As the the Palestinian Authorities apply for statehood in the UN this September, a measure which will certainly get vetoed by the U.S. and therefore denied, Israel plans to arm the Israeli settlers in the illegally occupied West Bank to repel the Palestinian protests that will inevitably follow. For a brief history: since the creation of Israel in 1948 on Palestinian land that was previously colonized by the British, the UN has promised the Palestinians their own nation, but due to constant war, they have been forced to live as refugees without a nation. Some Palestinians deserve part of the blame because their terrorist attacks on Israel have given Israel the excuse to refuse to make peace, return any of the land gained from the War of 1967, or recognize the Palestinian state. I also believe that the other Muslim governments in the Middle East have not done many favors for the Palestinian people by failing to grant the refugees in their countries citizenship or equal rights, while also inciting tension with Israel by using hate speech. For instance, Iran continually threatening to destroy the state of Israel gives Israel another excuse not to make peace with the Palestinians because they fear — or at least can claim to fear — an attack from a Palestinian nation with the support of neighboring Muslim nations. Nevertheless, the longer Israel holds out and deprives the Palestinians of a statehood, the more hatred towards Israel will rise, and the longer it will take and more difficult it will be for there to be peace in the Middle East.
Israel knows the UN will not recognize the Palestinian nation, even though Palestine will easily get the majority of votes, simply because the U.S. will veto, and as a member of the security council, the U.S. can prevent it. This is nothing new for Israel; the U.S. has vetoed many international bills condemning Israel. As a result, Palestinians will protest Israel’s refusal to recognize their nationhood, which is understandable, but instead of Israel simply policing the area and having soldiers on guard to prevent the Palestinians from hurting anyone, Israel has made it clear it will retaliate against protests with violence, even if it means training their own militia in the West Banks. This is truly a disturbing development. I understand Israelis may fear for their safety and worry about Palestinians entering the Israeli settlements, but — despite the fact the settlements are illegal anyway — placing weapons in the hands of people to use at their own discretion against the Palestinians could potentially have dire consequences. How exactly will this be enforced? As of yet, Israel has not created clear boundaries where the Palestinians cannot cross, and it has yet known how the lines will be made clear for the protesters, but the plan is to have two lines: one “warning” line, where Israeli settlers will use crowd dispersing weapons such as tear gas, and a second “red line” where, if Palestinians cross, the Israelis have permission to open fire at the legs of Palestinians. What happens if the armed Israelis open fire or use weapons against the Palestinians before they cross any boundaries? Many of the Israelis living in the West Bank are Jewish fundamentalists, leading one to believe they will be more willing to use force against the Palestinians. Will Israel punish settlers who use too much force? Based on Israel’s human rights record towards the Palestinians, one has to assume the Israeli settlers will be given immunity no matter how much force they use. There have been reports in the past that Israelis in the settlements receive special legal treatment as well.
The Palestinians have a right to protest peacefully to let their voices be heard, and Israeli settlers should not be given the power and arms to deny the Palestinians. Israel essentially creating militias to target Palestinian protesters could potentially create major problems that will lead to the death of many Palestinians and further angering Palestinians and neighboring Muslim nations if they do not use extreme caution and make it very clear where the protesters cannot go. The Israeli military is likely strong enough that it can protect its land from unarmed protesters anyway, and if it is not, then it should not set up illegal settlements on the land in the first place.
This is yet another predicament in the long struggle for justice between the Israeli and Palestinian people. Israel has a right to exist, and Muslim nations must accept it, but Israel needs to co-exist equally with the Palestinians. There are various solutions to the problem, none of which are easy, but they truly begin with Israel accepting that Palestinians have a right to nationhood, whether in a one-state or two-state solution, and the crisis will only continue to grow until Israel agrees to compromise.