Middle East erupts after Trump decision

Trump declares Jerusalem capital of Israel, reignites century-long conflict

Jacob Morss, News Editor

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Ever since its conception after World War II, the region of Israel has been the subject of an ever-increasing conflict between the Israeli Jews and Arab Palestinians over who has the right to the disputed territory. This conflict was reignited with President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel Dec. 5.

Religion teacher James Lewis, who has studied and read much about the conflict, said there are specific motivations for each side in the conflict.

“The main motivator for the Palestinians is a national identity which awakened during the British Mandate (1922-1948),” Lewis said. “On the other side, you have the Zionist movement which arose shortly after World War I informing the idea of a Jewish homeland based on biblical understanding of the Jewish religion.”

At the end of World War I, the French and British divided up the Middle East between them after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. In this seizure, Great Britain claimed the British Mandate of Palestine, according to Al Jazeera. It was under Ottoman and British rule that the people of this region began to develop a distinct national identity of being Palestinian. Around the same time, the Zionism movement began which called on European Jews to return to their biblically historic homeland. This movement strengthened after the Holocaust.

In 1947 the United Nations (UN) devised a proposal to divide the region between the Jews and Palestinians giving each their respective state. In that plan Jerusalem would remain an international zone due to the fact that it is a holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims, according to Al Jazeera.

This proposal failed as Israel would go on to greatly expand its territorial outreach and occupy Palestinian territories in the following decades. Frustrated with the occupation, Palestinians would also throw two Intifadas (uprisings) against the Israeli state. Tensions would continue to rise as Jews settled the West Bank which is technically Palestinian territory.

Junior Catherine Magaña, who has studied the topic through debate, said there can be a danger when Jews settle Palestinian land just to antagonize the Palestinians.

“I do not believe it is necessarily a bad thing,” Magaña said. “It becomes bad when they take such nationalistic or radical viewpoints and turn that into actions that they take out on other people.”

The Israeli occupation of Palestine led to a massive refugee crisis and expulsion of Palestinians. As of 2017, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) calculates there are around 7.2 million refugees worldwide and that one-third of refugees are Palestinian. Many who are not recognized are still displaced internally as Israelis move into the West Bank.

According to PeaceNow, an organization that tracks Jewish settlements in Palestinian land, Jewish settlers make up 16 percent of the West Bank population, but control 61 percent of the land. These settlements are technically illegal according the UN Security Resolution 44, but the Israeli government continues to pour subsidies into the settlements in order to make it impossible for the West Bank to ever become an independent Palestinian state, according to Al Jazeera.

Recently, tensions have been reignited over Trump’s decision to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Senior Carl Hathaway, who has studied the conflict, agrees with Trump’s decision.

“I think it’s the right decision for now,” Hathaway said. “It is the de facto capital of Israel already. I was impressed with how he (Trump) left open the possibility of returning Jerusalem to its status before the Six-Day War and to one day achieving a two-state solution (two separate states split between Israel and Palestine, with Jerusalem being an international zone).”

Many believe Trump’s decision is a clear condemnation of efforts to achieve peace in the region, including the Arab League who called it a “flagrant attack on a political solution,” according to Al Jazeera. Since the decision Dec. 5, 15 Palestinians have been killed in protests, according to Reuters. According to Al Jazeera, Palestine’s governing body is deciding whether or not to revoke their recognition of Israel until the original 1967 borders are returned with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

The international community expressed its feelings on Trump’s decision on Dec. 21 in a UN vote resoundly against Trump’s decision as 128 members voted in favor of keeping Jerusalem an international zone. Nine members voted against and 35 members abstained, according to The Guardian. This was despite Trump’s comments in which he threatened to cut aid to any nation who voted against the United States’ will.

Trump has partly gone through with his threats, as the State Department announced Dec. 16 that they would be cutting its funding in half for the UNRWA, main source of support for Palestinian refugees.

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Continually expanding its territory, the Israeli government gained huge segments of the Middle Eastern region after the United Nations Partition plan of 1947, Six-Day War in 1967 and ongoing Jewish settlements of the West Bank. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital further minimizes Palestine’s influence in the region.