The Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not touch American borders, but it is still very much a pillar of American politics.
The United States, although not ever engaging militarily, has ties to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The conflict raises concerns regarding international relations within the Middle East and has the potential to influence relationships between the U.S. and other Middle Eastern countries.
“(The conflict) alienates other Arab countries, alienates allies, alienates friends at the U.N.,” Matthew Ward, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science specializing in the Middle East at University of Louisiana at Lafayette, explained.
As a brief overview, this conflict can be tied back to two documents published by Britain during World War I: The McMahon Hussein Agreement of 1915 and the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
The McMahon Hussein Agreement promised native Palestinians ownership of Palestine if they revolted against the Ottoman Empire. The Balfour Declaration, on the other hand, declared Palestine as the national home of Jewish people, therefore causing mass immigration of Jews to Palestine.
At the end of WWI, there were two groups claiming ownership of the same land. But instead, Palestine was given by the League of Nations to the British Mandate, remaining under Britain’s control until May 15, 1948.
During this time, many Jews were rallying behind Zionism, a movement to establish an official Jewish state using Palestine’s land. May 14, 1948, Jews declared the Jewish state of Israel near their Holy Land, Jerusalem. Conflict immediately arose, however, as Palestine began to fight back for control over the land and Jerusalem, which is also the holy land of other religions such as Islam and Christianity.
Since declaring itself independent, Israel remains in a constant state of controversy and dominance, having engaged in multiple wars with other surrounding countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
The dominance of Israel is seen not only in their acquisition and occupation of Gaza, Golan and the West Bank in the Six-Day War, but also in the fact that they maintain control over those regions and limit the Palestinian occupants in their economy, military and access to resources. This control incites acts of terrorism, uprisings and violence amongst the Palestinians.
“(The conflict) has shaped pretty much all of the surrounding Arab countries’ relationships with the international system because of the wars they fought with Israel,” Ward said. “It ... infects any form of foreign policy in the Middle East.”
Because of the strong influence on international politics in the Middle East, the U.S. takes an interest in the conflict. The U.S.’s position on the subject could greatly influence other Middle Eastern countries’ opinions on America.
As for American involvement, the U.S. remains an official neutral party, at some points attempting to aid in the peace process. The U.S. provides funding to both sides of the conflict; the U.S. supplies Israel billions of dollars a year in military funding and provides Palestine millions a year in security funding.
More recently, Trump moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, therefore formally recognizing that Jerusalem is a part of Israel.
Trump also introduced the Peace to Prosperity plan; this plan would allow both states access to Jerusalem, grant new land to Palestine and allow Israel full control of the occupied Golan, Gaza Strip and West Bank.
“It’s always been kind of understood that the U.S. supports Israel a little more than the Palestinians, but this (plan) made it very blatant,” Ward explains. “It derailed the peace process.”
Palestinians were upset by both actions and multiple protests ensued, causing more violence between Israel and Palestine.
And with the upcoming 2020 election, there come new ideas on the issue and U.S. involvement. And thus the conflict continues as a longstanding and polarizing topic of international relations in modern politics.
“(This conflict) is a security issue,” said Ward, “It’s a political issue. Americans should care about this.”