Author: Ella Fornari
After years of rocket fire and jilted rhetoric from both sides, the news of rocket fire in Israel and Gaza two weeks ago first felt like déjà vu. Apart from the scale at which the rocket fire hit both sides, there is a fundamental difference that separates this proliferation of attacks from others; this rocket fire physically reached further into Israel than any in recent years. Israeli officials reported that two rockets hit Tel Aviv, one reaching the sea and the other hitting an uninhabited area. With rocket fire reaching further into Israel, the conflict becomes an issue not only for Israelis in the West Bank and Jerusalem but for Israelis in places like Tel Aviv, who up to this point have been physically separated from the vast majority of conflict. This perpetuation of recent rocket fire along with the UN bid last week granting Palestine provisional statehood marks this moment as a pinnacle on which the future of Israel resides. In moving forward it is essential for Americans, not just those within the Jewish community, to realize that as a country with deep ties to the region it is our responsibility to approach and engage with the conflict not as a pro-one side venture, but as a multifaceted conflict in which neither side is entirely in the right.
Because of their physical separation, it is commonly upheld that Israelis in Tel Aviv and other areas in Northern Israel are not as vocal and connected to the outlook of Israel’s relation to Palestine and the policies the government has implemented regarding the conflict. The population in Tel Aviv is characteristically more liberal than that of Jerusalem. Currently in Israel, power belongs to the conservative population. This population does not believe for an instant that Palestine is available as a partner for peace. Those who do not align with conservative politics do not even consider themselves members of the political left. The population of Isaelis that do not identify with the conservative schema consider themselves ‘centrists’, or, of the middle, because the controlling conservative opinion lies so far to the right. Because of the physical detachment from the tensions of the conflict, the majority of the Tel Aviv population has had the luxury of turning a blind eye to the policies and behaviors the Israeli government has implemented concerning relations with Palestine, like the dubious legal practices of Israeli officials concerning the Israeli occupation. The majority of this population, which is now more actively drawn into the conflict, are centrists. When their voice is silenced it further maintains the status quo of conservative Israeli politics, which are currently diminishing Israel’s identity as democracy.
The luxury of turning a blind eye no longer exists after rocket fire reached Tel Aviv. The reality is that the conflict has escalated to such a degree that it is no longer an issue for those most directly affected by the violence. The centrist population has the potential to change the internal conversation towards the future of Israel and its relations with Palestine and Hamas. Palestine and Hamas are intentionally noted as separate entities because Hamas currently has governing power, but does not represent the majority opinions of Palestinians. Just in the way that the controlling conservatives of Israel, like Netanyahu and Lieberman, do not represent the opinions of all Israelis, it is not a fair assumption to label all Palestinian alignment to this extremist group. If the large group of centrist Israelis is awoken, they have the ability to change the conversation within Israel surrounding the conflict.
Although shaken by the recent events in Israel, it is not enough to hope that this group of more liberal Israelis will be moved to act. Because the liberal population’s voice has not yet presented itself in the Israeli government, it is critical at this point of escalation for the United States to intervene and push negotiations toward a two-state solution. If anything, the recent perpetuation of rocket fire has shown that neither side is willing to succumb to the other, which is further evidence that a one-state solution is not a viable option to attaining peace in the region, especially now that the UN has granted Palestine provisional statehood. Although obviously further away from the conflict than the northern Israel population, it is crucial that the United States understands and acts upon their diplomatic power within the region. With more internal support from liberal Israeli voices and the granting of provisional statehood to Palestine, the future prospect of sustained peace between Israel and Palestine becomes more conceivable and less idealistic, so long as the United States plays a more integral role by instigating conversations on both sides toward a two-state solution.
Ella Fornari is an undeclared first-year. She can be reached at [email protected]
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