Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Introduction and Conclusion
Below is a recap of all 31 topics and events we cover in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict series. Each individual topic is linked. You can go forwards and backwards within the series for, like the recap below, it is structured in rough chronological order. There are a few exceptions.
The modern Israeli-Palestinian conflict starts with the Dreyfus Affair which left many Jews concerned about their security and future as France was one of the few places where Jews had equal rights. This led to the creation of the World Zionist Conference and the idea of Zionism or the establishment of a Jewish home state in Palestine. The outbreak of World War I saw the downfall of the Ottoman Empire which controlled Palestine, and the control of it go to the British who made promises to both Arabs and Jews about the creation of a home state for each.
Post World War I was a time of growing anti-semitism across the world and chaos in British controlled Palestine which was seeing a large influx of Jews and Arabs resulting in political conflict leading to an Arab uprising against the British in Palestine, and religious conflict with an alliance formed between the Grand Mufti (arbiter of Islamic law) and the Nazis. The British White Paper of 1939 restricted Jewish immigration into Palestine largely as a result of the rising turmoil there. Jewish immigration, legal or not, would nonetheless continue into Palestine with the idea of a Jewish homeland becoming even more pertinent amidst the Holocaust during World War II where Germany was seen as one of the last safe havens for Jews in Europe.
After World War II and the worldwide revelation of the Holocaust, the newly created UN would end British control of Palestine by partitioning an independent Jewish and Arab state there with Jerusalem as an independent city. Jews generally accepted the plan while Arabs generally rejected the plan leading to a civil war in Palestine that would be the first phase of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 as Israel would declare its independence in May 14, 1948 and immediately be recognized by the United States highlighting how American Jews became the dominant force in global Jewish politics. While an All Palestine Government had been established by the Arab League in March 1945 declaring control over all of British Palestine, it effectively controlled only the Gaza Strip.
As a result of the Arab-Israeli War, which took place in formerly British controlled Palestine, the Sinai Peninsula, and Southern Lebanon, Israel retained its own area partitioned for the Jewish state by the UN, plus 60% of the territory mandated for the Arab state. The King of Jordan was determined to be the King of “Arab Palestine” by the Arab League, and its union with Jordan, while not formally recognized, was interpreted as Jordanian sovereignty over the territory. The refugees from this turbulent period and what to do are the foundation of the Palestinian Right of Return debate.
The All Palestine Government would see its demise after the Suez Crisis in 1956 where Egypt tried to nationalize the Suez canal to rid the region of the steadfast Western influence supporting and intervening in conflicts on behalf of Israel who the Arab world felt were responsible for the Palestinian refugee crisis. This lack of representation would spur the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) at the Arab League Summit in 1964 where:
- Israel’s right to exist was not recognized
- The creation of a Palestinian state was to be on land currently occupied by Israel
- Palestinian sovereignty would not be recognized in Jordanian or Egyptian controlled territory (equaling 53% of land partitioned by UN
Hostilities would continue throughout the 50s and 60s resulting in the Six Day War which saw Israel attack Eqypt in 1967 after which resulted in Israeli territory size tripling and resulted in the “Three Nos Policy” concerning Israel:
- No peace with Israel
- No recognition of Israel
- No negotiations with Israel
The disastrous Six Days War led the Palestinian people to seek their own representation and leadership culminating in the rise of Yasser Arafat after he and PLO forces effectively stalemated Israeli forces at the Battle of Karameh in 1968 with the help of the Jordanian army. Arafat advocated for guerilla warfare and sought the PLO to be the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
While Egypt sought to wear Israel down in a War of Attrition, Jordan erupted in Civil War on Black September in 1970 for 2/3 of the people populated in Jordanian territory were Palestinian making Jordanians a ruling minority over a majority Palestinian people. As a result of the war, the PLO and thousands of Palestinians were expelled from Jordan as King Hussein renounced his claims to the West Bank after dissolving Parliament.
