By Ali Haider
The creation of Israel and the subsequent annexation, oppression, and subjugation of the Palestinian people remain significant unresolved issues in the 21st century.
Since 1948, Israel has been involved in a series of war crimes, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. This ongoing violence escalated to a new level in October 2023 when more than eight thousand lives were lost in just a few days. The Palestinian predicament is a long-standing problem deeply rooted in various enduring impediments, hindering progress toward a viable resolution.
One of the key obstacles to peace in the Middle East centers around the status of Jerusalem, which holds immense religious significance for three major religions. The struggle between Jews and Muslims over Jerusalem has persisted for decades. Before 1967, the city was divided, with Israel controlling West Jerusalem and Jordan governing East Jerusalem. After the 1967 war, Jerusalem was unified, and with the assistance of former U.S. President Donald Trump, Israel moved its capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, further displacing the Palestinian people. The complex status of Jerusalem remains a significant barrier to a lasting solution for the Palestinian issue.
Another challenge is the distribution of scarce resources in the region, with Israel primarily controlling water resources. Following the 1967 war, Israel gained control over much of the Jordan River, which is vital for Palestinians. This control allows Israel to manipulate the lives of millions by regulating water resources in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Recent actions, such as cutting off electricity, water, and fuel to Gaza, have sparked asymmetric conflicts resulting in the loss of thousands of lives. The one who controls these resources effectively controls the inhabitants and their livelihoods.
The issue of the Right to Return for Palestinian refugees has remained largely overlooked by the international community. The world has been biased in favor of the Israeli diaspora while ignoring the rights of Palestinian people who fled Israel’s war crimes in various conflicts. An estimated 600,000 to 760,000 Arab Palestinians fled to neighboring countries after the 1948 War of Independence. Israel, however, does not acknowledge a moral obligation to allow their return or address the concept of a “just settlement.” This situation underscores a high level of hypocrisy; as powerful states allow the illegal annexation of Palestinian land while denying the return of the true citizens.
The involvement of foreign and regional powers has further complicated the situation. Egypt, Syria, Iran, and Russia have supported the Palestinian cause, while the United States and Saudi Arabia have favored Israel. The division among these powers hampers any prospects of a permanent resolution to the Palestinian issue.
Fragile political systems in both Israel and Palestine have added to the challenges. The West Bank is governed by the Palestinian National Authority, known for corruption, authoritarianism, and division among factions. Gaza, under the control of Hamas since 2006, lacks the support of the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank. The recent incident on October 7th did not garner the needed support from West Bank leaders, further exacerbating the issue.
In Israel, left and right-wing parties often struggle to form a coalition capable of making tough decisions, such as dividing Jerusalem or disbanding Jewish settlements. Regardless of which party forms the government, the agenda often involves oppressing innocent civilians.
Divisions among Muslim nations have compounded the problem. Saudi Arabia has reportedly moved towards normalizing its relationship with Israel, while the Abraham Accords saw the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recognize Israel, diminishing the significance of the Palestinian issue. Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, and Turkey have already accepted Israel’s existence, engaging in trade and other bilateral activities. Mere statements in favor of Palestine, while Israel continues to bomb their Muslim brethren, have proven ineffective.
Amid these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, there is an urgent need for plausible solutions to address the Palestinian conundrum. Implementing UN resolution 242, which calls for Israel to withdraw from territories occupied in the 1967 war and allows Palestinian refugees to return, offers a rational framework for establishing peace in the region. However, the involvement of the UN is crucial for any resolution of the Palestinian issue.
The two-state solution, involving Israel and Palestine, remains the ultimate path to peace. Displacing an entire diaspora is neither necessary nor feasible in the current era, considering the global refugee crisis. Recognizing that coexistence is the only viable option could pave the way for a peaceful resolution.
The establishment of democratic governments in Gaza and the West Bank is essential to represent the majority of the people. Empowering citizens to vote can shift the focus from military conflicts to diplomatic engagements. The West and the U.S. are prone to not helping the Palestinian cause because of their authoritarian rules, primarily in Gaza. With democracy flourishing, major powers would be compelled to take the issue more seriously.
Unity among various Palestinian factions is urgently required. Fatah, Hamas, and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) must unite to pursue the peaceful resolution of the issue. Disagreements between Hamas and PLA only widen the gap, while Israel receives support from the U.S. and the Western world.
Furthermore, Jerusalem, considered sacred by both Israel and Palestine, should be divided between both stakeholders, with international institutions overseeing governance and boundary issues. This international oversight would discourage Israel from displacing Palestinians and pressuring for equitable resource allocation in the region.
Major global actors, including the U.S., China, and Russia, should play a mediating role rather than seeking alliances and trade deals in the region to extend their influence. The recent conflict between Hamas and Israel saw China, Russia, and Iran support the Palestinian cause, while the U.S., U.K., and India supported Israel. A mediation role is urgently needed for a peaceful resolution.
Unity among Muslim states in the region is imperative for a plausible solution. Settling age-old rivalries between Saudi Arabia and Iran, addressing the normalization of relations with Israel, and revitalizing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are crucial steps. Failing to achieve this unity could lead to further loss of innocent lives.
Since Israel’s inception, the Palestinian issue has faced numerous hurdles that obstruct a peaceful resolution. Plausible solutions are urgently needed to address this long-standing problem.