What is the Israeli Palestinian Conflict

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With Jewish Settlements covering over 41% of the West Bank and 90% of Gaza in walls and fences, internal conflict in Israel has only gotten more violent between the Muslim and Jewish populations and the two groups they belong to. With the oWhat is the Israeli Palestinian Conflict and is a peaceful compromise an optionverwhelming hatred of the "land grab" expressed by many Palestinians, it's difficult to see the conflict de-escalating any time soon. While we have almost attained peace in Israel in the 1990’s with the Oslo accord, and again in 2003 with the US’s "road map to peace". It is evident that both the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas who had formerly been the leader of the Palestinian Authority and the Israel president Reuven Rivlin have little interest in cooperation and compromise in the pursuit of peace. There are a multitude of reasons behind this; the most relevant being theological differences and a lack of communication between policy officials. This brought about a social movement full of religious extremists, violent rioters, and a rise in nationalism.

To put the conflict as a whole in simpler terms, it revolves around two groups of people in particular. The Palestinian Arabs and the Zionist (now Israeli) Jews. Both of which claim ownership of Israel which is located in the Middle East, just east of the Mediterranean sea. The two groups of people have vastly different spiritual viewpoints and cultural histories, and both of which include a variety of different religions within their grouping. An example of this is how the Palestinians are not just Muslim, but are in fact a mix of Muslims, Christians, and Druze. But astonishingly, this conflict didn’t arise from religious disputes. Instead, it rose from a lack of communication between leading officials following WWI and developed into a land dispute not long after.

Starting in the early 1900’s, just after the end of WWI and the destruction of the Turkish Ottoman Empire which had previously controlled the region; the state of Palestine became the most sought after land in the entirety of the Middle East. What is now known as the United Nations but recognized at that time as being exclusively Great Britain had used this opportunity of economic instability and unsurety to suggested to the population of the region that there would become an exclusively Palestinian Arab state. This idea proposed to the population of Palestine was great news, as it would mean control of the region would be given to those who are themself within the state. The majority of people who were aware of this idea agreed wholeheartedly, and sat idly by as Britain moved many of its own militia inside the borders of Palestine. However, this would be regretted soon as it was made evident by events that followed this that Britain had no intention of following through with their promise. Instead, the proposal for an Palestinian Arab state was used as cover for the implementation of a Jewish state. In November 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour made a promise to the Jewish Zionist movement that a Jewish state would be created in what was at that time still known as Palestine. As his promise started to come to fruition, Palestinians further become outraged at the claims made by Balfour and what appeared to be a peaceful takeover of their country. This was the first sign of the unrest that was growing in the region and was the beginning of the unification of the Palestinian population in revolt.

In 1936, the Palestinians who were upset by the actions taken by Britain and the effort put towards the creation of a Jewish state had almost fully unified into a collective group with a relatively common goal. Using their newly unified force, the Palestinian population went into open rebellion later known as "The Great Revolt" which continued for the next 3 years, ending in 1939. This revolt was categorized into two vastly different phases as both had entirely different methods and results. The first being orchestrated by the elitist Higher Arab Committee (HAC) was primarily made of strikes and peaceful forms of political protest. However this was quelled not long after it began in October of 1936 by the British civil administration using methods of international diplomacy involving neighboring countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and the threat of martial law by the occupying British authority.

The second stage of the revolt beginning in late 1937 took a more violent turn, as peasant lead militia began to intentionally target and attack British forces. According to an analysis of British records for the revolt by Walid Khalidi, an estimated 19,792 casualties occured against the Arab population, 14,760 of which were people who had been wounded. The main contributor to this rebellion lasting as long as it had was the publication of a report by The Peel Commision in 1937, which had stated that the underlined cause of the rebellion was the Palestinians push for independence and their "hatred and fear of the establishment of the Jewish national home." This sparked outrage in Palestinians and reignited the flames of rebellion for the 2 years that followed. It is debated whether this was a matter of misrepresentation that caused such an outrage or if it was simply attention being drawn to the conflict that continued the revolt. Ultimately little change could be found in the outcome of the violence, but many viewed the revolt as being a success as it had drawn international attention to what was going on in Palestine.

This conflict was intended to be mitigated, but in reality was only fueled to become even larger by the actions taken by the UN. Despite Britain’s attempts at quelling the violence, the conflict had escalated to a point where it drew international attention and word of the Palestinian’s unhappiness with recent changes reached the ears of officials in the United States. On November 29, 1947, a meeting was called which incorporated 33 different members of the United Nations to discuss methods of handling the internal conflict in Israel. Several regions representatives had their opinions known in the meeting, but none were as influential as the United States President Harry S. Truman’s take on the issue.

