The Israel-Palestinian conflict is one of the most historically and culturally rich as well as distorted, draining conflicts in modern history. The timeline can be briefly summarized into a 54-year-old tussle between the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Numerous attempts at resolving the dispute between the two countries have been made since time memorial but have not been able to translate into a successful negotiation rendering the Israeli-Palestinian peace process completely redundant.
While the armed conflict has a history of 50 years, the issue between the two regions ranges over a century. The late 19th and 20th centuries saw the uprise of many major nationalist movements among the Jews as well as the Arabs, both having the same intent of attaining and establishing sovereignty for their people in the Middle East. The movements were in consequence of the declaration made by the British post-defeat of the last ruler of the Ottoman Empire at the hands of Britain during the first World war. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was a public statement wherein the British government announced support for the establishment of a ‘national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration stirred great political as well communal tension between the two contrastingly opposite ethnicities as the land was inhabited by a Jewish minority and Arab Majority. However, as per the common belief and historical testaments, the land was the ancestral home of the Jews but since the Ottoman Empire ruled a large portion of the Middle East from 1516 to 1917, the Arabs resisted the contentions posed by the Jews.
As a consequence of the uprising movements concerning Palestine Nationalism post-Franco-Syrian War in the 1920s, the number of Jews arriving in Palestine grew. While the gross intent appeared to establish the supposed ‘national home’, the initial influx of Jews arriving at Palestine was a result of persecution in Europe and seeking a homeland after the Holocaust of World War Two. The tensions however were already on the rise post-1920 when hardline Palestinian Arab nationalists came out in bigger numbers under the emerging leadership of Haj Amin al-Husseini who marked the beginning of Palestinian Arab nationalist struggle to instate their control and supremacy on the disputed territory. Husseini strongly invalidated the reasonings of Jews put forth concerning their accession and called the Jewish National Movement completely uncalled for. Such bold contentions and submissions made by the Arabic leader led to huge large-scale riots in 1920 in Jerusalem and 1921 in Jaffa. The result of the violent mutiny led to the establishment of the Jewish paramilitary force in Haganah. This irked the Arabs more which was later translated into more serious Anti-Jewish riots facilitated by the Arab leadership. The attack led to massive Jewish casualties in Hebron and Safed.
The decade-long violence from 1920 was escalated manifold in 1930 when the Arab national struggle in Palestine drew more Arab nationalist militants from across the Middle East. One of the prominent militants was Sheikh Izaddin al-Qassam from Syria who established the Black Hand militant group and prepared for the infamous 1936 Arab revolt. However, al-Qassam did not remain alive to let his plan see the light of day as he was killed by the hands of the British in late 1935. As a result, the tensions erupted in 1936 in the form of a major strike and general boycott which later grew into humongous violent chaos which lasted between 1936-1939. This Arab revolt in Palestine against the British and Jews was one of the first episodes of ‘organized’ violence. However, the mutiny resulted in relatively more casualties for the Arab groups which was later followed by the forced expulsion of much of the Arab leadership by the British. In addition, an attempt towards resolving the tension was made by establishing the Peel Commission intending to facilitate the partition of Palestine which was outrightly rejected by the Palestinian Arabs and selective Jewish groups.
The violence post the 1930s soon took a mellow pace with the onset of World War II. The eruption of the World War allowed a shift towards a more moderate stance among Palestinian Arabs which was never the case in the initial stages of uprising rebellion, as major casualties tallying up to 5,000 in number were mostly from the Arab side. A new leadership by the name of the Nashashibi clan surfaced during the world war helped a great deed in toning down the bloodshed and violence. The exiled al-Husseini faction on the other hand joined hands with Nazi Germany and participated in the establishment of a pro-Nazi propaganda machine throughout the Arab world. This vicariously backfired as the defeat of Arab nationalists in Iraq led to the relocation of al-Husseini to Nazi-occupied Europe leaving them absolved from the territory of Palestine.
