A personal perspective on the Golan Heights claims and Israel-Palestinian relations

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Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui, speaks during the opening session of the Arab foreign ministers meeting ahead of the Arab Summit, in Tunis, Friday, March 29, 2019. Arab leaders meeting in Tunisia on Sunday hope to project unified opposition to the Trump administration's acceptance of Israeli control over the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, but as with past Arab League summits, the gathering is likely to expose their own bitter rivalries. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui, speaks during the opening session of the Arab foreign ministers meeting ahead of the Arab Summit, in Tunis, Friday, March 29, 2019. Arab leaders meeting in Tunisia on Sunday hope to project unified opposition to the Trump administration’s acceptance of Israeli control over the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, but as with past Arab League summits, the gathering is likely to expose their own bitter rivalries. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

While the Israeli-Palestinian issue is rooted in centuries of conflict, the peace process (which spans from 1991 to present day) best captures my encounters and experiences as an Israeli. Living in Israel has shaped my view of Israeli-Palestine relations. Having many close friends and family members that have served or currently serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as well as being in Israel during the second Lebanon war (2006) and Operation Protective Edge (2014), has given me a natural bias when it comes to this issue.   

Regardless of my bias, I believe that Israel does not get the recognition that it deserves regarding this issue, and I blame this on the media. The Washington Post writes, “To many observers, one of the most troublesome facts of the Gaza Strip conflict — which has killed around 1,340 Palestinians, many of them civilians, and 56 Israeli soldiers — has been Israel’s apparent willingness to strike civilian institutions such as mosquesschools and hospitals.”  

The media coverage of Israeli-Palestinian relations does not capture much beyond this. It has put a great deal of focus on destruction in Gaza but has failed to provide further information to the public. Coverage that triggers human emotion and sympathy is typically more popular than a factually-informative news piece. Since the media covers only what they think people will react to, I see it as my duty as someone who has directly encountered this conflict to provide the information that the mass media fails to cover, the part of Israel that people typically do not see. What many people do not know is that there has been an “integral use of civilians and civilian facilities as cover for its [Hamas’] military activity; schools, mosques, hospitals and civilian housing became weapons storage facilities, Hamas headquarters and fighting positions… IDF imagery and combat intelligence revealed extensive use of civilian facilities.”

In my experience living in Israel during a war with Hamas, the IDF has given notices to Hamas to evacuate the buildings that will be targeted (this is done so that the IDF can destroy Hamas’ bomb sites without harming civilians) in advance, but civilians have not been evacuated.  

As for the Golan Heights debate, I agree with the United States’ decision to “back Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights.” The Golan Heights were one of the territories captured by Israel in the war of 1967 (also known by Israelis as the Six-Day War). By the end of the war, Israel occupied the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and parts of Egypt. Over the years, some of these territories have been given up in peace agreements with neighboring countries; this is known as the peace process. This peace process began roughly during Yitzchak Rabin’s second term as Prime Minister of Israel (1992-1995), who was famous for his peace agreements in the Middle East. One of these, the Oslo Accords, granted Palestinians partial control over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in exchange for peace. Had Israel not occupied these territories, this agreement would not have been able to come about.  

The Golan Heights, therefore, is Israeli-occupied land that has the same potential to promote peace. In order to maintain the peace-creating potential of the territory, it is crucial that it remains under Israeli control, so the U.S has made a productive peace-making effort in backing Israel’s claims to the Golan Heights. Moreover, backing this claim allows Israel to exercise more control over the Golan Heights, which is crucial to protecting Israelis living in the settlement.  

Violence against Israeli settlements occurs far too often to be neglected by the government, and Israel should have the ability to protect the people living in the land under the government’s sovereignty. I am personally acquainted with people who live in areas similar to the Golan Heights, where there are Israeli towns and Palestinian towns, and have experienced attacks by their Palestinian neighbors, so I feel inclined to promote the need to protect Israeli settlers in these territories. 

While there is another side to this conflict, there is always a vital need to research beyond popular media coverage when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian relations because it is too complex to be covered by a few uninformative news stories. Trump’s backing of Israeli claims to the Golan Heights should be a wakeup call for all Americans to further acquaint themselves with this issue before forming an opinion or choosing a side in the conflict. 


Keren Blaunstein is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus.  She can be reached via email at keren.blaunstein@uconn.edu.

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