The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s longest-running and controversial conflicts in the modern history. The heart of the conflict is that Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs both claim they are entitled to the land which lies “between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River” (Palestinians). The significance of the land is tied to the religions/Holy sites of Judaism and Islam. For the Jewish people, the land was promised to them by God. For the Palestinians Muslims, Jerusalem is the home of the third holiest sites in Islam and spiritually significant to the Palestinian Christians as well. Israeli and Palestinians/Arab nations have been fighting for more than six decades, with the ongoing Israeli occupation, violence, wars, death, intolerable living conditions, and failed peace negotiations only deepens the hatred for one another.
In 1920s and 1930s the Jewish population in Palestine grew, as Jews fled from Europe due to violence and anti-Semitism. At the same time, the followers of the “Zionism” movement encouraged Jews all around the world to move to Palestine and establish a Jewish homeland. The Palestinian/Arab leaders became alarmed by the rise of Jewish immigration into Palestine and wanted the Jews, and England, out of Arab territory. Growing violence in Palestine between Arabs and Jewish immigrants, caused the British to release a document called the “White Paper of 1939, which limited Jewish immigration to Palestine to 75,000 over five years–and none thereafter. It also prohibited future land sales to Jews, and promised Palestine independence within 10 years, presumably as an Arab-dominated state” (Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Two Peoples One Land). However, the Britain lost control of the land due to the increase violence and unsettling death toll of so many British lives in the land, they ended the Palestine mandate and turned the problem over to the United Nations to solve. Arab and Jewish forces in Palestine geared up and readied themselves to fight for the land once the British leave.
In 1947, the United Nations (UN) resolution was to partition Palestine into two states between Arabs and Jews, except Jerusalem was to become international city. However, the Arabs rejected the terms of the resolution “They were outraged that the Jews, who at the time comprised only a third of the Palestinian population and owned less than a tenth of the land, should be awarded more land (56.5 percent of the total) than them” (Palestinian Territories: History). On the other hand, Jews accepted the terms and a year later the state of Israel was born along came the birth of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. Overnight, the Palestinians became stateless and the UN partition plan was never established for them. The establishment of the state resulted in more than “700,000” Palestinians fleeing or exiled from their home land and “creating the refugee crisis that still exists” (Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Two Peoples One Land). The following day Arab-Israeli War broke out between Jews and five Arab nations (Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon) in the region. The Arab world called this war “The Catastrophe” the outcome left was in favor of the Israel, many Palestinians became refugees awaiting to return home, loss of life, and ultimately more land stolen.
Among this time, there were “1.3 million” Palestinian refugees scattered around the world, stateless, and no formal leadership (Carter 58). The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in 1964 as a political entity “committed to wage a battle to liberate the homeland of the Palestinian people” (Carter 5). But it wasn’t until 1968 when Yasir Arafat became Chairman of the organization and PLO gained strength. The Arab governments recognized PLO as the “sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, both at home [in Palestine] and in the Diaspora [in other nations]” (Carter 63). However, Israel did not recognize the organization and considered PLO to be a terrorist organization.
Between 1987 till 1993 the first Palestinian Intifada (uprising) erupts against Israeli occupation of West Bank and Gaza strip. Palestinian grew frustrated with their political and civil rights which were not being upheld by the occupation. In addition, Israel had total control of Palestinian territories which lead them to poverty, overcrowding, and unemployment. These dire living conditions of the Palestinians eventually lead to violence against Israeli occupation. As a result, the Israeli army were overly aggressive and were instructed to break the bones of Palestinian Protesters, predominantly youths. “Between 1987 and 1993, more than 1,200 people–the vast majority of them Palestinians–were killed” (Palestinian Territories: History). Many Palestinian lives were taken away, but the uprising was marked as a success. The Intifada grew worldwide attentions and sympathy for Palestinians and forced the Israel to begin negotiating peace talks with PLO.
The intifada ended in 1993 with the Oslo Agreement which were signed by Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasir Arafat. The Oslo process was viewed as a fresh start for a new era in Palestinian-Israeli relations. At the time, it seemed as a historic turning point for the conflict as Rabin and Arafat shake hands. However, both sides disagreed over the occupation of Palestinian territory, rights of the Palestinian refugees, and the fate of Jerusalem. The Oslo didn’t lead to establishment of Palestinian state and eventually died down.
Later, in September 2000, second Intifada also known as “Al-Aqsa Intifada” broke out because the Palestinians became frustrated with the failure of the Oslo Peace Process and an intentionally provocative visit ignited the uprising once again. Israeli leader Ariel Sharon surrounded by hundreds of Israeli riot police visited the Islamic holy sites. During the visit, Sharon declared that “Dome of the “Rock” and “al-Aqsa Mosque” would remain under Israeli control (Carter149). Thus, began a renewed determination to fight for the freedom of all Palestinians. Both first and second Intifada movements were against dire living conditions of the Palestinians. However, the period of the second intifada differs from the first Intifada because it has been characterized by intense violence and deaths among the civilians. Former President Jimmy Carter writes, “From September 2000 until March 2006, 3,982 Palestinians and 1,084 Israelis were killed in the second intifada, and theses numbers include many children: 708 Palestinians and 123 Israelis (Carter 206). Unlike the previous Intifada, which ended at the signing of the Oslo Agreement, there is no clear ending date to the Al-Aqsa Intifada but “the period that followed saw an increase in violence, an expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and the construction of the wall separating Israeli and Palestinian villages” (Palestinians).
In June 2002, President George W. Bush announced a “two-state solution” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which calls for two states for two groups of people (Carter 157). The solution was to eventually lead to both Israeli and Palestinians to have their own independent states and creating long-term peace and security between both sides. However, Israel claimed the “two-state solution” wouldn’t solve the conflict but led to the destruction of Israel. That only deepened Palestinian frustrations and loss of hope. In the coming years, Israel’s true intentions regarding the solution was clearer with, confiscation of the Occupied Territories, destruction of Palestinian homes, and building of Jewish settlements, thus making the creation of a Palestinian state impossible. In efforts to claim Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israeli are increasing building of settlements to prevent the possibility of a two-state solution. According to Americans for Peace Now, “Since 2009, when Mr. Obama took office, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has grown to around 400,000, a gain of more than 100,000, and the number of settlers in East Jerusalem has grown to roughly 208,000, from 193,000. During the same period, construction has begun on over 12,700 settlement units on the West Bank” (Israel and the Two-State Solution). The President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas who met with Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, said “The Israeli government has since 2009 worked on wrecking the two-state solution by accelerating the tempo of settlements and the confiscation of land” (Raghavan). The Arab leaders want a renewed call for the establishment of Palestine.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is almost over 70 years old and roots traced back to the late 19th century. Unfortunately, peace for Israel would be impossible until Palestinians after decades of suffering were treated equal and deserve justice, equality, freedom, and peace in their own independent state. However, both sides cannot come to terms of the issues such as security, borders, rights of Palestinian refugees, settlements, and the status of Jerusalem. In spite of the collective efforts from around the world, a solution to the ongoing conflict has yet to be found.
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