If you’ve followed any of the news about the Israel/Palestinian conflict, you’ve probably heard this a million times: Israeli settlements are illegal. They make it impossible to have a peaceful solution.
Recently, the United Nations passed a resolution condemning Israel for continuing to build settlements in the West Bank, which is a disputed territory. In the resolution, it claimed that Israel’s settlement activity is illegal. It also claimed that the settlements are the obstacle to the peace process.
Here’s the problem: it isn’t true. Not by a long shot.
Critics of Israel’s policies in the disputed territories hone in on the settlements while ignoring the real obstacles to peace. They pretend as if Israel is the evil oppressor and the Palestinians are the poor, innocent victims.
The reality is this: Israel has tried multiple times to make peace with the Palestinians. They have made numerous concessions that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected. The result is that many people mistakenly blame Israel for the violence.
But if you look at history, you can easily see that Israel is not responsible for the majority of the violence. One of the biggest myths about the Israel/Palestinian conflict is that Israel illegally seized the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from the Palestinians. But it isn’t true.
Ever since the modern state of Israel was created in 1948, the Arab nations have been trying to destroy it. In 1967, three Arab nations waged war against Israel. Egypt, Jordan, and Syria instigated yet another conflict with the Jewish state. It was known as the Six-Day War.
Israel won the war. As a result, it took possession of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from Jordan and Egypt. By the way, these lands didn’t officially belong to Jordan or Egypt. They were disputed territories that were being administered by these nations.
Under U.N. Resolution 242, Israel was granted the right to administer the West Bank and the Gaza Strip because they acquired these lands through a defensive war. As a matter of fact, Israel could have taken more land under the law, but they chose not to.
International law said that a nation is not allowed to take land from a country they have invaded. However, if they acquire the land through a defensive war, they are allowed to take control of a territory. This law was designed to dissuade nations from waging war in order to acquire territory.
The law says that Israel is allowed to administer the land as they see fit. The settlements are not illegal. Of course, the settlements being legal doesn’t mean they aren’t an impediment to peace, right? That’s why most critics of Israel state that peace is impossible if Israel continues to build settlements.
History says something different. For there to be a true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, both sides need to be willing to work towards peace. It requires compromise on both sides.
Israel is the only party in this conflict that has truly shown a willingness to compromise. The problem is that every time Israel offers to make concessions to the Palestinians, the offer is rejected. No matter what Israel does, the Palestinians keep pushing for violence.
Israel has offered several concessions over the years:
- In 1974, Israel agreed to withdraw from territories it won in the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur war (1973). This did nothing to stop the violence.
- Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to allow neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state. The Palestinians rejected this offer in 2000.
- In 2008, Ehud Olmert offered to partition Jerusalem on a demographic basis. He also offered to withdraw from the West Bank. The Palestinians rejected this offer.
- In 2005, Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza strip. Israeli citizens were evicted from their homes. In response, the Palestinians elected terrorist group Hamas as their government and continued to fire rockets into Israel.
- In 2009, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a freeze on settlement building for a year in order to negotiate peaceful terms with the Palestinians. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas still refused to negotiate.
These are just a few examples of the actions Israel took to achieve peace. Each one was rebuffed by the Palestinians. Israel has given the Palestinians every chance possible to work towards peace, and they have chosen war.
I’m not saying that Israel has behaved perfectly. They certainly have made mistakes. But overall, it’s easy to see that they’re willing to take actions to achieve peace. Each time Israel offers a concession, it is met with hostility on the part of the Palestinians.
Because the Palestinians don’t truly want peace with Israel. The Palestinians won’t accept any peace deal that doesn’t involve the annihilation of Israel as a Jewish state. Their actions have shown this.
If you ignore history, it’s easy to assume that the settlements are the obstacle to peace. Israel has been continually vilified in the mainstream media. Anti-Israel bias is present in the news and even in the United Nations.
In the beginning, the United Nations took a more balanced approach to the conflict, but over time, they have become more and more biased against Israel. Last year, the U.N. General Assembly passed 20 resolutions that condemned Israel. They only passed 3 against the rest of the world: one on Iran, Syria, and North Korea. All three of these nations have engaged in actions that are far more horrendous than anything Israel has ever done.
It’s easy to assume that if Israel would just be willing to make more concessions, there would be peace. It would be nice if that were true. But history shows that it isn’t true. Until the Palestinians are willing to work with the Israelis, there will be continued violence.