Israel is, through-and-through, a volatile nation; one which takes its national security very seriously. Therefore when three of its teenage citizens, Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar were found dead in the occupied territory of the West Bank, the natural response of the administration was one of extreme force. Immediate blame has been placed on the Palestinian militant group Hamas, with the Israeli military inciting mass arrests in both the occupied territories, followed swiftly by air strikes directed at the homes of numerous suspects in the Gaza Strip; a response which by conventional nature can be deemed excessive at best.
On Wednesday 2nd July, the body of a Palestinian teenager was found in East Jerusalem, a murder which is believed to be a subsequent revenge killing. Clearly this situation does very little to aid the already desperate Israel-Palestine Peace Process and even more worryingly has the potential to spark yet another Palestinian intifada. The ever deepening divide between the two bellicose nations is epitomised perfectly by this event, meaning it is the perfect time to consider the likelihood of an end to this conflict in the Levant.
The seemingly endless strife between Israel and Palestine stems from embedded historic resentment which began as soon as the British mandate of the region ended in 1948. The formation of Israel as a nation led to what Palestinians saw as a violation of their historic settlement rights for statehood, causing them to take up arms and engage in conflict. The Peace Process which has aimed to deal with this problem, beginning formally in 1991 with the Madrid Conference, has therefore focused on attempting to carve out a sovereign state for the Palestinian Diaspora. This direction is generally accepted by both parties as the only way to bring about an end to the violence, yet has failed miserably to be implemented at present, calling into question where the Peace Process is currently going wrong.
An alteration in traditional attitudes held by Israelis and Palestinians alike is a necessity if an end to the conflict is to be considered achievable. Presently, the ultra-conservative and nationalist Netanyahu administration often finds itself at loggerheads with various Palestinian groups, especially Hamas (the Sunni Islamist party ruling The Gaza Strip), over issues such as human rights abuses and settlement building. With both sides preferring violence as a means to an end, the foreseeable future looks bleak. Events such as the tragic murder of these teenagers serve only to exacerbate the problem and cement traditional attitudes. Should a lull in the violence and controversy ever appear, as was seen in the late 1990’s when the Peace Process appeared to make a breakthrough on issues such as Palestinian sovereignty, the opportunity should be taken and consolidated through a coordinated effort by both sides to address each others grievances.
The main method of guaranteeing the seizing of such an opportunity is through the actions of other governments using tools of control such as economic and political sanctions. It is an accepted fact that the conflict has manifested itself from a regional one to one of significant global importance. Unfortunately, due to national self interest, many nations use the issue in order to fight ideological proxy wars with one another, rather than to actively seek peace for humanitarian purposes. Iran and the US are the main offenders, who support Palestine and Israel respectively, each refusing to allow compromise in the name of retaining international prestige. Once the US takes a tough stance with Israel and forces it to make compromises, alongside recognising Palestinian claims to statehood, the Peace Process can begin to move in a positive direction rather than engage in stalemate. Similarly, Iran must accept that Israel is a sovereign state and its destruction in order for the creation of a Palestinian state is not an option. The sponsoring of volatile quasi-terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah by Iran through aid and weaponry is also a major block to progress, with many Israeli attacks on Palestinian territories being legitimised as essential for state security due to the growth of these terrorist organisations in such close proximity to, and often within, its borders.
Forming peace between Israel and Palestine is most definitely an uphill struggle, a task which can only be completed once all countries, and their governments, set aside self interest. For pessimists, it is an impossibility. For an optimist like myself, it is an achievable aim providing the right conditions can be fostered both domestically and internationally.