Israel vs Palestine – One of the most controversial conflicts in our days. Indeed, it is a very complicated conflict that requires an in-depth solution and compromises from both sides. Although every person has an opinion and more surprising, a solution to the conflict, I’ve discovered to know that only a few, including those who are involved deeply in the conflict, have the knowledge, the correct facts, and information to estimate the situation.
- Palestine, Israel – The History
- 1948 – What Happened?
- Israel and Palestine – The Core Problems
- Oslo Accords – The Closest to Peace
- Egypt and Jordan
- Israel and Palestine – The Media Deception
- The Right Interest for Palestine and Israel
- Israel and Palestine – Peace or a Perpetual Conflict?
Full disclosure, I am an Israeli citizen. However, in this article, I will mention facts that relate to both sides. I do not represent any side but the notion of understanding the conflict.
Palestine, Israel – The history
Shimon Peres, a former Israeli Prime Minister once said that if we want to move forward, we cannot teach our children the history, instead, we need to move forward. The man had a point, Israel-Palestine has a complex unsolved history that can escalate the argument rather than find a reasonable solution. No one can argue for the truth except for some archaeological evidence and written holy books that provide some pieces of information. However, history is part of the present and for the sake of comprehensive knowledge, let’s dig in a bit.
The Name Palestine
Few know that the name Palestine was given to the inhabitants of ancient Israel back in 135 AC by the Romans. After the Bar Kokhba rebellion by the Jews, the Roman Empire destroyed most of the Jewish population in the area. The method of changing the name of a minority in a specific area was common back then and therefore, the Romans called the land ‘Syria Philistines’, based on another neutral minority that lived in the area before. After a short time, the name has shortened to Palestina.
The area was called Palestine for all these centuries but was recognized as a political national entity at the end of the 19th century. At the end of WW1, the British took control of the area and officially named it Palestine. The population, Arabs and Jews, was therefore called Palestinians. As a matter of fact, both David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir, former Israeli Prime Ministers had a Palestinian ID.
Within time, after the Six Days War and the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian population had claimed their right for a recognized nation.
The Name Israel
Between the 12th century BC and the 7th century BC, the Israelis have started to spread out in the land. Around the 2nd century BC, the Israelis officially called the land – the ‘Land of Israel’. Between the Bar Kohba rebellion and the establishment of the Israeli state, Israel was not known as a political institution.
After the Jewish nation received its land in Palestine in 1948, The Zionist Congress had to choose a name for the new-coming nation. Among other names, Israel was chosen after a vote of 7 against 3. Israel was the second name of Jacob, a biblical figure and one of the nation’s ancient fathers.
1948 – What happened?
Although the conflict started at the end of the 19th century with the rise of nationalism, 1948 was the year that defined the area. More accurately, the 29th of November 1947 – the day of the United Nations Partition of Palestine.
The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, just as it sounds, was meant to divide the land of Palestine and to provide autonomy for the Jewish state, hence Israel, and the Arab population in Israel. The Jewish accepted the plan while the Palestinians and the Arab global leadership rejected the proposition. For the Palestinians and the Arab leadership, acceptance of the plan was a surrender to injustice as the Jewish was a minority before 1947 and received 60% of the land by the UN.
Regardless of the reasons, the Arabs declared war, the first Arab-Israeli war, which shaped the area, geographically and demographically. The Israelis had their arm on top and 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from the land of Palestine to other areas around (Gaza, West Bank, Judea and Samaria Area, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria), and become refugees.
Following the war, the battle to populate the area has begun. Many Arabs from different parts of the world came to Palestine and were defined as Palestinian although there are no records of this high number of Palestinians prior to 1948. The Israelis have set up a law that allows any Jewish person to come to Israel and receive citizenship. Following WW2, the Jewish population, mostly from Europe and Arab countries, came to Palestine/Israel and changed the demographic equilibrium in the area.
The battle to populate the area continues till these days. Today, there are 8,900,00 Israeli citizens. 74.4% are Jewish (6,625,000) while, 21% are Arabs (1,860,000). For those who are getting confused, the 21% Arab population are Israeli Arabs, and although most of them define themself as Palestinians, they are a legit part of the Israeli population and set an example of the integration of the two nations.
How many Palestinians live today in the West Bank and Gaza? According to the Palestinian authority – 4.7 million in total. 2.8 in Judea and Samaria and 1.9 in Gaza.
The battle of the demography in the area will never be solved as no side can actually prove the truth, therefore, it must be forgotten. Both sides claim that the other side used manipulative strategies to increase the population and by doing that, each side can claim their territory. Palestinians emphasize the fact that they were the majority in the area prior to 1947/8. The Israelis claim that the Palestinians were not even counted as this high number and new Arabs were received Palestinian recognition in order to remain the majority in the area.
Israel and Palestine – The core problems
Although the history between the two nations contributes to the current conflict, there are still current complex issues that must be addressed and solved. So, what are the main issues for each side?
