U.S.-Israeli relations face new challenge

In an attempt to jump start the peace process in the Middle East, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden travelled to Israel last week only to receive news of Israel’s approval of a new housing settlement in East Jerusalem. According to the BBC, the settlement includes 1600 new homes for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

This has only helped to complicate the already tense relationship between Israel and Palestinians, as Palestinians hope to have East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Israel’s announcement has halted the possibility of peace talks and Biden expressed his discontent.

Further, Biden explained that “the substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.”
As per Biden’s advice and encouragement, Palestinian leaders have recently agreed to restart indirect talks with Israel.

The BBC reported that Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told Agence France Presse (AFP) that “this is a dangerous decision and will hinder the negotiations.”

Israel considers the territory belonging to East Jerusalem, which it annexed in 1967, as part of its own. To date, however, this has yet to be recognized by other nations. According to the BBC, as far as the international community is concerned, East Jerusalem is occupied territory. As such, it is illegal under international law for Israel to build housing on its land.

According to the New York Times, during a visit to the West Bank, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon reiterated this notion, stating that settlement in an occupied territory is “illegal” and “must be stopped.”

He called on Israel and the Palestinians to restore negotiations in an effort to establish an independent Palestinian state.

Ban’s visit came after a meeting of the “quartet of Middle East peacemakers,” which includes the U.S., the UN, the European Union (EU) and Russia. They met in Moscow last Friday and, according to the New York Times, “called for the emergence of a Palestinian state, through negotiations, within 24 months.”

The quartet also called on Israel to freeze all settlement activity and confirmed that the international community did not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem.
Only hours after Ban’s visit, the Israeli army killed a 16-year-old Palestinian boy during a confrontation.

According to the New York Times, the Israeli military maintains that its soldiers did not use live fire. Instead, they attest that they fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disband “a violent and illegal riot.” Palestinian medical officials, on the other hand, claim to have evidence that the boy was killed by live rounds. The Israeli military stated that an investigation will be underway shortly.
Last Friday, the Israeli air force also struck an abandoned airport in southern Gaza. Israel claims that the attack, which injured 13 Palestinians, was merely retaliation to rocket strikes by Gaza militants.