The Conflict between Israel and Palestine and Ways to Solve It
Table of Contents
The conflict between Palestine and Israel has been considered the most “intractable conflict” (Falk, 2005) in the world due to its challenging history and the lack of a solution which would satisfy all parties involved in it. The conflict started in the middle of the previous century with disputes about the territories and the issues regarding the integrity of Israel and Palestine. Although the conflict directly affects people living in Palestine and Israel, it reflects a much more significant problem which is the conflict between the Arab world and Israel supported by the United States. Many international players are involved in the on-going conflict and have been involved in peace negotiations. However, despite the success in terms of the relations between Israel and other Arab countries, Israel and Palestine have failed to achieve a peaceful agreement between each other which would solve the issues between the states. As a result, the area of the conflict as well as the entire state of Israel and Palestinian territories remain unstable and need a peaceful solution which would be satisfactory for the parties affected by the crisis. The current paper will discuss the history of the conflict, review the previous attempts to restore peace that have been made before, and analyze their consequences. It will also focus on the reasons of why the previous attempts did not result in the desired outcomes, and the possible ways to solve the on-going conflict.
History of the Conflict
After the independent state of Israel had been established in 1948, the citizens of Israel and Arabs had major collisions in the wake of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the tensions could be traced before as a result of the growth of nationalism among Israelis and Arabs (Sela, 2002). Palestinian nationalism has been one of the main reasons to ignite the conflict after Israel has acquired its independence. The tensions in the area in the first half of the twentieth century resulted in further conflicts and hostile attitudes between the Palestinians and Israelis later on. For instance, there were riots against the Jews initiated by the leaders of Arab community. The riots led to many deaths and reinforced further negativity between the Jews and Arabs (Sela, 2002). The Second World War has played an important role in the history of the conflict. On the one hand, it led to the establishment of more moderate and less radical relations between the Jews and Arabs while the British established Jewish-Arab Palestine Regiment to ease the situation between the different nationalities (Baum, 2005). On the other hand, Nazism was greatly supported by the radical Arabs who favored the violence against the Jews and encouraged its spread across the Middle East.
When UN General Assembly proposed dividing and integrating Palestinian territories into different states, the territory has been torn apart due to the armed conflict between the Arab and Israeli soldiers. The conflict has been largely supported by the Arab Spring who assisted the Palestinian army while insurgency fueled the use of force on behalf of Israel. After Israel proclaimed independence, the Arab League found it to be against their interests since it interfered with their plans of establishing an independent state for the Palestinian Arabs. Therefore, the league supported the Palestinians and intruded the territories. It resulted in the war between the representatives of Arab countries protecting the interests of Palestinian and the Arab League leadership, and Israel. The latter was able to control the most of the territory of conflict and signed a ceasefire with the Arab leaders (Sela, 2002). However, the neighboring Arab countries occupied and annexed some of the Palestinian territories and proclaiming the local governments as their rulers.
Over the next decade, the militia in Palestine received large support from the governments of Jordan and Egypt. Israel occupied Gaza during the Suez crisis when it controlled the territory; afterwards, the Israeli authorities have left the territories, and the Palestinian government reestablished its authority. Due to the change of political direction in Egypt, Gaza was later viewed as a part of the general Arab territories without any perspectives of acquiring independence. However, later on, this view has been replaced by yet another one proposed by Yasser Arafat who spoke of further freedoms for the Palestinian territories. His suggestions were met positively by the representatives of the Arab countries and were chosen as the major direction for the Arab League external politics in terms of the territorial conflict and Israel.
In the next decade, Israel extended its influence over Palestinian territories. It was the result of the Six Day War that enabled the country to control the territories in the area of the West Bank as well as Gaza. Although Arab countries tried to regain control over the lost territories, there were internal conflicts that prevented them from doing so. For instance, there was a civil war in Palestine and Jordan which affected the external situation and the development of the conflict. Many Palestinians relocated to Lebanon where they continued fighting against Israel and carrying out attacks on the country. At the same time, Israel decided to intervene with the internal affairs in Lebanon and its war in 1982 (Sela, 2002). As a result, Israel was able to strongly change the situation in Lebanon and diminish the forces of the Palestinian fighters. The Israeli government changed the political direction and the level of involvement of Lebanon in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Besides, it was able to destroy the majority of the Palestinian fighters, and the remaining ones were no longer able to fight and launch attacks from Lebanon.
