“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s longest-running and most controversial conflicts. It is a conflict between two self-determination movements — the Jewish Zionist project and the Palestinian nationalist project — that lay claim to the same territory.”
Before starting off with the conflict as it is now, let us delve deeper into its roots. Let us set the time to the late 19th century. The Ottoman Empire ruled over what we now know as Palestine. The population there, in 1878, was a mix of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, with everyone living peacefully. Surprising, isn’t it?
The gradual wave of hyper-nationalism made a Jewish journalist named Theodor Herzl propagate this idea that Jewish people need to have their own state. Then and there onwards, this concept of Jewish nationalism came to be known as Zionism.
Although, Zionists imagined Israel (the world’s only Jewish state) as ‘a state for Jews more than a Jewish state’.
Between 1896 and 1948, tons of Jews resettled to what was then British-controlled Palestine. The British could not control the violence between the Arabs and Jews and handed over the conflict to newly created United Nations as apparently their first problem. So, in November 1947, the then Palestine was partitioned into separate Palestinian and Jewish States. The two states roughly equal in size looked like a jigsaw puzzle. The Palestinians, who saw this as a Jewish Plan to dominate them and show their superiority, fought it. Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria all declared war on Israel as well. And in this vicious conflict, the Israelis were victorious and turned 7,00,000 Palestinians as refugees. Israel possessed 77 per cent of the land including everything except the West Bank and the eastern quarter of Jerusalem (controlled by Jordan), as well as the Gaza Strip (controlled by Egypt), as against the 56 per cent promised in the Partition Plan by the UN.
Then, in 1967, Israel and several Arab fought the ‘Six-Days War’. Israel won again, this time gaining its control over the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights. Then the UN passed Resolution 242 which outlined ‘a basic framework for achieving peace, including Israel withdrawing from the territory acquired in the war, and all participants recognizing the rights of both a Palestinian and an Israeli state to exist’ which did not happen, obviously.
As an aftermath, the Palestinian Liberation Organization or the PLO, led by Yasser Arafat, was formed in 1964.
In the first decades after its creation, its main purpose was to destroy Israel and replace it with a state with cent per cent Palestinian population. There were attacks on Israeli civilians but all of this ended when in 1993, Israel recognized PLO as the legal representative of Palestinians and in return made PLO accept Israel’s right to exist which marked the beginning of actual peace negotiations between the would-be states.
Now meanwhile, the Israeli government began to establish Jewish settlements in what had been Palestinian ‘territory’, including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. According to the international law, these settlements are illegals but the Israelis contest it saying that since Palestine is not really a state, just a territory, the establishments are not really illegal.
Then started the series of Intifada, which literally means “shaking off.”
Palestinians launched the first intifada in the late 1980s, and this began with boycotting Israeli products and services and refusing to pay Israeli taxes. Violence worsened when the Israeli army came into play. This led to the founding of Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist political organization and militant group that longed for the war on Israel since it’s founding in 1987, through suicide bombings and rocket attacks, the first being in 1993. On the other hand, Hamas was also working on the social front in Gaza. It was contributing in making schools, clinics, and mosques.
The first suicide bombing also led to the Oslo Accords, and the peace process, based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. There was a lot at stake apart from the borders that looked like a jigsaw puzzle, like the question of Jewish Settlement, water rights and the rights of refugees.
Then Bill Clinton initiated a peace deal between the two states but unfortunately, it didn’t happen either. A leap to 2000, the beginning of a new millennium witnessed Prime Minister candidate Ariel Sharon leading a group of 1,000 armed guards to the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism, meaning, not a good place to go there with thousand-armed men. This obviously kindled the fire which led to the Second Intifada. A thousand Israelis and three thousand Palestinians were killed.
In 2002, Israel, as a matter of ‘self-defence’ began constructing a wall around the West Bank but ‘illegally’ crossed the borders to include many Israeli Settlements of the other side.
Not much later, Hamas won the elections and since then Palestine has been poorly governed by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. They have initiated rocket attacks on Israel and Israel responded by invading Palestinian territory that led to the killing of thousands of Palestinians.
Both parties have failed to understand the narrative of the other side. ‘To Palestine, the Palestinian people have been denied a state not just since the formation of Israel, but also for decades before that, and now they live under what amounts to a military occupation and to Israel, the Jewish people clearly need a homeland, which the United Nations established.’
These are the two possible ways to end the conflict peacefully. The “one-state solution”, that would merge Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into one big country. There are two possible dimensions to the one-state solution:
One, that since the Arab Muslims would outnumber the Jews, it would take away the status of Israel being the ‘only Jewish state’ and would leave the Jews being minority. The other favouring the Israelis, by forcing out Palestinians or denying them the right to vote.
The “two-state solution”, that would create an independent Israel and Palestine which has been the mainstream approach to resolve the conflict.
Let us just hope that both of them understand that war is not the solution and neither is an invasion.