This event also marked the first real involvement the United States had in the politics of the Middle East. The conclusion drawn from this meeting on how the world would handle the conflict going on in Israel was known as Resolution 181. This partition plan was designed to separate Israel into 3 different entities, 2 of which being independent from one another with one common organization to act as a 3rd party. These three sections that Israel was divided into were the Jewish State, the Palestinian State, and an a separate regime designed to govern Jerusalem and the involvement the other two might have with the holy city. However this deal only furthered the conflict in the region as the Jewish state was given 5,500 square miles, where the Palestine state was given only 4,500 square miles, despite the fact that the Palestinian population made up two-thirds of the over all population of Israel.

Astonishingly, the Palestinian population was not the first to reinstate the conflict following the partition plan put in place. Instead, it was Zionist lead organizations that began to single out Palestinians through open attacks in regions that were designed to be controlled by the Palestinians. Without any warning or claim to the region aside from religious sites located within the West Bank, these Jewish organizations that had gotten the most beneficial outcome from the partition plan continued the violence, and ultimately delayed any hope for a peaceful resolution. Why these small organizations acted violently towards Palestinians after a resolution had been made is unknown and heavily the debated, but was speculated to be in pursuit of access to these holy locations located in the Palestinian region. However it is theorised that these attacks were in fact in the pursuit of an ethnic cleansing of Israel. With these attacks being exclusively against the arab Palestinian population, the idea of them being based on racial and theological differences seemed all too real. The radicals involved got the result they may have hoped for, as over 75,000 Palestinians in response to the violence were either forced out of or left their homes in Israel in hopes of finding safety in neighboring countries. But this marked only the beginning of the forced exodus of Palestinians in Israel.

At the beginning of 1948, the Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe) started to grow exponentially. Through acts of violence and vandalism, the upheaval of over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and businesses began and devastated the economic stability of large parts of Israel. This was one of the largest mass evictions to have taken place in the Middle East, and became a serious refugee crisis as neighboring countries refused to accommodate Palestinians entering their country in such large numbers. To this day the crisis remains unresolved, and has become a difficult obstacle to overcome in the pursuit of peace. Unfortunately, there is no way to make up for this mass eviction and move beyond the past by simply ignoring it, and are unable to come to an understanding when these two groups of people have very different perspectives on what happened. The Palestinian’s often view this as being a years long, decisive ethnic cleansing done by the Jewish population. While the Israelis believe that this was instead a spontaneous fleeing caused by internal conflict from within the Palestinian’s, and might of been sparked by wartime acts instigated against themselves. This incident is also tied to one of the core demands made by the Palestinian Authority towards Israel if they are to agree to a lasting peace. They demand some form of retribution and justice for the refugees forced to leave theeir homes, typically in the form of a "right to return" which would allow these refugees to re-enter the country as legal citizens.

However the Israeli government has made it clear that this is not an option, as it would alter their almost entirely Jewish population and identity as a region. With the total population of Israel being 8 million, 1.5 of which is Arab; taking in over 7 million Arab Palestinian refugees who many of which have developed a hatred of the Israeli government from this mass exodus could spell trouble for Israeli officials. This would also almost completely remove the notion of Israel being an entirely Jewish state, which seems to be one of the primary goals of its acting government. While this incident had happened roughly 70 years ago, ideas on ways to compensate the Palestinian refugees while being acceptable to the Israeli population and government are still being heavily debated. The most popular thoughts on how to resolve this issue and move forward are financial compensation for refugees, and a limited resettlement program to slowly reintroduce the enormous Palestinian population into the country without removing the countries newly founded identity. However these are only thoughts, and the leaders for both Palestinian Authority the Israeli government have not been able to discuss this matter long enough to come to any sort of conclusion that is satisfactory. On May 15, 1948, the remaining British presence evacuated Palestine, and Zionist leaders used this as an opportunity to declare the entire region the State of Israel. In response to this, neighboring states such as Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan begin to invade Israel.

Their claim for this was that they had the intent of "saving" Palestine, but was quickly discovered that they held as much animosity towards the idea of a Palestinian-Arab state as the Zionists did. This became the start of the Arab-Israeli war, consisting of several neighboring states in conflict with one another and against the Zionist forces for control of Israel. After an arms shipment reached Israel sent from Czechoslovakia, the Israeli forces started to see themselves having an advantage over the contesting Arab states. A number of successful engagements left the Zionists confident in its abilities to win the conflict, and motivated the battle to be pushed beyond what was the Jewish states boundaries set by UN’s partition plan. On April 3, 1949, the war between Israel and its several neighboring Arab states came to a close with the signing of the Armistice agreement. As a part of the agreement, the land which had once been considered Palestine was divided again into 3 sections, this time between very different regimes. The State of Israel had taken the majority of the territory, covering over 77 percent of the region. Jordan as compensation for an end to the war was given Eastern Jerusalem and central Palestine, which is known today as being the West Bank. The remaining section of Israel known as the Gaza Strip consisting of the coastal regions around the city of Gaza was given to Egypt. In this agreement, there was demand for access to what the jewish populations viewed as holy places and cultural institutions while also the established a cease-fire line which was later construed into being an international border separating the three regions.

