Originally from Cincinnati, OH, Kate Harsh is a sophomore in the Vanderbilt School of Engineering. She is an Engineering Science major, an Engineering Management minor, and is Pre-Med. Despite the fact that much of her coursework focuses on science and engineering, she has been interested in politics since her freshman year of high school and is particularly interested in the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. In addition to VPR, Kate is involved in starting up a Vanderbilt chapter of Advocates for World Health, is a mentor in The Afterschool Program (TAP), and is a member of the Society of Women Engineers and of Pi Beta Phi sorority. This is Kate's second year on the Editorial Board and Layout Team of Vanderbilt Political Review.
It is difficult to find a conflict more contentious than the decades of violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Given the breadth of the conflict, it is sometimes hard to believe the two will ever come to a diplomatic settlement. However, the result of the upcoming United States presidential election this November has the potential to either bring hope to the Palestinians or to solidify the struggle.
Israel has always had the upper hand in diplomatic negotiations with Palestine. Palestine has loosely defined borders and is not recognized by many major countries while Israel is an established country, and most importantly a major ally of the most powerful country in the world: the United States. Historically, the U.S. has been an important asset for Israel. According to the U.S. Department of State, “commitment to Israel’s security and well being has been a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the Middle East since Israel’s founding in 1948.” The U.S. can use their power and influence to make or break any deal regarding Palestine and Israel.
Unfortunately for Palestine, the U.S. has been able to veto any Security Council resolutions that portray Israel negatively, thereby halting several Palestinian pleas for action by the international community. When Mahmoud Abbas submitted an application for membership to the U.N. in 2011, President Obama made it clear that the U.S. would veto the application if it were to reach the Security Council. However, Obama essentially had no other option due to the strong alliance the U.S. has always had with Israel. He simply acted according to U.S. foreign policy. Throughout his administration, while Obama has been a strong ally to Israel on a technical level, he certainly does not feel the same emotional attachment to Israel as Romney does and as some past presidents have. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have differing world views, which has made their relationship “less than cordial,” according to Robert Freedman of the Baltimore Sun. Additionally, Obama has been less militant with Iran and is much more friendly with Palestine.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has referred to Israel as “our best friend in the Middle East,” as quoted in Mackenzie Weinger’s article on Politico. He believes the “United States must work as a country to resist the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel” and in his platform strongly criticizes Obama’s “failures” with regard to Israel. When the Democratic Party removed the passage asserting Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from their official platform, Romney referred to the situation as “one more example of Israel being thrown under the bus by the president.” Although the Democratic Party reinstated the point in their platform, it is a sign that, as a party, they are less strongly bound to Israel than the GOP.
Romney makes it abundantly clear that he will be a huge asset for Israel, as he claims Obama has failed to do. Although Obama has stayed true to foreign policy regarding Israel, he is more susceptible to negotiations. If Obama is re-elected, it is more likely that the U.S. will promote more diplomatic talks between Palestine and Israel, potentially leading to an agreement between the two. While a two-state solution is a lot to hope for, an Obama administration is far more likely to foster such a solution than a Romney presidency. Romney himself has even said that “the pathway to peace [with Palestine] is almost unthinkable to accomplish,” as quoted in an article by David Corn. Any potential for diplomatic progress that Obama has built up over the past four years could potentially be reversed if Romney is elected, simply due to Romney’s vigilant pro-Israel stance.
Furthermore, in his campaign, Romney has intentionally emphasized his dedication to Israel in order to distance himself from Obama and to secure votes from pro-Israeli Americans, whereas Obama has not made his policies on Israel and Palestine a key facet of his campaign. Romney’s radical views and promises could create a situation where, if elected, he must adhere to a pre-determined foreign policy, an obligation Obama would not have. While Obama could potentially negotiate more freely with Israel and Palestine because of this, Romney would be in an inflexible position, leaving Palestine with little hope.
The conflict and tension between Palestine and Israel will not be resolved anytime soon. It is too complicated and both sides have a great deal at stake. However, no matter what Romney claims, a solution is not impossible and depending on the outcome of the election, there may be hope for Palestine yet.
[Image Credit: http://www.lankastandard.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas.jpg]