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The Israeli Knesset

Israel is based around a parliamentary democracy. While there is a President, his powers are very limited. His official role is to act as the Head of State. The President’s role is largely ceremonial, and while an individual President may influence the public through statements, they have very little official bearing on Israeli policy. The head of the Israeli State is the Prime Minister. <p> <p>Unlike U.S. elections, citizens of Israel vote for political parties: Likud, Labor, Kadima, etc. The seats in The Knesset, Israel’s legislative body, are awarded proportionally. If Likud receives 30% of the vote, Likud is allowed to appoint 30% of the members. After the election, the Parties which are able to form a coalition that represents more than 50% of the members have control of government. Rarely does a single party win a majority. Remember that, unlike in the U.S., there are dozens of political parties in Israel to split the vote. After the vote a Government is formed. Israel is currently in its thirty second government.

Unlike the United States, the Knesset appoints the executive branch of government. The Prime Minister is the head of the party within the coalition with the most number of seats, or the ruling party. This does not always mean that his party won the most seats in the Knesset, though. In the last election Kadima garnered the most number of votes, but was unable to form a majority coalition, and thus Likud was able to take power. The coalition then appoints ministers, who function like secretaries in the U.S. system. There are Ministers of Defense, Education, Health, Business, etc…

Should the Government lose its majority, immediate elections take place. This system provides for proportional representation within government, and leads to numerous electoral parties. When Ehud Barak’s Labor Party attempted to force a new election in January 2011, Barak and four other ministers withdrew from the party and started their own “Independence Party.” This saved Netanyahu’s coalition.

Internal Israeli Divide

Avigdor Lieberman, Ehud Barak, and Benjamin Netanyahu do not think the same thoughts. In general they attempt to provide a united face over key issues, but each of these three characters represents different political parties. While I am sure you have read your individual character profiles and understand the character themselves, how do they interact in the larger political sphere?

It is not true that they agree on every issue. Each character is in this for his political gain-- to think of it in any other way is naïve. Let us take the recent actions of Ehud Barak, Israel’s Minister of Defense, as an example. Frustrated with stalled peace talks, Labor, his party, threatened to withdraw ministers from the coalition. Since the Israeli parliament requires that the governing coalition (a mix of parties who align with each other) hold the majority of seats, Labor could have forced a new round of elections. The goal of these new elections would have been to gain enough seats to form a coalition with Labor as the head. However, Ehud Barak agrees with Mr. Netanyahu on many defense issues and so he decided to break with his party and stay in the government, to keep Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition in place .

The Impact of Kadima

The Likud and Kadima parties are rivals within the Israeli political sphere. Though they are not political opposites, they do differ on key points. The slight difference in their policies has centered around the settler movement. The more right wing and hawkish Likud has been able to capitalize on its pro-settler, tough stance on Iran, and tough stance towards the Palestinians, to capture the nation's vote. It has been so effective in doing this, that it was able to lock Kadima out of government. Kadima retaliated by taking an aggressive stance towards Likud and using any opportunity that presented itself to point out the flaws in Likud's policies. This created a charged and partisan atmosphere in Israel. However, even given the strained ties between the two parties, in the Spring of 2012 politics drove them together in a very unlikely, and very odd alliance.

Why would these two parties come together? In the past, Likud had been forced to ally with some very right wing and religious parties. While at the beginning this was not a problem, an upcoming vote was threatening to rip this coalition apart. The Tal law exempts Ultra Orthodox Jews from military service. In Israel, all citizens are expected to serve in the military at the age of 18. However, because of their religious beliefs these citizens were exempted. This is a tremendously unpopular law. Many people cannot understand why one sect is favored by this law above others. Especially when one considers the other subsidies that the Israeli government provides to the Ultra-Orthodox community instead of the secular community. The unpopular nature of this law meant that Likud was faced with a dilemma; extend the law and lose the support of the people, or vote it down and lose the support of the parties that gave it a majority. Clearly, for Likud, this was a no win situation.

Similarly, Kadima was in a tough spot. In Israel, when a government is unable to maintain a majority, early elections are held. Strangely, because its political rivals were doing poorly, Kadima was placed in a bind. Likud was going to lose the majority of parliamentary seats and be forced to call for a new election. However, for Kadima, the opposition party to Likud, this was more of a threat than an opportunity. During its stint as an opposition party, Kadima has accomplished next to nothing. It has hemmed and hawed about Netanyahu's inability to lead, but it has not accomplished anything on its own. Had early elections been held, Kadima would have lost fifty percent of its seats in parliament. This would have been a huge blow to Kadima. The Kadima party desperately needed a way to keep Likud in power and stave off elections. Likud needed a partner that agreed with it that the Tal law needed to be repealed, and Kadima needed stability in order to rebuild its image.

The marriage of Kadima and Likud is a political master-stroke. It serves the needs of both the parties. Likud is presented with a partner who is willing to make moves towards the center, such as voting down the Tal law. Previously, Likud's reliance on right wing groups, though they enabled it to maintain power, was forcing it farther and farther to the right. Likud's reliance on these groups was forcing it so far to the right that it was risking losing the support of its base. Kadima allows Likud to shift back to the center, by negating the effect of the former right wing allies. Now if these smaller parties leave, the Likud and Kadima coalition will still be able to maintain a majority and will not collapse. Similarly, Kadima is able to finally accomplish something. Kadima has been excised from the government, and has been criticized for accomplishing nothing. Now, it is in a position where it is able to affect Israeli policy once again, and perhaps gain some political victories. Kadima wants to be seen as making good on its political promises. It has criticized the harsh stance of Likud on Iran and its inability to make any advances in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here is where Kadima must show some progress in order to win back some of the electorate.

What does all of this mean for you, the Likud player? Frankly, in many ways it is good news. Now, small parties on the right have much less of an influence. You have much more room to bend and compromise with the Palestinians and other regional actors. For example, settlements in the West Bank are generally unpopular, however, you have relied on the settlers for essential political support. Having Kadima join your alliance gives you room to anger the settlers, at least somewhat. You will be able to limit the massive government subsidies given to settlers and even remove some support, should you choose, for the illegal settlements. To say this will allow you to completely reverse your opinions is not accurate. However, on the most unpopular positions you have been forced to adopt, there will be some room for maneuver.

It also has an effect on how you treat those members of your own team. Avigdor Lieberman, an important ally, has had his importance greatly diminished. The support of his small party allowed you to maintain power, however, it also made you beholden to those settler groups he supported. This is no longer the case. While Likud has always been pro-settler, you now have the leeway to compromise on some issues. For example, a temporary settlement freeze, something Avigdor Lieberman strongly opposes, is now a possibility. Though it is not something you would do casually, it is something that you can offer to the Palestinians. It is sure to have a political backlash, but the support of Kadima would allow you to retain power.

