Israel- Palestine Contentious Issues

 

Dr. Mohd Shafi Bhat*

Post Doctorate Fellow, ICSSR, New Delhi.

 

ABSTRACT:

The Israel- Palestine conflict has dominated the political discourse of Middle East. This conflict has produced six wars between two groups of people asserting different national identities. The conflict began as a war on land. In modern times, Israelis have pointed to several events tied to World War I and II to justify the existence of Israel.  The present paper highlights the contentious issues in Israel- Palestine conflict and highlights the significance of peace process in Middle East. It is argued here that peace in Israel- Palestine is a condition for peace in Middle East. This is possible only by initiating a new and concrete peace talks so as to end the deadlock created by mutual misunderstanding and failure of political processes.

 

KEYWORDS: Israel, Conflict, Palestine, Middle East, Jews, Zionism, Jerusalem.

 

INTRODUCTION:

The Palestinian--Israeli conflict stems from competing Jewish and Arab claims to the land in Palestine (the Zionist occupation of Palestinian land), conflicting promises by the British in the forms of the Hussein- McMahon Correspondence and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and several outbreaks of violence between Jewish and Arab residents of the region of Palestine. The roots of the conflict can be traced to the late 19th century, which saw a rise in national movements, including Zionism and Arab nationalism. Zionism, the Jewish national movement, was established as a political movement in 1897, largely as a response to Russian and European anti-Semitism. It sought the establishment of a Jewish Nation-State in Palestine so that they might find sanctuary and self-determination there (Hassan: 2007). The World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund encouraged immigration and funded purchase of land under Ottoman rule and under British rule in the region of Palestine.

 

In the 1870s, a wave of anti-Semitism spurred a new migration from central Europe, and in 1898, Theodore Hertzl organized a Zionist international movement to establish in Palestine a home for the Jewish People secured by public law. Thousands of Palestinians were already living in Palestine as their descendants had done so for centuries.

 

In 1917, Arthur James Balfour, as Foreign Secretary, authored the Balfour Declaration, which supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration pledged England’s support of Zionist goals in order to win support of international, especially American, Jews to the Allies during World War I.

 

 


In 1916, one year prior to the Balfour Declaration, a secret agreement was made between the British War Cabinet and Zionist leaders promising the latter a “national home” in Palestine in consideration of their efforts to bring the United States into World War I on the side of Great Britain. Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine came under the control of the United Kingdom through the Sykes-Picot Agreement and a League of Nations mandate. During the mandatory period, the British made conflicting promises to both populations in the forms of the Hussein- McMahon Correspondence and the Balfour Declaration of 1917(Goyal:2009). The Paris Peace Conference and subsequent conferences made Palestine a British mandate. The League of Nations approved, and more Jews entered Palestine. Palestine Arabs resented this “immigration” into their homeland. Tensions between Arab and Jewish groups in the region erupted into physical violence--the 1920 Palestine riots, the 1921 Palestine riots, the 1929 Hebron massacre and the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine(Kumar:2001).

 

Palestinian and Jewish claims on Land:

Palestinian’s claims to the land are based on continuous residence in the country for centuries and the fact that they were the majority. They reject the idea that a kingdom in biblical times can be the basis for a valid modern claim.  They do not believe they should give up their land and homes to compensate Jews for Europe’s crimes against them. On the other hand, Jewish claims to the land are based on the biblical promise to Abraham and his descendants and on the fact that this was the historical site of the Jewish Kingdom of Israel (which was destroyed by the Roman Empire). They see the homeland for the Jews as the only possible haven from European anti-Semitism (Nye:2008)

 

Promise to the Arabs- The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence:

During the First World War, McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt tried to encourage an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire which ruled over large parts of the Arab world and was aligned with Germany against Britain and France in the war. In a series of ten letters from 1915 to 1916 with Ali Ibn Husain, Sherif of Mecca, McMahon promised that if the Arabs supported Britain in the war and Hussein led an Arab revolt, the British government would support the independence of what would later be called Palestine, Transjordan, Syria and Iraq (Nye:2008).

