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The Israel-Palestine conflict is one of the world’s longest-running and most controversial conflicts. It is a conflict between two self-determination movements — the Jewish nationalist project and the Palestinian nationalist project, in the same territory.
Though claims of both Jews and Arab Muslims date back to a couple of thousand years, the current political conflict began in the early 20th century. Since then, there has been a gradual expansion of territory occupied by Israel and today Palestinians are confined to only two regions – West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The issue is again in the news due to recent rocket attacks conducted by Hamas (a militant group) on Israeli territories. In retaliation, Israeli airstrikes are targeting the Gaza strip.
- Israel and Hamas exchanged heavy fire on 11th May 2021. The conflict has resulted in the death of 35 Palestinians in Gaza and five in Israel till now. The escalation was sparked by unrest at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
- The country has been embroiled in conflict over the threat of eviction of dozens of Palestinians from East Jerusalem’s neighborhood.
- Over 70 Palestinians in total are set to be evicted from Sheikh Jarrah in the coming weeks to be replaced by right-wing Jewish Israelis.
- It is the heaviest fighting between the two bitter enemies since 2014 and isn’t showing any signs of slowing.
- An emergency meeting of the UNSC has been conducted for drawing out an immediate plan of de-escalation and restoration of peace in the region.
About Israel – Palestine conflict
- Firstly, Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, located just east of the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians (Arab population) refer to the territory as Palestine and want to establish a state by that name on all or part of the same land.
- Secondly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over who gets what land and how it’s controlled.
- Thirdly, though both Jews and Arab Muslims date their claims to the land back a couple thousand years, the contemporary political conflict began in the early 20th century.
- Fourthly, Jews fleeing persecution in Europe desired to create a national homeland in an Arab- and Muslim-majority territory. This territory was part of the Ottoman Empire and later of the British empire.
- Fifthly, the Arabs resisted, seeing the land as rightfully theirs. Since then both parties have battled several wars over the territory.
Important Developments and Events
|1917||British expressed official support for a Jewish “national home” in Palestine under the Balfour Declaration.|
|1947||The UN gave a partition plan for independent Jewish and Arab states in Palestine. This was accepted by Jews but not by Arabs.|
|1948||The Jewish declaration of Israel’s independence induced surrounding Arab states to attack. |
At the end of the war, Israel controlled around 50 percent more territory than originally envisioned in the UN partition plan.
Jordan controlled the West Bank and Jerusalem’s holy sites, and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip.
|1964||The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed as the national representative of the Palestinian people.|
|1967||A six-day war took place between Israel and Arab states. After the war, Israeli forces seized the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank & East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Sinai Peninsula & Gaza strip from Egypt.|
|1975||United Nations grants the PLO an observer status and recognizes Palestinians’ right to self-determination|
Israel Palestine Peace process
- Camp David Accords were brokered by the U.S. in 1978. It set the stage for peace talks between Israel and its neighbors and a resolution to the “Palestinian problem”. However, no concrete results were obtained.
- Oslo Accords were also mediated by the U.S in 1993. Under this, Israel and the PLO agreed to officially recognize each other and renounce the use of violence. It would create a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, in exchange for an agreement by Palestinians to end any type of attack on Israel.
- They gave limited autonomy in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank to the Palestinian authority.
However, both states are yet to agree on the provisions of the Oslo accords.
- Today’s lines largely echo the consequences of the 1967 war. The West Bank appears to be controlled by the Palestinian Authority, although it is largely under Israeli occupation.
- Gaza strip is controlled by Hamas, an Islamist fundamentalist party.
Probable Solutions to Israel Palestine conflict
There are mainly two approaches to solve the problem –
- Two-state solution:
- Firstly, it would create a sovereign Israel and Palestine. It would establish Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and most of the West Bank, leaving the rest of the land to Israel.
- Secondly, it has been the goal of the international community for decades, dating back to the 1947 UN Partition Plan.
- Thirdly, it would identify a 1967 demarcation line known as the Green Line to partition Palestinian and Israeli land. It would also divide Jerusalem between the two states.
- One-state solution:
- It 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’s status as a Jewish state.
- The other version, favored by some rightists and Israelis, would involve Israel annexing the West Bank and forcing out Palestinians or denying them the right to vote.
Why is the issue still not resolved?
- Jerusalem: Both Israel and the Palestinians hold competing claims to the city. Israel, which occupied the formerly Jordanian-held eastern part in 1967, regards the whole of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians insist on East Jerusalem as their future capital.
- Palestinian Statehood: No consensus has been developed over the status of Palestinian Statehood among PLO and Israeli officials. Further Israel insists that any peace deal must include Palestinian recognition of it as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”.
- Borders: Both sides have fundamentally different ideas as to where the boundaries of a potential Palestinian state should be. Palestinians insist on borders based on ceasefire lines which separated Israel and East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza between 1949 and 1967. However, Israel has demanded an extended eastern border stretching up to the Jordan River.
- Settlements: Since 1967, Israel has built about 140 settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are considered illegal by most of the international community, though Israel disputes this. Palestinians say all settlements must be removed for a Palestinian state to be viable.
- Refugees: The UN says its agencies support about 5.5 million Palestinian refugees in the Middle east. This includes the descendants of people who fled or were expelled by Jewish forces in the 1948-49 war. Palestinians insist on their right to return to their former homes, but Israel says they are not entitled to.
- Political Division among Palestinians: The Palestinians remain politically divided between Fatah and Hamas, and thus are unable to negotiate jointly. Further, Israel is unwilling to negotiate with the violent group Hamas.
India’s stand on Israel- Palestine conflict
- India has been consistently supportive of the Palestinian cause.
- India was the first Non-Arab State to recognize Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974.
- Also, India was one of the first countries to recognize the State of Palestine in 1988.
- In 1996, India opened its Representative Office to the Palestine Authority in Gaza, which was later shifted to Ramallah (West Bank) in 2003.
- Currently, India supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
- As a part of the Link West Policy, India has de-hyphenated its relationship with Israel and Palestine in 2018. This will allow it to treat both the countries as mutually independent and exclusive.
- As per India, the issues between the two should be resolved through direct negotiations and solutions must be acceptable to both.
- Firstly, both Israel and Palestine should immediately resume the peace talks under the guidance of the UNSC.
- Secondly, the proposal to evict 70 Palestinians from East Jerusalem should be delayed for some time. This would help in brokering peace between the parties.
- Thirdly, there must be proper adherence to UNSC resolution 2334. It concerns the Israeli settlements in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”.
- One, it states that Israel’s settlement activity constitutes a clear violation of International Law and has “no legal validity”.
- Two, it demands that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
- Fourthly, the February 2021 ICC ruling should be implemented in spirit. It allows the ICC to investigate persons committing war crimes in the Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
- Fifthly, India should leverage its growing influence in the world to counsel Israel to exercise restraint and move towards a two-state solution.
- It should continue to use its voice in the United Nations and work with major states in the world towards that end without directly participating in the peace process.
The international community must try to instill peace among the two states. Further any successful peace initiative would need to resolve the four core issues that have plagued the peace process: West Bank borders/settlements, Israeli security, Palestinian refugees, and Jerusalem.