Palestine sits upon the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt, Syria, and Arabia; the land has switched hands many times over the past few thousands of years. Being a holy land for all three Abrahamic religions has led to a brutal conflict between them since their formation. The current conflict in Palestine has been raging for about three quarters of a century, but before it can be addressed some history must be known.
For four centuries the land had been ruled by the Ottoman Empire, and as it began to collapse in the late 19th century ethnic Jews worldwide started a semi secular nationalist movement called Zionism which called for a return to their homeland of Israel which was promised to them by g-d in the Torah. In the First World War the Ottomans were on the losing side, and in 1917, with the Zionist movement growing, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Arthur Belfour declared that Britain backed the idea of establishing Palestine as a “national home for the Jewish people. ”
At the end of the First World War Britain was gifted the newly formed Mandate for Palestine which in its creation carried Belfour’s promise. Not a state, not the sole national home like Zionists wanted, but a place where any Jews who wanted to could go without fear of the persecution that had hounded them for millennia. A few years later the revolt of the Arab people against the imperialist occupation of Great Britain began. Many innocents were killed on both sides, but Britain’s response was incredibly brutal leading to the death, maiming or exile of a tenth of the adult male population.
In response The British attempted some reconciliation with the Arab community by creating policies to limit Jewish immigration and property purchase. After the Second World War this limitation on immigration kept nearly a hundred thousand displaced Jews from coming into the country. After a series of uprisings by the Jews in Palestine, and general international disapproval on the continued immigration policy, Britain decided to end their occupation and leave the question of Palestine to the U. N. Shortly thereafter the U. N. oted in favour of the creation of two separate nations of Israel, for the Jews, and Palestine, for the Arabs. The plan was rejected by the Arabs, and soon thereafter a 5 month civil war between the Jews, Arabs, and the British began. In Mid 1948 the United Kingdom withdrew the last of its troops and the new Jewish state declared its independence which signaled the start of the first Arab-Israeli War. A day after independence was declared Iraq, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Egypt declared war on the newly formed state of Israel.
Although outnumbered the better organized and better armed Israelis eventually won the war capturing half of the territory that had been mandated to the nation of Palestine. The rest of the country was split between Jordan and Egypt. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, more than three quarters of the Muslim population, were forced out of their country in a day now known to the Muslim world as al-Nakba. In response to this there were a series of pogroms against Jewish people in Arab states leading to close to a million Jews fleeing their homes and nearly 700,000 of them settling in place of the displaced Palestinians.
More and more displaced Jews found their way into Israel in the succeeding years and tensions rose higher and higher between Israel and the Arabs. Palestinians given some autonomy from Egypt in the Gaza Strip launched frequent attacks against the occupying forces. In the early 60s relations reached a new low; the Arab world refused to recognize Israel as a state, and in 1967 the Holy Land was once again preparing for war. On June 5th 1967 Israel launched preemptive strikes against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan crippling their air forces.
With air superiority assured the western equipped Israeli army slaughtered the Arabs and suffered less than a thousand deaths. Israel captured the Gaza strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. This is when settlers started popping up in the occupied territory. Jews from around the world began to set up housing in the former Arab land; a form of colonialism which lasts to this day. Around this time the Palestine Liberation Organization formed.
The PLO is a political and paramilitary representative of the Palestinian people comprised of a number of different political parties. The largest of which are Fatah, a left wing nationalist party then led by Yasser Arafat, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. PLO members in the surrounding Arab countries, especially Jordan, attacked Israelis in a number of rocket attacks, bombings, etc. ; this prompted a series of bombings and assassinations perpetrated by the Israeli army and Mossad aimed towards thinning the ranks of the PLO.
After Israel attacked Jordan to flush the PLO out Jordan withdrew all support from the Palestinians and most of the PLO fled towards Lebanon where they were granted an autonomous region in the south. After six years of failed “diplomatic” efforts following the six days war another war began during the Muslim month of Ramadan on the most important Jewish holy day Yom Kippur. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan attacked Israel who received support from the U. S. After only 19 days of fighting Israel once again won, but it no longer was the invincible bastion against the Arab world that it once thought it was; they had been shaken.
On the other hand the Arabs, which had had early success in the war, now felt like they had more of a chance. This combination of events led to the Camp David Accords in 1978 between Egypt and Israel; this was the first peace agreement between an Arab state and Israel. Egypt got the Sinai Peninsula back and in return recognized Israel. . In 1982, in an effort to stamp out the PLO and aid the Christian government, Israel invaded Southern Lebanon. After eleven months Israel achieved victory against the PLO and their allies, and the PLO subsequently fled to Libya.