 

Promise to the Zionists – the Balfour Declaration:

However, Britain made other promises during the war that conflicted with the Hussein-McMahon understandings. In 1917, the British Foreign Minister, Lord Arthur Balfour, issued a declaration (the Balfour Declaration) announcing his government's support for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. "His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”.(Balfour Declaration)

 

Secret agreement with the French – Sykes-Picot Agreement:

A third promise, in the form of a secret agreement, was a deal that Britain and France struck between them to carve up the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire and divide control of the region.

 

British Mandate:

After the World War I, Britian and France convinced the new League of Nations (which was the forerunner to the United Nations) to give them territories as mandates.  The idea was that Britian and France would administer these areas until the people there were ready to rule themselves.  Britian obtained a mandate over the areas which are now Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan(B.Richard: 1996).

 

The number of Jews moving to Palestine sharply increased. Some went as part of a belief in establishing a Jewish homeland and others went to escape anti-Semitic persecution. Many countries including Britain restricted the number of Jews allowed in when the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933 and this had a major impact on Palestine. The rising tide of European Jewish immigration, land purchases and settlement in Palestine generated increasing resistance by Palestinian peasants, journalists and political figures. Palestinian resistance to British control and Zionist settlement climaxed with the largely peaceful Arab revolt of 1936-39 which was brutally suppressed. In an effort to maintain order in an increasingly tense environment, the British tried to limit future Jewish immigration and land purchases. The Zionists regarded this as a betrayal, and the British-Zionist alliance came to an end (B. Michael:1996).

 

UN Partition Plan:

Following World War II, with escalating hostilities between Palestinians and Zionists over the fate of Palestine and between the Zionist militias and the British army, Britain requested that the recently established United Nations determine the future of Palestine. The UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181 in 1947 which would partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab, with the area of Jerusalem and Bethlehem as an international zone. The Zionist leadership publicly accepted the UN partition plan. The Palestinian Arabs and the surrounding Arab states rejected the UN plan. The Plan proposed in Resolution 181 granted the Jewish minority more than 50% of the land though they made up just one- third of the population and owned under 10% of the land.

 

1948- Independence or Catastrophe:

Israelis refer to the year 1948 as the ‘Year of Independence’. Palestinians refer to 1948 as ‘al nakba’, meaning ‘the disaster’ or ‘the catastrophe’. Fighting intensified between the Arab and Jewish residents of Palestine days after the adoption of the UN partition plan. The Arab military forces were poorly organised, trained and armed, in contrast to the Zionist military forces, which though numerically smaller, were well organised, trained and armed. On May 15, 1948, the British evacuated Palestine, and Zionist leaders proclaimed the state of Israel. Armies from the neighbouring Arab countries and Iraq entered Palestine, declaring that they were coming to the assistance of the Palestinians, but they were no match for Israel( Clark:1973).

 

The Palestinian Arab state envisioned by the UN partition plan was never established. In 1949, with the end of the war between Israel and the Arab states, the country once known as Palestine was divided into three parts. The State of Israel encompassed over 77 percent of the territory. (The land now incorporated into Israel which had not been allotted to it in the Partition Plan is shown on the map). Of the remainder of Palestine, the larger part—the West Bank—became part of Jordan and Egypt took over the administration of a small area on the Mediterranean coast, the Gaza Strip. Over 750,000 Palestinians fled for their lives, leaving behind their homes and belongings and becoming refugees (Jack:2002).