Impact on Simulation

Remember that you are part of your own party. While not directly present in the simulation, there are parties at home to think about. You should consider how your rhetoric will play at home. Is it too hawkish, or not hawkish enough? Remember that groups like Kadima oppose your government. In order to play your country correctly, consider how your statements fit within your political party. Mr. Lieberman should be considerably more Hawkish than Ehud Barak. They are not representing the same party. Ehud Barak is a centrist while Avigdor Lieberman represents the far right. Here an example that should serve to demonstrate the differences. Recently there has been a call for a probe to investigate the funding of only left wing NGOs (non-governmental organizations). This has been opposed by some members of Likud, Netanyahu’s party. Avigdor Lieberman stated that Likud ministers who opposed the probe betrayed the nationalist camp. In response, Benjamin Netanyahu stated that "The Likud is a democratic and pluralistic party, and isn't a one-opinion dictatorship.’ Netanyahu added that ‘all the Likud ministers are concerned for the security of the state and its citizens, and to enact this they do not need approval from anyone ." Avigdor Lieberman, in turn, attacked Benjamin Netanyahu for holding talks with Turkey, in an attempt to repair strained relationships between the two nations, without consulting him.

What does this tell you? Each of your characters is different. They are all part of the Nationalist camp, but fall along different parts of the spectrum. Ehud Barak is by far the most liberal of the three. However, he is heavily interested in the defense of Israel. In particular he is interested in defense against what he sees as the Iranian threat. This is a fear shared by Lieberman and Netanyahu. For all three, Iran is the true focus of their foreign policy. There are other issues, however, which are sources of tension among the three. For Avigdor Lieberman, settlements of all types are non-negotiable. While Mr. Lieberman believes the Palestinians should be given land in return for the settlements, he strongly opposes any freeze on settlements. Meanwhile Mr. Netanyahu is for a partial freeze on settlements, while Mr. Barak is for leasing settlements from the Palestinians. You should consider your character as an individual actor. While you share many views, you are not uniform.

The U.S. Israeli Relationship


This section will briefly go over what has been a long and truly interesting relationship. However, the relations of the past are only of interest to us in the way the impact the present. Therefore, this section will only serve to give a brief sketch of Israeli-American relations before the present.

The U.S. Israeli relationship began exactly eleven minutes after Israel unilaterally declared its existence in 1948. The United States was the first country to recognize Israel as a sovereign nation. Many suggest that the U.S. supports Israel because it recognizes a shared set of beliefs and morals. “When Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin asked Johnson why the United States supports Israel when there are 80 million Arabs and only three million Israelis, the President replied simply: ‘Because it is right ." While this is certainly a contributing factor, the United States supports many countries with which it has nothing in common. For a country to act there must be some gain for it. In supporting Israel early on, the United States gained an ally within the region who shared a number of beliefs that were very important at the time. It is a democracy with a free market system. It should be here noted that Israel was recognized by President Truman. The Truman doctrine played a large role in this recognition. This doctrine committed the United States to the support of free nations in an attempt to halt Soviet expansion. Just three days later the Soviet Union recognized Israel. This demonstrates the competitive nature of the U.S. and Soviet Union. The two largest countries, countries that were at each other’s throats agreed on acceptance of the state of Israel within three days. Clearly both countries were under similar motivations to gain the friendship of this new country.

Israel was one of many countries that the U.S. and Soviet Union vied over. With other countries in the Middle East siding with the U.S.S.R, the U.S-Israeli partnership became an integral part of U.S. foreign policy. However, it should also be noted that Israel and the United States have never participated in the same war. Just as Israel remains an important strategic partner in the region, the relationship with Israel is a serious cause of anti-U.S. sentiment among many Arab nations. Direct military support is seen as too damaging to the U.S. position in the region. The U.S. must maintain a position which allows Arab nations to see it as a viable partner. Therefore Israel and the U.S. do not participate jointly in military activities. This U.S. support for Israel remains in assurances of material and financial aid. While military aid has been promised, it has never been deployed.

How strong is this relationship? An example that readily demonstrates this is the sinking of the U.S.S. Liberty by Israeli naval vessels and helicopters. The U.S.S. Liberty was an American intelligence ship monitoring the build up to the 1967 war. Israeli vessels attacked and attempted to sink her, killing thirty four American soldiers. Israel has maintained that it believed the U.S.S. Liberty was an Egyptian vessel, however, this is very unlikely for numerous reasons, the most damning being that Israeli pilots have since come forward and admitted they recognized it as a U.S. vessel . Had this been any other country, it would probably have been considered an act of war. However, the U.S. accepted Israel’s account, despite the protests of many naval officers, and the entire event was largely suppressed. The point of this discussion is not to blame Israel, but to merely demonstrate the strength of the relationship which has been established between these two nations.

Political Influences at Home

It is hard to understate the importance the Jewish lobby in U.S. politics. Much of the importance of this lobby rests in the location of Jewish residents within the United States. While Jews make up only 2.9% of U.S. citizenry, almost 94% of them live in so called swing states . These are states which flip from Democratic to Republican control regularly. Often the margins within these states are incredibly slim and they play a key role in the U.S. Electoral College. An example of this is the Jewish presence in Florida, a key swing state. In the 2000 election Florida was contested by a few hundred votes. This has placed the Jewish populace in a powerful position. Not only do they reside primarily in swing states, but they themselves tend to bounce back between democrats and republicans. This makes them a particularly important target. A democrat who courts the evangelical right will go home a loser. Those voters, almost by definition, vote republican. However, both sides can hope to flip the Jewish vote, and by doing so flip a key state like Florida.


The political influence of Israel extends far beyond the Jewish population of America. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was established in 1951 with the support of the Israeli government. Its stated purpose is, “to secure vital U.S. foreign aid for Israel to help ensure Israel remains strong and secure. AIPAC is working to promote strategic cooperation between the two nations, to develop sound U.S. anti-terrorist policies, to share homeland security techniques and technologies, and to stop rogue nations such as Iran from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. ” In reaching its goals, it has been singularly successful. The Jewish lobby is one of the strongest forces in determining U.S. strategy in the Middle East. In the 2008 election, both candidates made individual speeches at AIPAC, each promising huge amounts of U.S. support. The first is President Obama, the second, third, and forth are Senator McCain.
The speeches, in all, are thirty minutes long. The length alone should indicate the importance of this organization, and the Israeli lobby as a whole, in defining U.S. policy. To U.S. politicians, support of Israel is a necessity to win national races, because of the decisive nature that swing states play. When the majority of states seem to be dyed blue or red, those few states that are moveable along the electoral spectrum play an incredibly important role, and those people within those states that vote as a bloc have an exaggerated effect upon U.S. policy.

