Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fraying U.S. and Israeli ties lead to continued Palestinian poverty


CNN: Biden highlights close U.S.-Israeli ties on Middle East trip

UN News Centre: UN-backed Middle East Quartet condemns Israeli plans to expand settlements

New York Times: Conflicting Demands Test Netanyahu

BBC: Ban Ki Moon calls Gaza conditions 'unacceptable'

UPI: Despite rift, Israel to get U.S. C-130s

Jordan Times: Seize the opportunity at hand now, King tells Israeli people

Workers World: Forget Biden’s ‘dignity’ — what about the Palestinians?

The rocky road of the Middle East peace process recently hit another bump when American Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel this month. In the middle of his trip, the Israeli Minister of the Interior made a surprise announcement that he would approve the construction of new houses in East Jerusalem. Many officials were caught off guard, including the Vice President, Secretary of State Clinton, and even Prime Minister Netanyahu. This has strained US-Israeli ties, and is seriously threatening to prevent any further movement on Israel-Palestine peace talks. This might seem like more of the same to many casual observers in the West. But, for people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories it means continued unemployment and crushing poverty.

American Vice President Biden went to Israel with the intention of jump-starting the moribund peace talks. The trip itself was proceeding according to official protocol with Biden stressing the “close relationship” between the two countries. However, both the trip and the relationship was jarred by a sudden announcement that the Interior had approved a plan to build 1600 new homes in East Jerusalem. Not only did this harm the US – Israel relationship but many suggest that this undermines the entire peace process.

The source of this contention is itself a unique development problem. The ownership of East Jerusalem is disputed. Both Israel and Palestine claim the area as their capital, however it is under the control of Israel. Over time, Israel has taken over more and more Palestine land and homes and has moved in Israeli families. Generally, building new homes is considered a positive step in development, but in this case the new construction has instead served to endanger greater peace and development issues. While the legality of these settlements is disputed by IsraelPalestine, it is worth noting that the global community generally believes they violate international law, as evidenced by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who recently called them illegal.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also discussed the conditions in Palestine. He described conditions in Gaza as "unacceptable, unsustainable." Poverty is the norm, not the exception as a result of the conflict with Israel. Jordan’s King Abdullah has recently tied the continued building of settlements to the peace process and noted that failure could result in future violence. While this poverty continues, it is worth noting that United States aid to Israel continues at around $3 billion a year.

The strained relationship between the United States and Israel is a concern. Different administrations in both countries will have different opinions about how to proceed towards peace. However, until real progress is made, it appears that poverty will be the status quo in Palestine.


1) Should the United States stress development and human rights issues more in its relationship with Israel?

2) Considering that the road to peace appears long, what immediate steps can the United States take to help humanitarian development in the Palestinian Territories?

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