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The situation has changed greatly in the eighties. At that time, the relations between the Arab countries and Israel have improved, while the states of Egypt and Israel have signed a peace treaty. It was one of the major reasons that led to the international peace agreements which were aimed at regulating the conflict later on and were signed during the following decade. However, the seemingly warmer relations between the states did not solve the conflict; quite the opposite, they intensified the inner issues which existed between the Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians started organizing local uprisings to protest against the occupation by Israel and the lack of international recognition and support.
When the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, the Palestinians started to protest even more since the peace agreement did not correspond to the goals and wishes of the Palestinian population. The initial protests and dissatisfaction led to further tensions while militarized groups in Palestine chose a strategy of targeting Israelis. In a way, it was a response to the fact that the Palestinians’ demands were ignored as well as a tool to influence the Israeli authorities. Israelis also had mixed feelings regarding the peace negotiations as the society was becoming more radicalized, and the Prime Minister at that time was killed by a fanatical individual who was against the establishment of peace (Baum, 2005).
The conflict intensified again in the following decade with more deaths on both sides. There were major clashes between the militia of Israel and Palestine. In the end, the Israeli authorities decided to remove their armed forces from the occupied territories in Gaza since the occupation has not been successful and did not lead to the stabilization of the situation.
The political developments in Palestine ten years ago once again strengthened the conflict. Hamas won the elections to the Palestinian government which posed a threat to Israel. It threatened the Palestinians with the economic sanctions due to the elections results and required Hamas to recognize the agreements which existed between the two parties as well as not to use violence against the state. Hamas decided to attack the territories of Israel and also gained absolute control across the Gaza territories conquering its internal rivals (Erlanger, 2006). As a result, Israelis blocked the area and used the support of Egypt to impact the territory.
It is important to understand that although the Palestinians lost their major allies in the Arab league and no longer received the military assistance that was provided to them during previous decades, there were other external players interested in the conflict. Iran, which was less active in the previous years, supported Hamas in at the beginning of the new millennium. With the help from this country, the organization was able to launch successful attacks on Israel, and the latter in turn initiated the Gaza War which led to an unstable ceasefire between the two parties and involved many other international observers to monitor the development of the relations between the conflicting sides (Bohn, 2012).
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The Current Situation
The conflict between Israel and Palestine is an extremely difficult international situation since it does not have a clear definition which would be accepted by all the parties involved. Even now, the different sides present the conflict from different perspectives. Since Israel no longer keeps its militia in Gaza, it maintains that the state has ended the occupation of the territory. Palestinian government, on the other hand, has opposite views. It states that although there is no army based on the territory, Israel still controls large parts of the territorial life such as the borders or the weaponry therefore continuing its occupation. An important problem regarding the opposite views is the fact that the UN has not made a clear statement regarding the current situation in the region. Therefore, although different sides maintain different views on the issue, there is no clear international position which could be used as an impartial and satisfactory solution of the conflict (Grinberg, 2009).
The Palestinian government continues its attempts to present Palestine as an independent state on the international arena. Although it was not recognized as a sovereign state by the United Nations, the Palestinian territories have been recently referred to as the State of Palestine by the UN thus showing the progress in terms of the Palestinian independence movement.
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Although Israel improved the relations with Jordan and Egypt, it still did not reach the agreement with Palestine which would satisfy both parties and guarantee peace in the region. The biggest issues are related to the freedom of Palestine, borders and security, the city of Jerusalem, and the movement of Palestinian resides. The two-state solution has been proposed as the most efficient option to end violence and stabilize the situation in the region (Morris, 2009). The two societies have mixed feelings towards one another, and towards the conflict and its solution as a result of the constant aggression and many losses on both sides.
Peace Developments, Different Perspectives, and Reasons for Failure
Oslo Accords have been a major agreement signed in 1993 and aimed to stabilize the conflict to reach its peaceful resolution (Sela, 2002). The big step of the agreement was the communication of the leaders of the two main parties involved in the conflict. According to the agreement, the Israeli officials were supposed to minimize and then completely stop their control over Palestinian territories. The process had to take place in steps with Israel gradually passing control to the Palestinian leaders and giving them more authority. Palestinian side, on the other hand, promised peace for more power and control over the territories.
However, the agreement did not succeed as the Israeli Prime Minister was killed, and there emerged internal tensions on the Palestinian side. The agreement failed because it did not fully satisfy either side, and while it was a big step towards further negotiations of the two parties and the international involvement for peace, the parties were not able to come up with a plan which would satisfy the both of them or respond to the urges of the societies.
