A 440-mile wall divides a jointly owned Middle East territory. Israel calls it a security barrier against terrorism. Palestinians call it a racial segregation wall. Israel wants to redraw the disputed border. But doing so could mean war.
West Bank: Where and Why?
The West Bank is a landlocked region near the Mediterranean Sea. It’s surrounded on the south, west, and north by Israel and on the east by Jordan. It gets its name from its location along the Jordan River. Part of the city of Jerusalem lies within the West Bank.
Treaties signed in the 1990s between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) created districts within the West Bank. Israel controls some; the PLO controls some. But both claim the entire area.
In the 90s, the PLO was considered a terrorist organization. As such, United Nations policy says the land officially belongs to Israel. However, many nations have since recognized the PLO as a lawful power. Those countries want Palestinians to have a homeland—including the West Bank.
Israel’s top two leaders want to exert control over certain parts of the West Bank. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz don’t agree on when to change the border. Netanyahu wants to annex some Palestinian-occupied parts very soon. Gantz says Israel should cope with the coronavirus crisis first.
Netanyahu’s annexation aligns with U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan. On the surface, it would leave more land under Palestinian control.
But some analysts believe Israel just wants to annex Israeli settlements—leaving Palestinian residents out. Un-annexed Palestinians would have no link to the outside world without traveling through Israel. They would be citizens of no country. Many believe that would be the Palestinians’ economic end—and the end of any hope for Palestinian statehood.
Palestinians, the U.N. secretary-general, the European Union, and key Arab countries oppose the U.S.-Israeli plan. They say it violates international law. The terrorist Palestinian group Hamas warns it will increase attacks over the proposal.
Netanyahu resists the global criticism. He sees the West Bank as part of Israel’s biblical homeland and essential to national security.
Many experts believe Netanyahu will move forward with annexation before the U.S. election in November—while he still has President Trump’s support.
Mitri Raheb is president of Bethlehem’s Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture. He’s also a Palestinian Christian. Raheb has experienced the divide between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. He expects Israel’s plan to deepen the rift, leaving Palestinians “resourceless” and shrinking their living space.
Christians on both sides of the border between Israel and the West Bank are concerned. The tense situation emphasizes the knowledge that peace on Earth requires the Prince of Peace.