As a lobbying organization, AIPAC brings in millions of dollars a year, and has successfully used those funds to lobby congress. As the visitation by every candidate to their organization demonstrates, they are one of those rare entities whose power bridges the republican-democrat divide. However, these are just policy speeches, given during an election year. How important is U.S. aid to Israel? In what quantities is it given? How is it justified?

U.S. Aid

Throughout this history, the United States has provided massive amounts of financial aid to Israel. Current estimates place direct U.S. aid to Israel at three billion dollars. This makes Israel the largest recipient of U.S. aid in history . Not only has Israel been awarded direct aid, but the United States has agreed to sell F-35 fighters to Israel . In the next ten years, the United States has pledged 30 billon dollars to support Israel .

However, this is not a one way street. While Israel is militarily and economically strong, it is also reliant on the United States. Almost 75% of the aid received by Israel is used to purchase American Made weapons . These sales come with strings attached. In return for aid, the United States maintains the right to veto arms sales made by Israel to other nations. Israel is the seventh largest arms exporting country in the world. Such control over a key industry serves to demonstrate the extent to which some of these strings reach. Many in Israel feel that such reliance on the United States could lead to manipulation of Israeli political choices as well. A clear example of this is that the United States has decreased, in the past, the amount of aid given to Israel proportionally to the amount of money Israel is spending on settlement construction . Other examples have been the Wye River agreement, in which Israel “disengaged” from the West Bank and requested 1.2 billion dollars from the United States to “fund the movement of troops and military installations out of areas of the West Bank. ”

Impact on the Simulation

U.S. politicians need to appear in strong support of Israel. However, that has not stopped them from taking aggressive positions in the past. Threats of withholding aid are uncommon, but certainly not unheard of. To both nations, this relationship is important. As Israeli diplomats you have a vested interest in maintaining a strong relationship with the United States. While your views and those of the U.S. do not always align, they are very close. Access to U.S. military technology allows Israel to maintain a military edge on its neighbors. Access to U.S. loans allows Israel to maintain an economic edge. However, the U.S. sometimes desires that Israel take actions which Israel is not willing to undertake. Remember, both sides are ultimately answerable to their constituents. While the U.S. would like Israel to stop building settlements in East Jerusalem, Israel will not. While Israel would like the United States to support a military strike on Iran, the United States will not. You cannot count on blanket U.S. support. Furthermore, risking U.S. funding is something Israel is slow to do. Fights with the U.S. are carefully chosen.

The U.S. uses funding more often as a positive motivator than a negative. U.S. politicians cannot be seen to be anti-Israel. A recent example demonstrates the necessity of this. Vice President Biden arrived in Israel in March of 2010 for a state visit. At the same time as Vice President Biden’s arrival, the Israeli Interior Ministry announced the creation of 1,600 new houses in Jerusalem . What followed is an illuminating demonstration of the balance of power. Upon his trip to the U.S., Netanyahu was denied a public picture with the President, and President Obama even walked out of a meeting with the Prime Minister. This elicited a large amount of uproar in the United States, criticizing President Obama for snubbing Netanyahu. What effect did this drama have? None. Israel will continue to build the settlements, and the United States will continue to fund Israel. While the two sides traded shots over the snub, Obama had to continue to nurse strong relations with Israel, just as Israel had to with the U.S.

The United States is your strongest ally for a reason; U.S. politicians cannot afford to be seen as anti-Israel. With such a key electorate and powerful lobby, U.S. politicians need Israel. That being said, as a diplomat, the U.S. is a key mediator for Israel. While on key issues, like settlements or Jerusalem, Israel will ignore the U.S., it will not do so on other major issues. Because the two countries interests lie so closely together, both must work to maintain a working alliance. The example of settlements is again pertinent to this discussion. The U.S. pressured Israel for weeks to freeze settlements. It offered additional funding and many other sweeteners. Netanyahu was forced with a choice; lose support of Israelis or that of the U.S. He split the difference, saying he would issue a freeze for the West Bank, but not East Jerusalem. Many Israelis believe the West Bank is negotiable. Here he made himself appear to the U.S. as willing to compromise. To the Israelis he maintained his strong pro settler credits. For you, this merely means that you need to consider not only how your actions will play in Israel, but in the U.S. as well.



It is important here to state that there are two sides to this conflict. Neither of which owns the truth. This resource seeks to provide you with the tools by which to understand the Israeli settlement program as an Israeli diplomat. In your simulation this is how you will be approaching these problems. As an Israeli diplomat you are only interested in upholding your countries policies and achieving the very best outcome for your country. This article is designed to give you a balanced set of tools to accomplish that goal.

The history of Israeli settlements is long and complex. This article will only deal with post 1967 settlements in the occupied territories. It should be noted that there was an earlier period of settlement building, however, that period is not relevant to the modern conflict. What is presented is a very brief synopsis of the history of settlements, followed by an analysis of how settlements figure into today’s politics. How should you address this prickly issue?

It is important to understand, first and foremost, that the Israeli government believes in its policies. In 1967, after the six day war, Israel found itself in control of the West Bank. Suddenly Israel was faced with a question. What do we do with these lands, fully populated by Palestinians, which had suddenly come into our possession? Israel’s decision to begin creation of settlements in the now occupied West Bank was influenced by many factors. Three questions must be answered. Firstly, why would Israel undertake a policy of settlement in the West Bank? Most countries recognized this land to be part of Palestine, not Israel, and at this time it was considered to be part of Jordan. The answer involves religion, politics, and economics. Secondly, why does Israel continue this policy? As you will see, it generates considerable outrage throughout the world. One might think that abandonment of settlements would be the more politically expedient route. So why then does Israeli government after government continue to support settlement policies? Thirdly, and most importantly for the simulation, How does Israel justify and present its settlement policy to the world? The other two sections should give you a good understanding of the roots of settlement. This last section will provide you with the rhetorical tools and reasoning your policies.

After the 1967 and the 1973 war, Israel was in a far more tenuous position. No peace treaty existed with any of their neighbors at this time and armed conflict on a massive scale was a very real possibility. This leads to one of the most often cited reasons for settlement building, security. In 1977 Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin gave voice to this belief stating, “There is a challenge here for all in the settlement movement who want to renew, establish and expand defensible borders for the state of Israel. ” These settlements were strategically positioned to command the country side and to provide a buffer between Israel and its enemies. However, the concept of settlements as a limited defensive project was soon supplanted. The ideological claim of Israel to all the land of Israel soon became the predominant argument for settlements. In 1977 Israel’s electorate was reshaped by the victory of the Likud party in that year’s parliamentary elections . Likud is a very conservative and very nationalistic party. This new government shifted Israel’s ideological position on the West Bank. What had been before considered a bargaining chip to be used to secure peace, now became part of a conceived greater Israel which stretched from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. Yitzhak Rabine, for example, stated that he would not accept any separation of the land between the two coasts of Israel .

