The recent war between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza has raised many questions. Foremost among them is the question of why after 73 years of occupation, Israel cannot live with its Palestinians citizens and residents inside Israel proper and in the occupied territories. Israel, which is technologically, economically, and militarily stronger than its neighbors, today faces an unprecedented inter-communal strife that threatens their nation’s social fabric and political cohesion.
That along with some attacks on Israel emanating from Lebanon and other Palestinians in the West Bank have added a new layer of complexity to this conflict. Israel, as Thomas L. Friedman has noted, has rarely faced that kind of multi-pronged threat since the Jewish state was founded in 1948.
One nagging question persists: Has the rhetoric of a two-state solution provided a cover for Israelis to prolong their subjugation of the Palestinians? Palestinians living under occupation lack an army of their own. Neither do they own an airport to keep regular commercial transactions with the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Israeli right-wing forces have kept the forced eviction of many Palestinian families from East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Israelis, nearly one-fifth of Israel’s population, feel less secure from crimes or attacks by Israeli extremists who have been encouraged by the country’s burgeoning right-wing government and Western leniency (Michael Jansen, “United in Rejection,” Panorama: Gulf Today, May 21-27, 2021:38-39).
The brutal, untenable reality of the occupation has again shown its ugly face and has attracted an international spotlight as never before.
The Israeli government has also sealed its borders with Gaza, rendering the latter the largest prison in the world for nearly 2 million Palestinians who live in one of the world’s most densely populated areas under rampant unemployment, abject poverty, and humiliating conditions. Living under military rule has prompted Hamas to fire rockets at civilian targets in Israel (The New York Times, May 23, 2021). Neither acts—occupation or the firing of rockets at civilian centers—are warranted, as military strategy and tactics have often proven counterproductive in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Under such conditions, the peace process has become a distant prospect, and the pursuit of Greater Israel will prove to be a destabilizing and disruptive possibility. There is a need for a new beginning and new policy proposals for what should come next. The Palestinian issue continues to galvanize the Arab public and remains central to the Arab identity narrative in the growing social media and new public sphere (Monshipouri, Middle East Politics, 2019). The lingering vestiges of the plight of the Palestinians as stateless people are felt throughout the larger Arab world and continue to cast a shadow of skepticism over a right-wing regime in Tel Aviv that ironically seeks to normalize its relations with its Arab neighbors.
Despite enjoying a vast power differential with their neighbors, Israelis today face a new reality: the status quo is untenable in the wake of a new wave of moral awakening in the Arab world and beyond. Israel’s military power over the past 73 years has failed to upend the Palestinians’ quest for a dignified life—one that is free from living under the yoke of occupation and inhumane treatment. The unrest in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza have sent similar reverberations throughout the region, as many people in the Middle East (West Asia) and North Africa took to streets in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians who have survived daily indignities for more than seven decades. Working under occupation and suspicion, suffering from the daily humiliations of being stopped and harassed repeatedly at checkpoints, and not enjoying equal rights and privileges in Israel have all rendered life miserable for many Palestinians and are likely to fuel further destruction, conflict, and bloodshed between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the coming months and years.
The younger generation of Jews living in the West are less sympathetic to the lingering occupation and now more than ever are likely to question the ongoing domination of Israelis over the Palestinians. The brutal, untenable reality of the occupation has again shown its ugly face and has attracted an international spotlight as never before. The Biden administration will squander a great opportunity should it choose to condone or abet the Israeli confiscation of Palestinian territories. If the two-state solution is given a low-key status, or pursued lackadaisically, the fragile ceasefire between the two sides will be short-lived and both parties will be back to square one in the not-too distant future. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be left to fester; it is simply in no country’s interest in the region that it does.