 

Palestinian Citizens of Israel:

Some Palestinians remained in the area that became the state of Israel in 1948. About quarters of them were displaced from their homes and villages and became internally displaced persons as the Israeli army destroyed over 400 Arab villages. They were granted Israeli citizenship, and today there are 1.2 million Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, making up about a fifth of the Israeli population. The state of Israel defines itself as both Jewish and democratic. Palestinians are not Jewish – they are Muslim or Christian – and so are seen and treated as outsiders. It is worthwhile to mention here that Israeli legal system discriminates against the Palestinian community.  Government spending is much lower in Palestinian areas as compared to Jewish areas. Arab Israeli towns and districts in Israel usually have far worse housing, public transport, education facilities; health care etc than the national average. Much Arab land has been confiscated by the state and used for projects that benefits Jews. As a consequence of the fighting in Palestine/Israel between 1947 and 1949, the majority of the Palestinian Arab population (750,000) became refugees (www.newamericancentury.org).

 

Causes of Israel- Plaestine Conflict:

The Palestinian--Israeli conflict stems from competing Jewish and Arab claims to the land in Palestine (the Zionist occupation of Palestinian land), conflicting promises by the British in the forms of the Hussein- McMahon Correspondence and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and several outbreaks of violence between Jewish and Arab residents of the region of Palestine. The roots of the conflict can be traced to the late 19th century, which saw a rise in national movements, including Zionism and Arab nationalism. Zionism, the Jewish national movement, was established as a political movement in 1897, largely as a response to Russian and European anti-Semitism. It sought the establishment of a Jewish Nation-State in Palestine so that they might find sanctuary and selfdetermination there (Amanat: 1999). The World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund encouraged immigration and funded purchase of land under Ottoman rule and under British rule in the region of Palestine. In the 1870s, a wave of anti-Semitism spurred a new migration from central Europe, and in 1898, Theodore Hertzl organized a Zionist international movement to establish in Palestine a home for the Jewish People secured by public law. Thousands of Palestinians were already living in Palestine as their descendants had done so for centuries (www.worldpress.org/mideast).

In 1917, Arthur James Balfour, as Foreign Secretary, authored the Balfour Declaration, which supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration pledged England’s support of Zionist goals in order to win support of international, especially American, Jews to the Allies during World War I. In 1916, one year prior to the Balfour Declaration, a secret agreement was made between the British War Cabinet and Zionist leaders promising the latter a “national home” in Palestine in consideration of their efforts to bring the United States into World War I on the side of Great Britain.

 

Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine came under the control of the United Kingdom through the Sykes-Picot Agreement and a League of Nations mandate. During the mandatory period, the British made conflicting promises to both populations in the forms of the Hussein- McMahon Correspondence and the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The Paris Peace Conference and subsequent conferences made Palestine a British mandate. The League of Nations approved, and more Jews entered Palestine. Palestine Arabs resented this “immigration” into their homeland. Tensions between Arab and Jewish groups in the region erupted into physical violence--the 1920 Palestine riots, the 1921 Palestine riots, the 1929 Hebron massacre and the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine (Richard: 2007).

The British tried to maintain a precarious peace, but Hitler’s anti-Semitic policy increased the influx of Jews into Palestine and caused further Arab resentment. The Jewish population rose to nearly half a million in 1935. The Arab rebellion started in 1936 and continued to expand until a major British Military effort suppressed it two years later. The British proposed a failed partition plan, while the White Paper of 1939 established a quota for Jewish immigration set by the British in the short-term and by the Arab population in the long-term. Both Arab and Jewish groups directed violence against the British in order to expel the mandatory government, which was held in contempt by both sides. In 1942, Zionist leaders met in New York’s Biltmore Hotel to devise the Biltmore Program which called for unlimited immigration of Jews to Palestine which, after the war, would become a Jewish commonwealth state (www.isreview.org/issues).

 

In May 1945, after the German surrender, the Jewish Agency wrote Prime Minister Churchill demanding the full and immediate implementation of the Biltmore resolution, the cancellation of the White Paper, the establishment of Palestine as a Jewish state, Jewish immigration to be an Agency responsibility, and reparation to be made by Germany in kind beginning with all German property in Palestine. The Palestinians seemed to have no say in any of this (Angwani:1994).

