Taking sides: The separation wall, still under construction, divides Israel from the West Bank.
It was hoped they might solve one of the world’s most difficult and long-lasting disputes, but after nine months, the Israel-Palestine negotiations have failed. Where did they go wrong?
Why are we talking about this?
To Israel’s east lie the occupied territories of the West Bank. It’s a land of giant concrete walls and high security settlements, where Israel’s soldiers keep Israeli and Palestinian populations apart. For nearly 50 years of tension and violence, both sides have been hoping to reach an agreement that would bring peace and stability.
Over the last nine months US secretary of state John Kerry has overseen talks that many hoped might lead to a solution, but this week, they ended with little progress made.
Why are things so difficult?
Even before Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, Arab Palestinians and Jews were fighting over the land which was then called Palestine and under British control. After the Six Day War in 1967, Israel gained control of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt.
Though this occupation was not intended to be permanent, the sides were unable to find a mutually acceptable solution. Israel worried that it would be attacked if it withdrew and the Palestinians were still aggrieved with Israel’s 1948 borders. Since then, Israel has become a stable and prosperous democracy, while the Palestinians are weak, divided and without a state of their own.
So what is the answer?
For decades, Israelis and Palestinians, with American supervision, have been attempting to negotiate a ‘two-state solution’ which would split the land between a new Palestinian state, which would control the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the state of Israel. A 2012 poll found that 67% of Israelis would support this solution.
Why don’t they just make two states?
Things are not so simple. Israel wants the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a specifically Jewish state, but many refuse to because they believe that Israel stole their land. They worry that if they recognise Israel, they will have to give up their ‘right to return’.
On the other hand, some right-wing Israelis believe the whole area should belong to Israel, and do not want to negotiate. Adding to the problems, Israel now has over half a million citizens living in settlements in the occupied territories, which would be returned to Palestine if an agreement were reached.
Where did the latest talks go wrong?
Things began to fall apart in March, when Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, went back on a promise to release 24 Palestinian prisoners. In response, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, applied for membership in 15 United Nations organisations. This upset the US and Israel, who do not want the UN involved. As tensions escalated, Israel announced it would build even more settlements in the West Bank. John Kerry had one word to describe what had happened to the talks: ‘Poof!’
So where do we go from here?
Both sides blame each other for the failed talks and many analysts say the chance of reaching a two-state solution is now even more remote. Some Palestinians are considering an attack on Israel, but most know Israel’s military is vastly superior and it will only make tensions worse.
Others say both sides need new leaders for progress to happen. The 79-year-old Mahmoud Abbas will leave politics. Binyamin Netanyahu’s political party rules in a right-wing coalition, and analysts believe Israel may need a new government before a solution is found.
In private, John Kerry said that Israel risks becoming an ‘apartheid state’ if it does not find a solution. In the mean time, tensions are set to remain.
Allah protects Somaliland.
Lecturer:Abdulkhaliq Mohamed Sheikh Osman- Birmingham UK