Israel – Palestine Conflict: History and Present

The conflict between the Israeli country demanding vs the Palestinian demanding people has age-old roots but the 20th century could be the time when the political conflict came into the global limelight as it not only affects the two but the whole Middle East and indirectly the peace and especially the trade in this globalized world, thus making the whole European and western world concern. The conflict cannot be only seen as between two countries or want to be a country but it is the war of ethnicities. The Jews and the Palestinian Arabs are fighting each other dividing the whole world into two fragments, on one side are the Muslim nations supporting directly or indirectly the Palestinian cause while the other fragment is with the Jews cause and supporting their demand for the Jewish nation. Then comes the city of Jerusalem which has a great religious significance for the Muslims, Christians, and Jews, and it has become the bone of contention in the conflict. For Muslims the city is the third holiest site after Mecca and Medina, for Christians, the place is related to Jesus, and Jews consider Jerusalem as their ancestral homeland and is the holiest place in Judaism. Thus, the conflict turned out to be both political and religious and very difficult to resolve.

The History

In the year 1897, the Jews started the Zionist movement as they suffered persecutions throughout the past for their religious beliefs, so they started their movement to Palestine which was already a land of Arabs. 

In July 1922, the League of Nations entrusted Great Britain with the Mandate for Palestine and Britain decided to establish the Jewish national home in then Palestine. But the mandate didn’t consider the Palestinian wishes making them unhappy. 

With Nazi Germany gaining power in Europe, hundreds of thousands of Jews migrated to then Palestine, worrying the Palestinians and sparking the conflict thus, the holocaust also played an important role in the migration of the Jews people towards Palestine and their demand for the Jewish nation increased.

In 1947 Britain, avoiding the responsibility of making peace in Palestine, gave up the responsibility to the newly formed UN. The UN presented a partition plan to create independent Jewish and Arab states in Palestine i.e. The Two-Nation theory, for which the Jews agreed but the already residing Muslims in Palestine saw this as encroachment and threat to their own existence and rights. This idea of two nations disturbed the whole of the middle east. The Arab nations took the side of the Palestinian Muslims and countries like Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria declared war against newly formed Israel in the year 1948. At the end of the war, Israel controlled about 50 percent more territory than originally envisioned by the UN partition plan. Jordan controlled the West Bank and Jerusalem’s holy sites, and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. In 1949 Israel signed Armistice Agreements with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Between 1948-1949 almost 7,00,000 Palestinians became refugees. The Palestine refugee crisis led to the formation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964.

The Six-Day War 1976

This war can be considered as the root cause of the present-day conflict between the Palestinian Arabs and the Israeli Jews. The war was fought between June 5th – June 10th, 1967, among Israel on one side and Egypt, Jordan, Syria on the other. Israel alone defeated the Arab nations and captured a lot of territories. Israel captured West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, Golan Heights from Syria, and the area of Sinai and Gaza Strip from Egypt.

On June 10th, an UN-brokered ceasefire came into force ending the Six-day War. Almost 800 Israeli and 20,000 Arabs lost their lives in just 132 hours of fighting. Around 2,50,000 Palestinians were displaced, straining the already disturbed refugee crises. As under the UN Charter, there can lawfully no territorially gains from war, even by a state acting in self-defense. Thus, all the territory captured by Israel was declared as ‘occupied territory’ by the UN, and Israel was asked to return it for which Israel initially refused, leading to another Arab-Israeli conflict ‘Yom-Kipper War’ 1973 in which the Arabs had an upper hand. Later in 1979, Israel-Egypt signed a peace treaty under which Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and Egypt became the first Arab country to recognize Israel as a state.

In the year of 1987, a new Islamic militant group Hamas formed with the aim to liberate Palestine through Jihad. Hamas didn’t consider Israel as a state and the group is supposed to have the support of Iran and Syria.

The First Intifada (The First Uprising)

With the increasing settlements of the Israeli Jews in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem, the Palestinian Arabs started riots in 1987 against the Jewish encroachment.

Oslo Peace Accord

In the year of 1993 with the mediation of the US and Russia, Israel and PLO signed a peace agreement under which both agreed on a Two-State solution. Under which both Israel and PLO agreed to recognize each other and decrease the violence. The accord established a Palestinian Authority, which received limited autonomy in the Gaza Strip and some parts of the West Bank but was still in Israel’s possession.

