The conflict between Israel and Palestine has already endured for almost a century. While the conflict may be simple to understand, it is nevertheless also very complex as the reasons for such conflict has centered mostly in the control of the territory surrounding the two parties and sadly though, the conflict has resulted to the destruction, revenge and animosity between them. Accordingly, the conflict is a result of the parties’ search for each own national identity and determination of both countries.
The Israelis believe that the legal owners and successors of the land now known as Israel, while the Palestinians also believe that they are entitled to the land they call Palestine. Unfortunately though, both sides are claiming the same land and that they simply call the land with two different names. However, it is a fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has already instigated half a dozen regional wars in the past decades which in turn threatened access to critical petroleum resources.
Moreover, the conflict has also provided justification for the increased militarization of almost all the region and has resulted in a large number of deaths among civilians from both sides. Background In the ancient times, the Jews called the land in dispute as Israel, Canaan, Judea, Samaria and many others. Christians and modern Jews believe that God gave this land to the ancient Jews. However, when the Romans occupied the area about 2000 years ago, suppressing many Jewish rebellions, killed thousands of Jews and forced many others to leave their homeland, an event which is called the Jewish Diaspora.
Although some Jews still remained in the area, it was not until the 19th century and 20th century, specifically the end of the Holocaust and the Second World War did a large number of Jews return. When the Israelis returned, it eventually led to trouble since in the two thousand years after majority of the Jewish population was killed or forced to leave the area, Arab-speaking Muslims became the dominant group.
Based on the records of the Ottoman Empire, in 1900, the population of Palestine was 600,000 of which 94 percent were Arabs. Although many Arabs were willing to sell their lands to the returning Jews, many of them still were viewing this as an event that would lead the Palestinians to become a minority in the land that they have now considered their own. The Ottoman Empire used to rule Arab world including Palestine or Israel, the West Bank of the Jordan river and the Gaza Strip.
But after World War I, Palestine came under the control of the British who was primarily responsible for complicating matters in the growing conflict between the two camps as it made contradictory promises to the French, Arab and European Zionist leaders about how and by whom the area was to be governed. Not surprisingly thus, the commitments made by the British to the different camps led to a mounting tension among them. To make matters worse, the growing power of Adolf Hitler in Germany has led to the dramatic increase of Jewish immigrants and these prompted the Palestinians to fear that a Jewish homeland would be created at their expense.
Thus, in the 1930s, the Palestinians staged a massive revolt, known as the Great Arab Revolt against the British. This revolt was particularly directed at the British and the Jews as a response to the British commission which split Palestine into two. After World War II, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 181 which called for the creation of two states: one Jewish and the other Arab within an already partitioned Palestine.
The resolution gave proposed Jewish state 56 percent of the territory, including most of the fertile coastal area, although at this joint, the Jewish community owned only 6 to 8 percent of the total land and made up about a third of the population (Gerner). When the British evacuated Palestine in May 1948, Israel as well declared its independence and fighting immediately ensued after the UN passed Resolution 181. Although relatively small compared to the Palestinians, the Israeli-Zionist military forces were well-trained, well armed and well-organized.
During the war, Israeli forces were able to destroy over 500 Palestinian villages and captured 78 percent of historic Palestine. By the end of the war, almost 70 percent of all Palestinians became refugees with only about 150,000 remaining in Israel. The Palestinian dislocation, dispossession and economic deprivation came to be known as the Palestinian nakba (catastrophe). Those that remained in Israel were under strict military regulation, faced restrictions in their economic activities and arrest for political reasons.
This continued on for about twenty years until out of despair and conviction that the surrounding Arab countries would not be able to help them, the Palestinians undertook matters into their own hands. Palestinians began to initiate massive resistance from the Israelis. In Gaza, men and women engaged in an insurrection that began in 1968 and lasted for three years. In the West Bank, charitable organizations provided an organizational structure through which the Palestinians could undertake resistance activities (Gerner). In the 1970s, international awareness and support for the Palestinians grew.
The Arab League for instance held a conference concluding that the Palestinian Liberation Organization headed by Yasser Arafat was the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”. The United Nations also granted the PLO observer status in the organization. However, these eventful victories were little compared to what the Israelis were doing. In order to boost their stand and claim in the conflict, Palestinians began in 1987 a massive uprising and community-wide action against the Israelis who has occupied Palestine for a lengthy period already.
Palestinians engaged in strikes and resistance such as stone throwing, creating barricades to immobilize Israeli forces, boycotts of Israeli products and other civil disobedience and disturbances. These in turn led to a huge number of Palestinian arrests and detention by Israeli military forces. Many civilians were deported given curfews and sealed off.
Ideologies and Conflict: The issues which have been responsible for the long conflict between the two communities have not changed at all and have remained constant ever since. Among them are:
– Borders for each community: In the absence of a fixed and agreed boundary for both parties, the conflict between Israel, Palestine and the other Arab nations claiming for strips of territory would not cease at all.
– Refugees and their right to return to Palestine. As many of the Palestinians were displaced and disposed, UN Resolution stating that “The refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date…compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return” passed in December 1948 has never been implemented.
– Settlers and Settlements: Vague political, civil and national status of almost 400,000 Jewish Israelis currently living on occupied land within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as the political, civil and national status of Palestinians currently living in Israel.
– Allocation of natural resources such as water among the region.
– Security for all states and people in the region notwithstanding the ethnicity.
– Economic access and viability of both regions.
– Intervention of the international community to address the issues at hand.
Proposals and Management to End the Conflict Ever since the start of the twentieth century, efforts were already instituted by various countries and entities to settle the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The United Nations, as a response to its vote to divide Palestine has created the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in order to take care of Palestinian refugees. It has also sent mediators to intercede through the years as well as passing more than a dozen of resolutions.
These resolutions were made in order to call out cease fires, suggest approaches to resolve the conflict and condemned aggressive tactics and actions by each party. The United States on the other hand, has tried to lead in the management of the conflict although its efforts have been hindered because of its close relationship with Israel. For instance, the United States negotiated an agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships in Oslo, Norway. The Oslo Accords were intended as a framework to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But the terms were so heavily weighted in Israel’s favor that the Agreements enabled Israel to consolidate its control over the West Bank and Gaza under the banner of the “peace process” (Susskind). Ramifications of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has now lasted for more than century and is still continuing. The efforts made to stop the conflict such as the British partition of Palestine 1948 and its commitment to give area to each party has only made matters worse.
Although Israel is admittedly superior in terms of its military capabilities and has the support of the United States, one of the most powerful countries in the world, it has however failed to stop Palestinian nationalism. On the other hand, Palestine has also not achieved in advancing their cause despite having the support of other Arab nations in the region as well as the members of the United Nations. Both of these communities are at a loss and finding a solution to the conflict is still far from reality.
The area in dispute holds a great significance and importance to the whole international community despite its small territory and resources. It is the seat of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, major religions of the world. Failure to resolve this conflict would result to larger consequences. For instance, the failure of the United States to resolve the conflict has undermined its capability as a world leader while the failure United Nations has indicated its inability to assert its power and prerogative.