Land Exchanges – Borders
Obviously, the main problem. The notion of land exchanges has already been agreed and acknowledged by both sides. The Oslo Accords proved the recognition of land exchanges and the exit of the Israeli army from Palestinian populated areas.
The problem that concerns to land exchanges is different – both Palestine and Israel have their principals that include military and security obligations.
For Israel, in case of a peace agreement and a return to 67’s borders, 25 kilometers will separate the Palestinian nation to the seashore. That means that there are 4-5 (depends if Pakistan is included) Arab-Muslim countries that can easily divide the Israeli state in a war situation. In terms of military strategy, Israel cannot allow that.
For the Palestinians, a return to the 67 borders is mandatory as the need to protect their large cities (Ramallah, Tulkarm, Hebron, etc) is dependent on these borders as well as to claim back their lost land.
Without a question, a problem that both sides would need to compromise on. After the Six Days War, Israel implemented its Settlements policy and by that, creating an area that is inhabited by both Palestinians and Israelis. As of 2016, there are 421,000 Israelis living in the settlements. The settlements are a major obstacle as there are relatively big Israeli cities, settlements, and state institutions. The Israeli settlers believe that they are pioneers to rescue the Israeli state and fulfill the notion of the complete Israeli state. The Palestinians see the settlements as a violation and invasion of their land.
Regardless of the reasons and the wrong policy from both sides with the settlements issue, a rational solution is the only solution. The Palestinians can receive the percentage of land they desire, the same as it was first given to them by the UN Partition plan from 1947 (the settlements will stay an Israeli territory, however, the Palestinians will receive other lands).
But the problem still remains one of the core issues of the conflict – there are military and security constraints and a belief of both sides that they have the privilege to own the land. Yet, many solutions have been offered to the table with some suggested the Belgian-Netherlands borders (setting borders inside of an area) as a reasonable solution.
The Middle East area suffers from a lack of water resources, in particular, Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. Since 1967, Israel controls all the water resources in the area which created a serious problem for the Palestinians and criticism on the Israeli government from the Palestine Authority and other countries across the world. Although it remains a major obstacle for sustainable peace, possible cooperation (similar to Israel and Jordan) can be achieved.
Palestinian Military Force
As part of their autonomous rights, the Palestinians demand the establishment of an organized military force. Currently, the Israelis reject it – claiming that a military force can rise only several years after a peace agreement and not by unstable organizations like Hamas. For now, the Palestinian Authority has no control over the state with Hamas and Fatah, two relatively unofficial groups that rule military actions and in state authority.
Both sides agreed during the Oslo Accords that after five years from the initial agreement, a Palestinian military force was to rise up.
Gaza and the West Bank – How to Connect?
Another core problem in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the connection between Gaza and the West Bank. First, there must be a Palestinian unite leadership between the two areas for the purpose of one peace agreement and one Palestinian nation. Otherwise, the discussion changes into two different nations. There have been many uprisings, leadership exchanges, and political uncertainty in the Palestinian Authority and in the Gaza strip that fails any reasonable solution.
In case the Palestinians could unite both areas, in leadership and culture, a physical connection between the two areas is mandatory. Both sides suggested solutions to this problem – a tunnel, an overground road or an open road inside the Israeli state (in the term of protecting Israeli civilians and provide Palestinians the security to cross inside Israel authority).
The Palestinians do not have an airport. For Israel, it is conditional – they wish to see strong leadership before the allowance of an airport that can be used for terror actions. For the Palestinians, it is a basic right that is currently subjected to the Israeli and global community approval.
In the 1948 war, around 700,000 Palestinians have been displaced to other areas. The Palestinians claim their right to return to their place of residence in the Palestinian land. The Israelis reject the Palestinians’ demand as they perceive it as a non-realistic demand. Many of the former Palestinian houses are now owned by Israelis who live there since the establishment of the state and therefore, for the Israelis, the acceptance of this demand is out of the question.
The refugees’ problem is a sensitive issue that might be set aside as a group of an ethnic nation cannot demand a country with borders and autonomy and at the same time claim for the national right to immigrate freely to another country.
During the Oslo Accords, the first agreement of this problem has been made – Palestinians could come back to the Israeli state by only by reason of Humanitarian need.
Of Course – Jerusalem and Al-Quds
Oh Jerusalem, that’s a problem. In 1967, during the Six Days War Israel has expanded its control over Jerusalem. The expansion included Arabs neighborhoods that are now subject to the Israeli state. Currently, there are 12 Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem counting 214,000 citizens while there are 327,000 Arabs in East Jerusalem. Today, East Jerusalem (except the Jewish neighborhoods) is not involved with West Jerusalem and has its independent operation. The living conditions for the Arabs in East Jerusalem are poor as they suffer from low education, high employment, lack of water, and medical assistance.
Oslo Accords – The closest to peace
For many years, the Israeli government and the Palestinians have refused to recognize each other and negotiate peace terms. The Oslo Accords was the first time both sides negotiated and, the first official agreement between both sides. The first agreement was signed in September 13th, 1993 in the White House between Yasser Arafat, the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) leader, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin.
