The Israel-Palestine conflict is the ongoing struggle between Zionist (now Israelis) and Arab Palestinians for homeland from the end of the nineteenth century. Although the two groups have different religions (Palestinians are mainly Muslims and Israelis are Jews), religious differences are not the cause of the strife. The conflict began as a struggle over land. From the end of World War I until 1948, the area that both groups claimed was known internationally as Palestine. Following the war of 1948–1949, this land was divided into three parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip. Gaza strip and West Bank constitute Palestinian settlements. Since then the Palestinian settlements have shrunk massively and Israelis have taken control over major chunk of the nation.
Currently the two parties engaged in direct negotiation are the Israeli government, currently led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), currently headed by Mahmoud Abbas. Apart from PLO, a militant organization, Hamas, also enjoy support among large section of Palestinians. The conflict has rendered many Palestinians homeless. The Palestinians demand a nation with continuous borders and demand resettlement at the same place from where they have been rendered homeless. There are also conflicting claims over East Jerusalem. It is believed that three nations namely Islam, Christianity and Judaism emerged from East Jerusalem. Presently, the territory is under control of Israelis.
In 1967, Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and at the end of this Six-Day War, Israel captured Golan Heights from Syria, West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt. Israel surrendered Sinai peninsula after Russian intervention.
Issue of Jerusalem
Jerusalem is the ancient city that is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians. After the end of the first Arab–Israel War in 1948, Jerusalem was partitioned into West and East, under Israeli and Palestinian control, respectively. However, in June 1967, during the Six-Day Arab-Israel War, Israel occupied East Jerusalem from Jordanian forces, and Israel’s Parliament declared the territory had been ‘annexed to Israel’ and Jerusalem had been ‘reunited’.
296 International Organizations and Bilateral Relations Annexation of East Jerusalem marginalized the Palestinians. Palestinians want to make East Jerusalem as their capital under the ‘two-state solution’. To enhance its control, Israel added over 200,000 Jewish settlers to East Jerusalem. In December 2016, the UN reaffirmed that East Jerusalem is the territory of Palestine and is presently under ‘hostile occupation’. Foreign embassies to Israel are in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem.
Why is Jerusalem so important?
Jerusalem has the Western Wall, part of the mount on which the Holy Temple stood, containing the most sacred Jewish site; Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam; and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, and where he rose again. Millions visit these shrines.
About 37% of Jerusalem’s population are Arabs. However, Palestinians live in Jerusalem with residence permits that can be revoked anytime. Palestines live in separate enclaves and the development funds are also used in discriminating manner. There have been reports of Israeli soldiers targeting Palestinian civilians.
Possible Solution to Israel-Palestine issue
The majority of both Israelis and Palestinians prefer the two-state solution. The two-state solution involve the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.
However, disagreements are deep over basic issues. Moreover, within Israeli and Palestinian society, the conflict generates a wide variety of views. This highlights the deep divisions which exist not only between Israelis and Palestinians, but also within each society.
The official negotiations are mediated by an international contingent known as the Quartet which consists of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. The Arab League has also proposed an alternative peace plan. Egypt, a founding member of the Arab League, has played a proactive role.
Israel’s behavior in recent years
Over the years, Israel steadily expanded the settlements in the West Bank. Presently, Arabs are confined to West bank and Gaza regions. Such behaviour has sidelined the two-state solution.
If the two-state solution is dead, what is the alternative?
The other is to have a single democratic federal state with equal rights to Jews, Muslims, Christians and others.