A Brief History Of The Conflict
Formation of The Ottoman Empire – In the 14th century the Ottoman Empire came to be established by the Turkish people who migrated west from Central Asia and conquered Anatolia and all surrounding regions.
The World Zionist Organization – In 1897, the World Zionist Organization was created to advocate the cause of a Jew state in Palestine.
The Balfour Declaration – The Ottoman Empire sided with Germany and Austria- Hungary during World War I. The Arab revolt against the Ottomans was supported and aided by the British. In 1917, British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour issued a declaration approving the creation of a Jewish home state in Palestine.
The British Mandate – At the close of World War I, the League of Nations handed Britain the mandate over what later became Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.
Palestine Mandate – In 1921, the British authorities divided their mandate. All the land to the west of River Jordan became the Palestine mandate.
Jewish Immigration – Through the 1930s Jewish immigration into Palestine peaked. The Arabs of the region were alarmed and clashes with the Jews became more pronounced. The Arabs in Palestine were supported by the Arabs in the region.
The UN Suggestion – In 1947, Britain gave up its mandate and the region came under the supervision of the United Nations. UN suggested a two-nation solution – one Arab and one Jewish. While this was acceptable to the Jews, the Arabs rejected the proposal.
Formation of Israel – On May 15, 1948, the Jews led by David Ben-Gurion declared the foundation of Israel as an independent state. The onslaught of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordon was fended off.
Armistice - By 1949, Israel’s war with the Arab states drew to a close and the armistice was declared with Israel controlling over 78% of what had been the British Palestinian Mandate. Over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled as refugees to the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordon.
Palestine Liberation Organization – In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed to represent the Palestinian people.
Six-Day War – In 1967, Israel attacked and captured the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt and Golan Heights from Syria. The West Bank and Jerusalem started to be occupied by Israeli troops.
Recognition – Owing to mounting international pressure, and to preempt the recurrence of a war similar to the Yom Kippur War, Israel and Egypt signed a peace accord making Egypt the first Arab country to officially recognize Israel. Sinai was returned to Egypt.
Intifada – Between 1987 and 1993, Palestinians rose up in a mass uprising against Israel. The civil war spread to the West Bank and violent riots marked this period.
Oslo Accords – In 1993 the Oslo Accords were agreed upon providing both, the state of Israel and the PLO, mutual recognition. Lebanon and Jordon made peace with Israel.
Hostilities – In 2000, violent exchanges again marred peace in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Between 2000 and 2002 violence escalated as Israel defined its own ‘war on terrorism’ and Palestinian militants pursued suicide bombing as a weapon to fight Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
Road Map For Peace – In 2003, the international community led by the UN, the European Union, Russia, and the US (the Quartet) chalked out a clear road map for peace and a timed approach to the formation of a Palestinian state.
Boundaries – By 2004, Israel built strongholds along pre-1967 borders and while committed to withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, also proposed to build a strong Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Palestinian refugee count was pegged at 4 million.
Disengagement – Following Israel’s disengagement plan, the country’s defense forces left the Gaza Strip and regions of the West Bank.
Acknowledgement – In 2011, Palestine applied for and was granted UNESCO membership. Palestine has also applied for a UN membership.
War Again – From mid-November 2012, Israeli troops bombarded the Gaza strip in retaliation of Palestinian rocket strikes through the last few years. After 8 days of airstrikes, truce was declared.
Some Prominent Names In The Conflict –
David Ben-Gurion – David Ben-Gurion was an important Zionist leader and served as the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization (1946). He soon came to be known as the de facto leader of the Jews in Palestine. Ben-Gurion became the 'founding father of Israel' by spearheading the struggle for an independent Jewish state in Palestine. On May 14, 1948, he proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel, signed the Israeli Declaration of Independence, and became the country's first Prime Minister. He also helped establish the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Yasser Arafat – Yasser Arafat was a Palestinian leader. He held the Chair of the PLO (1969-2004) and was the President of the PNA (1996-2004). Arafat was a highly revered figure in Palestinian politics and played a central role in the 1991 Madrid Conference, the 1993 Oslo Accords, and the 2000 Camp David Summit. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his contributions to the restoration of peace in the region.
