Focus On: Israel/Palestine- The Current Major Issues

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It is obvious that peace in the Middle East will not be achieved easily. Negotiations always seem to stumble and break down after promising starts. The issues which make negotiations so complicated are multi-faceted, and long established. There is no one factor you could point to which make things so difficult.

However, there are a number of ongoing issues which make peace less likely, both in this generation, and the next, as the mutual hate and mistrust becomes more firmly entrenched. This is a brief summary of some of those key issues.

The Gaza Strip-

The Gaza Strip has been blockaded by Israel since Hamas came to power in 2007. This has caused extraordinary suffering for the people living in Gaza- most pertinently through a lack of food and medical supplies.

Gaza was also severely damaged by Israeli bombardment in 2009. Much of it remains in ruins, many families living in tents beside the rubble of their homes. The blockade has only allowed a limited amount of building material into the region, despite NGO estimates that thousands are required to rebuild the infrastructure.

Aid flotillas attempting to break the blockade were attacked in international waters by the IDF last year, in breach of international law. Despite international protests, the blockade remained in place, although there are predictions that it may soon end, with the new Egyptian government announcing they will open their border with Gaza.

The Wall-

The Israeli West Bank Barrier, dubbed the apartheid wall by opponents, is a construction of fences, trenches and vehicle barriers constructed through the West Bank and partly along the borders established in 1949. Israel claims it needs the wall as security barrier against terrorism and argues that a decrease since 2002 is testament to its success.

However the construction of the wall causes serious problems for Palestinian civilians in the West Bank. Parts of the wall are built on captured Palestinian territory, meaning it annexes land into Israel. The wall also cuts communities off from each other, and leaves some without access to health care. In 2004 the International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion stating that the construction of the wall was contrary to international law.

Return of refugees-

Probably one of the most difficult issues, the problem of Palestinian refugees began in 1948 when nearly 700, 000 people (although estimates vary) fled or were forced from their homes by settlers in Palestine. Israel, viewing them as hostile, passed a law preventing their return and took over the land they had left. Today the number of refugees is estimated at close to four million, many of whom live in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Conditions in the camps have been described as poverty stricken and overcrowded.

The fate of these refugees is a huge, growing problem, with no resolution in sight. While many Palestinian groups demand their return, where they would go is not an easy question to answer. Israel and Palestine are already two of the most overcrowded countries on the plant. The question of refugees was the sticking point at the Camp David peace talks in 2000, and continues to be a hugely divisive issue, but there is unlikely to be an effective end to the conflict if their rights are not taken into account.

Human Rights Violations-

Reports of abuses of the human rights of civilians are an ongoing source of tension and bitterness in the region. One of the most controversial of these is the destruction of Palestinian homes by the Israeli Defence Force. This involves using armoured bulldozers, or sometimes explosives for larger buildings to destroy the homes of Palestinians. The IDF claims that it carries out the policy as a deterrent to potential terrorists or an active counter terror measure, destroying bomb laboratories or the headquarters of terror cells.

However, human rights groups have called it a collective punishment for Palestinians, or sometimes a means to clear land for the building of settlements. A report published by Amnesty International in 2005 accused the IDF of war crimes, including unlawful killing, torture and destruction of property. They accused the IDF of recklessness in their use of force against militants that endangers the lives of civilians.

Settlements-

The construction of settlements, Israeli communities built on the land captured during the 1967 Six Day War, has been identified as one of the issues that must be resolved before peace talks can begin. These settlements currently exist in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Obama initially demanded the Israel should end settlement construction, but the USA have since backed down on this demand. The construction of settlements was a key sticking point in peace negotiations last year, when Israel announced the construction of 238 new homes in East Jerusalem.

Rocket Fire-

Since 2001 civilians in Southern Israel have been subject to rockets fired by groups based in Gaza. According to statistics from 2009, rocket fire has killed 13 civilians in Israel. Last month, a 16 year old boy died from his injuries after a rocket hit a school bus. Despite a growth in attacks since 2006, and Hamas’ rise to power in Gaza, the IDF notes that 2010 saw the lowest number of attacks since 2002.

Preventing rocket attacks was the justification for Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, in which over 900 Gazan civilians, including 300 children, were killed by Israeli forces.

Attacks on Israel-

Israeli civilians have been the victims of numerous attacks this decade, including suicide bombings, shootings and in 2008, a bulldozer attack on a busy high street. Between 2000 and 2007, there were 140 suicide bombings in Israel causing 542 deaths, according to statistics on the website of the Israeli government. The worst year was 2002 with 55 attacks, but the number decreased dramatically after this, with only one in 2007.

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Discussion4 Comments

  1. avatar

    Just wanted to complement some things.

    The Wall – Even the Israeli High Court has ruled against the illegal wall (some sections of it). Zionism permeates at all levels so it is obvious why they cannot see the whole thing as a sham.

    Right of Return – It is worth remembering that Zionists (who have no tangible link to the place) are welcomed and subsidised into Israel while Palestinians with proof of ownership are not allowed to return to their homes.

    Human Rights Violations – Imprisoning children as standard; assassinations; phosphorous; targeting civilian areas, the list is long.

    Settlements – Evictions perhaps should be included here, as it highlights a legal system that backs Zionism. Literally kicking Palestinians out of their homes as they watch Zionists move in.

    Rocket fire – Perhaps it should be cleared up who was firing the rockets from within Gaza, the accuracy and capability of these rockets (as they might have been aiming at military targets), and what often sparks rocket attacks from within Gaza (ie incursions by Israel).

    Israeli casualties should be remembered and highlighted in their own right. Due to the apartheid and occupation it seems difficult to adequately analyse attacks; not all come from recognised authorities or even accepted groups (to anyone). For example, when a whole family is brutally murdered in an illegal settlement on the West Bank there is no doubt of sympathy with the victims and a desire to apprehend the criminal(s), but when the IDF intimidate and harass the whole population what hope is there of justice for anyone?

    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/idf-continues-mass-west-bank-arrests-in-wake-of-itamar-massacre-1.349224

  2. avatar

    There where more than 542 Israeli deaths in the 2nd intifada.

    http://old.btselem.org/statistics/english/Casualties.asp?sD=29&sM=09&sY=2000&eD=26&eM=12&eY=2008&filterby=event&oferet_stat=before

    Also, this figure of 900 civilians killed during Cast lead, well I can see you got it from an official source but you should bare in mind that this is a Hamas source, known to lie. The IDF source is something like 350, with close to 1000 combatants killed. Yes I know there is a conflict of interests, the IDF would want it to look lower but if you look back to statistics for second Lebanon war, both Israel and Lebanon came to a similar conclusion but Hezbollah said almost all casualties where civilian. Israel has a good track record of reporting accurate figures and so whilst the number may lie above 350 its unlikely to be anywhere near 900. In this situation you really ought to provide readers with both sources because you are saying that the figure is 900 where as in reality it is disputed.

    I do however appreciate the neutral tone used in this article rather than trying to cause bias against one side through choice of language as I witnessed in another Wessex article today.

  3. avatar

    Israel should start a world war!they would be surprised just how many people ha te the muslim states

    alok
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    hey alex it is very easy to say start aworld war if any one who hate any relision he can not be a human being,you are quite a narrow mind peole,due to peole like you hole huanity have to suffer blood sahed can never be a solution…..

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