8 questions to understand why Israelis and Palestinians fight

8 questions to understand why Israelis and Palestinians fight


Palestinians clashed with the Israeli army, which responded with gas and snipers.

They are the worst clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in the last four years and coincide with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel.

What sparked the clashes this time was the transfer of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem this May 14.

Israel considers Jerusalem as its “eternal and indivisible” capital, but the Palestinians claim their eastern zone as the capital of their future State.

Israeli soldiers killed more than half a dozen Palestinian protesters protesting in Gaza. In addition, more than 2,700 were injured, according to figures from Palestinian authorities.

It is the highest number of casualties in a day in Gaza since the 2014 war.

Protests in Gaza.
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Image caption The recent fighting left the highest number of casualties in a day in Gaza since the 2014 war.

To understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it is necessary to look beyond the numbers.

Rava reviews the basic questions needed to understand why this ancient confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians is so complex and generates so much polarization.

1. How did the conflict begin?

Encouraged by the anti-Semitism suffered by the Jews in Europe, at the beginning of the 20th century the Zionist movement , which sought to establish a State for the Jews, gained strength .

The region of Palestine, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, considered sacred to Muslims, Jews and Catholics, belonged at that time to the Ottoman Empire and was occupied mostly by Arabs and other Muslim communities. But a strong Jewish immigration, fostered by the Zionist aspirations, began to generate resistance among the communities.

After the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, the United Kingdom received a mandate from the League of Nations to administer the territory of Palestine.

But before and during the war, the British had made various promises to Arabs and Jews who later failed to comply, among other reasons because the Middle East had already been divided with France. This provoked a climate of tension between Arab and Zionist nationalists that unleashed clashes between Jewish paramilitary groups and Arab bands.

At the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom was in charge of administering the territory of Palestine.
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Image caption At the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom was in charge of administering the territory of Palestine.

After the Second World War and after the Holocaust, the pressure to establish a Jewish state increased. The original plan contemplated the partition of the territory controlled by the European power between Jews and Palestinians.

After the foundation of Israel on May 14, 1948, the tension went from being a local issue to a regional issue. The next day, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq invaded this territory. It was the first Arab-Israeli war , also known by the Jews as war of independence or liberation. After the conflict, the territory initially envisaged by the United Nations for an Arab state was cut in half.

For the Palestinians, the Nakba began , the so-called “destruction” or “catastrophe”: the beginning of the national tragedy. 750,000 Palestinians fled to neighboring countries or were expelled by Jewish troops.

But 1948 would not be the last confrontation between Arabs and Jews. In 1956, a crisis by the Suez Canal would confront the State of Israel with Egypt, which would not be defined in the battlefield but by international pressure on Israel, France and England.

But the combats would have the last word in 1967 in the Six Day War . What happened between the 5th and the 10th of June of that year had profound and lasting consequences at different levels. It was a crushing victory for Israel against an Arab coalition. Israel captured the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) to Jordan and the Golan Heights to Syria. Half a million Palestinians fled.

Hoisting the flag of Israel.
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Image caption The State of Israel was officially established on May 14, 1948.

The last Arab-Israeli conflict will be the Yom Kippur War in 1973 , which pitted Egypt and Syria against Israel and allowed Cairo to recover the Sinai (delivered entirely by Israel in 1982), but not Gaza. Six years later, Egypt becomes the first Arab country to sign peace with Israel, an example only followed by Jordan.

2. Why was Israel founded in the Middle East?

Jewish tradition indicates that the area in which Israel sits is the Land Promised by God to the first patriarch, Abraham, and his descendants.

The area was invaded in antiquity by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians and Romans. Rome was the empire that gave the region the name of Palestine and that, seven decades after Christ, expelled the Jews from their land after fighting the nationalist movements that pursued independence.

With the rise of Islam, in the 7th century AD, Palestine was occupied by the Arabs and then conquered by the European Crusaders. In 1516 Turkish rule was established, which lasted until the First World War, when the British mandate was imposed.

