More than 50 people, including eight children, were killed by Israeli military forces after protests broke out along the Gaza border. Protestors had been fighting for Palestinian refugees to return to what is now Israel. They had also been protesting the inauguration of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Experts note that more violence is expected in the region.
The conflict between the people of Jewish ancestry and Palestinians can be traced back to Biblical times. Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. The Jews staked claim for a land of their own due to religious reasons. They trace their origins to Abraham, who they consider their patriarch. A number of Jews migrated to Europe predating the Roman Empire. Though a prosperous commune, the Jews were subjected to a wide range of restrictions and discrimination.
In 1947, United Nations adopted a plan to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish sections. In the immediate aftermath, the war between Arab nations and Israel took place. The Arabs were initially on the offensive, but their military resources dried up when the UN declared an arms embargo on the region. In 1949, Israel signed a series of armistice agreements with the Arab nations involved. No peace treaties were signed and in 1967, Israel fought the decisive “Six Day War” against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.
Major wars such as the War of Attrition, Yom Kippur War, and the Gaza War have been fought over the years. Nearly every effort by the international community to establish peace in the region has failed.
The conflict between the two regions has been referred to as the world’s “most intractable conflict”, with the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip reaching 51 years.
Jerusalem is a city located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is considered to be one of the holiest sites by millions of people across the world (it is considered holy by Christians, Muslims, and Jews). Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital, as the State of Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there while the State of Palestine ultimately foresees the city as its seat of power. So far, neither claim is widely recognized internationally. The Battle for Jerusalem occurred from December 1947 to 18 July 1948. As a result, the city was split between Israel and Jordan after the war, Israel ruling West Jerusalem and Jordan ruling East Jerusalem with the Old City.
On December 6th, 2017, US President Donald Trump pivoted from decades’ long US foreign policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump’s announcement triggered a wave of protests and violence across the Middle East.
On March 30, 2018, a six-week campaign composed of a series of protests was launched at the Gaza Strip, near the Gaza-Israel border. This has been dubbed the “Great March of Return”. The tens of thousands of Palestinians who are protesting have demanded that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to what is now Israel. Protestors also condemned the moving of the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The protests are expected to end by May 15th. The rallies have been marred with violence.
On May 14th, 2018, a contingent from the US that included President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, landed in Israel. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner was also part of this group. They had arrived to celebrate the inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem. At the very same time, at least 59 Palestinians were killed at the Gaza border as they protested the opening of the embassy. Thousands more were injured. It has been described as Gaza’s deadliest day in years. Experts have also noted that this will only increase the scale and the violence of the protests. Middle East has once again been plunged into chaos.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, called for the immediate stop of Israeli live fire targeting dozens. A statement read on Twitter: “Shocking killing of dozens, injury of hundreds by Israeli live fire in Gaza must stop now. The right to life must be respected. Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account. The international community needs to ensure justice for victims.” Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, also expressed concern about “the high number of people killed” in Gaza. Palestinian officials said that, as well as those killed, about 2,700 people were injured in Monday’s violence – which they condemned as a massacre. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has noted that the nation’s military had been acting in self-defence. Meanwhile, the White House has assigned the blame for the violence to the Hamas.
Experts have noted that peace in the region is now impossible in the near future and expect the violence to ramp up in the coming weeks. It has also been noted that Palestinians have the United States has lost the faith of the Palestinians. Ironically, Jared Kushner, White House aide and Trump’s son-in-law, had been put in-charge of drafting a peace plan for Middle East. Reports suggest that he is now hesitant to unveil amid fears that Palestinians would reject it.
The violence in Middle East comes during a period of unexpected peace in the Korean Peninsula. After 65 years, the leaders of North and South Korea have announced that they have agreed to officially end the Korean War. In addition, North Korea has agreed to denuclearize. The positive developments have been attributed to President Trump’s Korean strategy and some have even floated the idea of Trump being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Our assessment is that President Trump’s strategy for the Middle East may have backfired. His charged rhetoric worked in bringing North Korea to the negotiating table. However, a similar strategy has resulted in death and violence in the Middle East, which has been condemned by the global community. The use of disproportionate force by the Israeli government is certainly not going to help calm tempers in the region. We believe that a lack of understanding of the complexities of historical events in the Middle East may have prompted President Trump to look at a linear solution. Maintaining geopolitical relations is a nuanced artform and employing the same strategy in different regions would not yield the same favourable results.