The Second Intifada (The Second Uprising)

With the failure of the Camp David Summit (2000), aimed for the final settlement between the two sides, violence again erupted starting the second Intifada 2000-2005. It was more violent and both sides had huge casualties. As a result, Israel constructed the West Bank Barrier to separate the Jews and Palestinian Arab settlements as a defensive measure.  As a result, Israel constructed the West Bank Barrier to separate the Jews and Palestinian Arab settlements as a defensive measure.  

Later in 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew Israel’s Defence Forces from the Gaza strip and some settlements in the northern West Bank.

The Present Day Conflict

The world is divided into two sections, one supporting the cause of Palestine while the other half supporting Israel. The conflict has not only affected the Jews and Palestinians but has shaken the whole geopolitics as none of the global power has been able to stop the present-day conflict, the power and effectiveness of the UN, the European Union, and superpowers like the US, Russia can be questioned today as none has been able to deescalate the killings and destructions caused on both the sides. Many innocent lives are being lost and the thing to worry about is the psychological impact this war, this killing of the parents and loved ones, is having on the children on both sides. This whole scenario is just filling the pure hearts with fear and hatred towards each other. This killing today is not limited between two nations but the world somehow is dividing on the basis of religion. 

The epicenter of the modern conflict became the Sheikh Jarrah, in East Jerusalem, where the Israeli settlers are trying to evict the Palestinian already living in their ancestral houses. But this time the eviction was not that smooth as many Palestinians gathered and protested against the Israeli Supreme Court in favor of Israeli settlers. This protest sparked the clash between the Palestinians and the Israeli forces. And the major turning point came with the Israeli forces entering the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site of Muslims situated in Temple Mount – the holiest site for Judaism, during the holy period of Ramadan when hundreds of Muslims were praying in the mosque on May 7th Israeli forces stormed in the compound resulting in violence from both the sides. Palestinians used stones against the police and were returned with police’s tear gas, rubber bullets, hundreds of people were injured mainly the Palestinians. This presence of Israeli forces in al-Aqsa agitated the Arab community and the world condemned the act, the Hamas operating in Gaza Strip gave an ultimatum to Israel to leave the compound on May 10th for which Israel refused and this led to the missile war between the two countries. Hundreds of people, mainly innocents, died on both sides majorly in Gaza and more than 70,000 people were displaced. At last, after 11 days of fighting, on May 21st around 0200 hours, both sides agreed on a ceasefire.

The Long-term Solution

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is very complex and no shortcut is there for peace on both sides. But most of the world proposes the “Two-state solution”, based on the UN resolution of 1947. But the Palestinian side has somewhat different demands under which the pre-six-day war 1967 boundaries would be restored and both Palestine and Israel will exist as sovereign nations. And a credible government is required on the Palestinian side too, which consists of the Gaza Strip and some parts of the West Bank. The Two-state solution is considered the most realistic solution for ending the conflict.

The Issues for a Peace settlement

The demography has changed a lot after the 1967 war. The Israeli settlements have been all over the West Bank which has made the border demarcation almost impossible as both sides claim their respective rights over the land and enclaves have been formed throughout the West Bank. Another major issue is the divided political leadership in Palestine as the West Bank has the Palestinian Authority while the Gaza Strip has the authority of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority accepts the two-state solution but on the other hand, Hamas doesn’t even recognize Israel as a state and want the complete land as Palestine. The Israeli government on the other hand has declared Hamas as a terrorist group and has refused any talks with terrorist groups and demand for Palestinian Authority’s control over the Gaza Strip which is almost impossible as Hamas is more powerful than the Palestinian Authority in West Bank, complicating whole peace talk. Another bone of contention in the peace talks is the holy city of Jerusalem, on which both parties claim their authority.

The need of the hour is that the whole world come forward for peaceful negotiations and both Israeli and Palestinian sides have to compromise in their demand and leave their reluctance of the solution. Both have to look towards the greater good of humankind and value the innocent lives on both sides.

About the Author

Aman Bora, Post Graduate (Silver Medalist) in Political Science from Kumaun University, Nainital. His primary interest areas are National Security, International relations, Defence Research and Development, and Military Affairs. 

The author has made the above analysis after going through sources like; BBC, Vox, CNBC, and etc. 

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