Tel Aviv, Israel – The intensification of the conflict between Palestine and Israel has recently been marked by high casualties. Further complicating matters, the U.S., despite its central position in mediating the conflict, vetoed a UN resolution for humanitarian pauses to send aid to Gaza. This decision threatens more civilian casualties. In a recent joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reassured Israel of America’s support. President Joe Biden further pledged military assistance, actions which have reignited criticism of U.S. bias against Palestinians.
The Israeli-Palestinian dilemma is a prominent international political quandary. Central to the conflict is the quest for a “two-state solution,” where both Jews and Palestinians coexist peacefully. The U.S.’s involvement traces back to post-World War II, when Zionist groups sought U.S. backing as Britain’s influence waned. Following the UN’s Resolution 181, which endorsed an Arab and Jewish state in Palestine, Israel was founded on May 14, 1948. The U.S., under President Truman, was the first to recognize it.
Through the decades, the U.S. consistently backed Israel, politically and financially. The 1967 third Arab-Israeli war expanded Israel’s territories, capturing lands beyond the UN resolution’s stipulation. In response, the UNSC passed Resolution 242, emphasizing a “land for peace” approach. As the Cold War raged, Israel’s strategic position made it vital for the U.S. in curbing Soviet influence in the Middle East.
The fourth Arab-Israeli war in 1973 prompted the U.S. to actively mediate peace between Egypt and Israel. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger played a crucial role, culminating in the Camp David Accords in 1978, which normalized Egypt-Israel relations. However, promises for Palestinian autonomy in the Gaza Strip and West Bank remained unfulfilled.
While international voices championed a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, the U.S. often overlooked Palestinian rights. In 1988, the State of Palestine was declared, but its borders were ambiguous. U.S. bias was evident when it denied a visa to Yasser Arafat, the PLO chairman, drawing global criticism.
Post-Cold War, the U.S. took charge of peace negotiations, without substantial success. The 2003 Roadmap for Peace supported an independent Palestinian state but was criticized for being mere “lip service.” Furthermore, the U.S. consistently obstructed Palestine’s UN membership efforts. In 2012, the UN upgraded Palestine to a “non-member observer state,” yet the U.S. vetoed its bid for full membership.
Despite the Oslo Accords in 1993 and the U.S.’s dominant role in negotiations, core Palestinian concerns, such as Jerusalem’s status, West Bank borders, and refugee rights, went unaddressed, leading to stalled talks. Internal Palestinian sentiments were affected, and new disputes emerged. The U.S. pressured for democratic reforms and elections, and when Hamas emerged victorious in 2006, the U.S. and Israel intervened, leading to Palestinian political instability.
The Gaza Strip blockade, tacitly supported by the U.S., worsened local conditions and amplified conflict. Reuters noted the U.S.’s tendency to shield Israel in the Security Council, especially after vetoing the recent humanitarian aid resolution.
Trump’s 2017 decision recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital exacerbated regional tensions. This U.S. bias was evident when peace talks mediated by Secretary of State John Kerry failed in 2014, with no subsequent initiatives from the Trump or Biden administrations.
This historical review suggests that for genuine peace, an unbiased mediator is essential. As the conflict escalates, a reevaluation of U.S. involvement is imperative for lasting peace in the Middle East.
US Middle East Policy: Eroding the Foundations for Peace
New insights into the 2020 ‘Deal of the Century’ and Abraham Accords suggest that the US’s approach may be exacerbating tensions between Palestine and Israel.
In recent years, the Middle East has been a focal point of American foreign policy, with the relationship between Palestine and Israel at the center of the geopolitical drama. The so-called “Deal of the Century” in 2020, promoted by then US President Donald Trump and mainly penned by his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, has raised eyebrows across the international community for its notable departure from traditional stances. With this shift in perspective, it’s imperative to assess how the US’s stance might be influencing the longstanding conflict between Palestine and Israel.
The ‘Deal of the Century’: An Economic Solution to a Political Problem
At the heart of the “Deal of the Century” is a provocative perspective. Rather than treating the Palestine-Israel issue as a political challenge, the proposal reframed it as an economic one. This is evident in the emphasis on “industrial zones” and the idea of relocating Palestinians to the Negev Desert. The underlying assumption appears to be that economic development opportunities could compensate for significant political concessions.
However, this perspective is fraught with issues. For one, it sidesteps critical points of contention like the demand for an independent Palestinian state, the contentious issue of territorial boundaries, the long-disputed status of Jerusalem, and the paramount importance of the right of return for refugees. Such an approach is not just simplistic; it undermines the historical and political complexities of the region.
By shifting the focus from political solutions to economic ones, the US effectively undermined the long-standing consensus on the Middle Eastern challenge. The principle of “land for peace,” which had been an internationally recognized approach, was discarded. Similarly, East Jerusalem’s status as the future Palestinian capital was no longer a given.
Jewish Settlements and the Abraham Accords
The question of Jewish settlements in the West Bank has been a thorn in the side of peace talks for decades. Yet, recent US policy has appeared to tolerate, if not condone, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. This not only jeopardizes the peace process but also threatens the foundational principles that have guided negotiations for years.
The Abraham Accords, brokered by the US in September 2020, further complicated matters. By mediating the normalization of relations between Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, the US may have inadvertently marginalized the Palestinian issue.
Historically, Arab nations have prioritized resolving the Palestinian-Israeli issue before establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel. This approach was rooted in the belief that lasting peace in the Middle East required addressing the Palestinian question first. Yet, the US’s eagerness to improve Israel’s ties with Gulf nations, ostensibly to counter regional adversaries like Iran and Syria, has shifted the focus away from the Palestinian issue.
This strategy might have short-term benefits for US regional alliances, but at the cost of Palestinian aspirations. As more countries edge towards normalization of ties with Israel, the Palestinian people feel increasingly sidelined.
The US’s Response to the Escalating Crisis
Unfortunately, the US’s actions in the wake of the recent conflicts between Palestine and Israel have been less than exemplary. High-level visits to Israel, bolstered military support, and a propensity to veto UNSC resolutions have only added fuel to the fire.
The current trajectory of US foreign policy towards the Middle East, especially regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, appears counterproductive. Rather than working towards peace, it risks alienating one side and exacerbating tensions. The stakes are high, and the onus is on the US to adopt a more balanced and thoughtful approach.