Israel – Palestine Conflict: History, Timeline, Cause and Everything to Know
Protesters place a Palestinian flag on a traffic light during clashes with Israeli forces in the Shuafat refugee camp, near the Israeli settlement of Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem, on May 14. (Photo: AFP)

Israel – Palestine Conflict: Reasons & Background

Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, located just east of the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians, the Arab population that hails from the land Israel now controls, refer to the territory as Palestine and want to establish a state by that name on all or part of the same land. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over who gets what land and how it’s controlled.

Though both Jews and Arab Muslims date their claims to the land back a couple of thousand years, the current political conflict began in the early 20th century. Jews fleeing persecution in Europe wanted to establish a national homeland in what was then an Arab- and Muslim-majority territory in the Ottoman and later British Empire. The Arabs resisted, seeing the land as rightfully theirs. An early United Nations plan to give each group part of the land failed, and Israel and the surrounding Arab nations fought several wars over the territory. Today’s lines largely reflect the outcomes of two of these wars, one waged in 1948 and another in 1967. The 1967 war is particularly important for today’s conflict, as it left Israel in control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, two territories home to large Palestinian populations.

How Israel became a country?

Social and political developments in Europe convinced Jews they needed their own country, and their ancestral homeland seemed like the right place to establish it. European Jews — 90 percent of all Jews at the time — arrived at Zionism partly because of rising anti-Semitic persecution and partly because the Enlightenment introduced Jews to secular nationalism. Between 1896 and 1948, hundreds of thousands of Jews resettled from Europe to what was then British-controlled Palestine, including large numbers forced out of Europe during the Holocaust.

Many Arabs saw the influx of Jews as a European colonial movement, and the two peoples fought bitterly. The British couldn’t control the violence, and in 1947 the United Nations voted to split the land into two countries. The Jewish residents accepted the deal. The Palestinians, who saw the plan as an extension of a long-running Jewish attempt to push them out of the land, fought it. The Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria all later declared war on Israel, as well (albeit not to defend the Palestinians).

Israeli forces defeated the Palestinian militias and Arab armies in a vicious conflict that turned 700,000 Palestinian civilians into refugees. The UN partition promised 56 percent of British Palestine for the Jewish state; by the end of the war, Israel possessed 77 percent - everything except the West Bank and the eastern quarter of Jerusalem (controlled by Jordan), as well as the Gaza Strip (controlled by Egypt). It left Israelis with a state, but not Palestinians.

Why Jerusalem & religious sites are so important?

Israel views Jerusalem as its “unified, eternal” capital. It had captured east Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians want those territories for their future state, with East Jerusalem serving as their eventual capital. But Israel annexed the eastern part of the city in a move not recognized internationally. The fate of east Jerusalem has been one of the thorniest issues in the peace process, which ground to a halt more than a decade ago.

The walled plateau is also the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of biblical temples. Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 A.D., with only the Western Wall remaining. The mosques were built centuries later. The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is the holiest site where Jews can pray, said NBCB.

In recent years, groups of religious and nationalist Jews escorted by police have been visiting the compound in greater numbers and holding prayers in defiance of rules established after 1967 by Israel, Jordan, and Muslim religious authorities. The Palestinians view the frequent visits and attempted prayers by Jews as a provocation, and it often ignites scuffles or more serious violence. Some Israelis say the site should be open to all worshippers. The Palestinians refuse, fearing that Israel will eventually take over the site or partition it. Israeli officials say they have no intention of changing the status quo.

Israel – Palestine Conflict: History, Timeline, Cause and Everything to Know
People inspect the damage in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip on May 14, after a night of Israeli airstrikes. (Photo: Getty)

Timeline of major events

The roots of the conflict and mistrust are deep and complex, often predating the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. The past seven decades have witnessed war, uprisings, and, at times, glimmers of hope for compromise.

1948: A regional conflict grows amid the end of the British mandate for Palestine and Israel’s declaration of independence in May 1948. A coalition of Arab states, allied with Palestinian factions, battle Israeli forces. In the end, Israel controls a large portion of its territory. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flee or are driven from their land.