The British stalled, and the Haganah (the Jewish voluntary militia organized in local units primarily for local defense) engaged in extensive smuggling. In October 1945, Haganah’s clandestine radio station,Kol Israel, declared the beginning of “The Jewish Resistance Movement”. On October 31, 1945 the Jews in Palestine engaged in an extensive “terrorist” campaign and attacked three small naval craft, wrecked railway lines, and attacked a railway station and an oil refinery. In June 1946, Jewish terrorists committed more sabotage in Palestine. They destroyed twenty-two RAF planes at one airfield. The Haganah agreed to an Irgun (terrorist group offshoot of Haganah) attack on British headquarters in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. The bombings killed ninety-one British, Arab, and Jewish people and wounded fortyfive. The British retaliated by raiding the Irgun headquarters in Tel Aviv (Robert: 2003). By the end of 1946 the Irgun- Sternist groups had killed 373 persons. The Haganah and the terrorists continued to operate with at least tacit support of a large part of the citizenry. This violence and the heavy cost of World War II led Britain to turn the issue of Palestine over to the United Nations. In 1947, the U.N. approved the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine into two states: one Jewish and one Arab. The Jewish leadership accepted the plan, but Palestinian Arab leaders, supported by the Arab League, rejected the plan, and a civil war broke out. Israel quickly gained the upper hand in this inter-communal fighting, and on May 14, 1948 declared its independence. Five Arab League countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq), then invaded Palestine, starting the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The war resulted in an Israeli victory, with Israel capturing additional territory beyond the partition borders, but leaving Jerusalem as a divided city. The territory Israel did not capture was taken over by Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan (now Jordan). The war also resulted in the 1948 Palestinian exodus, known to Palestinians as Al-Naqba (Jessica: 1991).

 

For decades after 1948, Arab governments had refused to recognize Israel and in 1964 the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded with the central tenet that Palestine, with its original Mandate borders, is the indivisible homeland of the Arab Palestinian people. In turn, Israel refused to recognize the PLO as a negotiating partner. In the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and East Jerusalem including the Old City and its holy sites, which Israel annexed and reunited with the Western neighborhoods of Jerusalem (Anne- Marie: 2004). The status of the city as Israel's capital and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip created more conflict between the parties. In 1970, the PLO was expelled from Jordan, in what was known as the Black September. Large numbers of Palestinians moved into Lebanon after the Black September, joining the thousands already there. In 1973 a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria launched the Yom Kippur War against Israel. The Egyptians and Syrians advanced during the first 24–48 hours, after which momentum began to swing in Israel's favor. Eventually a cease-fire took effect that ended the war. This war paved the way for the Camp David Accords in 1978, which set a precedent for future peace negotiations (W.Wallace: 1990).

 

Status of the Occupied Territories:

Occupied Palestinian Territories is the term used by the UN to refer to the West Bank and Gaza Strip— territories which Israel conquered from Egypt and Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War—in the conflict. The Israeli government uses the term “Disputed Territories”, to indicate its position that some territories cannot be called occupied as no nation had clear rights to them and there was no operative diplomatic arrangement when Israel acquired them in June 1967.

 

Israeli settlements:

The Israeli settlements in the West Bank and, until 2005, the Gaza Strip, have been an obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The international media, the international political community (including the US, the UK, and the EU), the International Court of Justice, and international and Israeli human rights organizations who have also called the settlements illegal under international law. In the years following the Six-Day War, and especially in the 1990s during the peace process, Israel re-established communities destroyed in 1929 and 1948 and established numerous new settlements on the West Bank. Most of these settlements of about 350,000 people are in the western parts of the West Bank, while others are deep into Palestinian territory, overlooking Palestinian cities. These settlements have been the site of much inter-communal conflict (K.Peter: 2005).

