Students demand resolution of Israeli-Palestinian conflict
For three generations, Israelis and Palestinians have suffered in their struggle for peace. As last May’s deadly conflict in Gaza made clear, inaction leads to further deaths, continued abuses against the Palestinian people and a diminishing sense that a solution is possible in both nations. It is time for the United States to take a much bolder lead in the search for peace. Our generation is calling for a solution, we must not want to pass this torch to a fourth.
As a Floridian, you likely have friends, family, or neighbors directly affected by the ongoing conflict. Our UNF political science class includes both a first-generation Palestinian and an Israeli, whose families have personally suffered from the conflict. Florida contains the nation’s third-largest Jewish population at over 600,000, as well as the sixth-largest and fastest-growing Arab population, including ethnic Palestinians, at over 130,000.
Our tax dollars provide billions to support Israel‘s defense. Floridians benefit from the approximately $300 million in annual trade between Israel and Florida. So what happens in this conflict matters to Floridians.
We studied this conflict in our classroom and made recommendations in five broad areas to stem the current violence, rebuild Gaza, strengthen accountability, and change key elements of current stagnant policies in the region.
The Biden administration must immediately respond to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza to meet the urgent water, housing and sanitation needs of the Palestinian people. The administration must pressure Congress to provide an additional $504 million for United Nations programs to address the crisis and make up for previous aid suspensions. Additionally, the United States should encourage Egypt to increase its involvement in strengthening the ceasefire between Hamas and the Israeli government and in easing the Israeli blockade of the region.
The United States should close Israel’s security gaps by providing Israel with smarter drone surveillance technology to track and identify military threats on its border, as well as bolster its Iron Dome ballistic missile defense system. The administration is also expected to expand the Abraham Accords to include more Arab nations willing to make formal peace with Israel, in exchange for Israel halting settlement activity in Palestinian territory. Such pacts also help counter the growing threat from Iran.
Next, the Biden administration should help kick-start construction of Palestinian infrastructure that has been devastated by decades of conflict. U.S. support should include increased funding for the Joint Water Committee, to help ensure equitable distribution of scarce water resources and funding for commercial aquaponics farms. To help increase its Palestinian ties, the United States should establish an American university in East Jerusalem and the UNF should launch an exchange program with Birzeit University in the West Bank.
These initiatives provide the Palestinians with long-term support critical to stabilizing the region, while rebuilding US-Palestinian relations.
The May 2021 conflict involved the Iran-backed terror group Hamas, ruling Gaza, which fired 4,360 rockets into Israel, killing 12 and displacing 75,000. Israel’s response resulted in the deaths of 254 people, most of whom were civilians.
To minimize these risks to civilians, the United States must push both sides to develop a civilian code of conduct to minimize the risks to civilians.
Human rights groups accuse Israel of mistreating Palestinian prisoners, including children. Therefore, the United States should call for the immediate release of all minors and an independent body should review Israel’s treatment of prisoners and arbitrary sentencing.
To address deep-rooted challenges to the peace process, the United States must seek to minimize key obstacles, including Israeli settlements, the Palestinian prisoner payment system – which is accused of rewarding those who commit violence against Israel – and restrictions imposed by Israel on freedom of movement and construction.
Such give-and-takes can help lay the groundwork for progress, rather than a failed, decades-long policy of jumping into negotiating a final status solution.
Finally, the United States should expand its engagement in the peace process to include more Arab nations. The moribund Middle East quartet (Russia, US, UN and EU) should be expanded to include Egypt, which could facilitate engagement with other Arab nations that have recognized Israel and seek to expand this list .
Over time, these approaches could build both parties’ confidence in peace, strengthen ties and rekindle the hope of our generation in the search for a lasting solution. Although our generation did not start this fire among the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, we are determined to put it out.
Join us in this challenge and encourage your representatives in Washington to insist on these crucial steps for peace.
The UNF class presented their policy recommendations in virtual meetings Nov. 15-17 with officials from the Defense and State Departments, National Security Council, retired CIA officers, staff of the senator Rick Scott, officials from the Israeli Knesset, the Arab League and the Israeli consulate in Miami and a former Israeli national security official, as well as former US peace negotiators and experts from Human Rights Watch and the Washington Institute.