Anwar El Sadat – Anwar El Sadat was the third President of Egypt and held office between 1970 and 1981.Sadat succeeded President Gamal Abdul Nasser as the Egyptian President. In his early regime, President Sadat held the iconic image of an Arabian and Egyptian hero as he led the nation into the 1973 October War, intent on to regaining the territory Egypt had lost to Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967. Later, however, as international pressure to end war mounted President Sadat launched peaceful negotiations with Israel and signed the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty thereby recognizing Israel. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts but this made him unpopular among Arab nations and he was eventually assassinated.
Ariel Sharon – Ariel Sharon was Israel’s 11th Prime Minister and served from 2001 to 2006. Sharon was a commander in the Israeli Army and later a Minister of Defense. His military exploits led him to be nicknamed him "The King of Israel". Between the 1970s and the 1990s, Sharon spearheaded the cause of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Between 2004 and 2005, Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, chalked out plan for a unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip. He promised that Israel would clear out of the West Bank but his stroke in 2006 caused a dent in these plans.
Mahmoud Abbas - Mahmoud Abbas has held the office of the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) 2004 and became President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in January 2005 as a Fatah candidate. Abbas was selected to then hold the office of the President of Palestine by the Palestine Liberation Organization in 2008. In 2010 Fatah's rival party Hamas announced that it did not recognize Abbas' extended tenure.
Peace and Terrorism
Israel has, through the course of the conflict, expressed deep concerns at Palestinian violence. The violence of the Palestinian forces against the Israeli civilians and armed forces is referred to as acts of terrorism. Radical Palestinian organizations such as the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade view the conflict as Jihad or a religious war and use suicide-bombing as a key protest tool. Their methods have the endorsement of over 68% Palestinians. Between 1993 and 2003, Palestinians have launched 303 suicide bombing attacks against Israeli targets – mostly civilian. The Qassam rockets fired by the Palestinian forces since 2001 have largely been aimed at civilian dwellings in Israeli cities. In 2012 alone over 1947 such rockets were aimed at Israel between January and November. Between 1987 and 2011, the Israeli death toll due to the conflict reached 1503 including 142 children while Palestine lost 7978 people including 1620 children. This figure includes the 1593 Palestinians killed in intra-Palestinian violence. Palestinian militants have not spared Israeli diplomatic missions abroad. The 2006 election of Hamas has worsened the situation, observers believe.
The Gaza Strip
Over 1.7 million Palestinians are now living in the 140 square miles Gaza Strip making it one of the most densely populated places on earth. More than a million of the people living in Gaza identify themselves as refugees. Most of them or their parents took refuge in Gaza in 1948.
According to recent UN reports over 80% of households in the Gaza Strip receive financial aid. With almost 40% of the population living in dire poverty, war in the region is calamitous. Besides living in the constant shadows of violence has stunted the psychological and physiological development of children in the region, experts believe. A fifth of the children in Gaza suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
During a blockade of the Palestinian territory between 2007 and 2010, the Israeli government is believed to have allowed just enough food to avoid a humanitarian disaster, recent events reveal. Israeli military may have made exacting calculations of Gaza's daily calorie requirement. According to the WHO, prolonged exposure to malnutrition may have stunted the growth of about 10% of the children in the Gaza Strip.
The unemployment rate in Gaza is exceptionally high at 28%. Over half of the region's population is under the age of 18 and among the youth between the ages 20 & 24, over 58% are unemployed, says the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
In January 2006, legislative elections were held for the Palestinian Legislative Council of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). All residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip voted and radical Islamic movement Hamas won 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats. In response, the Quartet held back aid to the PNA and Israel imposed severe blockades escalating civil disturbance in the region.