 

Jerusalem:

The three largest Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—claim Jerusalem in their religious and historical narratives. Israel asserts that the city should not be divided, and should remain unified within Israel's political control. Palestinians claim at least the parts of the city which were not part of Israel prior to June 1967. As of 2005, there are 465,000 Jews mostly living in West Jerusalem, and there are 232,000 Muslims mostly living in East Jerusalem.

 

Palestinian refugees:

There are about four million Palestinians and their descendants who were expelled or fled from Israel following its creation. Palestinian refugees were chased out or expelled by the actions of Zionist terrorist organizations--the Haganah, Lehi, and Irgun. Palestinian negotiators have so far insisted that refugees, and all their descendants, from the 1948 and 1967 wars have a right to return to the places where they lived before 1948 and 1967, including those within the 1949 Armistice lines, citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN General Assembly Resolution 194, adopted in 1948, which says: "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, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible." UN Resolution 3236 "reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return". Resolution 242 from the UN affirms the necessity for "achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem".

 

History of conflict between Israel and Palestine: A Brief Analysis:

The war in 1947 produced a flood of Palestinian refugees, a sense of humiliation among many Arabs and a broad resistance to any idea of permanent peace. The Arabs did not want to accept the outcome of the war because they did not want to legitimise Israel. They be3lieved time was on their side. Arab leaders fostered pan- Arab feelings and the belief that they could destroy Israel in another war. King Abdullah was assassinated when he tried to sign a separate peace treaty with Israel in 1951, further decreasing the likelihood of a peaceful settlement between the Arab states and the new Israeli government (K.Paul: 1987). The second Arab- Israel war occurred in 1956. In 1952, Gamal Abdel Nasser and other young nationalist officers overthrew King Farooq of Egypt and seized power. They soon received arms from the Soviet Union and manoeuvred to gain control of the Suez Canal, a vital commercial shipping channel linking Europe and Asia. Angry about the Canal and worried about Nasser dominating the Middle East, Britian and France colluded with Israel to attack Egypt. However the United Nations refused to help Britian and the war was stopped by a U.N resolution and peacekeeping force that was inserted to keep the sides apart. But there was still no peace treaty.

 

A six- day war of June 1967 was important as it shaped the subsequent territorial problems at the heart of Middle East peace problem. In 1967, Israel declared war as a response to threats from Egyptian President Nasser. By the end of just six days Israel had captured the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria. The Sinai was since handed back to Egypt, but to this day Israel is occupying the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Israel now controlled all of Historic Palestine, and established a military administration in the newly acquired West Bank and Gaza. In response to the outcomes of the Six Day War, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242 (www.carnegieendowment.org/publications). It emphasised  “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”, called for Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in the 1967 war, affirmed that every state in the region should have “the right to live in peace within safe and secure boundaries”, and also stated the necessity of “achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.” The consequences of the 1967 war were far- reaching which changed the entire dymanics of west Asian Politics. The msot important among them was the radicalsiation of the Palestinian movement which passed into the hands of the leader of Al- Fatah faction, Yasser Arafat.

 

The fourth war, the War of Attrition, was a more modest affair. In 1969- 70, with active support from the Soviet Union, Nasser organised crossings of the Suez Canal abd other harassments. These provoked an air war in which Israel and Egyptian plots fought a number of air battles. Eventually, the air was tapered off into a stalemate 9J.Nye: 2008).

 

The fifth war was the Yom Kippur War that occurred in October 1973. After the death of Nasser, Anwar Sadat came to the throne. He realised that Egypt could not destroy Israel.  He decided to attack across the Suez Canal. Sadat colluded with the Syrians and achieved an effective surprise. The superpowers stepped in and called for a ceasefire. Henry Kissinger, secretary of the state, flew to Moscow. The war was followed by a series of diplomatic manoeuvres in which the United States negotiated a partial drawback by Israel. UN observers were placed in the Sinai and on the Golan Heights. The most dramatic result of the war was delayed in 1977. Sadat went to Israel and announced that Egypt was ready to negotiate a separate peace (P.Admato: 2002). During 1978 and 1979 (with Jimmy Charters mediation) Israel and Egypt negotiated the Camp David Accords which returned the Sinai to Egypt and provided for talks about local autonomy in the West Bank. The Camp David Accord meant that the larger Arab state had quit the coalition confronting Israel, and Egyptian nationalism had prevailed over pan- Arabism. Sadat broke the pan- Arab coalition. Because of dissatisfaction to his policy, he was later on killed a few years later.

