Saturday, January 24

What are the Issues?

This article, written over a year ago, notes that some representatives of Hamas are ready to talk to with the intention of getting to a peace agreement.
For those not familiar with Israel/Palestine, there are four major areas that need to be agreed upon for a final status peace agreement to be reached.
1) Israel's security; Israel won't agree to any deal that it doesn't feel adequately addresses its security concerns and needs.
2) Borders and settlements; how much of the West Bank will be part of a future Palestinian state? If Israel won't dismantle all of its settlements, will the Palestinian state be compensated for the land that Israel keeps, which is inside the West Bank? Will it be a 1/1 swap or something else?
3) Jerusalem; both Israelis and Palestinians have a claim to Jerusalem. Israel calls it the 'eternal, undivided capital of Israel' and the Palestinians claim it as well. Will Jerusalem be shared, and how? If a Palestinian state has Jerusalem as its capital, will it be anything more than a token part of the city, or will it reflect the reality of the demographics of Jerusalem, which counts over a quarter of its residents as Palestinians?
4) The right of return for Palestinian refugees; Palestinians who fled their homes in 1948 and 1967 demand the right to return to the towns and villages they used to call home. Will both sides be able to find a way to reach a compromise on this issue? Will the state of Israel ever agree to a meaningful gesture of accepting as citizens a large number of refugees who still wish to return to their historic homes? Will Palestinians be able to accept anything less than a full return for all who claim status as refugees?

With regard to these four points, the current situation seems to favor Israel.
1) Israel seemingly controls its own security needs now. They set up checkpoints as they feel necessary, and control all airports and border crossings into both Israel and Palestinian territories.
2) In violation of international law, the West Bank is dotted with settlements that Israeli citizens call home. But if things continue as they are, it seems that borders won't need to be decided; Israeli citizens will continue moving around the West Bank on a special network of settler bypass roads, unimpeded by the same checkpoints set up to control the movement of Palestinians.
3) Israel controls Jerusalem now. They've annexed the city and much of the land surrounding it, creating a large ring of Jewish communities around the city itself. A quarter of Jerusalem's residents are Palestinians, but Israel is seemingly willing to absorb this population in exchange for retaining control of Jerusalem.
4) While well-established international law gives refugees a right to return to their homes, Israel at the moment has refused to accept the return of Palestinian refugees, as this would threaten the demographic of being a Jewish state.

For all of the major issues that are points of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, if the current situation doesn't change, and international law is not enforced, it seems that Israel will continue to gain. Yet we as followers of Jesus have a different perspective.
We acknowledge what taking on the role of oppressor can do to us, and know that is in the best interests of both Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace rather than a state of war. We believe that until injustices done and wrongs committed are acknowledged there won't truly be security for either people here. We hold out hope that peace will one day be the norm here instead of a dream, and that in a place so many call refer to as 'the Holy Land' the Kingdom of God will one day reign.

Trey Hulsey is an MCC Peace Development Worker in Israel/Palestine and lives there with his wife Jessie.

1 comment:

jajafe said...

Thanks for this very brief, yet clear and precise survey of the major issues.