The Black September terrorist wing created by the Fatah Party from the Jordanian Civil War would be the perpetrators behind the 1972 Munich Massacre where 11 Israelis would be killed. Black September’s alliance with German Neo-Nazis resulted in an almost two decade assassination campaign by the Israeli government and the Mossad, their intelligence agency, of those they deemed to be behind the massacre.
The Yom Kippur War would begin three months later. Though Israel continued the pattern since its inception of military success, early Arab success in the war restored their lost confidence, and Israel acknowledged that military dominance over Arab armies would not always be possible.
The Ten Point Program, adapted the next year in 1974, was the PLO attempt at a peaceful resolution with Israel. This caused the formation of the Rejectionist Front in Palestine, a coalition of radical, hardline splinter groups from the PLO opposed to the Ten Point Program, even though the program still called for an elimination of Israel. As a result of the Arab League summit that same year, the PLO was recognized as the sole representative of the Palestinian people weakening the Israeli (and American) position as they preferred to deal with the King of Jordan.
The Lebanese Civil War, where allies and enemy were in a constant state of flux, served as the backdrop for the conflict from 1975-1990 where Syria occupied Lebanon from 1976-2005, and Israel would have a brief war with Lebanon in 1982.
The Camp David Accords saw Egypt and Israel make peace, but their peace attempt for Palestinians was rejected internationally and addressed in the Venice Declaration where Europe stated that there should be a Palestinian state and any peace talks about Palestinians were only legitimate if they were with the PLO. With the recognition of the need for a Palestinian state by the world, and the PLO recognized as that would be state’s representation, Yasser Arafat the diplomat became more dangerous to the Israeli right than Yasser Arafat the terrorist. The Israeli paradigm of “we don’t have a partner in peace” had been smashed.
Israel would chase the PLO around the Middle East throughout the nineteen eighties causing major disruption within the PLO, and a distancing between the growing number of refugees and the entity that was supposed to speak for them and their state. The Israeli administration of Palestinians at refugee camps exploded internationally in the First Intifada lasting from 1987-1991. Videos and pictures of the Israeli “Iron Fist” policy against Palestinians, many children, resulted in:
- Near universal condemnation of Israel and softened view of Palestinians
- Exposed the unsustainability of long term Israeli rule over Palestinian territories
- Palestinians and Palestine viewed as a separate people and issue distinct from those of neighboring Arab states.
Palestine would declare independence in 1988. The first Gulf War of 1991 would see 400,000 Palestinians displaced from Kuwait. The Oslo Accords in 1992 would create the Palestinian Authority giving Palestinians right to self government in Gaza, and Jericho in the West Bank.
The Second Intifada would begin in 2000 due to the Israeli PM visiting the Temple of the Mount. Arafat would die in 2004, and new PLO head Mohammed Abbas and Israeli PM would eventually lead to an end to the Intifada and Israeli disengagement from the West Bank and Gaza in 2005.
In the ensuing Palestinian elections in 2006, Hamas, later declared a terrorist organization, defeated the Abbas Fatah government and refused to recognize Israel, renounce violence, or accept past agreements. In December 2006, Hamas declared the Palestinian Authority would never declare Israel’s right to exist.
The dischord between Fatah and Hamas, after forming a unity government for a brief period of time, would be the basis for the Battle of Gaza. As a result of the war, the Palestinian territories were split with Gaza controlled by Hamas and the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The latter has widespread international support and has asserted that it speaks for the Palestinian people, but can not really as Hamas has not recognized its proclamation in Gaza. Hamas controlled Gaza is isolated internationally diplomatically and economically.