Jerusalem and Jericho
The ancient city of Jerusalem is a very sacred city and has deep religious significances in Jewish, Islamic, and Christian traditions. The hallowed land has changed hands many times and is at the heart of the Israel-Palestine issue. In the war of 1967 the Israeli army captured East Jerusalem from Jordon. The restoration of the sacred land was the culmination of a Divine promise for the Jews. International consensus, however, has never recognized Israel's sovereignty over East Jerusalem. In 1947, the UN designated that the city should be given a special international status. The 240,000 Arab inhabitants of East Jerusalem now live cut-off from other Palestinians by the West Bank Barrier.
Jericho, due to its proximity to Jerusalem, is caught up in the ongoing struggle between Israel and the PNA. The spectacular settlement at Ma’ale Adumim in Jericho is at the heart of this struggle. Currently part of the Palestinian territories, Israel is reluctant to relinquish its claim as this would make a deep dent into the country’s planned control over the West Bank.
By adding Jericho to the planned metropolitan area of a Greater Jerusalem, Israel plans to retain control over the Jordon Valley which accounts for over 28% of the West Bank region itself. The Jordon Valley is a very significant territorial region given its proximity to the Jordon international boundary.
The road that connects Jericho with Jerusalem is about 15 miles (approximately 24 kilometers) long and a very ancient one. Jesus himself is believed to have traveled the path many times and crossed the Ascent of Adumim on his way to Jerusalem from Galilee. The road is considered sacred by many and the religious association makes it all the more difficult for an amicable resolution to be achieved.
A Matter Of Recognition
On October 31, 2011, UNESCO granted Palestine a full membership. The inclusion of Palestine in the United Nations agency has been considered an endorsement of the international community of the long-standing efforts of Palestine to gain the status of an independent country. Among the UNESCO members, 107 endorsed the membership resolution while fourteen nations voted against it. The Palestine officially stated that “Palestine has the right to a place on the map”. USA, a traditional ally of Israel, opposed the inclusion and subsequently withheld a USD$70 million fund contribution to the UNESCO. Israel was vehemently opposed to the inclusion.
107 nations voted in favor of Palestine’s induction into the United Nations agency while fourteen voted against the resolution. USA, Germany, Canada, and Israel were against Palestine’s induction as they believe that this would hamper the peace process in the Middle East. China, India, France, Brazil, South Africa, and the Russian Federation were among those voted in favor of Palestine’s inclusion. The United Kingdom abstained from voting.
Ever since the UN proposed the two-state solution in 1947 as the perfect means to break the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. The solution has remained a popular option with the international community and calls for "two states for two peoples” – whereby the establishment of an independent Arab state of Palestinian alongside the Jewish State of Israel becomes a timed progressive goal.
The two-state solution makes it necessary for Israel and Palestine to hold talks and resolve a number of issues including the critical matter of the state borders. East Jerusalem has been a matter of contention between the two and needs a resolution. Apart from these the citizenship status of Palestinian refugees and Arabs in Israel needs to be settles.
Another solution that has been proposed is the formation of a federation in which both Israel and Palestine may exist as member states. Popular mandate in both Israel and Palestine is in favor of a two-state solution. A poll conducted in 2007 shows that over 25% of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are neither in favor of a binational state nor the two-state solution, 26% preferred the bination solution, and 46% were in favor of the two-state solution.
A decision about the Palestinian refugees is a critical one. In 1949, about 711,000 Palestinians were expelled from Israel. The refugees and their descendants are about 4.7 million by 2010. While PNA has often sought their Right To Return, asking Israel to take in these many Palestinians seems to be an illogical proposition but then the fate of these refugees who are currently living in refugee camps must be decided for an amicable solution to be reached.
Bringing Israel and Palestine to the negotiation table shall be one of the major challenges faced by any international mediator. The Quartet is, perhaps, best poised to play this role as it is also the PNA’s biggest financial backer. In the 2012 crisis, Egypt seems keen to play an important role as a peacemaker. Egypt’s peace plan is not known to the world but has been revealed to Israel and to Hamas.
A number of nations believe that it is critical for the United States to take an active role in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. USA's neutrality is questioned, however, by those who point at America's long and cordial ties with the State of Israel. The USA also supported Israel in opposing Palestine's induction into UNESCO but has been very vocal in its demands for peace in the Middle East.