Another Day, Another Tragedy, as the Peace Process Continues to Falter

If you follow Palestinian news closely, and why wouldn't you, most weeks are a stream of bad, worse, and terrible news. Some house were demolished here, a couple settlements approved there, some olive groves were destroyed, etc. But a few weeks ago, I read a story that really shook me. A 38 year old man from Nablus was crossing into the West Bank from Jordan on the Allenby border, a place that I've been many times. Because the West Bank doesn't have an airport (although apparently there are plans for one!) and Palestinian citizens (even those with American citizenship) are not allowed to fly in and out of the international airport in Tel Aviv, most are forced to use Jordan as a midway point for travel. The Allenby border crossing is one of two used to enter and exit the West Bank from Jordan. It's generally chaotic, can take forever, and is all in all not a pleasant experience. Although the presence of soldiers and the overall tense atmosphere are constant companions on your journey across, it's generally not a dangerous environment. But in this case, it was lethal; the man, a judge from Jordan named Raed Zuaiter, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers. The soldiers claimed the judge had gotten hostile and reached for a soldier's gun, so another soldier shot him. However, eyewitnesses claim that he was not reaching for the gun, and officials claimed the shooting happened after a verbal altercation. The man's father claimed his son was "peaceful and professional" and the man was a father of two, with one of his children in a hospital in Jordan in critical condition after an accident.

Of course, during an already stagnant series of peace process negotiations, it was seen as a direct provocation by Palestinians (and Jordanians, who called for cutting ties with Israel). Jordan is typically seen as one of the West's closest partners in the Middle East, and despite recent protests and some economic woes, it is generally seen as a stable country and has an important peace treaty with Israel. Because of the status of millions of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, the Jordanians claim that outside of the Israelis and Palestinians, "no one has more at stake than they do" regarding the peace process. The last thing the flailing negotiations need is the addition of Jordan as an additional Israeli antagonist. Indeed, the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians seem more tense than it has been in years, with some claiming that a "third intifada" is already underway in the form of a growing boycott, divest, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli from not just Palestinians, but institutions and businesses from around the world. Violence in the West Bank appears to be increasing, with Amnesty International recently releasing a report calling the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) "trigger happy" and claiming that Israeli may be guilty of war crimes, while Israelis claim that Amnesty isn't taking into account the rise in Palestinian violence (although the report details killings of individuals that were not posing an imminent threat and not involved in protests or other demonstrations). Meanwhile, Abbas just met with Obama in D.C. and despite his firm stance of several issues (East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and the release of Palestinian prisoners), he left Washington with little more than affirmations of support from Obama and Kerry.

With many questioning whether the two state solution is even still viable, I can't help but wonder if we are entering a new phase of this decades long issue. Aside from the murder at the Allenby border, there has seemed to be a spike in seemingly avoidable Palestinian casualties. Tensions between the US and Israel are at the highest point that many can remember, especially as members of the Israeli government keep saying inflammatory things about the US. The BDS movement is at a high point, and AIPAC's influence seems to be at a low. Something is brewing, something new, and for the sake of all those whose families have been destroyed by this senseless conflict, I hope it's something positive for once.