This is the beginning of an Israeli policy of altering the facts on the ground in order to influence any future peace agreement. Through the creation of settlements, Israel insures that any future negotiations will be slanted in their favor. While held to be Illegal under international laws, such as article 49 of the Fourth Geneva convention and reinforced by General Assembly resolution 446, Israel has continued to construct these settlements . These arguments of illegality are not brought forward in order to denounce Israel, but to merely demonstrate how strong an interest Israel exhibits in continuing construction of these settlements. Despite the settlements being a source of international criticism Israel continues to expand construction. As was stated above, the 1977 election of Likud to parliament saw a move away from settlements as a tool of defense and to a tool of ideology. Each settlement presented a new fact which would have to be negotiated in any final status talk. Thus, continued construction of these settlements benefits Israel far more than appeasing the International community’s calls to abide by international law.

The ideological motivation for settling of the west bank has given rise to the so called “settler movement”. Many settlers view settlement of the west bank as a religious duty. They believe that they are “liberating” the land from more than 1,000 years of Arab dominance. The veracity of this claim is unimportant, what matters is its effect on Israeli settlement policy. This is best exemplified by the 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in retaliation for his signing of the Oslo accords . The assassin was a right wing extremist named Yigal Amir. He believed that anyone willing to sacrifice Israeli territory for peace was acting against Israel. While the actions of a lone gunman rarely demonstrate the existence of a widespread movement, in this case it does. His beliefs were in accordance with the same reasoning espoused by many religious figures in Israel. Religious figures equated the compromise of land for peace with religious betrayal. The Likud party capitalized on the unpopular sentiment by equating Rabin’s policies to Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler .

In the 1996 election, Benjamin Netanyahu beat out Shimon Peres for the position of Prime Minister. Mr. Netanyahu, a member of Likud, is a right wing politician. Strongly in favor of continued settlement he did not waste any time. In February 1997 Mr. Netanyahu expanded construction in East Jerusalem . However, even with strongly pro-settler credentials, Mr. Netanyahu has been faced with difficulty in pursuing peace and appeasing his voters. In 1999, Mr. Netanyahu’ effort to ratify the Wye River Memorandum was blocked by his own supporters who viewed it as a capitulation. He was forced to work with the liberal Labor party in order to get it by his own supporters . Most Settler groups and Right Wing political parties oppose any territorial capitulation to the Palestinian Authority.

The role of settlements in negotiations can be difficult to understand. However, the Camp David Summit of 2000 provides a good example. Think of settlements as bargaining chips in Israel’s hand. The more settlements, the stronger the hand becomes. At the Camp David summit, Israeli negotiators presented a map in which Israel would annex fourteen percent of the West Bank and retain control of another ten percent, leaving Palestinians with about seventy six percent of the remaining West Bank , or 22 percent of their pre-1948 state. The settlements provided the negotiators with new facts on the ground to justify the incorporation of such areas into Israel. These proposed areas represent about 80% of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Of course, the Palestinians rejected these terms. However, as settlements continue to expand the Israeli hand is continually strengthened. How could Israel otherwise validate the addition of territory? Only through armed conflict or settlement construction can this be achieved.

In 2005 Ariel Sharon, a member of the right wing Kadima party withdrew all Israelis from settlements within Gaza. As was demonstrated before, settlements function as a means by which to provide legitimacy for the annexation of territory to Israel. However, in doing so one also must annex those persons of Palestinian decent who remain within the boundaries of these territories. In Israel this has lead to new challenges stemming from the demographics (distribution of people) of the region. If Israel were to maintain control of large tracts of Palestinian land in Gaza, very heavily populated by Palestinians and the West Bank, Jewish Israelis would eventually find themselves a minority within their own country . Israel is a democracy; as such controlling a populace that is numerically superior would either result in losing control of government or losing one’s democratic credentials. In order to avoid this Israel has chosen to implement a policy of selective disengagement and settling. Large settler blocks have been annexed to Israel while areas that are predominantly Palestinian have been left to the Palestinian Authority.

Israel’s unilateral annexation of settlements has been achieved, not through diplomacy, but through the creation of a separation barrier. The wall cuts deep into Palestinian territory in order to annex certain large settlements. Several remote Jewish settlements were not included, though settler parties intensely lobbied to include them. The wall has also excised other sections of land where large Palestinian populations exist. Here I would like to raise the that the wall is illegal. This was established not only by International Courts, but by the Israeli High Court of Justice, which unanimously found the route to be illegal . This point is raised not to criticize Israeli policy but to demonstrate the impact that pressure has had on Israeli positions, none. The wall is popular in most of Israel; it is also demographically and politically advantageous. The wall, like settlements, strengthens Israel’s hand at any final status talks. Remember diplomacy comes down to a simple equation, do I get more from doing this or from doing that. While many might deride the wall on human rights grounds, supporters of the wall have benefitted greatly.

Settlements now

Settlement construction continues throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Obama administration’s recent attempt to jumpstart the stalled peace process between Israel and Palestine came to a crashing halt last October, 2010. The Palestinians refused to continue talks with Israel after a ten month moratorium on the construction of settlements expired. The Palestinian authority declared the construction of settlements as creation of facts on the ground and a violation of international law. Israel disagrees vehemently, stating that settlements have never proved to be an impediment to negotiations in the past. After long negotiations by the Obama administration, which included sweeteners such as deals on new U.S. jet fighters, Netanyahu offered a partial moratorium. However, this also was rejected as it would not include east Jerusalem. This is a critically important area where Palestinians hope to build the capital of their future state. Israel considers East Jerusalem to be part of Israel.

Pro-settler groups have won resounding victories in Israel in the last several years. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is evidence of this rise in popularity. He is head of the political party Yisrael Beiteinu or Israel is Our Home. The party’s primary platform is nationalistic. It strongly supports the continued expansion of settlements and opposes any limitation in Israeli construction. The party has continued to win increasing numbers of seats in the Knesset. Currently it holds fifteen seats. This attests to the increasing popularity of settlements and the increasing power of settler parties

Current Political Position

All three diplomats represented here hold that settlements are legal. The diplomat farthest to the left, Ehud Barak, holds that, “the settlement blocs are an inseparable part of Israel in all future negotiations with the Palestinians. The Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea are regions that are dear to my heart ." This leads one to ask, what changes can Israel make in negotiations? The answer is, not much. Both sides agree, in principle, that land will need to be exchanged. Palestinians desire a 1:1 transfer ratio. That means for every mile occupied by Israeli settlements and infrastructure, one mile of land, from within the 1967 green line borders of Israel, would be given to Palestine. However, Israel is unwilling to agree to a 1:1 transfer; while specific numbers have not been released it is believed Israel is willing to give much less.

