By Madeline Merrill
For such a small strip of land, the Israeli-Palestinian border spawns exponential conflict and violence.
In 1967, Israel contentiously adopted the East Jerusalem quarter and the West Bank. Since this annexation, Palestinians along these political borders have lived under military administration--in an existence of instability and increasing tension. As Israelis move into the area, build homes, and lay the groundwork for permanent infrastructure, Palestinians are further and further vexed that their rightful religious lands are being taken from them.
The United Nations shares in its Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs report, “In the Gaza Strip, 1.8 million Palestinians endured the worst escalation of hostilities since 1967: over 1,500 Palestinian civilians were killed, more than 11,000 injured and some 100,000 remain displaced [in 2014].”
So many lives have been lost. So much blood has been shed over these two relatively tiny geographical slivers on the map--but nevertheless, religiously paramount regions.
CNN’s Phil Black and Jethro Mullen note, “More than half a million Israelis have settled in the areas, often on confiscated Palestinian land. Much of the international community consider these occupied territory. The [Israeli] settlers say they're not settlers; they're living on land that Israel has liberated.”
On November 9, 2015, President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held private sessions at the White House to discuss continuing security arrangements and the tension in the West Bank and Gaza strip. Obama shared his desire to “get back on a path toward peace, and how we can make sure that legitimate Palestinian aspirations are met through a political process, even as we make sure that Israel is able to secure itself."
But with time running out in President Obama’s second term and more pressing foreign policies at the forefront, it may be that a revamped and refocused West Bank policy will wait until the next presidential administration.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu declared, "We have not given up our hope for peace." Julie Pace of the Associated Press writes that the Prime Minister “reaffirmed his support for a two-state solution, though he gave no ground on the Israelis' longstanding conditions for achieving that outcome.”
Both Palestinians and Jews contend they righteously own the land. Both trace ownership back to religious times and Biblical Divine authorization to settle on those specific turfs. And as long as both Palestinians and Israelis claim the land, both sides will fight--with potentially escalating violence--for ownership of the Gaza strip and the West Bank.
Madeline Merrill is a 2017 MPP candidate at the University of Virginia Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. She serves as a Staff Writer for the Third Rail blog.