Building Confidence: Israel and Palestine

Building Confidence
While many of us would like to spend more time contemplating life by the QNCC Reflection Pool, perhaps we should spend more time devising measures to halt the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With a history of disagreement dating back to 1917, it is no surprise that this particular issue is expected to produce a long and fruitful debate in the 1st Committee of the General Assembly [GA1].

Last year, the United Nations voted to recognize Palestine as a “non-member observer state.” Although many viewed this vote as a milestone in this conflict, the Israeli and American delegation objected to the UN Resolution, claiming it would only lead to an escalation of tension and violence between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“Confidence-building” has been cited as an important factor in ensuring long-term peace since the late twentieth century. The Madrid Conference of 1991 is an early example of the international community’s efforts to kickstart negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The conference simply served as a discussion forum, and participants were powerless to enforce decisions and veto agreements. The signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 closely followed, and lead to the creation of the Palestinian National Authority, or PNA. This was to act as a government body, whose responsibility lay in regulating the territory it controlled. In 1995, Oslo II was signed by the Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

So were these agreements enough?

Despite these efforts to bring peace between the two so-called neighbors, the agreements did not include the question of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlement building, security, and borders. Also, neither of the Oslo agreements touched on the matter of Palestinian statehood.

“This is not about restoring confidence, it is about restoring belief”

The former American peace negotiator, David Ross, has suggested that the most pressing issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the “fundamental disbelief on both sides” that peace can be achieved. Moreover, “this is not about restoring confidence, it is about restoring belief.”

Dare we ask: Shouldn’t we contrive more creative measures to build confidence and trust between the Israeli and Palestinian people? Are negotiations really enough?

A THIMUN Israeli delegate gave the following reply: “This delegation believes that no, negotiations are not enough, but they are a first step towards lasting peace. What is more, it is important to realize that trust and confidence will not be built overnight, it will be built over generations.”

The State of Israel has been criticized countless times for its refusal to halt settlement building in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian organization, Hamas, is constantly under pressure to alter its position on Israel. Both sides have expressed their willingness to cooperate and establish peace, but this is easier said than done.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent electoral win has led to the formation of a coalition government even more right-wing than before, making it more difficult to apply a ban on settlement building. Furthermore, the 2006 parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories saw Fattah [the group that governs the West Bank] lose its majority to Hamas [the group that governs the Gaza Strip].

Hardliners on both sides are gain- ing political momentum, making it tough to commit to ensuring the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.

What do Arab delegations have to say about the issue?

The delegate of the United Arab Emirates [UAE], when asked what should be done to increase trust between Israel and the Palestinian people, re- plied: “In order for real peace to be achieved, certain factors have to be addressed. This delegation would like to spread the water supply equally between the two peoples. In addition, Palestinian and Israeli children should be educated without leniency towards either side to form an effective and long-lasting peace.”

In summary, governance plays a significant role in confidence-building between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people. It is clear that the conflict could take generations to resolve. However, it is also apparent that delegates must deliberate innovatively to ensure the establishment of confidence and trust between the two misunderstood entities.

By: Lulwa Al Theyab
Photo By: Yousra Ahmed

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