Beyond Townsend Harris: Escalating Conflict in the Middle East Gives Rise to a New State

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Beyond Townsend Harris is a column that focuses on a specific event or development occurring on a local, national, or global level.  The purpose of this column is simple: to explain major issues in a clear and straightforward manner in the hopes that students become more conversant in the major issues going on outside of the halls of THHS.

The State of Israel is home to a dizzying array of ancient monuments, sacred religious sites, and bustling urban landscapes, and would appear to be the ideal sanctuary for peace and civility. However, tension and unrest between the postage-stamp-sized country, its neighboring nations, and occupied territories has become almost routine. Political and religious motives are common justifications for the fighting and disagreement between these entities, making the seemingly endless strain even more heated. There has, however, been a significant new development in the relentless conflict: on Thursday, November 29th, increased friction between Israel and the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip reached the floor of the United Nations, granting Palestine officially-recognized statehood after decades of lobbying and petitioning.

For some, the news came as an unwelcome development. The United States, historically one of Israel’s most powerful allies, strongly opposed the verdict, with Secretary of State Clinton calling the vote ‘unfortunate’ and ‘counterproductive.’  There is widespread concern regarding the capability of the Palestinian Authority to competently govern the new state, and many fear that Hamas, recognized by the U.S. as a terror organization, will ultimately control Palestine. This sparked increased concern over Israel’s safety, as this vote follows on the heels of numerous deadly missile attacks from both Israel and Gaza.

Others, however, support the verdict wholeheartedly, believing that the benefits of the U.N. raising Palestine to the status of ‘non-member observer state’ will outweigh the drawbacks. The power to be gained by Palestine should not be overstated; the new state will not have the stature of its surrounding nations, and will not have an equal vote in decisions made by the United Nations. For many in the Middle East and around the world, the decision is a long-awaited triumph as well as a symbolic statement directed towards the rest of the world. The vote inspires hope for many, giving some reason to believe that progress in the deadlocked Middle Eastern situation could be closer than many have dared to believe.