July 1956: Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal, a vital trade route connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. Israel invades Egypt, followed by forces from Britain and France. A peace deal, backed by the United States and the Soviet Union, ends the fighting. But the canal was blocked by sunken ships and did not reopen until 1957.

June 1967: The “Six-Day War” begins with Israeli warplanes striking Egyptian airfields and Israeli ground forces entering the Sinai Peninsula. The war broke out amid lingering conflicts, including Egypt’s continued block of shipping into the Gulf of Aqaba. Jordan joins the fighting alongside Egypt, but Israeli forces have the upper hand after nearly wiping out Egypt’s air power. Israel takes control of the Gaza Strip, Sinai, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and predominantly Arab East Jerusalem. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flee or are displaced.

October 1973: A coalition of Arab nations, led by Egypt and Syria, launch a surprise attack on Israel. The Arab forces initially gained ground but were driven back by an Israeli counteroffensive aided by supplies from allies, including the United States.

1978: A peace deal between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, known as the Camp David accords, is brokered on Sept. 17, 1978, by President Jimmy Carter. Potential Palestinian peace proposals were discussed but never carried out.

December 1987: A Palestinian uprising, or intifada, brings clashes and protests in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel. Unrest continues for years, with many killed or injured on both sides.

1993: The first of two parts, known as the Oslo accords, are signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, setting out a peace process based on previous U.N. resolutions. (A follow-up accord was signed in 1995.) The agreements created the Palestinian Authority, to oversee most administrative affairs in the West Bank and Gaza. The PLO is recognized by Israel and the United States as a negotiating partner. Left unresolved, however, are key issues such as Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem, which is viewed by the Palestinians as the capital of any future state.

2000: The second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, begins after riots broke out following a visit by right-wing Israeli political figure Ariel Sharon (and later prime minister) to a compound in Jerusalem venerated in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Clashes and other violence continue until 2005, leaving hundreds dead on both sides.

2006: The Palestinian militant group Hamas wins elections in Gaza, leading to political strains with the more moderate Fatah party controlling the West Bank.

December 2008: Israel begins three weeks of attacks on Gaza after rocket barrages into Israel by Palestinian militants, who are supplied by tunnels from Egypt. More than 1,110 Palestinians and at least 13 Israelis are killed.

November 2012: Israel kills Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, touching off more than a week of rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes. At least 150 Palestinians and six Israelis are killed.

Summer 2014: Hamas militants kill three Israeli teenagers kidnapped near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, prompting an Israeli military response. Hamas answers with rocket attacks from Gaza. A seven-week conflict leaves more than 2,200 Palestinians dead in Gaza. In Israel, 67 soldiers and six civilians are killed.

December 2017: The Trump administration recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announces that it plans to shift the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, stirring outrage from Palestinians.

2018: Protests take place in Gaza along the fence with Israel, including demonstrators hurling rocks and gasoline bombs across the barrier. Israeli troops kill more than 170 protesters over several months. In November, Israel stages a covert raid into Gaza. At least seven suspected Palestinian militants and a senior Israeli army officer are killed. From Gaza, hundreds of rockets are fired into Israel.

Israel – Palestine Conflict: History, Timeline, Cause and Everything to Know
Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton, and Yasser Arafat watch as Shimon Peres signs the Oslo peace accords at the White House in September 1993. (Photo: Getty)

International efforts to solve Israel – Palestine Conflict

What is the role of the United Nations?

The role of the United Nations in the conflict varies from impotent to accomplice to broker and moreover the decades. Resolution 242 began with a statement emphasizing "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security". While referring to the Palestinians only in the context of refugees, rather than reaffirming their national rights, the resolution unequivocally called for "the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict". The resolution was drafted largely by the four powers of the Security Council - the limited reference to Palestinian rights was a reflection of US influence on the process. And for another two years or so, the same powers operated within the UN to shape the direction -and the limits - of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, according to TNI.

For years following the 1967 war, the UN voted over and over in favor of an international peace conference, under the auspices of the UN, with all parties to the conflict to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict once and for all. But the US always voted no.

What is Peace Process?