The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) stated in its report to the General Assembly on September 3, 1947 that the reasons for a Jewish state to establish itself in the Middle East centered on “arguments based on Biblical and historical sources, “the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which the British government declares itself in favor of a ” national home “for Jews in Palestine and in the British Mandate over Palestine.

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There, the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the bases to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in that region were recognized.

After the Nazi Holocaust against millions of Jews in Europe before and during World War II, international pressure grew for the recognition of a Jewish state.

Unable to resolve the polarization between Arab nationalism and Zionism, the British government brought the problem to the UN.

On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly approved a plan for the partition of Palestine , which recommended the creation of an independent Arab and Jewish state and a special regime for the city of Jerusalem.

The plan was accepted by the Israelis but not by the Arabs, who saw it as a loss of their territory. That’s why it was never implemented.

One day before the expiration of the British Mandate of Palestine, on May 14, 1948, the Jewish Agency for Israel, representative of the Jews during the Mandate, declared the independence of the State of Israel.

The next day Israel applied to become a member of the United Nations, a status that it finally achieved a year later. The 83% of the current members recognize Israel (160 of 192).

The first Israeli prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, in the official proclamation of the State of Israel, on May 14, 1948, in Tel Aviv.
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Image caption The first Israeli prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, in the official proclamation of the State of Israel, on May 14, 1948, in Tel Aviv.

3. Why are there two Palestinian territories?

The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), in its report to the General Assembly in 1947, recommended that the Arab state include “Western Galilee, the mountainous region of Samaria and Judea, with the exclusion from the city of Jerusalem, and the coastal plain of Isdud to the Egyptian border. “

But the division of territory was defined by the Armistice Line of 1949, established after the creation of Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war.

The two Palestinian territories are the West Bank (which includes East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip , which are about 45 km away. They have an area of 5,970 km2 and 365 km2, respectively.

The West Bank lies between Jerusalem, claimed as a capital by both Palestinians and Israelis, and Jordan to the east, while Gaza is a strip 41 km long and between 6 and 12 km wide.

Gaza has a border of 51 km with Israel, 7 km with Egypt and 40 km of coastline on the Mediterranean Sea.

Originally occupied by Israelis who still maintain control of their southern border, the Gaza Strip was captured by Israel in the 1967 war and was only vacated in 2005, although it maintains a blockade by air, sea and land that restricts the movement of goods. , services and people.

Currently the Strip is controlled by Hamas, the main Palestinian Islamic group that has never recognized the agreements signed between other Palestinian factions and Israel.

The West Bank, on the other hand, is governed by the Palestinian National Authority, the internationally recognized Palestinian government whose main faction, Fatah, is not Islamic but secular.

4. Did the Palestinians and Israelis never sign peace?

After the creation of the State of Israel and the displacement of thousands of people who lost their homes, the Palestinian nationalist movement began to regroup in the West Bank and Gaza, controlled respectively by Jordan and Egypt, and in the refugee camps created in other Arab states.

Shortly before the 1967 war, Palestinian organizations such as Fatah – led by Yasser Arafat – formed the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine (PLO) and launched operations against Israel first from Jordan and then from Lebanon. But these attacks also included attacks on Israeli targets in European territory that did not discriminate between planes, embassies or athletes.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, former US President Bill Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the signing of the Oslo Accords.
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Image caption The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993, were the first peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.

After years of Palestinian attacks and selective assassinations of the Israeli security forces, the PLO and Israel signed in 1993 the Oslo peace accords, in which the Palestinian organization renounced “violence and terrorism” and recognized the “right” of Israel “to exist in peace and security”, a recognition that the Palestinian Islamic organization Hamas never accepted.

After the agreements signed in the Norwegian capital was created the Palestinian National Authority , which represents the Palestinians before international forums. Its president is elected by direct vote and he in turn chooses a prime minister and members of his cabinet. Its civil and security authorities control urban areas (Area A according to Oslo), while only its civil representatives – and not security – control rural areas (Area B).

East Jerusalem, considered the historic capital by the Palestinians, is not included in this agreement.

Jerusalem is one of the most conflicting points between both parties.