 

The Sixth war was Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Initially, Lebanon had been delicately balanced between Christian and Muslim Arabs. Muslims were divided among Sunnis, Shias and Druzes. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was a major presence in Lebanon and the Christians were also split into factions.  Lebanon was once considered as a heaven in the Middle East, the area of true pluralism and diversity, however as Lebanon began to break apart into civil war, it presented increasing opportunities for outside intervention. Syria began to impose order in the north, and in 1978 Israel went into southern Lebanon as far as the Litani River (N.Jye: 2008).

 

In December 1985, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemns all forms of terrorism and recognizes the state of Israel. U.S. President Ronald Reagan authorizes the U.S. to enter into a “substantive dialogue” with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Israel remains hostile to the PLO. Jordan renounces all territorial claims to the West Bank. The next day, in a clear show of support for the PLO, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 53/196, which “reaffirmed the inalienable rights of” Palestinians and Syrians in the Golan, called on Israel not to exploit natural resources in the occupied territories In 1985, the Israeli’s withdrew from most of Lebanon except a buffer zone in the south, which they finally evacuated in 2000.

 

In October 1991, the Madrid Peace Conference took place in Madrid, Spain. The conference includes delegations from Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and the Palestinians. The Madrid conference marks the first time most of the Arab parties (except for Egypt) and Israel sat down at a table together. The conference is organized along bi- lateral (involving or participated in by two nations) lines as well as multilateral (participated in by more than two nations) lines.

 

Declaration of Principles (DP) or Oslo Accord:

During January–September 1993, secret talks between Israeli and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiators began in Oslo, Norway. On September 13, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sign a Declaration of Principles in Washington on the basis of the negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian teams in Oslo, Norway. The trade-offs made became known as “land for peace.” Because they could not resolve all the issues right away, the two sides agreed to make gradual steps towards a final settlement of the conflict. The process by which the two sides would gradually exchange land for peace and work out the more difficult issues standing in the way of a final agreement became known as the “Oslo peace process.” What was significant about Oslo is that it ended the existential, (of relating to, or affirming existence) conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. The two sides were no longer claiming that the other did not have the right to exist as a state or peoples on that land and both pledged to work towards a final agreement that would settle all outstanding issues between them.

 

The Declaration of Principles or Oslo Accords signed consisted of a two- phase timetable. First was a five- year interim or transitional period during which time Isreal would incrementally withdraw from Palestinian areas in the West bank and Gaza Strip, transfering administrative powers to a soon- to- be elected Palestinian authority. Second was the permanent or final status negotiations, to begin at thjestatrt of the third year of the interim period. As written in the text of the DOP, it was understood that these negotiations shall cover the remaniing issues, including the status of Jerusalem, the right to return of plaestinian refugees, Israeli settlements in West Bank and Gaza, security arrangements, final borders of the two resultant states, relatiosnandcoopeartionwith other neighbours, and other issuse of common interest (www.mideastweb.org/meoslodop.htm).

 

Status of the occupied Territories:

Occupied Palestinian Territories is the term used by the UN to refer to the West Bank and Gaza Strip— territories which Israel conquered from Egypt and Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War—in the conflict. The Israeli government uses the term “Disputed Territories”, to indicate its position that some territories cannot be called occupied as no nation had clear rights to them and there was no operative diplomatic arrangement when Israel acquired them in June 1967.