The PLO continued to represent Palestine in exile much to the chagrin of Israel; a few years later they would bomb their headquarters in Libya completely destroying it and killing hundreds of people. In December of 1987 The First Intifada, a collective uprising of the Palestinian people against the occupiers, began. An increasing series of incidents between Palestinians and Israelis in the occupied territories lead to isolated rioting that soon evolved into a large scale conflict. The PLO and its associates at home quickly assumed control and began guiding the fighting as best they could.
The PLO had always been widely secular, and during the Intifada more and more Islamist Palestinian groups began gaining power including Fatah’s main rival Hamas; who, much like the Taliban, received funding and support from Israel to foster discord among Palestinians. Palestine suffered greatly during the uprising, suffering many times the losses of Israel, but it had some results that seemed promising. The most important was the Oslo Accords; the first true face to face attempt at finding an agreement between Israel and the PLO.
The Oslo Accords, on condition of the PLO renouncing terrorism and disarming, established the creation of an interim government for Palestine called the Palestinian National Authority, recognition of Israel by Palestine and vice versa, withdrawing the IDF from what they deemed occupied territories, and set a date five years in the future to finish negotiations and set up a permanent government in Palestine. The PFLP and other hardliners in the PLO rejected the Oslo Accords, refused to disarm, and continue to boycott the PLO to this day.
Settlers continued to move into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, atrocities continued on both sides, and the five year deadline quickly sailed by. Late in 2000 a very different Intifada happened; instead of the stone it had become the gun and the suicide bomb. The Oslo Accords had been broken and open warfare began. During the four year conflict thousands were killed on both sides; however, once again Palestinian deaths outnumbered Israeli almost three to one. Towards the end of the conflict Yasser Arafat passed leadership of Fatah over to Mahmoud Abbas and in late 2004 died from polonium poisoning.
In 2005 the conflict was declared officially over; later in the year Israel withdrew all their settlers from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the West bank. The Gaza strip was in hands of the Palestinians for the first time in half a century. In the 2006 elections Hamas and Fatah won forming a coalition government, and in 2007 this broke down into armed conflict when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip. This week open warfare between Palestinian extremist groups, both secular and Islamist, and Israel in the Gaza Strip began again.
For the first time in 21 years air raid sirens are going off in Tel Aviv. Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah still control what little of the West Bank that isn’t occupied. He is going to the U. N at the end of the month in an effort to get recognized as a non-member observer state and make his point for returning to the borders before the six day war; they have the majority needed for state hood, and because they aren’t going for full member status again the Security Council can’t veto. What solution can be found to such a deep rooted conflict? The most widely accepted solution is one of two separate states.
A poll taken in Palestine in 2011 showed 34% of Palestinians accepting the two state solutions, but it has much more support in moderate circles in Israel. There are some serious issues that need to be addressed for something like this to happen. What borders would they choose? More than likely would be a return to the pre-1967 borders, only 22% of historic Palestine. What happens to the five million Palestinian refugees around the world when they can’t return to their homes inside de facto Israel? What happens to the Arabs left inside of Israel’s borders? To Palestinians a two state solution is looking less and less likely.
The same poll showed 66% support for this solution but as of now support is growing. In this solution, which I will be advocating, a single nation of “Israstine” would exist upon the historic Palestinian borders. Arabs and Jews would be equal citizens coexisting and both taking part in the government. Israel does not like this plan; Palestinians would swiftly outnumber them and remove their identity as the sole Jewish majority. Unlike the two state solution the problem of getting caught in the wrong borders and having to uproot yourself doesn’t exist. Palestinians in exile could return to their homeland freely.
There are of course hard liners on both sides that advocate other solutions: hardliners in Israel that just want to gobble up the rest of Palestine; hardliners in Palestine that want to completely destroy Israel. Although these will have to be addressed the main focus has to be on the two state vs. binational solution. As I write this rockets are killing civilians; cease fires are being broken; crimes against humanity are being committed. If an agreement can’t be found soon it isn’t going to end well for anyone. A fraction of my Sources Farsakh, Leila. “The One-State Solution And The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Palestinian Challenges And
Prospects. ” Middle East Journal 65. 1 (2011): 55-71. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Nov. 2012. Hoffman, Gil. “6 in 10 Palestinians Reject 2-state Solution, Survey Finds. ” Www. JPost. com. N. p. , 15 July 2011. Web. 10 Nov. 2012. . Kattan, Victor. From Coexistence To Conquest : International Law And The Origins Of The Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891-1949. n. p. : Pluto Press, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 14 Nov. 2012. Morris, Benny. One State, Two States : Resolving The Israel/Palestine Conflict. n. p. : Yale Univ. Press, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 12 Nov. 2012.