Basically, the first agreement acknowledged and recognized the other. Before that, Israel refused to negotiate the PLO as the organization, for many years, was considered a terror group while the Palestinians refused to acknowledge the existence of the Israeli state.
The Oslo Accords first started as secret negotiations in Oslo and agreed by both sides on five years of transitional-period and permanent status in 1999 that meant to end the long conflict.
The negotiations were an ongoing process of two years which during this time the tension in the area increased, including terror attacks and constant riots. There were many opponents to the agreement from both sides, creating a division inside Israel and the Palestinian authority.
The agreement, unfortunately, was not implemented due to various reasons which, in the center of them is the assassination of the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The failure of the agreement has left both sides wounded and widened the gap between the two nations.
Egypt and Jordan
Look at the map and you cannot ask yourself, how come Egypt and Jordan are not involved with the conflict? After all, they had control over these areas before 1967. There have been discussions of the annexation of Gaza by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan, however, that will most likely not going to happen. Yet, Israel has a peace agreement and diplomatic relationships with both countries. They can and should be more involved in the solution and the ongoing process after an agreement.
Can Donald Trump’s Deal of the Century’ be the solution?
Donald Trump said before that the hardest deal of all deals is the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The Trump administration, led by Jared Kushner, has set a proposal to solve the long-time conflict. Time will tell if Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ will bring the final solution.
Israel and Palestine – The media deception
The media plays a role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Believe it or not (and I don’t mean to be harsh by saying that) but compare to any other conflict, in terms of casualties, this conflict is minor, very minor!
How minor is this conflict? The casualties estimation in the Syrian Civil War is around 500,000 people, in the Afghanistan war – around 31,000 casualties, 300,00 lost their life in the Iraq-Iran war, in Rwanda – more than 1,000,000 casualties, in Kongo – 5.4 million and even the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar is more brutal than the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Of course, I did not mention big wars such as the Vietnam War and the Kosovo war.
Israel Palestine – Casualties
So, talking about casualties, how small is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The estimations of total casualties stand at 20,000. It is still a high number and the conflict affects more than 12 million people’s daily life, however, the media and the general public that lack the knowledge and the understanding of the conflict incite and escalate the situation. Like it or not, this conflict is part of the populism news and attracts the attention of readers, in particular in Europe, the US, and the Arab countries.
The right interest for Palestine and Israel
Both sides have an enormous interest in a permanent peace status and cooperation of economies, tourism, and the labor force.
Although Israel has many threats and enemies around the block, an agreement with the Palestinians can change the overall security status of Israel. Israel is dealing with a perpetual war battle with the Palestinians, however, take the Palestinians out of the equation and Israel has no day-to-day threat. Yes, Iran, Lebanon, and Syria are a constant threat but all of them maintain a cold war with Israel, not something different than other cold conflicts like the US vs China, Turkey, and other countries. Also, tourism can rise, and the economy (although Israel’s economy functions well) can continue to grow.
For Palestine, things cannot be worse. Their current conditions are unfair – they have high unemployment, bad economy, crime, and corruption. An agreement can improve significantly their lives. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world but also located in a beautiful place next to the sea. With the charm of the Arabic culture, the Palestinians can attract tourists, perhaps also from Israel, and can better use the nature of the area. The West Bank can be an attraction for the Arab world and the relationship with Jordan and Saudi Arabia can improve. The Palestinian economy can benefit a peace agreement and the closeness to Israel can end up as an advantage – due to Israel’s strong economy and high level of education.
Like any other war zone, there are groups or individuals (perhaps also government entities) that will not benefit from a peace agreement. Israel has a profitable defense and weapons industries that can crash if the conflict ends. The Palestinian leadership and those who benefit from a state of war (such as other countries that sell weapons to the Palestinians) will also postpone and reject an agreement.
Israel and Palestine – Peace or a perpetual conflict?
There is no hocus-pocus when it comes to conflicts and negotiation between two rival nations. A conflict has deep foundations and, on some occasions, can be unsolved or to be solved in a long exhausting process. I heard before that the first inequality happened when one said to the other – “this is my land”. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complicated and contains many issues, some are technical (land, autonomous, etc) and some are cultural, regional, and national.
Similar to any other relationship, trust is the first condition for a successful relationship between these two countries. The incidents during the 90’s – the Oslo Accords, the Yitzhak Rabin assassination, the Palestinian riots, and terror attacks have all drained both sides and emphasized how deep is the intrust between Israelis and Palestinians.
Yet, history can teach us differently. Many conflicts have been solved and nations, which were not favorite of each other, learned how to live and prosper side by side.
Hopefully, listing the obstacles above will expand the public’s knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and by that, creating a reasonable discussion that contains all the factors and elements in order to achieve an agreement.
It is a complicated conflict and for that, it received its recognition as global conflict and is being thought in some schools and universities around the globe. There is injustice from both sides and those who will claim for the responsibility of one side will eliminate a reasonable discussion. However, the injustice of one side is the constraint of the other and that is the first step for a new beginning of the process – forgive and find a solution that is already there.