Israel is the world's only Jewish state, located just east of the
Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians, the Arab population that hails from the land
Israel now controls, refer to the territory as Palestine, and want to establish
a state by that name on all or part of the same land.
Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, both want the same land. This is the basis
of the conflict.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a main cause of the lack of
intra-Mediterranean integration. The signing of the Declaration of Principles in
1993 raised hopes for the political and economic development of the region and
the spurring of democratization across the Arab world. The expected resolution
of the conflict would have had positive effects on the rest of the region as
well, in both political and economic terms. Palestine would have become the
first truly democratic Arab state. Sixteen years later, with the collapse of
the oslo process, those hopes have dissipated and the conflict remains the prime
source of instability in the region.
Origin Of The Conflict
The conflict begins from the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire began in the
14th century and colonized all of the middle east. Towards the approachment of
the 19th century, the empire had slowly started to disintegrate or weaken.
During the 19th century, a wave of nationalism began in the whole of Europe.
Jewish were no exception. The same nationalism was seen spreading among the Jews. A movement called Zionist movement took force in Israel. Zionist movement
is the movement where Jewish citizens expressed their desire to go back to
Israel which they considered as their holy land and where the Jewish religion
The Zionist movement called for the establishment of a nation state
for the Jewish people in Palestine, which would serve as a haven for the Jews of
the world and in which they would have the right for self-determination.
Zionists increasingly came to hold that this state should be in their historic
homeland, which they referred to as the Land of Israel.Another reason as to why
the Jews wanted to go back to Israel was because of the Jewish persecution that
was occurring throughout Europe. This was during the 1890's.
Although this desire of Jews was not very popular or did not gain too much
momentum, this changed due to Balfour Declaration of 1917. This is where
Britain comes into picture. Britain was the world's largest colonial power.
Balfour Declaration is considered as the foundation of the Israeli - Palestinian
conflict. The Balfour Declaration was seen by Jewish nationalists as the
cornerstone of a future Jewish homeland on both sides of the Jordan River, but
increased the concerns of the Arab population in the Palestine region.
In 1917, when the World War I was going on and Ottoman Empire was on the verge
of losing, Sir Arthur Balfour who was the British Foreign Minister gave a
declaration that the British will provide the Jewish their national home in
Palestine. But the British were cunning. On the side, they signed an agreement
of the name Sykes-Picot agreement with France and Russia and in this they had
decided to keep Palestine with themselves. Publically, they assured that
Palestine will be for the Jews but privately they were planning to capture and
control Palestine. They also promised Palestine to the Arabs because they were
against the Ottoman Empire.
After the end of World War I, a new administration was initiated in Palestine
and this administration was called the British Mandate of Palestine. In this
Mandate, migrations were in huge number, divide and rule policies were applied.
Jews began to purchase lands from Arabs. They evicted the local Palestinian
Arabs.This led to the formation of small settlements which were called the
Jewish settlements. The Arab population in Palestine opposed the increase of the
Jewish population because the new immigrants refused to lease or sell land to
Palestinians, or hire them.] During the 1920s relations between the Jewish and
Arab populations deteriorated and the hostility between the two groups
In 1936, due to the result of this mandate, Arabs revolted against the British.
To suppress this revolt, the British took help of Jews by forming Jewish
militia.But after the suppression of this revolt, the British realized that it
would have to bring certain changes to appease the Arabs. And for this, Jewish
migrations were restricted. This led to widespread anger among the Jews
including the Jewish militia who then started plotting against the British.
World War II began. The holocaust killed around 2 million Jews. Because of the
recurring conflict between the Arabs and the Palestinians, the matter of Israel
was handed over to the UN. This led to equal division of areas between a Jewish
state and Palestine Arab state. The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
began with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
Half of Jerusalem's
population was Muslim and the other half was Jewish. So the UN decided that
there will be international control over Jerusalem.As soon as this announcement
was made all the neighbouring Arab countries around Israel started attacking
Israel.This led to the beginning of the first Arab-Israel war of 1948-49.
Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Trans Jordan attacked the newly created state. Israel won
the war and extended its boundaries. But there was a humanitarian crisis related
to refugees that started. Nearly 7 lakh people were migrated or displaced. The
control of the Gaza strip went to Egypt and the West Bank was handed over to
Jordan.And the remaining areas were handed over to Israel.
A few years later, in 1967, another war called the Six Day War was fought
between Egypt,Jordan,Syria and Israel. As a result of this war, Israel
captured Golan Heights, Gaza, Sinai Peninsula and West Bank. There was crushing
defeat of Arab nations. Israel further tripled its area. But afterwards, these
captured territories had been returned back by Israel due to diplomatic reasons.
Sinai Peninsula was handed back. Gaza and West Bank are still under the control
of Israel even today.
In 1978, Sinai was returned to Egypt and in return Egypt recognised the state of
Israel. This was an important milestone for Israel because it was the first time
that an Arab state decided to recognize Israel.This was a diplomatic victory
for Israel.Slowly, most Arab states started to make peace with Israel. There was
no more wars between nations.
Although there were no more outright wars between Arab nations and Israel,
Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) carried on struggle for independent
Palestine using both political and terror tactics.
The 1st Intifida (uprising) took place between 1987-93. During this period,
protests and boycotts were rampant. Israel had not given complete rights to
Palestinian people.There was military control over West Bank. There was large
scale violence. Around 100 Jews and 1000 palestinians died. During this uprising, a new organization was established called Hamas which was more nationalistic
and extremist which believed that Israel had no right to exist.
In 1993, for the first time there was a peaceful compromise between Israel and
Palestine. This was called the Oslo Accords. After secret negotiations in Oslo,
the agreement was signed in Washington DC. According to the terms, PLO would
give Israel the recognition of State. And on the other hand, Israel would
recognize PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. Also, as a
consequence of this settlement, a Palestinian authority was built for self
governance of West Bank and Gaza.
Palestine-Israel conflict in the 21st century
After 5 years, the peace process failed in the year 2000. This led to the
beginning of 2nd Intifida (2000-05). The triggering factor of the 2nd intifada
was Ehud Barak, who was the president of Israel,along with 1000 security guards
went to Temple Mount which was considered as a holy place for both Jews and
Muslims. This led to violence. The 2nd Intifida was more violent than the 1st
one. Around 1000 Jews and 3200 Palestinians died. There was continuous bombing
of buses and terrorist attacks.
After the Intifida
After the Intifida, there were changes in thinking and policies. There was a
rightward shift of politics. The government of Israel decided to manage the
conflict and not solve it. As a result, there was withdrawal of Israeli forces
from Gaza strip in 2005, because they were aware that no matter what settlement
happens in the future, Gaza will not become a part of Israel. After the
withdrawal, elections were conducted and Hamas won the election and became more
influential in 2006. They captured the whole of Gaza by evicting another party
named Fatah in 2007. Hamas started launching rockets into Israel.
obtaining the new found power the blockading of Gaza started. Blockading means
sealing off a place to prevent goods or people from entering or leaving. The
condition of Gaza has deteriorated in the last 10 years due to this blockade.
Three wars were fought in Gaza in the year 2008, 2012, 2014. These are also
called as the Gaza Wars. Thousands have died. Both Hamas and Israel have
Following the November 2004 death of long-time Fatah party PLO leader
Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat, Fatah member Mahmoud Abbas was
elected President of the Palestinian National Authority in January 2005. One key
allegation which emerged against the Palestinian Authority after Arafat's death
was that over the years Arafat and Fatah officials had received billions of
dollars in aid from foreign nations and organizations and had never used this
money to develop Palestinian society.
It was alleged that the money was used for
Arafat's personal expenses. These allegations gradually grew in prominence,
which increased Palestinian popular support for the group Hamas, which was often
perceived by the Palestinian society as being more efficient and honest,
primarily because it had built various institutions and social services.
also stated clearly that it did not recognize Israel's right to exist and did
not accept the Oslo peace process nor any other peace process with Israel. in
addition, Hamas has openly stated through the years that it has encouraged and
organized acts of terrorism against Israelis over the years.
