Sadly, violence continued to increase in 2015 for both Palestinians and Israelis. According to the United Nations, in October and November, 103 Palestinians were killed and 11, 299 wounded; 17 Israelis were killed and 182 wounded. Although the violence has taken place in the context of Israel’s military occupation, including strict limitations on movement, home demolitions and the blockade of Gaza, the U.S. Congress has placed the blame for the violence on the Palestinian Authority.
Currently the U.S. government is negotiating a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Israeli government, reportedly to provide up to $4.5 billion in military aid each year for 10 years, starting in 2017. The U.S. currently gives Israel about $3.2 billion per year.
There were some hopeful signs on Capitol Hill, however. Over the summer, 23 members of Congress signed letters to Secretary Kerry raising concerns about Israel’s detention of Palestinian children. Additionally, 11 members signed a letter of concern regarding the Palestinian village of Susiya, which was slated for demolition by the Israeli military. Thanks largely to international advocacy, Susiya is still standing. But Israel did step up demolition of Palestinian homes and structures in other parts of the West Bank.
Throughout the year our office sent out regular alerts on Palestine and Israel and led workshops on Palestine and Israel at the Mennonite Church USA convention and Mennonite World Conference. We also met regularly with congressional offices and helped to organize letters to Secretary Kerry on the current violence and also on Susiya and the forcible transfer of Bedouin communities. —Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach