Focus On: Israel/Palestine – The Genesis of the Conflict Part 2

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The period between the Six-Day War from 1967 until today shows two major developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; firstly the increasing usage of violence against each other, and secondly the often half-hearted attempts to create a peaceful co-existence.

The Israeli incorporation of the West Bank and Gaza after the Six-Day War proved to be the start of many problems. The peace agreement Resolution 242 was formed in 1970 and included the return of territories conquered by Israel. However, due to different interpretations of the resolution, Syria refused to accept it. This did not only mean that peace processes were stalemate; it also included that the West Bank remained under Israeli administration. Israel initially wanted Palestinians to self-rule but as time went by Israeli settlements were allowed.

Being either homeless or under Israeli rule, one response of the Palestinians was terrorism. The Palestine Liberation Organisation was created in 1964, and under the leadership of Yasser Arafat it performed terrorist attacks on Israel. It called for the right of return and the self-determination of Palestinians, and Israeli school buses, airlines flying to Israel and Israeli athletics at the Munich Olympics were, for example, attacked.

In 1976 an Air France plane was hijacked and the around hundred Jewish passengers were threatened to be killed. In 1982 an assassination attempt was made on the Israeli Ambassador in Britain, and Israel answered by attacking Lebanon to push PLO north and establish national security. The Sabra and Shatila massacre took place during this war; Christian Lebanese Phalangists attacked and killed between 800 and 2,000 refugees (the toll is discussed) while Israeli Defence Forces guarded the gates to the camp. The United Nations heavily criticised Israel for their participation.

Tired of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the First Intifada took place in 1987. The decreasing Jordan interest in pursuing claims for the West Bank together with high birth rates leading to overcrowding and unemployment sparked the Palestinian discontent and uprising, mass riots and attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians spread. The Israeli army killed one thousand Palestinians, and another thousand Palestinians were killed from within as people were accused of collaborating with Israel. The intifada was ended in 1993, culminating in the Oslo Accords.

The Oslo Accords is probably the most famous peace negotiation attempting to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The picture where Arafat and the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shake hands with Bill Clinton overlooking is a sign of the positive emotions that existed in the 90s. With hindsight the picture also portrays how fragile the negotiations really were. The accords promised Palestinians an own authority for administration of their territories, and Israel was supposed to withdraw from some parts of the West Bank and Gaza. Both Israelis and Palestinians were internally divided on the terms of the agreement, mainly because they did not trust each other. Palestinian organisations against the accords intensified attacks on Israel, causing Israel to fear for her security. Palestinians, on the other hand, did not trust Israel to dismantle settlements in the West Bank. After almost a hundred years of conflict it is not a surprise that distrust would be the biggest disruption of peace.

Both sides tried to honour the agreement until 2000. Hamas, the Islamic and Fundamental party in Gaza, performed regular terrorist attack against Israel. Israel elected the right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister in 1996, much because of terrorism. The final peace agreement between the two parts was supposed to take place during the Camp David 2000 Summit. Ehud Barak, the Israeli Prime Minister, was ready to offer the whole of Gaza, 73 per cent of the West Bank to be increased to 91 per cent in 10-25 years and the establishment of the east of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, but Arafat refused to sign the agreement, saying that it was not enough as the Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their previous settlements was not dealt with.

The unstable situation that followed resulted in the Second Intifada. Around a thousand Israelis and five thousand Palestinians are estimated to have died. Claiming it was necessary to defend civilians against terrorist attacks, Israel started to build the West Bank barrier. This barrier is today a major issue, as it limits movements for Palestinians living in Jerusalem and results in economic, health and educational difficulties. The violence started to level out when Yasser Arafat died in 2004. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed to free 900 Palestinian prisoners in 2006, which by many is marked as the definite end of the Intifada.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent years has continued the violent path. With Hamas taking control in Gaza, terrorism and problems of security are still important questions for Israel. Similarly, the continued Israeli settlement in the West Bank displaces more Palestinians. The issues between the Israel and Palestinians are complex and intertwined, and it seems that none can be dealt with without a solution to the other. Israel needs to be promised security through an ending of terrorism, but this can only be possible if they give back territories to Palestinians. And those territories cannot be given back because terrorism threatens the security of Israel. That is probably the nutshell of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Discussion4 Comments

  1. avatar

    Yesterday I thought your first piece was innocent but this piece confirms that you don’t really grasp the “genesis”, is there going to be a third?

    You refer only to Palestinians as ‘terrorists’ and fail to mention the fact of Occupation, which by legal definition means that the Israeli government is responsible for the populations in Gaza and the West Bank. You did not refer to the 1948 massacres and expulsions as terrorist actions by Israel.

    You write, “as time went on Israeli settlements were not allowed”. Excuse me but these were always illegal according to international law, the Palestinians and regional governments are legally justified not to want them. Settlements=Colonialism.

    You fail to mention all of the good work the PLO did and how it became popular, do you know? Are things so simple?

    You fail to realise that Oslo was a joke, designed in only one party’s interests. And Arafat’s part in Oslo is also to be ridiculed, he actually gave more of Palestine away.

    You fail to mention that Hamas were democratically elected in what US President Carter called the fairest elections that he has ever witnessed. And since agreeing the ceasefire with Israel they have done their best to maintain it as Israeli commanders have acknowledged. As Mark Regev the spokesman for the Israeli government admitted it was Israel that broke the ceasefire in 2009 not Hamas.

    Of course, as was said yesterday, there is much to say on these issues but as i hinted at then this is no excuse for maintaining the negative status quo which plays to certain hands.

    Pete
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    Martin-

    While I feel obliged to defend the writer in some respects, its obvious you have a good perspective on this, and some very detailed knowledge. I’d like to invite you to write an article for the series, or as a response to it afterwards. Would you be interested? If so, send an e-mail to politics@wessexscene.co.uk. I’ll give you a free reign on topic choice.
    If not, keep up the comments.

    Luke SF Goodger
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    Martin, read my article when it is published on Thursday, it will touch on many of the points you have raised

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