 

Israeli settlements:

The Israeli settlements in the West Bank and, until 2005, the Gaza Strip, have been an obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The international media, the international political community (including the US, the UK, and the EU), the International Court of Justice, and international and Israeli human rights organizations who have also called the settlements illegal under international law. In the years following the Six-Day War, and especially in the 1990s during the peace process, Israel re-established communities destroyed in 1929 and 1948 and established numerous new settlements on the West Bank. Most of these settlements of about 350,000 people are in the western parts of the West Bank, while others are deep into Palestinian territory, overlooking Palestinian cities. These settlements have been the site of much inter-communal conflict.

 

Jerusalem:

The three largest Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—claim Jerusalem in their religious and historical narratives. Israel asserts that the city should not be divided, and should remain unified within Israel's political control. Palestinians claim at least the parts of the city which were not part of Israel prior to June 1967. As of 2005, there are 465,000 Jews mostly living in West Jerusalem, and there are 232,000 Muslims mostly living in East Jerusalem.

 

Palestinian refugees:

There are about four million Palestinians and their descendants who were expelled or fled from Israel following its creation. Palestinian refugees were chased out or expelled by the actions of Zionist terrorist organizations--the Haganah, Lehi, and Irgun. Palestinian negotiators have so far insisted that refugees, and all their descendants, from the 1948 and 1967 wars have a right to return to the places where they lived before 1948 and 1967, including those within the 1949 Armistice lines, citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN General Assembly Resolution 194, adopted in 1948, which says:  "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, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible." UN Resolution 3236 "reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return". Resolution 242 from the UN affirms the necessity for "achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem".

 

Violent history of Middle East:

The violent hsitory of Mniddleesat shows how regional conflicts absed on ethnicity, religion and antioanslim can become embittered and difficult to resolve. Arb goverbnments were slow to make pecausebeacsuse they did not want to legitimsieIdrtael and in thyeir rejection they reinforced the domestic positionbof those Israeli’s who diod not want to make peace with the Arabs. In 1973 and 1977 sadta took the peace initiative byt was killed. A decade later, Israeli Prime Minsitewr Yitzhak Rabin aslo tool such a peaceful initiative and got assasinated by a Jewish religious extremist (J.Nye:2008).

 

During the bipolar Cold War era, wars in middle3 East tended to be short becasue the role ofd superpowers wasw so prmninent. On the one hand, each superpowrv supported its clients but when it looked like the clients might pull the superpowers toward the nuclear brink, they pulled their cliuenst back. The purpose for ceasefires came from outside. In 1956, it was the United States via the United Nations, in 1967, the United Staes and the Soviet Union used their hotline to arrange a ceasefire; in 1973 the United Staes and the Soviet Union stepped in; and in 1982, the United States pressed Israel to drwa back from Lebanon. At many instances, Cold war exacerbated regional conflicts, it also placed a safety net undernaeth them. With the emnd of the Cold War, the smaller states have increasingly looked to the United Nations to proviodetaht safety net, but it was unclear to b e seen how effective the UN safety net could be. Responding to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the United Nations passed its first post- Cold War test in 1990- 91 (Pasha:2010).

 

1991 Gulf War and Aftermath:

The First Persain Gulf War,aslo known as the Gulf War, January- February 1991, was an armed conflict between Iraq and a coalition of 39 nations including the United States, Britian, Egypt, France and Saudi Arabia; 28 nations contributed troops. It was a result of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990; Iraq then annexed Kuwait, which it had long claimed. Iraqi president Saddam Hisseindecxlaredtaht the invasion was a response to overproduction of oil in Kuwait, which ahd cost Iraq an estimated $14 billion a year when oil prices fell. Hussein also accused Kuwait of illegally pumping oil from Iraq’s Rumaila oil field (Pasha:2010).

