Lidasan: Israel-Palestinian Conflict and Jerusalem

FEW days ago, President Donald Trump announced that to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

According to the news, “In a short speech delivered at the White House, Trump directed the state department to start making arrangements to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a process that officials say will take at least three years.” The news also reported that, Trump said.

“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”

(https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/06/donald-trump-us-jerusalem-israel-capital)

As a Filipino Muslim, recognizing the Bangsamoro’s struggle to right determination, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, with more than 18 years work in peace building and conflict transformation, and Director of the Al Qalam Institute of the Ateneo de Davao University, I see this move of President Trump as a huge challenge in our fight against violent extremism in our country and in Southeast Asian region.

Before I proceed further, let us review the basic facts and the history of the Israel - Palestinian conflict. Based on my research work, the conflict started few years after World War II and the Holocaust in which six million Jewish people were killed, more Jewish people wanted their own country.

They were given a large part of Palestine, which they considered their traditional home but the Arabs who already lived there and in neighbouring countries felt that was unfair and didn't accept the new country.

In 1948, the two sides went to war. When it ended, Gaza was controlled by Egypt and another area, the West Bank, by Jordan. They contained thousands of Palestinians who fled what was now the new Jewish home, Israel.

The New York Times Fact Sheet states, “The three regions on the map (Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank) were once known as Palestine. Ownership of the land is disputed primarily between two different groups: Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs (who are chiefly Muslim, but also include Christians and Druze). After the Arab-Israeli War of 1947-1948, Palestine was divided into the areas you see here. Jewish Israelis, whose ancestors began migrating to the area in the 1880s, say their claim to the land is based on a promise from God, and also for the need for a safe haven from widespread hostility toward the Jewish people (known as anti-Semitism).

The Palestinian Arabs say they are the rightful inhabitants of the land because their ancestors have lived there for hundreds of years. The Gaza Strip is a rectangle along the Mediterranean coast between Israel and Egypt. The majority of its approximately 1.4 million residents are Palestinian refugees, many of whom have been living in refugee camps for decades; 80 percent were estimated to be living in poverty in mid-2007.”

There were several peace agreements that were signed in the past to address this conflict. The New York Times Fact Sheet also provides a brief over view of these peace accords and their impact in the area. “Under the Oslo peace accords signed in 1993, Gaza was turned over to the newly created Palestinian Authority, to form one wing of an emerging Palestinian state, along with the West Bank and a potential land corridor between them. But two different parties rules these two regions—the militant Hamas controlled Gaza and Fatah ruled the West Bank. Many Israeli settlers remained in Gaza. In September 2005 the Israeli prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, withdrew all Israeli settlers from Gaza, making it the first territory completely in Palestinian hands. Israel, however, kept tight control over all border crossings and continued to conduct raids.”

Further, “In January 2006, Hamas won a surprise victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, ousting the Fatah government. Then in a burst of fighting in June 2007 in which more than 100 people were killed, Hamas gunmen routed the Fatah forces, and seized control of Gaza outright. Israel, which had refused to recognize the Hamas government, responded by clamping down even tighter on the flow of goods and people in and out of the territories.”

This conflict also resulted to displacements of people. According to the BBC report, “During the 1948 and 1967 wars hundreds of thousands of Palestinians left, or were forced out of, their homes and moved to neighbouring countries to become refugees. More than 4.6 million Palestinians are refugees and their descendants, many living in camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.”

The question now, is the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel the key solution in the problem? Will it resolve the Israel Palestinian conflict? For me, it is not the solution to the problem. There are several issues that need to be properly addressed.

Trump’s declaration cannot be operationalized overnight. It may take at least three years before they may be able to set things up. But what can we expect to happen?

In a separate news, “Malaysian defence minister has said that the United State’s decision to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel was "a slap in the face for the entire Muslim world". He added, "We have to be prepared for any possibilities. The ATM [Malaysian Armed Forces] has always been ready, waiting for instructions from the top leadership.”

For me, this is not a good message. We need to address the problem through non violence and allow the Palestinians voices be heard.
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