One thing is certain; Israel will not willingly withdraw its settlers from settlements as happened in Gaza. Illegal settlements, those created without Israeli government approval, have even become difficult to remove. It is important to understand that Israel loses very little through not achieving peace. Again, this is not a criticism of Israel, but merely fact. Each year Israel adds to its settlement blocks, effectively annexing larger and larger portions of Palestine. Until an offer is made, such as jetfighters and increased funding from the U.S., Israel gains more from continuing expansion of its settlements. Israeli politicians are not concerned with what is best for Palestine, but what is best for Israel.

What Israel is most likely willing to do is consider a land exchange that favors Israel. An exchange rate that would be acceptable may be somewhere around one half an acre for an acre. Meaning, for every acre of Palestinian territory annexed beyond the 1967 green line, Israel would give half an acre of territory from its own pre1967 land. This is of course speculation, the number could be more equitable or, more likely, less. Remember Israel is in the stronger position. Its primary supporter, the U.S., is staunchly behind it. This allows Israel to weather international criticism almost unscathed. Time is on Israel’s side and the politicians you play understand this.

Talking Points

How does one go about representing and defending such a complex and difficult policy? By believing it. One must remember that they are not themselves in the simulation, but representatives of the beliefs of the character they are portraying. The goals of Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Barak are to insure that the Israeli People come away from the table with as much land as possible. They are truly trying to do what they believe is best for their country. Whether or not the author or player agrees is irrelevant to the situation. Our duty is to represent Israeli policy as convincingly as possible.

As was stated before, Abbas, the Palestinian President, has refused to continue direct negotiations with Israel after an Israeli partial settlement construction freeze expired in October. Israel has come under considerable pressure from the United State and the International community to impose another settlement freeze in accordance with international law. However, Israel has so far refused. Israel utilizes several very simple arguments to justify their refusal to issue another settlement freeze. Firstly, the Israeli’s stress their willingness to sit down with the Palestinians at any time, without preconditions,

“I said that we should take the coming year and try to fashion this historic peace agreement, and people said, well, how can you finish it in a year? And I said you can finish it in a year--if there's a deal out there, you'll finish it in a year. And if there's not a deal out there, then more time will not change it. This is what I intend to speak to Hillary Clinton about, and this is what I hope and I believe that the Obama administration wants to achieve. We're partners for that. I hope the Palestinians are, too. It's going to be difficult for both of us, but we're ready.”
Here we see Benjamin Netanyahu reframe the source of the failure of the talks as the Palestinians. Essentially he is saying that Israel is open to peace and that they are only waiting on the Palestinians to come to the table. Lieberman has also voiced such beliefs, “We were ready a year ago and we're ready next week without any preconditions to start immediately with direct talks .”

In addition to voicing Israel’s eagerness to pursue peace at any time, Israeli politicians also cite the past as proof that settlements are not in fact a roadblock to peace. The following quote from FM Lieberman demonstrates well this argument,

“And I have given this answer many times. You must understand that we signed two peace agreements, with Egypt and with Jordan, despite the settlements. You must understand that we started with the settlement activity only after '67, and I don't remember that during 19 years, between '48 and '67, when the Arab world controlled all this territory, anybody tried to create a Palestinian state. And the opposite is also true. We undertook a disengagement process, we evacuated 21 flourishing settlements from the Gaza Strip, and the result was Hamas in power and missiles fired at Sderot. ”
By emphasizing past agreements, achieved with settlement construction underway, and the removal of Israeli settlements from Gaza as part of negotiations, Lieberman portrays the Palestinian reluctance to negotiate as a new development. If these settlement projects were not previously a problem, why are they now?

Israeli political arguments are firmly rooted in past events. Another argument that is regularly voiced by both Netanyahu and Lieberman is that the Palestinians wasted the last ten-month moratorium; choosing to come to the table in the last month of the moratorium.

“as you know, we also suspended new construction in the Jewish settlements for ten months. We did so with a heavy heart. We knew that this step would weigh heavily on our brothers and sisters, good and loyal Israeli citizens, taxpayers, who serve in the reserves, law-abiding citizens. As the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, stated, it was an unprecedented move that no other government in Israel had taken before. But we said we would do it and we did it. We enforced the moratorium with determination and without compromise. For ten months. Unfortunately, the Palestinians wasted those ten months as well. Now they demandthat we continue the moratorium as a condition to continuing the talks. I hope they are not doing so to avoid making the real decisions necessary for a peace agreement .”
Here again we see Netanyahu drawing attention to the fact that Israel has already granted one moratorium and the Palestinians failed to capitalize on it. What can we learn about playing our characters from these statements? One, Israeli leadership feels that it has compromised already and that failure to capitalize on this unprecedented act rests solely with Fatah. Secondly, Israel is not holding up the peace process, unlike almost every country in the world believes, Israel is willing to sit down immediately with Fatah and achieve peace within a year. Thirdly, if settlements never prevented peace talks in the past, why do they now?

Israeli politicians very rarely act defensively. Their justifications center on the failures of other parties. The arguments that they use are simple and poignant. When playing a Likud member, remember, a large number of your supporters are settlers. Abandoning the settlements is not an option. An exchange of land is a much more palatable option, or at least that is what you say openly. When dealing with the issues of settlements the interaction of influences is complex to say the least. Hopefully these examples provide you with a rough starting point to formulate your thoughts. They should not define your speech. Think of them as guidelines for where your party falls in the political spectrum. These examples should allow you to formulate what your party might say based upon what it has said.


Jerusalem is perhaps the most complex topic that will be addressed in this guide. It is the most divisive issue confronting the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, but it is also the simplest policy position for Israeli diplomats to assert. Whereas other positions deal with possible compromises, Jerusalem does not. Israel’s position on Jerusalem is straightforward and non-negotiable.

