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Editorial: No end in sight to violence in Israel

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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After a brief respite following a bloody summer, the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort was struck yet another blow Tuesday, when two armed Palestinian men entered a synagogue in Jerusalem and killed four men, three of them rabbis, in cold blood. A police officer also died from wounds sustained during a shootout with the assailants.

The latest episode of violence came amid mounting tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and consistent pressure on Israel internationally.

Last month, a Palestinian drove his car into a group of Israeli pedestrians, killing two. After the synagogue attack, Israel brought back an old counterterrorism policy: destroying the perpetrator’s home. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the demolition was a “significant and important step,” in fighting terrorism, and that there would be more in the future.

But as Israel destroys the homes of terrorists, it also continues to build oft-criticized housing settlements in disputed territory, essentially claiming the land. The most recent plans indicate future expansion in an annexed neighborhood in East Jerusalem, the most likely site for a future capital of a Palestinian state. These settlements are considered illegal by the World Court, and they have been called “illegitimate” by U.S. State Department officials.

These settlements antagonize Palestinians and poison the well for future negotiations. Yet Israel has shown no indications of slowing the expansion into the occupied West Bank. U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon called a plan to build 2,600 housing units in the West Bank a “clear violation of international law.”

The international community, at least in populist sentiment, seems to have grown tired of Israel’s actions. Spain’s lower house in Parliament passed a motion, by a wide margin, urging the government to recognize Palestine as a state on Tuesday. It joins Sweden, which was the first member of the European Union to recognize Palestine. The U.N. General Assembly allowed Palestine in as non-member observer state in 2012, backed by 122 countries.

After the events of this summer, it’s no wonder. Israel’s military offensive against Hamas in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, involved artillery bombardment and scattered ground fighting. It resulted in the deaths of 2,200 people, most of them citizens of Gaza, and more than 10,000 wounded.  On the other side, 66 Israeli soldiers were killed, with hundreds wounded.

In an environment such as this, it’s no wonder a two-state agreement seems so out of reach. But that isn’t to say that such a solution isn’t desired. An election night poll of American Jewish voters showed 80 percent of them supported a two-state solution, and a July poll in Israel found 60 percent of Israelis would as well. However, a telling caveat emerged — 54 percent of the Israeli respondents said they didn’t believe Netanyahu wanted to promote a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes a two-state solution is inevitable. But it will not happen as long as the current settlement policy continues, and Netanyahu shows no signs of backing down. In the absence of real change, the best we can hope for is an uneasy ceasefire.


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