The Israel-Palestinian Conflict: A Long History of War and Struggle
The Origins of the Conflict
WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF THE CONFLICT?
The conflict between Israel and Hamas is not a recent development but rather the latest chapter in a long history of war and conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. This ongoing conflict has spanned seven decades, drawing in outside powers and destabilizing the wider Middle East.
Israel’s Founding and Palestinian Dispossession
Israel’s establishment on May 14, 1948, by its founding father David Ben-Gurion marked the creation of a safe-haven for Jews fleeing persecution and seeking a national home. However, Palestinians view this event as the Nakba, or catastrophe, which resulted in their dispossession and the denial of their dreams of statehood.
In the war that followed Israel’s creation, around 700,000 Palestinians were either driven from their homes or fled, becoming refugees in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Israel contests the claim that it expelled Palestinians from their homes and emphasizes that it was attacked by five Arab states the day after its establishment.
Decades of Wars and Conflicts
WHAT MAJOR WARS HAVE BEEN FOUGHT SINCE THEN?
Since its establishment, Israel has been involved in several major wars and conflicts in the region. In 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against Egypt and Syria, known as the Six-Day War, which resulted in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Arab East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.
The Yom Kippur War in 1973 saw Egypt and Syria attacking Israeli positions along the Suez Canal and Golan Heights. Israel managed to push back both armies within three weeks.
Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and subsequent conflicts in the region, including the 2006 war with Hezbollah militants, have further contributed to the instability and violence.
In addition to wars, there have been two Palestinian uprisings or intifadas, one between 1987-1993 and another in 2000-2005. These uprisings saw waves of violence, including Hamas suicide bombings against Israelis.
Attempts at Peace
WHAT ATTEMPTS HAVE THERE BEEN TO MAKE PEACE?
Efforts to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians have been made over the years. In 1979, Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty, ending three decades of hostility. The Oslo Accords in 1993 aimed at achieving limited Palestinian autonomy, but a final peace deal was not reached.
Other peace initiatives, such as the 2000 Camp David summit, have also failed to bring about a lasting resolution. The Arab plan proposed in 2002 offered Israel normal ties with all Arab countries in exchange for a full withdrawal from the territories occupied in the 1967 Middle East war and the creation of a Palestinian state.
However, peace efforts have been stalled since 2014, and the issue remains unresolved. The Trump administration’s decision to not endorse the two-state solution further complicated the situation.
The Main Issues
WHAT ARE THE MAIN ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN ISSUES?
The conflict between Israel and Palestine revolves around several key issues:
- A two-state solution: This involves creating a separate state for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip alongside Israel. However, Hamas, a Palestinian group, rejects this solution and is committed to Israel’s destruction.
- Settlements: Jewish settlements built on land occupied by Israel in 1967 are considered illegal by most countries. Israel disputes this and cites historical and religious ties to the land.
- Jerusalem: Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which contains sites sacred to Muslims, Jews, and Christians, to be the capital of their state. Israel regards Jerusalem as its “indivisible and eternal” capital, a claim not recognized internationally.
- Refugees: There are approximately 5.6 million Palestinian refugees living in various countries. Palestinians demand the right of return for themselves and their descendants. Israel insists that any resettlement of Palestinian refugees must occur outside its borders.
The Israel-Palestinian conflict remains a complex and deeply rooted issue with no easy solutions. Understanding its historical context and the perspectives of both sides is crucial in any attempt to achieve lasting peace in the region.