5. What are the main points of conflict between Palestinians and Israelis?

The delay in the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, the construction of settlements by Jewish settlers in the West Bank and the security barrier around that territory – condemned by the International Court of Justice in The Hague – have complicated the progress of a process of peace.

View of the city of Jerusalem.
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Image caption Jerusalem has always been one of the main points of contention. And it is behind the current outbreak of violence.

But these are not the only obstacles, as was clear in the failure of the last serious peace talks between both groups that took place in Camp David , United States, in the year 2000, when an outgoing Bill Clinton did not reach an agreement between Arafat and the then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak.

The differences that seem irreconcilable are the following:

Jerusalem: Israel claims sovereignty over the city (sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians) and claims that it is its capital after taking East Jerusalem in 1967. That is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be their capital.

Borders and land: The Palestinians demand that their future state conform according to the limits prior to June 4, 1967, before the start of the Six Day War, something that Israel rejects.

Settlements: These are homes, illegal according to international law, built by the Israeli government in the territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 war. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem there are more than half a million Jewish settlers.

Palestinian refugees: The Palestinians claim that the refugees (10.6 million according to the PLO, of whom almost half are registered with the UN) have the right of return to what is now Israel, but for Israel to open the door would destroy their identity as a Jewish state.

6. Is Palestine a country?

The UN recognized Palestine as a “non-member observer state” at the end of 2012 and ceased to be an “observer entity”.

The change allowed the Palestinians to participate in the debates of the General Assembly and improve the chances of being a member of UN agencies and other agencies.

But the vote did not create the Palestinian state. A year earlier the Palestinians tried but did not get enough support in the Security Council.

Almost 70% of the members of the UN General Assembly (135 of 192) recognize Palestine as a State.

7. Why the USA? Is Israel Israel’s main ally? Who supports the Palestinians?

First, consider the existence of an important and powerful pro-Israel lobby in the United States and the fact that public opinion is usually favorable to the Israeli position, so for a president to take away support from Israel is virtually impossible.

In addition, both nations are military allies: Israel is one of the largest recipients of US aid and the majority comes in subsidies for the purchase of weapons.

But in December 2016, under the presidency of Barack Obama, an unusual step was taken in US policy towards Israel: not to veto the UN Security Council resolution that condemns Israel’s settlement policy.

But the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House gave new energy to the relationship between the United States and Israel, which was reflected in the transfer of the Tel Aviv embassy to Jerusalem, making the United States the first country in the world to recognize that city as the capital of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump.
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Image caption With Trump, Netanyahu has a strong ally in the White House.

Meanwhile, os Palestinians have the open support of power .

In the region, Egypt stopped supporting Hamas, following the deposition by the army of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood – historically associated with the Palestinian group – while Syria and Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah are its main supporters and although its cause generates sympathy in many sectors, it does not usually translate into facts.

8. What would have to happen for there to be an opportunity for lasting peace?

The Israelis would have to support a sovereign state for the Palestinians that includes Hamas, lift the blockade on Gaza and movement restrictions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Palestinian groups should renounce violence and recognize the State of Israel.

And reasonable agreements would have to be reached in terms of borders , Jewish settlements and the return of refugees.

However, since 1948, the year of the creation of the State of Israel, many things have changed, especially the configuration of the disputed territories after the wars between Arabs and Israelis.

Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu.
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Image caption Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

For Israel that is a fait accompli, for the Palestinians not, since they insist that the borders to be negotiated should be those that existed before the 1967 war.

In addition, while in the war terrain things are increasingly uncontrollable in the Gaza Strip, there is a kind of silent war in the West Bank with the continued construction of Jewish settlements, which in fact reduces the Palestinian territory in those autonomous areas. .

But perhaps the most complicated issue for its symbolism is Jerusalem , the capital for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Both the Palestinian National Authority, which governs the West Bank, and the Hamas group, in Gaza, claim the eastern part as their capital despite Israel’s occupation in 1967.

A definitive pact will never be possible without resolving this point. Others could be negotiated with concessions, Jerusalem could not.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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