While acknowledging the shortcomings of Trump’s recent Israel/Palestine peace plan, author Micah Goodman wrote in a recent op-ed for the New York Times, “Instead of rejecting the plan – we should think again about what it can and should realistically achieve. That’s the way to break through the deadlock, minimize suffering and forge a new reality.”
This seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the conflict – that as it stands, it rests at a deadlock. The current occupation of the Palestinian territories is advantageous for the U.S., Israel, and the multinational corporations that profit off this status quo. While the 50-plus-year occupation may seem uneventful, the abuse that Palestinians endure in the face of that occupation is an everyday reality on the ground.
The Camp David Summit of 2000 sparked an era of U.S. media coverage blaming the Palestinian leadership for failures to make peace. Feigned frustration over Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat walking away from Camp David overlooked what exactly Arafat was walking away from. The offer put forth by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Clinton would have divided the West Bank into three, leaving no contiguous state, while separating East Jerusalem from the West Bank entirely. A security zone on the eastern border of Palestine and Jordan would have remained under Israeli military control. Finally, the refugee question, the issue of the right of return for the millions of refugees in the Middle East, was never settled. Former Israel foreign minister and negotiator at Camp David, Shlomo Ben Ami, wrote about the negotiations, “If I were a Palestinian, I would have rejected Camp David.”
Though it gives even less to the Palestinians, Trump’s plan resembles what was put forth at Camp David. What this sham peace process masks is the brutal conditions of the occupation and Israeli military adventurism in the region. On February 25, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu pledged that Israel would build 3,500 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank. This came a week after he announced the unfreezing of a separate project to build 3,000 settler homes. On February 16, Israel strengthened its blockade of Gaza, reducing the zone in which Palestinian boats are allowed to fish and canceling 500 commercial permits. On the same day, Israeli air strikes hit Hamas targets in Gaza. Justifying the seemingly unprovoked aggression, the Israeli military alleged two rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel—for which no group claimed responsibility.
Speaking on the topic unironically, Netanyahu said, “We won’t accept any aggression from Gaza. Just a few weeks ago, we took out the top commander of Islamic Jihad… and I suggest that Islamic Jihad and Hamas refresh their memories.” What he is referring to is unprovoked air raids against Islamic Jihad in November 2019 that killed Commander Baha Abu al-Ata and 33 other Palestinians. Without providing evidence, the Israeli military claimed Abu al-Ata was planning an attack.
On Feb. 23, the Israeli military again presented no evidence against a man killed by Israeli snipers, who was accused of attempting to plant a bomb near the Israel/Gaza fence. Footage by a local journalist documents blatant, coordinated necroviolence undertaken by the Israeli military. After the man was killed, an Israeli bulldozer began approaching. People can be seen running to retrieve the body but retreating after coming under fire. After multiple attempts, the bulldozer scoops up the body and carries it towards the separation fence. To my knowledge, this event was entirely unreported in the Washington Post or the New York Times.
Elsewhere in the region, Israel has acted aggressively. Even American foreign policy operates within certain constraints. Outside of two strikes targeting Syrian military installations and the killing of Iranian leader Qasem Soleimani, U.S. confrontations with the Syrian and Iranian states have been limited. The Israeli military, however, has carried out military assaults that would have much further-reaching implications if conducted by the U.S. Most recently, in the Syrian-controlled portion of the Golan Heights, the rest of which is occupied by Israel, a Feb. 27 drone strike killed a civilian driving home from work. On Feb. 24, in the Syrian city, Damascus, air raids killed six alleged Iranian and Syrian militants as well as Palestinian members of Islamic Jihad. Israel also targeted Islamic Jihad in Gaza, injuring four.
These recent attacks are part of a wider pattern of Israeli aggression in the region. In mid-February, seven Iranian and Syrian nationals were killed by Israeli air strikes. In July 2019, Israel targeted Iranian-supported militias in Iraq, killing 47 people. In January 2019, Israel acknowledged air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria that killed 11 fighters. These actions function to challenge Iranian and Russian influence in the region, in effect furthering the influence of the U.S. and its allies.
The Israeli military has been cultivated and funded by the U.S. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Nixon airlifted military aid to Israel while deploying ships off the coast of the Arabian peninsula to discourage Soviet interference. The next year, military aid pushed two billion dollars; a bench mark exceeded since. In 2016, Obama signed a $38 billion-dollar military aid deal to be distributed over 10 years. Due to this support, the Israeli military is the fourth largest in the world, functioning as a surrogate of American foreign policy.
The conflict only seems at a stalemate because, for corporations profiting off the U.S./ Israeli alliance, not much changes, which limits media coverage of the conflict. Bilateral trade between the two, according to the U.S. Embassy in Israel, exceeds $34 billion yearly. American military and tech companies have deep connections in Israel where some of the newest cutting-edge advancements are being made. Recently, the UN released a list of companies with links to illegal Israeli settlements, among them Airbnb, Expedia, Motorola, and General Mills. While the deadlock furthers corporate profit, the region is terrorized and Palestinians face regular human-rights violations.