The Gulf War revived the doctrine of UN collective security. The ceasefire set a precedent whereby UN inspectors visited Iraq and destroyed its nuclear and chemoical facilities. Thsi left Saddam hussein in place. President Bush decided not to occupy Baghdad as Saddam Hussein might be removed by his own people and he was concewrned that neither the American people nor the UN caolition would tolerate a costly occupation. In the period following Gulf War, the Israeli government and the Plaestinian Liberation Oraginsiatioin (PLO) made significant progress towards peace and normalised relations (Alam:2008). Using the political leverage that developede fr5om the war, US adminsitartion pressured the PLO and the Yitzhak Swhamir to meet along with other Arab governmenst in Madrid in late 1991 and in Washington in 1992. While these talks stalled, back- channel negotiations between Israeli officials and PLO officials outside Oslo, Norway, led to the Declararyioon of Principles signed in Washington in September 1993 between the PLO and the government of Yitzhak Rabin. The decalarationeaws followed by a serise of agreements for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip and from Plaestinian towns and villages in the West Bank. The PLO was recognised by Israel as the legitimate voice of the Plaestinian people. It si pertinent to mention here that  the reins of local autonomy covering policing werre handed over to PLO laeder Yasir Araft and the PLO in several statges after 1994 (Alam:2010).

 

Middle East Diplomacy after the Gulf War:

The war in the Persian Gulf unleashed powerful-and contradictory-forces in the Middle East. The fundamental premise of American policy was that defeating Saddam Hussein would discredit radicalism, strengthen moderates and enhance regional stability. On the other hand, the war, as long as it lasted, was bound to sow the seeds of future resentments and turbulence. There was a new sentiment in the Middle East that more democratic forms of government were needed; yet a new impetus was also given to Islamic forces in almost every country in the region. During the first gulf war-the eight-year struggle between Iraq and Iran-Iraq was driven by necessity into an alignment with the Arab moderates, America's friends. This move helped make possible Egypt's reentry into the Arab fold; it also assured Syria's isolation, preventing Syria from capitalizing on the American debacle in Lebanon. Situated between radical Syria and Iran, Iraq seemed to have a durable reason for this more constructive orientation (Nye: 2008).

 

The signifiacnt development was the surprising weakness of both Syria and Iran. At various times in the past, it had been Syria's President Hafez al-Assad and Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who had their pictures on weekly newsmagazine covers as the most dangerous men in the world. However, over time Syria had been deflated by the cumulative effect of its economic weakness, its Lebanon quagmire, its humiliation by the Soviets (who rejected Syria's bid for strategic parity with Israel) and even the Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-occupied territories, which punctured Assad's claims to be a major player in the Palestinian game (wwwfmep.org/reports/vol14/no3/04).

 

CONCLUSION:

In the Middle East, Arabs and Jews have been in conflict for over 100 years, since the beginning of modern Zionism when European Jews began immigrating to the region (Bickerton and Klausner, 2004). According to reports, since 1987, when the First Intifada began, approximately 7,200 Palestinians and 1,250 Israelis have been killed. As horrific as these numbers are, these statistics do not reflect the extent of the harm, such as the massive psychological and physical damage, that has been done to the millions of people who live on both sides of the borders.

 

The Plaestinian- Isreali conflict is one of the major issues of regioanl and international concern in contemporary times. Numerous attemps have been to find a viable and lasting solution to the conmflicyt in particular and in the broader context of Israel- plaestine conflict.The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a long-term intergenerational conflict that is often termed an “intractable conflict”--a conflict perceived as impossible to resolve (Coleman, 2006a). Since the end of the Oslo “peace years” (late September 2000), the peace process has more or less come to a standstill. The major issues which continue to divide the two sides include disagreement over the borders, the ongoing Occupation, Jewish-Israeli settlement in the West Bank, the status of Jerusalem, the construction of the Separation Barrier, and the Palestinian refugee problem (Bickerton and Klausner, 2004).

 

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Research J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 8(4): October -December, 2017, 433-441.

DOI:   10.5958/2321-5828.2017.00063.8                          

Received on 14.07.2017

Modified on 22.08.2017

Accepted on 05.09.2017

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