Israel took over the Old City of Jerusalem on June 6, 1967. This brought all of Jerusalem and its suburbs under Israeli governance. Israel had long stated that Western Jerusalem was its national capital. Israel now maintains that the whole of Jerusalem is its eternal and indivisible capitol. This was declared unilaterally in Israel’s 1980 Basic Laws. It is important to understand that almost every country views Israel’s declaration of Jerusalem as its indivisible capitol as Illegal. It violates several U.N. declarations that had been established in order to provide a framework for peace. It is important to understand how deep this disproval ran. In 1967, just after Israel captured Jerusalem, the Security Council passed UN Resolution 252. This binding resolution held that any legislation altering the status of Jerusalem was illegal. Furthermore, after Israel announced Jerusalem its capital, the Security Council passed Resolution 478 which censured Israel for violating Resolution 252. It is important to note that these major U.N. resolutions were passed by the Security Council rather than the General Assembly. The General Assembly is an amalgamation of all the countries of the world, a good number of whom dislike Israel intensely. However, the Security Council is comprised of only China, France, The Russian Federation, The United Kingdom, The United States, and a rotating temporary member that does not hold a veto. Each of the permanent members can veto any resolution. That the United States did not act on Israel’s behalf should demonstrate the immense distaste for this unilateral action. The Palestinian Authority refuses to accept the validity of Israel’s governance over any part of East Jerusalem (all those areas on the Jordanian side of the 1967 green line).

The Jewish Claim:

Why then, if their action regarding Jerusalem is so un-popular, does Israel continue? The above mentioned facts are not an attempt to deride Israel, but merely to demonstrate the intense distate this policy has evoked in the international community. The reason goes straight to the Jewish character of the Israeli nation. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs neatly outlines the Israeli claim. The first is that the Jewish have a three thousand year history with Jerusalem. It has always remained as the focus of their culture, there have been Jewish residents within its walls for three thousand years, and even though exiled the Jews have always intended to return to establish a capital . Secondly, throughout history, no other nation has claimed Jerusalem as its capital, aside from Jewish nations . Thirdly, Jerusalem has historically been a united city. It was not until the 1948 war that Jerusalem was divided when, after a bitter battle, Jordan annexed East Jerusalem. This annexation was recognized by only two countries . Fourthly, after the 1967 war, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem were provided with the chance to accept Israeli citizenship and be incorporated into the electoral process of the Jerusalem municipality. The rights of all inhabitants of Jerusalem are protected by the Israeli government. Finally, there has been continuous agreement by every party to govern Israel that Jerusalem is its capital .

Jerusalem in Practice:

The conquest of Jerusalem brought with it many problems. The primary problem facing Israel is a problem of demographics. Israel is a true democracy, which means that if the Palestinians achieve numerical superiority they will come to control the municipal government of Jerusalem. Demographic trends demonstrate that the Israeli birth rate cannot match the Palestinian. So, in order to remain democratic and Jewish, Israel adopted the idea of “Demographic Superiority.”

The idea of demographic superiority was first broached in 1979 by the Interministerial Committee to Examine the Rate of Development. Israel has adopted this policy and continues to enforce it on the ground. In Jerusalem this objective has manifested itself in three primary forms: the construction of settlements, the construction of the separation wall and the denial of Palestinian building permits. Jerusalem is a pivotal piece of any final status negotiation; Israel’s creation of facts on the ground seeks to make a division of Jerusalem all but impossible. Even if Jerusalem is divided, the noncontiguous nature of the Palestinian side makes for an unfeasible city. The Israeli government denies the manipulation of facts on the ground to influence any final status talks. However, Israel still actively stacks the deck in its favor. It is important to understand that these allegations against Israel are based in fact. They are designed to provide an outcome that you, as Israeli diplomats, are in favor of; maintenance of control over the government of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem in the Simulation:

How should you handle the issue of Jerusalem? The answer is to avoid it. Israel is not willing to give in on Jerusalem. The last settlement freeze offered by Netanyahu did not include settlement building in Eastern Jerusalem. However, this is also one of the primary issues that have brought a grinding halt to the negotiations. Abbas rejected the last offer, because it did not include any construction freeze in Jerusalem . So, as diplomats, what do you do? Remember first and foremost that you serve the Israeli people. The Israeli people are, generally, in favor of construction in what is viewed as the national capital of Israel. Israel does not lose a great deal from a delay in the peace process. The offer of a partial freeze, that did not include east Jerusalem, deflected a lot of the criticism against Israel. In general, approach Jerusalem as you would the settlement problem. However, here you have more tools at your disposal. Emphasize the historic claim of the Jews to Jerusalem, as well as the history of a united Jerusalem. However, discussion of Jerusalem is in general a non-starter. If possible defer Jerusalem to later talks. Jerusalem is generally left to, “final status talks.” These are talks that would occur at the very end of the peace process; after the majority of the boundaries are drawn, and only the very last problems remain.

When the Palestinians demanded that Netanyahu suspend construction in Jerusalem, he responded with a simple analogy, “The Palestinian demand is that we prevent Jews from building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem…You know, that is an unacceptable demand. If we made it in London or made it in New York or in Paris, people would cry foul ." That the United States could not elicit a freeze in construction from Netanyahu, even after promising massive amounts of military aid, should demonstrate a change in the Israeli position towards East Jerusalem. A settlement freeze might be possible in other areas, but it is no longer possible in east Jerusalem.

The most notable development in the international recognition of Jerusalem has been President Trump’s 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as “Israel’s capital” and “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.” After the US Embassy move, Guatemala also decided to move its embassy to Jerusalem and a few more countries such as Paraguay, Romania, and Australia have been rumored to follow suit. Many nations condemned this move arguing that it fails to recognize the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and endangers the possibility for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.


Summary of the Iranian Question

One of the key Issues for Israel, if not the key issue, is the continuing Iranian nuclear weapons program. Mutual Iranian-Israeli mistrust has been a key political issue since 1979 and the Iranian Revolution. Iran had been previously ruled by an American and British installed Shah, Mohammad Rezah Pahlavi. As part of his pro-western stance the Shah supported the establishment of Israel, which was a deeply unpopular stance in Iran, where many Iranians see the Palestinians as co-religionists, and are deeply sympathetic with their plight. Support for the Palestinians was one of the rallying calls utilized by Ayatollah Khomeni and other revolutionaries in their 1979 revolution. The new Iranian government and Israel thus began on the very worst footing, with both governments very much wishing the other ceased to exist. While this may seem like hyperbole, it is not. Though it is very unlikely that either is willing to go to war to achieve this end, they actively seek to weaken and undermine each other in the political sphere. This section deals with how the animosity between these two countries took shape.

The non-proliferation treaty, NPT, stipulates that those who sign it must adhere to certain guidelines in pursuing their nuclear programs. The primary bone of contention is verification of the peaceful nature of their nuclear program. Iran, as a signatory of the NPT, is guaranteed the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program. Not only that, but it is also legally able to enrich uranium . However, article III of the NPT holds that countries must submit to verification of the peaceful nature of their nuclear programs by the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA). Here is where Iran has stepped over the line. Iran has continued to enrich Uranium without providing for the necessary IAEA oversights required by its signing of the NPT. This has led many countries, such as Israel, to rally against Iranian enrichment activities. They hold that if Iran were enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, then it would allow for inspections. While in the past Iran has allowed for such restrictions, it has now stopped doing so.