The strengthening of the Hamas organization amongst the Palestinians, the
gradual disintegration of the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah organization,
and the Israeli disengagement plan and especially the death of Yasser Arafat led
to the policy change of the Hamas movement in early 2005 which started putting
greater emphasis to its political characteristics of the organization.
Palestinian legislative elections Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian
Legislative Council, prompting the United States and many European countries to
cut off all funds to the Hamas and the Palestinian Authority insisting that the
Hamas must recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous peace pacts.
Israel refused to negotiate with Hamas, since Hamas never renounced its beliefs
that Israel has no right to exist and that the entire State of Israel is an
illegal occupation which must be wiped out.
EU countries and the United States
threatened an economic boycott if Hamas will not recognize Israel's existence,
not renounce terrorism and shall support the peace agreements signed between the
PLO and Israel in the past. Hamas officials have openly stated that the
organization does not recognize Israel's right to exist, even though the
organization expressed openness to hold a long-term truce. Hamas is considered
by Israel and 12 other countries to be a terrorist organization and therefore
not entitled to participate in formal peace negotiations.
A fragile six-month truce between Hamas and Israel expired on December 19, 2008.
Hamas and Israel could not agree on conditions to extend the truce. Hamas blamed
Israel for not lifting the Gaza Strip blockade. Israel accuses Hamas of
violating the truce citing the frequent rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli
The Israeli operation began with an intense bombardment of the Gaza
Strip, targeting Hamas bases, police training camps, police headquarters and
offices.Civilian infrastructure, including mosques, houses, medical facilities
and schools, were also attacked. Israel has said many of these buildings were
used by combatants, and as storage spaces for weapons and rockets.
intensified its rocket and mortar attacks against targets in Israel throughout
the conflict, hitting previously untargeted cities such as Beersheba and Ashdod.
On January 3, 2009, the Israeli ground invasion began. The operation resulted in
the deaths of more than 1,300 Palestinians. Since 2009, the Obama administration
has repeatedly pressured the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu to freeze the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and
reignite the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian people.
Issues faced by Israel and Palestine:
- The first issue is the status of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is considered as a
holy site for Jews, Muslims and Christians. The east part is muslim populated and the
western part is Jewish populated. Holy shrines are situated in the centre.
Israel controls the city and restricts access to holy sites. Jerusalem has not
been internationally accepted as the capital of Israel. Although Israel
recognizes Jerusalem as its capital,the world considers Tel Aviv as the capital
- The second major issue is the Palestinian refugees. After the 1948 and
1967 wars, many refugees migrated to Syria, Jordan,Egypt and many other Arab
countries house the refugees. The largest refugee camp in Damascus, the
capital of Syria, is trapped in the fight between ISIS and the Syrian
Government. The already displaced people are further re-displaced.
- Israel's security concern over terrorist activities and civilian
- Israel's military occupation of West Gaza is a matter of concern for
Palestine. The army controls the whole of West Bank. Blockading of Gaza has
totally ruined Gaza. It has become one of the poorest areas in the world.
- Israeli settlements in West banks by providing incentives. This is
illegal as declared by the UN. But Israel believes that if there is an
increment in the population,then it would automatically lead to the creation
of a new State.
- The West Bank Wall was created by Israel across the entire Palestine
borders which has restricted the freedom of movement of the Palestinian
Suggestions for resolving the conflict:
- A two state solution should be taken into consideration where two
counties will be formed, one Israel and the other Palestine. This was what
the UN suggested in 1947, but Israel did not heed to it.
- Each party has to understand the legitimacy of each other's narrative.
- Both parties should reach common grounds by talks.
- Israelis and Palestinians: Conflict and Resolution
- The Israelis and Palestinians: Small steps to peace headliners