After the curtains of World War 2, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Resolution 181(II) on 29th November 1947 which recommended the adoption and implementation of a plan to partition Palestine into an Arab state, a Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem. On the immediate second day of the resolution, Palestine was swept by violence. For the next four months, continuous attacks from the Arabic clan were organized while the Yishuv (a small body of Jews) stayed largely on the defensive with minimal episodes of retaliation. However, by 1948, Yishuv witnessed major support and a huge uprise in manpower as numerous Jewish veterans of World War II and other foreign volunteers joined hands along with other major underground militias. By June 1948, it was visible that the Arabic forces are coming down to a collapse which in turn created a large-scale refugee problem for Palestinian Arabs. The collapse stirred a solidarity wave in the Middle East and North Africa resulting in sporadic violence against Jewish communities in these areas, creating an opposite refugee wave. This cat-and-mouse chase never got to the final curtain and action and retaliation are now a daily part of domestic civilian life.
Numerous peace accords, declarations, and agreements have been surfaced in the span of the last 30 years but none of them have been able to fruit up into an amicable resolution that caters to both ethnicities living together in harmony.
Oslo Accords 1993
In 1993, Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli officials, and Yaseen Arafat from the Palestine Liberation Organization chalked out the Oslo Peace process 1993 to bring a peaceful solution for both the tussling groups. Yaseen Arafat’s letter of recognition of Israel’s right to exist is one of the many remarkable milestones of the Accord. The whole crux of the Accords was that Israel would gradually cede control of the Palestinian territories over to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. The agreement did work in bits and pieces but later took a downturn when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated and Arafat and the other Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak failed to reach a conclusive agreement. The US, as always, intervened and presented concepts for peace which though we were given concerning heed by the Israelis but were left unanswered by the Palestinians as neither were they assenting to the proposed concepts nor were they able to present a better counter-proposal of their own. As a result, the Oslo Accords fell between the cracks and failed.
Camp David Summit (2000)
While the Oslo Accords was a failed venture, it provided a solid footing for the intervention of the US. In 2000, Bill Clinton convened a peace summit between Yaseer Arafat and Ehud Barak. Barak put forth a document entailing ‘bases for negotiation’ via the US to the Palestinian President. The document mentioned that the Palestinian state split into 3–4 parts containing 87–92% of the West Bank including only parts of East Jerusalem, and the entire Gaza Strip, the offer also included those 69 Jewish settlements (which comprise 85% of the West Bank’s Jewish settlers) would be ceded to Israel, no right of return to Israel, no sovereignty over the Temple Mount or any core East Jerusalem neighborhoods, and continued Israel control over the Jordan Valley. The proposal was vehemently rejected by Arafat as the offer did not remove many of the elements of the Israeli occupation regarding land, security, settlements, and Jerusalem. President Clinton did ask the Palestinian negotiators to come up with a counter-proposal but again, no revert was made. Concerning remarks were made by Shlomo Ben Ami who was the bookkeeper of the negotiations as he expressed that not once did the Palestinian negotiators come up with a counter problem and that has only stretched the issue rather than solving it. Needless to say, no tenable solution was crafted and the Camp David Summit suffered the same fate as that of the Oslo Accords.
However, the Camp David Summit was not exactly as redundant as that of the Oslo Accords. The negotiators from both sides continued to meet in small numbers to chalk out and devise a successful peace resolution, while the US was on its toes preparing its proposals. The continued conversation despite a flop show at Camp David Summit paved the way for Taba Peace Summit in January 2001.
Taba Summit 2001
The Israeli negotiators paved the way for a new map at the Taba Summit in Taba, Egypt in January 2001. For the first time, the negotiations saw a glimmering hope when the Palestinian side accepted the proposition of removing the ‘temporarily Israeli-controlled areas. The two sides also issued a joint statement mentioning that the sides have never been closer to reaching an agreement and thus the collective belief sounds tall that the remaining gaps can soon be bridged. However, soon elections in Israel took place where Prime Minister Ehud Barak was replaced by Ariel Sharon whose government decided not to resume the high-level talks.
Much like the failing of the peace summits, the future does not seem to bring a brighter morning anytime soon. The most recent plan was also chalked out by the Donald Trump government which was called the “deal of the century” signed by Israel’s then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but was dismissed by the Palestinians claiming the deal to be one-sided and partial. As a result, tensions are at an all-time high between Israel and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank. While Palestinians blame Israel for inflicting atrocities and promoting violence, Israel says that it is only acting in self-defense and self-preservation.
Therefore, any future peace deal will need both sides to agree but the gaps between the two sides are larger than they appear which do not seem to be shrinking any time soon.