Episcopal Bishop’s Committee for Israel/Palestine
Diocese of Olympia
By Claude Soudah
The immediate outlook for a peaceful settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict is not very encouraging. Peace talks have collapsed many times and in the shadow of the peace process stalemate, mutual trust and peaceful intentions are no longer there.
Among Palestinians, the sense of frustration with the military occupation by Israel is matched by infuriation with their own leadership. Palestinian Authority President Mahmood Abbas has stayed in office despite the fact that his term expired in 2009. He has ousted rivals, cracked down on dissidents and has not planned for a transition. According to a recent survey, 65% of Palestinians believe he should resign. The rupture between the moderate West Bank-based Fatah and Gaza-based Hamas continues unabated, and stands in the way of a democratic electoral process. In addition, the younger generation is fed-up with a high level of unemployment; they do not see prospects for the future nor do they believe that anything is going to change in the next generation. Recent violent actions attest to their frustration; the context in which these Palestinian violent responses are taken are not presented as a response to the extreme level of Israel state violence.
On the Israeli side, the occupation of the West Bank has become more entrenched. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, now in his fourth term, has sworn in a hardline coalition of settlement supporters and ultra-Orthodox parties. To date, his government continues to build settlements, demolish Palestinian homes, and confiscate more land. This includes thousands of acres in the Jordan River area, almost encircling the Palestinian town of Jericho. There are now over 800,000 settlers residing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, constituting approximately 13% of Israel’s Jewish population, and the trend continues.
Netanyahu and his corps of professional propagandists are now desperately trying to link the Palestinians with Islamic terrorists (Daesh or ISIS), with association with Iran, and in some way claim that Palestinians are responsible for the Holocaust, preferring to substitute the words “Muslim-Arab” for “Palestinian.” In many communities, but not all, these approaches to discrediting Palestinians have failed so far.
Netanyahu has sworn that there will be no be bi-national state and continues to blame the Palestinians for the stalemate in negotiations. Right-wing politicians are calling for the annexation of Judea and Samaria (using Biblical names for the West Bank) and thereby, to quote one of their leaders, “We have to connect Judea and Samaria to the State of Israel. We have returned to our land, so that we will never again have to leave it.”
In view of these recent developments and the intransigence in both camps, the outlook for peace and reconciliation appears to be very far away. Considering the seriousness of recent moves on the part of Israel, a number of political analysts strongly suggest that their ultimate goal is the creation of a Greater Israel in fulfillment of Zionism’s grand agenda of establishing a Jewish State throughout the historical region of Palestine.