Iran states that it is enriching uranium for use in a medical reactor, which generates radioactive isotopes to fight cancer . However, many experts believe this is just a cover story. Israel in particular believes that Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear bomb. The question of why is very important to this story. Why would Iran pursue a nuclear bomb? There are several theories. The most likely is its use as a bargaining chip. Once a nuclear weapon is achieved, it is unlikely that it can be undone. Another very likely theory is that it wishes to use it to counter Israel’s nuclear weapons. Israel’s nuclear policy is important and will be discussed later. The existence of Israeli nuclear weapons is a galvanizing factor in Iranian policy.<p>


<p>Policy towards Iran has focused on sanctions. The United States has actively pursued tough sanctions that target Iranian businesses that are linked to the Revolutionary Guard. While this was opposed by some countries, such as China and Russia, Iranian belligerence and information revealing that Iran was much closer to a bomb than previously expected convinced many countries to support sanctions. Here one sees a schism between U.S. and Israeli policies. While the U.S. maintains a policy that all doors are open, including military strikes, it pursues sanctions and direct talks with Iran as its primary course. The Israeli government believes in maintaining a credible military threat . Israel is committed to a policy of self-defense. It is very possible that this credible military threat could develop into an actual threat, except that the United States actively restrains the Israeli military. In 2008, Israel attempted to attack Iran. However, Israel’s capabilities required U.S. support, in particular safe passage over northwestern Iraq and special munitions. The United States rejected this request . Here we see the impact of American influence on Israeli policies. After the 1981 bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor, the Security Council condemned Israel’s attack, with the support of the United States. Political fallout from such unilateral attacks means that Israel is unlikely to carry out another such attack without U.S. backing.

Still, Israel maintains military pressure on Iran. While the U.S. pushes diplomatically for sanctions, Israel maintains the specter of possible military action, not only through the statements of its elected officials, but also through concrete examples. In 2008 and 2009, Israel held military exercises directed at sending a clear message to Iran : we are capable of coming to get you. Iran also regularly holds military exercises, targeted at demonstrating its anti-air capabilities . <p>

Other Fronts

<p>Israel faces threats from Iran on other fronts. Iran is a well known sponsor of both Hizbollah and Hamas. It has become evident that the Iranian government funnels millions of dollars into both Hizbollah and Hamas . Furthermore, Iran supplies military hardware to both factions . Not only does this include long-range rockets, but anti-tank rockets. This is a central concern of Israeli foreign affairs. In the 2006 Lebanon war, Israeli troops were faced with a determined enemy, equipped by Iran. Since the war, Iran has sought to increase Hizbollah’s anti-tank capabilities, as well as to arm them with more rockets . This is not a secret; Iran has publicly announced that it stands with Hizbollah and Hamas . Here we see the importance, for Israel, of undermining Tehran. Iran is actively working to make military campaigns by Israel more costly. By supplying more and better weaponry to Israel’s enemies, Iran is able to struggle against Israel without firing a shot itself. Here one sees the development of proxies, utilized by Iran against Israel. In what are called proxy wars, a country funds another group, be it a government or non-state actor, to fight a mutual enemy.

Israel’s policy requires that it be able to strike at Hamas and Hizbollah. It considers these groups to be terrorist entities. When these entities strike at Israel, Israel must be able to act in self defense and attack back. In the past this has lead to strikes which have had a devastating effect on Hizbollah and Hamas. However, Hizbollah has become better armed, and the more they are able to resist Israeli incursions, or inflict high costs on Israeli forces, the more Israel’s capability to utilize military force becomes undermined. Gone are the days when Israel could fight to Beirut with few casualties. Iranian influence threatens to tip the military scales in favor of the insurgents. While Hizbollah is more capable of resisting Israeli incursions it is nowhere close to the point where it could attack Israel. A rearmed Hizbollah represents perhaps the greatest challenge to Israel’s capability to project military power into Lebanon in the country’s history.

Military Considerations

Attacking Iran is not a simple proposition, and it is not clear how much of Israel’s posturing is a bluff. If the past is a guide to the future, then U.S. reluctance is the only thing holding Israel back. However, unlike Iraq, Iran possesses sophisticated anti-air capabilities. In addition, it could utilize Hizbollah and Hamas to launch rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians. Perhaps the worst outcome of such an attack would be the strengthening of support behind the leadership of Iran. With the green revolution of 2009, cracks have appeared in the seemingly impermeable rule of Iran’s Supreme Ayatollah. However, military attacks may incite nationalism among the Iranian citizenry, and a sense that it is necessary to aid one’s government. When dealing with Iran one must remember that it was a U.S. and British inspired coup that toppled the secular and democratic Mossadeq government. Imagine how you would feel if someone attacked your country. If we personalize the situation it becomes clear that, even if we disliked the government we would probably support our nation.

Israel’s policy in the simulation regarding Iran

All three of your characters are united in their opposition to an Iranian nuclear program. Your characters realize that the Israeli people are in favor of strong opposition to Iran. They have lived with Iranian made rockets striking their cities for years. Iran is a current threat and one that, many believe, wishes to kill them. Your threat of a military attack is not only aimed at motivating Iran, but at motivating the United States. Whenever there is a complex problem out there, politicians can be slow to deal with it, as failure brings with it political costs. Therefore Israel has occasionally used the threat of a military strike to motivate the U.S. to increase pressure on Iran . While threats like this undoubtedly motivate the U.S., they also burn up political capital. Threats made too often ring hollow. Use such inflammatory rhetoric sparingly or else someone may call you on it. The last thing Israel wants is to be forced into deciding whether or not they are bluffing. When confronting Iran, be careful. Remember there is more than one angle to take. Calling for it to cease its support of terror groups like Hamas is another route. Calling for condemnation of the government’s treatment of human rights is another.

Iran rails against Israel because Israel has a completely unsupervised nuclear program. Not only that, but Israel is not a signatory to the NPT. While it might be true that Iran does not allow complete inspections of its facilities, at least it is engaging the international communities, unlike Israel which has nuclear weapons and no oversight. There is a lot of truth in these allegations. However, Israel maintains a position of nuclear ambiguity. You, as politicians, can neither confirm nor deny that Israel has nuclear weapons. There are many important reasons behind this policy. So long as Israel denies its possession of nuclear capabilities, Arab states can justify, to themselves, not having their own nuclear program. They know Israel has a program, but they do not want to undertake the enormous cost of developing their own. If Israel were to announce that it did have nuclear weapons, the removal of their self-imposed ignorance would force them to consider obtaining nuclear weapons.

