the hope to bring peace and stability to the Middle East region, specifically between the Israelis and the Palestinians. A $50 billion presented by its architect, White House Counselor and son-in-law to President Donald Trump Jared Kusher, the “Deal of the Century” aims to establish financial infrastructure in the Palestinian territory, along the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as economic support to the neighboring areas. Yet neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments attended the curtain-raising event, while several Arab states stayed away or sent deputy ministers. The President of the Palestine Liberation Organization Mahmoud Abbas rejected Kushner’s economic blueprint saying that the proposal was attenuated by the refusal of the Trump administration to approve the creation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem — the “two-State solution” has long been seen but the international community as the only viable route for a lasting peace and stability. Kushner’s “Deal of the Century,” however, was dead in the water before he even presented it.
For years international diplomacy has made efforts—unsuccessfully—to reach a peace agreement that would put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the creation of “two States” that would live side by side. The last major attempt to achieve this, also at the behest of the US, was in July 2013, which ended without any results April of the following year. The geo-politics contained in a would-be deal for peace are complicated at best; the contention revolves around the old city of Jerusalem—sacred for Jews, Christians, and Muslims—which Israel considers its capital, despite not being recognized by the international community.
We need to understand that the disputed land between Israelis and Palestinians has been the scene of tension and violence between Arabs and Jews since the time of the British mandate, which in 1917 ended 400 years of Ottoman rule. With the Balfour Declaration by the English colonial occupant, support was officially given to create a “national homeland” for Jews in Palestine, thus following through with the appeal of the Zionist protagonist Theodor Herzl. After the Second World War, with the extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis, the UN General Assembly approved a partition plan for Palestine, with the establishment of the Israeli State in 1949 and another one for the Arabs. About 688,000 immigrants came to Israel during the first three years; approximately 650,000 Jews were already living in Israel when it was formally established as an independent and sovereign state. Simultaneously, approximately 750,000 Palestinians (75 percent of the Palestinian population) were coerced to leave their homes. This led to a coalition of Arab nations launching an invasion of the nascent Jewish state as part of the First Arab-Israeli War in 1948. It was followed by a second major conflict, the Suez Crisis which erupted in 1956, when Israel, the United Kingdom and France staged a controversial attack on Egypt in response to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal.
The present juridical problem, again, concerns the occupation of the Holy City, one that arose following the Six-Day War (5-10 June 1967) won by Israel. The origin of this conflict was the attack on Israel by Jordan, which illegally occupied the Western Wall and the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, thus preventing any possibility of Jewish access to these holy areas. In 1950 Jordan annexed the territories it had conquered in the 1948 war, namely East Jerusalem and the West Bank, declaring itself “Protector” of the Holy Land. The only countries that recognized their annexation were Britain and Pakistan, while all other nations, including the Arab states, condemned it; Britain only recognized the annexation of the West Bank.
Israel, after its victory, had incurred the wrath of the Islamic world and feared another Holocaust since the Palestinians between 1934 and 1945, under the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and spiritual leader of the Palestinian Muslims Amin-al-Husseini, had established an unconditional alliance with Adolf Hitler’s Germany — after the Grand Mufti had gained the confidence of the emerging anti-Jewish Arab Party for Independence in 1931, he eventually sought support from the Third Reich. The Israelis eventually took back the holy sites of Jerusalem by force, but inherited a large Palestinian population, which it was unable to expel or absorb.
One of Kushner’s proposals includes land exchange, where Jordan would give terrain to the Palestinian territories, and in return, Jordan would have land from Saudi Arabia. The deal, however, does not propose an independent and sovereign state for the Palestinians; they would only continue to have an autonomous state in view of Israel still refusing to recognize UN Security Council Resolution 2334 of December 23, 2016, which requests to end its settlement policy in the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem. Not to mention, the Saudi-backed initiative that called for a Palestinian State with borders that predate Israel‘s capture of territory in the 1967 Six-Day War, as well as a capital in East Jerusalem and refugees’ right of return were all rejected by Israel. It should be made known that even David Ben Gurion, who became Israel’s first prime minister, rejected demands that Israel should capture the central highlands (later to be known as the West Bank), saying it was time to end the war and concentrate on building the country. Ultimately, as Dan Shapiro, a former US ambassador to Israel, said: “The Trump peace plan is on ice – maybe permanently.”
Undoubtedly, it is legitimate to think that sooner or later peace will be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians, despite both justifying their present positions: the Israelis refusing to surrender its seized territories, including the Golan Heights which was stripped from the Syrians in 1967; the Palestinian Muslims equipping terrorists to commit suicide attacks against the Jews, as well as inciting hatred towards Jews among their children, thereby provoking more contempt and violence. I personally believe that there will not and cannot be peace because—something the international community does not want to admit—both Israelis and Palestinian Muslims believe in the principle of vengeance a retribution: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
The Jews have overcome certain barbaric disciplines of the Old Testament, such as the stoning of adulterous women and justifiable vengeance—attributed to the Mosaic law—putting them in historical and exegetical contexts. However, if someone starts to create problems for them, the Israelis have historically shown to be anything but tolerant — would be hard not to blame them. The Palestinian Msulims, on the other hand, have not overcome the principle of retaliation because the Quran does not allow them, let alone coexistence with a people who democratically elect their government, especially if the head of state is a Jew.
I wish to make clear that I believe in the legitimacy of the State of Israel. It is true that its juridical creation came at the cost of expelling a Palestinian population, which also includes Christians from their land. At the same time, the idea of reinserting diaspora Palestinians is both unrealistic and antagonistic. That being said, if both Israelis and Palestinians want to make peace, they can do so just as then-Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat and the Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin did on September 17th 1978 with the Camp David Agreements. Both were able to incorporate the teaching of forgiveness—as Jesus Christ taught us—and show the world that since we were created in the image and likeness of God, there must be a reciprocal respect and safeguarding of human life.
N. B. This article was originally published by Il Mantello della Giustizia on July 1, 2019 under the title Il nuovo piano per la pace in Medio Oriente.