Today — as Israel marks the 70th anniversary of its independence and Palestinians mark their “Naqba” (catastrophe) — events both in Jerusalem and Gaza demonstrate how far the sides are from resolving their conflict. They underscore the fact that there are too many on both sides seeking to inflame rather than reduce tensions in order to serve their own political purposes. The losers today are people of good will on both sides who seek nothing more than the peace and security that can only come from achieving a two-state solution to the conflict.
Today’s events in Israel are also a stark reminder of the disastrous consequences of the policies of President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu for the interests of the US and for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and official American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should be a moment of celebration for all of us who feel deeply connected to Jerusalem and recognize its importance to the Jewish people over the millenia. However, the manner and timing of this move were designed to advance the agenda of right-wing political leaders in the US and Israel, rather than the interest of Americans, Israelis and Palestinians in resolving the conflict.
Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem and it should be internationally recognized as such in the context of an agreed two-state solution that also establishes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. In the absence of that final agreement between the parties on the city’s status, blanket recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is premature and divisive.
One only has to observe the campaign rally atmosphere in Jerusalem today to realize that the greatest interest being served is President Trump’s desire to fulfill a campaign promise — and to cater to the views of “Greater Israel” advocates like Ambassador David Friedman, Sheldon Adelson, bigoted pastor Robert Jeffress and their friends in the Israeli government.
Sadly, the negative consequences of the path we’re on were also on display today in Gaza as tens of thousands of Palestinians again protested and marched on the border. Thousands of them have been wounded by Israeli forces, including hundreds by live fire, with at least 50 killed.
Hamas bears much responsibility for the situation in Gaza. Its rulers oppress their own people and dangerously encourage them to breach the border, while remaining committed to terror and violence against Israel.
While Israel has every right to defend itself against threats to the security of its residents and the integrity of its borders, there is no way to justify the use of lethal force against unarmed protesters. While some of those at the border have attempted to breach the fence or violently attack Israelis, thousands of marchers are non-violently protesting the horrific humanitarian conditions in which they live — and the absence of any serious effort to help them achieve a better future.
The US has done little to attempt to head off violence, promote peaceful solutions or alleviate the humanitarian crisis. Instead, by timing the Jerusalem ceremony to coincide with both the anniversary of Israeli independence and the Palestinian “Naqba,” they have thrown more fuel on an already raging fire.