Sometimes called “Oslo”, the peace process is an ongoing American-mediated effort to broker a peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians. The goal is a “final status agreement,” which would establish a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in exchange for Palestinians agreeing to permanently end attacks on Israeli targets - a formula often called “land for peace.”

In 1993, Israeli officials led by Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leaders from the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasser Arafat strove to find a peaceful solution through what became known as the Oslo peace process. In 1993, the Oslo Accords were finalized as a framework for future Israeli–Palestinian relations.

The Oslo process was delicate and progressed in fits and starts, the process took a turning point at the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and finally unraveled when Arafat and Ehud Barak failed to reach an agreement at Camp David in July 2000. Renewed talks failed to generate an agreement, and worsening violence during the second intifada violence made another round of talks seem impossible.

Despite the 2001 failure, the general Oslo “land for peace” framework remains the dominant American and international approach to resolving the conflict. The Bush administration pushed its own update on Oslo, called the ”road map,” and the Obama administration made the peace process a significant foreign policy priority. The Trump administration has not formally abandoned this formula but has yet to take any significant actions to advance it.

What are the “two-state solution” and the “one-state solution”?

These are the two broad ways the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might end.

The “two-state solution” would create an independent Israel and Palestine, and is the mainstream approach to resolving the conflict. The idea is that Israelis and Palestinians want to run their countries differently; Israelis want a Jewish state, and Palestinians want a Palestinian one. Because neither side can get what it wants in a joined state, the only possible solution that satisfies everyone involves separating Palestinians and Israelis.

The “one-state solution” would merge Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into one big country. It comes in two versions. One, favored by some leftists and Palestinians, would create a single democratic country. Arab Muslims would outnumber Jews, thus ending Israel as a Jewish state. The other version, favored by some rightists and Israelis, would involve Israel annexing the West Bank and either forcing out Palestinians or denying them the right to vote. Virtually the entire world, including most Zionists, rejects this option as an unacceptable human rights violation.

Jewish leaders accepted two-state the plan, but many Palestinians — some of whom had been fighting British interests in the region for decades — opposed it and it was never implemented.

Israel – Palestine Conflict: History, Timeline, Cause and Everything to Know
Israel's changing borders. (Photo: AFP)

Why the US involves in the conflict?

Nowadays, many people see the US gives Israel billions of dollars in aid annually, consistently blocks UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel, and backs its military offensives publicly. Historically, Washington has viewed Israel as a crucial political and economic ally in the oil-rich Middle East and has provided Israel with the highest amount of financial and military assistance of any other foreign country.

As the Cold War dragged on, the US came to view Israel as a key buffer against Soviet influence in the Middle East and supported it accordingly. The American-Israeli alliance didn’t really cement until around 1973 when American aid helped save Israel from a surprise Arab invasion, said PBS.

The US became increasingly involved in managing disputes and problems inside the Middle East during the Cold War, and it maintained that role as the world's sole super-power in the 90s. Stability in the Middle East continued to be a major American interest, for a number of reasons that included the global oil market.

Israel – Palestine Conflict Updates

Israel continued to press its air campaign against the Gaza Strip on May 15, 2021, after a devastating overnight assault by artillery and warplanes aimed at destroying an extensive system of tunnels built by the militant Hamas group to move fighters, rockets, and other weapons.

Violence between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel also continued in cities across the country, while new clashes erupted in the occupied West Bank, which had been relatively calm in recent days, with skirmishes in Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarem, and other cities. Eleven Palestinians were killed in West Bank confrontations with security forces, according to health officials. Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters from Lebanon, meanwhile, broke through a border fence, crossed into Israeli territory, and set a fire in an open field near the northern town of Metula. Soldiers shot at them, and they returned to Lebanese territory, according to the Israeli military.

Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters from Lebanon, meanwhile, broke through a border fence, crossed into Israeli territory, and set a fire in an open field near the northern town of Metula. Soldiers shot at them, and they returned to Lebanese territory, according to the Israeli military. One of the demonstrators, a 21-year-old Lebanese man who was shot after rushing the border, died later from his wounds, according to Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s official TV channel.

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