When you deal with Iran, remember that they kill Israeli citizens through the provision of weapons to Hamas and Hizbollah. Your goal is to get Iran to acquiesce to IAEA inspections as quickly as possible. Towards that goal, you serve as a credible military threat, a motivating factor for both Iran and European nations. If the Western powers do not stop Iran, Israel will. I cannot stress enough here the cost of such a military attack. Israel’s casualties would not be in the hundreds, but in the thousands. The entire area around Israel would be thrown into chaos. However, if Iran appears to be on the edge of making a bomb, thousands are better than millions. You must constantly consider how close you are to a line in the sand. At what point would you attack Iran? So long as the Obama administration is dealing with Iran there is hope. There is still time before Iran has a bomb.

The Israeli Blockade Of Gaza

Hamas Brief Overview

Hamas was founded during the first Intifada (uprising), in 1998, as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a militant Islamist group dedicated to the removal of Israelis from Palestinian lands. Its true name is Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya. In English this translates to the Islamic Resistance Movement. Hamas flourished in the atmosphere generated by the first intifada. Israeli crack down on other militant groups created a power vacuum that Hamas stepped right into . In the second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Hamas made wide use of suicide bombers within Israel. This is one of the justifications Israel has used to cite the construction of the separation barrier. However, in recent years Hamas has forgone the use of suicide bombings . An important thing to realize about Hamas is that it is a political, social, and military movement. Suicide bombings do not play well in the media, and Hamas’s abandonment of these tactics reflects the view of many Palestinians that such attacks portray Israel as a victim. Hamas has positioned itself as a group actively pursuing freedom for the Palestinian people. It provided physical examples of resistance, creating a contrast between itself and Fatah, its main political rival, who only had diplomatic defeat after defeat to show. With the death of Arafat, the Palestinian political scene was reshaped. The charismatic leader left a Palestinian Authority without it’s charismatic leader. In the January 2006 elections, Hamas would capitalize on its image as an active political party fighting for the Palestinian people.

January 2006-Present

Democracy is generally a good thing. However, occasionally it can have unforeseen ramifications. The January 2006 election saw Hamas win seventy four out of 132 seats in the Palestinian legislative assembly, essentially giving them control of the government . It is important to recognize that international observers have certified that these elections were both free and fair. In addition, it is important to understand how it won. Hamas, unlike the PA, which is generally considered corrupt, is reported to distribute about 90% of its budget to social welfare programs . Hamas voiced a platform of social justice, fairness in politics, and social benefits, substantiated by concrete activities on the ground. Its public appearance is greatly supported by these social welfare programs, carried out independently from the PA. Here we come to the critical point for Israel--its reaction to the election of Hamas. Israel views Hamas as a terrorist entity, and as such, has refused to negotiate with it until it recognizes Israel’s right to exist, accepts all agreements previously signed between Israel and Palestine, and renounces the use of violence . In order to create pressure on Hamas, Israel withheld funding to the Palestinian government. Israel had the means to do this because it collects certain taxes in the occupied territory on behalf of the Palestinian government. The pressure levied by Israel was exacerbated by sanctions from the international community that cut off Palestinian access to loans. This tension continued to build until, in 2007, with the failure of a new national unity government, violent clashes erupted. Hamas successfully forced Fatah from the Gaza Strip, where the majority of Hamas supporters are located. This resulted in two governments being established for the Palestinian people. The first of which, led by Hamas, rules over the people of Gaza. The second government is led by Fatah and rules over the people of the West Bank.

The Blockade and Israeli Intervention in Gaza

In 2007, after Hamas forced Fatah from the West Bank, it continued a policy of launching rocket attacks from Gaza into southwestern Israel. The scale of these attacks should be noted here. From 2005-2007 four Israeli citizens had been killed and eighty-four wounded . In response to the attacks, Israel labeled Gaza a hostile entity and, with the help of Egypt, instituted an embargo of the Gaza Strip. The embargo is intense and designed to undermine the Gazan economy. It does so by first limiting almost all imports into the area and preventing most exports from leaving. It limits everything from cooking supplies to petrol. However, the most damaging limitation is the prevention of building supplies from entering the area. After the 2008-2009 Gaza war, in which Israel invaded Gaza, the lack of access to concrete and other building supplies severely hampered the ability of people within Gaza to rebuild. Israel also prevents Gaza from exporting most products it manufactures, resulting in the near collapse of the Gaza economy. Currently unemployment hovers around forty percent .

The question of why institute such an embargo looms large. It is criticized by most nations and human rights NGOs as an act of collective punishment, illegal under the fourth Geneva Convention. Collective punishment is the punishment of a group of people for the actions of a few, in this case, the creation of stressful living conditions in order to punish Gazans for their support of Hamas. This is exactly why Israel has instituted this policy. Collective punishment is believed by many to be an effective means of altering a group’s perspective, if done correctly. As was described above, Hamas gathers most of its support through social welfare campaigns. If Hamas is no longer capable of providing social welfare initiatives, then some of its support may disappear. If Hamas is portrayed as the source of peoples suffering, then perhaps those people will remove their support for that group. Israel is not alone in the adoption of such policies. The U.S. embargo of Cuba is a strong contemporary example of such a policy in action. The 2008-2009 Gaza war is another example of collective punishment. The Israeli focus on house demolition, through widespread use of artillery, is viewed by many as a means to increase the pressure on the populace within Gaza. Conservative figures for that operation place the number of dead at over one thousand. The Israeli embargo policy is aimed at keeping as much pressure on the citizens of Gaza as possible. It is a policy that Israel has given voice to both privately and publicly. Ehud Olmert, former prime minister, articulated the policy quite well: "(w)e will not harm the supply of food for children, medicine for those who need it, and fuel for institutions that save lives."

In Spring 2018, the situation in the Gaza Strip reached a boiling point. As a result of a combination of difficult living conditions, a continued Israeli blockade, and the President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, large protests were organized along the border of the Gaza Strip. These protests featured both non-violent and violent acts (Molotov cocktails, bombs planted at the border) and a general attempt to break the Israeli blockade. In response to these protests, Israel retaliated leaving around 200 dead and an estimated 18000 injured according to the health officials in Gaza. The Israeli response was heavily criticized internationally which prompted a large outcry from Israel who questioned why the initial cause of the protests wasn’t equally condemned. In an effort to alleviate the situation Israel has been pursuing both financial and political deals with Hamas with the aid of nearby countries acting as mediators (Egypt and Saudi Arabia).

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