Looking at one of the world’s most enduring conflicts, it’s difficult to see the end of the hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis. Their decades-long conflict is filled with tragedy, bloodshed, and the loss of thousands of innocent lives.
There’s too much disdain between the two peoples and too many years of violence. Numerous peace attempts have been made throughout the years but to no avail. Still, hope is not lost.
We cannot make predictions about the future without delving into the past, however. So, let’s take a look at the history of the conflicts before we draw conclusions about the possible outcomes.
A Brief Overview of the Situation
Very shorty, the conflicts between the Palestinians and the Israelis can be described as a war over territory.
Both the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arab Muslims date their claims to the same piece of land back to a couple of thousand years ago. However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that conflicts started arising.
Jews started fleeing persecution in Europe and looked to establish their own national homeland. That land at the time was majorly populated by Arabs and Muslims who were opposed to giving away their territory.
In 1948, Israel becomes a state, and it’s estimated that between 700,000 and 900,000 Palestinians were forced to leave their homes.
The Latest Developments
As Israel and the surrounding Arab nations fought wars over the territory, numerous people were displaced. Large populations of Palestinians moved primarily to two locations – West Bank and Gaza.
There are about 2.8 million Palestinians living in the West Bank. If a Palestinian state is to be created, this territory would be at the heart of it.
The problem is that the territory is also at the heart of the ancient Jewish state. Holy Jewish sites such as the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron are located precisely there, and they’re of great significance to the Israelis.
Over the years, Israel has fought many wars with its neighbors, namely Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. And it’s the 1967 war that’s shaped the political climate of today.
Known as the 6-Day War, it resulted in Israel taking control over the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula.
Since there are almost 3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank under Israeli authority, this causes great problems for both sides.
Nominally, the area is governed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). PLO is the Palestinians’ national representative that conducts peace talks on their behalf.
With about 1.8 million people, Gaza is almost exclusively populated by Palestinians, and almost completely surrounded by Israel. Until 2005, Israel had a strong military presence there but has since withdrawn.
Governed by the Palestinian Islamist political organization Hamas, it’s run independently from the Palestinian authority.
Since 1987 when Hamas was founded, it’s waged war on Israel. Between the ’90s and the 2000s, attacks were mainly conducted through suicide bombings, but now the weapon of choice is rockets.
Hamas and the PLO are at odds with each other, and the tensions between the factions left Gaza in charge of Hamas, and the West Bank in charge of PLO.
This division means that the Palestinians have no unified authority, making any peace talks with Israel much more difficult.
The Problem with the Settlements
Ever since 1967, Jewish communities have been springing up across the West Bank. The causes may differ, with some settlers going there for religious reasons, some for cheaper housing, and others with the aim to claim more territory. The problem is that this is largely seen as a huge impediment to peace.
The settlements are causing Palestinian communities to drift apart. This weakens their connection to the land and blurs the boundaries of any possible future Palestinian state.
Israeli military troops are placed around the settlements as a means to defend them. This prevents Palestinians from traversing through any Israeli-only roads and forces them to go through various security checkpoints.
While most agree that this violates the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Israeli government disputes these claims.
Another obstacle to a peaceful resolution is Jerusalem. Located between the West Bank and Israel, it’s a site of great cultural heritage for both Israelis and Palestinians. Dotted across Jerusalem are numerous holy sites in Judaism and Islam, and both Palestine and Israel are looking at it as their capital.
Israel has been calling Jerusalem its undivided capital for years, although countries around the world haven’t seen it as such. In 2018, however, the United States has controversially recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
Today, Jews make up about two-thirds of Jerusalem’s population. If it’s to come to the division of this city, many problems could arise. Both Palestinians and Israelis need to be given access to their holy sites, but this is easier said than done.
The World and Israel/Palestine
The Middle Eastern countries have dealt with numerous problems due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. While Israel now has peace treaties with both Egypt and Jordan, the relationship is fragile. Egypt is forbidden from having a military presence in the Sinai Peninsula, and Jordan has the largest Palestinian refugee concentration.
Iran and Syria have a very hostile relationship with Israel and consider it to be fundamentally illegitimate.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia are strongly pro-Palestinian. Though the mutual disdain of Iran has made Saudi Arabia and Israel develop a working relationship.
Most of the non-Muslim countries recognize Israel and have diplomatic relationships with it. However, most countries are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and criticize Israel’s treatment of them.
What Options Do We Have for a Peaceful Resolution?
Generally speaking, there are 2 possible outcomes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Either the one-state solution will be accepted, or the two-state solution.
The one-state solution means that Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza would be united into a single country. If the solution is democratic, Arab Muslims would greatly outnumber the Jews, and Israel would no longer be a Jewish state.
Otherwise, Israel would annex the West Bank, deny Palestinians the right to vote, or force them out. This is seen as an unacceptable solution and an unacceptable infringement of human rights.
The two-state solution means that Israel and Palestine would be separated into 2 distinct, independent states. The division of Jerusalem is seen as a major obstacle to this solution, however, it seems to be the only viable one.
Conflicts between the Israelis and Palestinians continue. Even if a peaceful resolution is agreed upon, the relationship between the two peoples is bound to be tense and fragile. We will see either the two-state solution, a non-democratic Jewish-governed state, or the fall of the Jewish state.