A Field Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations

When you hear Israel and Palestine mentioned in a conversation, you don’t exactly think “peace”. In fact, anything involving the two parties conjures up images of violence, feud, and straight-up war. My family is Jewish, and while I support the Israelis’ right to their own land, I am also in opposition to the infinite and ongoing war over territory (although it’s much more than that). However, calling off this heavy-duty cat fight is not a simple task. Secretary of State John Kerry is leading a relaunch of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Kerry’s goal is to bring the two groups together to negotiate. Due to Israel and Palestine’s history, everyone is pretty pessimistic. Before we dive any further, let’s break down the history of Israel and Palestine in the simplest way possible. Which is super hard because entire books have been written about their relationship, but I’m going to give it a shot! So here we go.

Who settled Israel first?

According to the internet and the First Testament, Moses lead the Jews from Egypt to the land that is now Israel. There they settled, and Jerusalem was made Israel’s capital. However, in 722 BC, Israel was taken over by the Assyrians, and most Jews were exiled. After that, remaining and migrating Jews were ruled under Hasmoneans, Romans, Byzantinians, Arabs, Mamluks, and Ottomans. After 400 years of Ottoman rule, a group in Europe knowns as Zionists decided to colonize the land. Zionists represent an extremist minority of the Jewish popular, and their goal was to take back the Israeli land and establish a home base for all Jews. At first, there were no issues. But as soon as more and more Zionists immigrated to the state with intentions of taking over, fighting broke out. The Holocaust created more of a reason for Jews and Jewish refugees to have their own land. The UN decided to intervene and helped Israel become a nation. On the 14th of May 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed. And the very next day, Israel was invaded by Arab states. Thus the tug-o-war began.

What’s the big deal about this land?

It’s a desert. It’s dry. It’s hot. So why are people dying left and right all the time over it? The reason why there is so much turmoil in Israel is because it has so much historical and religious significance to both Israelis and Palestinians. For Jews, Israel is seen as The Promised Land, and that it was a gift from God (according to the Torah or the Old Testament). While Israelis feel that they have the God-given right to own this land, Palestinians disagree. This is an especially complicated subject matter because there are not only years of history, but intense religious influence as well. People have debated the legitimacy of this religious justification for years and years.

Was peace ever an option before?

Since the 70’s, rulers, leaders, and presidents have attempted to bring the two nations together. In fact, some countries signed peace treaties, such as the Egypt-Israel treaty in 1979 and the Jordan-Israel treaty in 1994, but these proved to be futile and war resumed.

The issues that nobody can agree upon are: borders, security, water rights, control of Jerusalem, and Palestinian freedom. These disagreements have lead to attacks on both countries. If you look at the map, the West Bank and Gaza Strip are Palestinian territories. The Palestinians want much more land and freedom.

Why can’t we all just get along?

Like I said before, there’s just too much deeply rooted history in the land for either group of people to let go of their grudges. Both groups are unable to agree upon territory rights among other key terms. Plus, there is a whole lot of fear and mistrust between the two groups. Palestinians are skeptical and Israelies are just as dubious of the idea of peace. To make things worse, other Middle-Eastern countries, such as Iraq and Iran are vehemently opposed to Israel as a state and concept.

How can the U.S. have an impact?

President Obama will play an important role in this endeavor. His presence, leadership, and support of Israeli-Palestinian peace is crucial, and his job right now is to offer solutions that appeal to both states: “They need to have this future vision so that they can embrace it with hope and contrast it both with the present unacceptable reality and future that lies before them if they do not change course” (Huffington Post). The country as a whole must also be completely involved; Jewish and Arab Americans who support peace must work together and end the animosity. Everyone must be on board for there to be peace in the Middle East.

Why should you care?

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine is a global issue. Both territories are at fault for extreme violence, which costs the lives of innocent civilians. There have been terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists in buses, shops, and schools, but there have also been attacks by the Israeli army that have killed many innocent people, too. Arab nations are blaming the U.S. for its support of Israel, thus creating global animosity. We have been pointing fingers for so long, we don’t know how to stop. It’s time to really talk about this and support the idea of peace.

Featured image via, Map via