Palestine submitted membership to the UN as a state in 2011. In 2012, Hamas planned to declare the independence of the Gaza Strip, and after unanimous recommendation for full member status was stalled, Palestine was upgraded to nonmember observer state status. Along with the UN declaring that it would be using “State of Palestine” on all documents, it is recognized that Palestine is more or less a sovereign state. As of 2013, approzimately 68 percent of UN member states recognize the state of Palestine. Almost all UN member states recognize the PLO as the “representative of the Palestinian people”
These are issues I feel are at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
The border of Jerusalem is a particularly delicate issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with each side asserting claims over the city. The three largest Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—include Jerusalem as an important setting for their religious and historical narratives. Jerusalem is the holiest site in the world for Judaism.
The Israeli government, including the Knesset and Supreme Court, is centered in the “new city” of West Jerusalem and has been since Israel’s founding in 1948. After Israel captured the Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, it assumed complete administrative control of East Jerusalem. In 1980, Israel issued a new law stating, “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”
Only the US has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The majority of UN member states and most international organizations do not recognize Israel’s ownership of East Jerusalem which occurred after the 1967 Six-Day War, nor its 1980 Jerusalem Law proclamation. The International Court of Justice in its 2004 Advisory opinion on the “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” described East Jerusalem as “occupied Palestinian territory.”
Role of Holy Sites in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
When Jerusalem was under Jordanian control, no Jews were allowed to visit the Western Wall or other Jewish holy places, and the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated. Since 1975, Israel has banned Muslims from worshiping at Joseph’s Tomb, a shrine considered sacred by both Jews and Muslims.
Perhaps the largest issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian refugees are people who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict and the 1967 Six-Day War. Most of these people were born outside of Israel, but are descendants of original Palestinian refugees.
There is evidence that Palestinian refugees were chased out or expelled by various Jewish paramilitary organizations that destroyed Arab villages and forced removal of civilians. Also, citizenship to any Jew from anywhere in the world could be viewed as discrimination against non-Jews, especially Palestinians that cannot apply for such citizenship or return to the territory which they were expelled from or fled during the course of the 1948 war.
According to the UN Resolution 194, adopted in 1948:
the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours 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”; however, it does not specify that the “just settlement” must or should be in the form of a literal Palestinian right of return.
Israel claims during the 1948 War, the Arab Higher Committee and the Arab states encouraged Palestinians to flee in order to make it easier to rout the Jewish state or that they did so to escape the fights by fear. The Israeli government asserts that the Arab refugee problem is largely caused by the refusal of all Arab governments except Jordan to grant citizenship to Palestinian Arabs who reside within those countries’ borders. Since none of the 900,000 Jewish refugees who fled anti-Semitic violence in the Arab world was ever compensated or repatriated by their former countries of residence—to no objection on the part of Arab leaders—a precedent has been set whereby it is the responsibility of the nation which accepts the refugees to assimilate them. Although Israel accepts the right of the Palestinian Diaspora to return into a new Palestinian state, Israel insists that their return into the current state of Israel would be a great danger for the stability of the Jewish state; an influx of Palestinian refugees would lead to the destruction of the state of Israel.
Finally, Israel argues the Palestinians were themselves the aggressors in the 1948-49 war who attempted to “cleanse” a neighboring ethnic community. Had the United Nations resolution of November 29, 1947 recommending partition in Palestine not been subverted by force by the Arab world, there would have been no refugee problem in the first place. Again, reaching some sort of compromise here is the key to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israeli Security Concerns
The Israeli government initiated the construction of a security barrier following scores of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks in July 2003. Israel’s coalition government approved the security barrier in the northern part of the green-line between Israel and the West Bank. Since the erection of the fence, terrorist acts have declined by more than 90%.
Since mid-June 2007, Israel’s primary means of dealing with security concerns in the West Bank has been to cooperate with and permit United States-sponsored training, equipping, and funding of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, which with Israeli help have largely succeeded in quelling West Bank supporters of Hamas. This part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is toughest to resolve due to Hamas’ stance and control over Gaza though it could be argued that Israel intelligence and military strength is so superior, that it’s not a real concern.
Palestine: Part 1 – The Dreyfus Affair