This agreement also included complete access to all water supplies and the ability to colonize land within Israel’s domain. Unbeknownst to the Palestinian population remaining in what was considered demilitarized neutral zones on the borders of the three regions, this area was classified a branch of Israel’s domain, and in turn was considered open for colonization. This marked the start of Israel’s colonies in the debated territories surrounding the Jewish State, and an end to any hope remaining that the Palestinian-Arab state agreed to in the partition agreement would become a reality as only about 150,000 Palestinians remained in the region. From 1949 till 1960, there was an unsteady peace in the regions surrounding Israel. Neighboring states had small conflicts and disputes with Israel over a multitude of territorial and theological differences, but all of which had been resolved without approaching war; all the while Israel focused on increasing its military presence.

With the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States becoming heated in the early 60’s, Israel and its neighboring regions which had already been tense seemed likely to become involved. In the Spring of 1967, the event everyone had been expecting started to become a reality. The Soviet Union in communication with the Syrian Government had intentionally misinformed them of a massing of Israeli forces in northern Israel in preparation of an attack. In actuality, there was no mobilization of forces in northern Israel or any plan to act as the Soviet Union had predicted. But with Israel and Syria having already been tense, it took very little for Syria to believe that war with Israel was inevitable. The same could also be said about Israel’s beliefs of the future relations between itself and Syria, as a multitude of small Syrian attacks had already been committed against Israel. This violence continued until all of the neighboring states around Israel had become in some way involved.

A preemptive attack was planned against what would soon become the opposing sides in a war and in response to many of the actions committed against Israel. Both Syria and Egypt found their air forces almost entirely obliterated overnight by the Israeli ground forces. Possibly assuming that an attack was coming as it had been for the other states bordering Israel, Jordan attacked a small section of Israel just past the borders of Jordan’s territory. Israel of course met this with more violence, putting Jordan in a place of little resistance against the overwhelmingly powerful military Israel had created. The Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian armies were quickly defeated in the following minor conflicts. Israel then reclaimed the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights which had once been considered part of the Palestinian territory for itself. While they were not legally allowed to claim the territory as it had been taken in times of war, it was made evident that they would remain in indirect control of the region. While Israel had been preoccupied fortifying its military and reclaiming the regions surrounding the Jewish State, a new Palestinian movement started to show itself openly to the Israel government. This organization was known as the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and became a major player in Israel’s politics.

Throughout the time Jordan and Egypt had control over the West bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, they had extended citizenship to a percentage of the Palestinian refugees that had been evicted from that region years before. With the territory the Palestinians had re-entered now under Israel’s control, the Israeli government formed a military organization to govern and control the Palestinians who had settled in the region. This organization denied the Palestinians many civil rights they had given to their own citizens like the freedom of expression, and association with the press and politics. They had also limited and restricted all of the actions done by Palestinians, even something as basic as shopping, or eating in a restaurant. Nationalism from any Palestinian was considered a threat to the state, and any association with a Palestinian organization including flags, banners, and speaking of them was a punishable act by the Israeli government. Non-violent methods of protest like boycotts and divestment were also considered a threat to national security.

To spread Israel and its Jewish population further into the debated territory and make their control of the region evident, they established 245 settlements in the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem; 145 of which being unofficial. Over 560,000 Jewish Citizens willingly moved into these settlements following their creation. This act was blatant disregard of international laws banning the military occupation of a territory outside of your own and the Fourth Geneva Convention. Several of these settlements had also been built on privately owned Palestinian land, intentionally removing the homes that had been there prior. But despite this being an unsanctioned colonization by the government of Israel, Israel continues to defend its right to this territory and actions by claiming that they are in fact not breaking any international laws.

By claiming that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not officially occupied because of them never having been a sovereign territory to begin with, Israel makes the claim that the territory has yet to be given to any one state and is simply an unclaimed section of land. Their involvement in those regions according to the Israeli government is to "administrate" the territory until it can be decided who it will belong to. The international community of the world has stated that this is not the case, and that international law applies to both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank despite them being unclaimed. However, no action has been taken to stop Israel and so they continue to expand their territories in the region.

After many decades of violence in the region, a peaceful compromise being made between the Palestinian population whom the majority of which are refugees, and the Jewish population whose government has refused any notion of altering Israel to more closely represent Palestine seems to be very unlikely. Is peaceful compromise even possible? According to Daniel Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to the United States; peace is entirely possible but only if "the Palestinians make no demands and the Israelis make no concessions."

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What is the Israeli Palestinian Conflict. (2021, Mar 04). Retrieved July 13, 2024 , from
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