The next step has been a Camp David Summit which took place in 2000 and involved the American side as a mediator between the two parties. The summit proposed creating a peaceful state of Palestine which would be divided into different parts, as well as solutions for the controversial territories and Israeli settlements on Palestinian territories (Malley & Agha, 2001).
However, the suggestions were not supported by the Palestinian side that rejected it due to the failure to respond to some major issues. The main issue included the fact that the proposal did not cover Palestine’s further security and relations with Israel. However, although Palestinian side rejected this proposal, it made no alternative suggestions instead.
The summit had been a major peace event due to the American involvement and the interest that the US government demonstrated towards finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. However, the international involvement did not solve the problem. After the summit, an American committee started working on the strategies which could be proposed and implemented to reach a peaceful agreement that would satisfy both Palestine and Israel.
The failure, however, did not end the peace negotiations being followed by further meeting of Palestinian and Israeli representatives to discuss the issue. Bill Clinton, the President of the United States at that time, proposed a plan based on the findings of the American experts, to deal with the conflict. The suggestions made by Clinton focused on creating a sovereign state of Palestine as well as dividing Jerusalem based on the residential statistics. The plan also proposed the solution for the holy sites, the refugees, and the security of the region. An important point was made regarding the fact that the Israelis had to admit the sufferings of the Palestinians, and the plan also focused on the international players which had to monitor peace and overall situation on the borders of the area.
The proposed plan was supported by the authorities of Israel and Palestine. It led to Taba Peace Summit which took place in January of 2001. During the summit, both parties agreed that they were very close to reaching peace agreement. However, the internal situation in Israel intervened and prevented actual signing of the agreement between the two sides. In Israel, there were parliamentary elections which resulted in the selection of a new Prime Minister who decided not to follow the peace negotiations and brought to an end the existing possibility of signing a peace agreement (Morris & Barak, 2002). Therefore, the negotiations failed again.
The next plan was called the Road Map for Peace. It was proposed by the international players who made efforts to solve the conflict such as the European Union, the United Nations, the US, and Russia. The plan’s major aim was to restart the high-level negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities so they could return to the peace discussions and work on the solutions for many controversial issues related to the conflict. However, the plan failed at the initial stage since it did not bring the desired feedback from Israel and Palestine and failed to solve any of the problems it described (Levinson, 2015).
The major proposal discussed internationally was the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which was debated about in the following years (“Arab leaders relaunch peace plan,” 2007). The prince of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah, proposed the initiative which involved the other Arab countries and encouraged not only to end the conflict between Palestine and Israel, but also to eliminate the tensions which existed between the Arab world and the state of Israel. For instance, the initiative defined the borders which had to exist between the state of Israel and Palestine, and which would be positively accepted by both sides. It also dealt with the stabilization of the conflict and the international involvement to monitor the process. The initiative received a lot of positive feedback from the Israeli side as well as Palestinian authorities; however, it also met a lot of criticism because of the debatable issues such as the refugee problem and so on. Among the achievements of the initiative, it is important to note that the Israeli authorities did hold the meetings with the representatives of the Arab League.
It can be seen that although there were many peace negotiations and developments previously, they did not lead to the desired results and the solution to the problem was not found. Quite the opposite, they just showed the controversial nature of the conflict as well as the difficulties of finding a mutually acceptable solution. It is also important to understand that the conflict involved many international players, who changed its nature. On the one hand, there is the Arab League which used to have very challenging relations with Israel and supported Palestine with military, finances, and other instruments. The Arab League perceived the conflict as an issue of the entire Arab world along with the fight of Arabs for the independence and sovereignty. Therefore, the conflict has been viewed as a way to defend the Arab interests, and Israel was represented as the main enemy of the Arab world. The relations between Israel and other Arab states have improved over the years to the point that all parties were discussing and negotiating peace agreements regarding the conflict; however, there are still issues of religion, nationalism, and historic circumstances which challenge the implementation of the peaceful proposals.
The conflict has also been a major interest of the United States which initiated the peace negotiations and expressed more support to Israel. However, the country also worked on the peace solutions which could be satisfactory for both Israel and Palestine. The US has been involved in solving and monitoring the conflict due to its connections to Israel as well as its international position. The other Western countries as well as the UN have also been involved in the situation mostly to monitor it, but also to come up with the suggestions regarding the establishment of peace in the region. However, they also failed and did not reach the desired goals.