The conflict between Israel and Palestine traces back to centuries of religious, ideological, and territorial strifes. According to Human Rights Watch, the discriminatory policies in Israel have amounted to a crime of apartheid (‘Apartheid’ claim, Israel and the verdict of international law). In Sheik Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, a protest ensued after six Palestinian families were evicted from their homes in favor of more Jewish settlements. According to New York Times, even though officials claim that this is a real estate issue, many Palestinians living in the region believe that the Israeli government has hostile incentives to remove them from their homes (Kingsley 2021). As a result, protesters clashed with local police who employed stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets (Kingsley 2021). According to Amnesty International, Israeli officials continue to restrict the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) through checkpoints and roadblocks (Amnesty International). The Israeli official also has a history of detaining Palestinians in the OPT without providing fair trials or proper treatments (Amnesty International).
In 2018, the US officially established its embassy in Jerusalem, declaring it the national capital of Israel. The Trump administration broke the original neutral stance the US always had on issues surrounding Israel-Palestine. The policy is slightly turned back under the New Biden administration as he reinstated US humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees (Eraket 2021). At the same time, the Biden administration shows no desire to move the embassy back to Tel Aviv which continues to be a rallying point for right-wing politicians in Israel (Eraket 2021).
History – The beginning
The area of Israel and Palestine was ruled by the Ottoman Empire before the 1900s (Palestine). After WWI, the League of Nations officially gave the land of Palestine to the UK. The United Nations later divided Palestine into two separate states: a state of Jewish people and a state for Palestinians (Palestine). As a result, Jerusalem became the capital city claimed by both the Jewish and the Arab people. In addressing this dispute, the United Nations labelled Jerusalem as an international territory not belonging to any of the two sides (Palestine).
Israel established itself as an independent state right after the Partition plan was introduced, However, other neighboring Arab armies decided to prevent the establishment of the Israeli state using armed forces (Palestine). In 1948, the Arab-Israeli war officially started with Israel on one side fighting against Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon.
The war ended with Egypt taking the Gaza strip and Jordan taking over the West Bank; the rest of the territory belonged to Israel. This first conflict planted the seeds for future political struggles as both sides disagree on fundamental border separations.
Born from this conflict is also the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) which firmly believed that Israel is illegally occupying land dedicated for the Palestinian people after the British mandate (Palestine).
The Six-Day War
The Six-Day War was a conflict between Israel and Egypt. While both sides claimed to be acting in self-defence, the conflict lasted for ten days with involvement from both Jordan and Syria (Palestine). This conflict proved to be a great success for the Israeli people due to the immensity of the territorial gains. Israel successfully took control over the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and the Sinai Peninsula which used to belong to the Arab people (Palestine). In upcoming years, the Israeli government granted legal settlement in the territories gained from the Six-Day War (BBC).
United Nations Resolution 242
UN Resolution specifically addresses issues raised in the Six-Day War. The Resolution called for Israel’s withdraw of troops from territories occupied in the conflict in exchange for Israel’s ability to live in peace within its own boundaries (UN Resolution 242). Even though the Resolution was not successfully implemented due to the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s rejection, it did serve as the foundation for Camp David Accord.
Camp David Accord
In May 1977, Menachem Begin’s Likud party won the election in Israel. His policy centred around economic liberalization and religious ideologies at the core of politics. The agreement is often seen as the “framework” for peace in the Middle East. The two parties agreed on establishing Palestinian self-governance in West Bank and Gaza (Camp David Accords).
Israel’s occupation over the territories it has gained from the Six-Day War triggered the First Intifada. An Intifada in this case is organized political violence by Palestinian militias. The militia burned down tires and throw rocks at Israeli officials. In the end, hundreds of people were killed as a result (Intifada begins on Gaza Strip).
Recognizing the severity of the situation, a multi-lateral attempt to facilitate peace was initiated, known as the Oslo Accord. Both sides settled on a plan for the reintegration of the Palestinian government into parts of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. However, the Oslo Accord did not fulfill its initial goal of bringing peace to the region (Palestine)
The second Intifada was triggered when Ariel Sharon, a right-wing Israeli politician visited al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem; al-Aqsa is a Muslim Holy site, so many Palestinian people perceived the visitation as an offence to their religion. The second Intifada proved to be more violent than the first with riots and suicide bombings (Palestinian).
Nakba, a story told by opposite sides
In 1948, thousands of Palestinians were forcefully displaced out of their homes in Israel which forms the basis of their statelessness. Israel officials justified this act as a means of self-defence from Arab militarization and wartime accidents (Beauchamp 2018). However, the Arabs saw this as a form of ethnic cleansing as 700,000 Palestinians were kicked out of their homes (Beauchamp 2018). This creates the very foundation of later Palestinian nationalism and the movement to return back to the land.
The Oslo Accords was another peace agreement signed by Israel and the PLO in an attempt to establish an autonomous Palestinian state. The difference between Oslo Accords and Camp David Accord is that Palestinians were willing to formally recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a state in exchange for autonomy (Oslo Accords). In this negotiation, it was clear that Camp David Accord was the foundational framework for negotiation. The negotiation was mainly between PLO leader Yassir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Oslo Accords). In the first negotiation, a “Letter of Mutual Recognition” was signed. Israel recognized PLO as the representative body of the Palestinian people while the PLO recognized the state of Israel. In Oslo II, Palestinian Authority was given control over a partial region of Gaza and the West Bank. Both sides were prohibited from using violence against each other.
The aftermath of Oslo Accords
Permanent peace also fell short in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords. Palestine officials accused Israel of not fulfilling their side of the agreement by withdrawing troops in Palestinian-occupied areas. On the other hand, the Israeli accused the PLO of violence against Israeli citizens (Oslo Accords). Once again, peace is not achieved and hostility further deepens, making the issue even harder to tackle in the future.
Creation of the Hamas
The Hamas was founded in 1987 as a militant group waging war against Israel. Hamas is currently governing Gaza independently from the Palestinian Authority (Beauchamp 2018). Hamas denies the legitimacy of the Israeli state and seeks to establish full Palestinian control. Although Hamas is the one behind suicide bombings and rockets, the organization offers social services to local Palestinians; therefore, they are looked at more favourably in comparison to the PA (Beauchamp 2018).
Zionism, in contrast to Hamas, is Israel’s national ideology. They believe Judaism is both a national and a religion (Beauchamp 2018). Although Zionism shares central beliefs, Zionists are divided when it comes to their relationship with Palestine. The Zionist left believes that Israeli should trade part of its autonomy in disputed lands in exchange for peace (Beauchamp 2018). The Zionist right, on the other hand, is not inclined to trade land for peace.
Right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu successfully forms government after winning the election. Israel launched several invasions in Gaza in fear of Hamas launching rockets (BBC 2019). Netanyahu also initiated military campaigns against militarized groups in Gaza. the ceasefire was only ended in 2014 (BBC 2019).
Process towards peace
After dozens of failed attempts in the form of mediation, there are effectively two paths the government can choose from. The first is a “two-state” solution in which both Israel and Palestine establish their own autonomous territories and governments. The second is the “one-state” solution which seeks to merge Israel with West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, this solution can happen in two ways depending on whether leftist or rightist Zionists take control over Parliament. The left Zionists seek to build a single democratic country while right Zionists wish to annex the West Bank and force out the Palestinian population (Beauchamp 2018).
Pros and Cons of the solutions – one state
In order to achieve a “one-state” solution, there will most likely be some sort of a multilateral negotiation facilitated by Middle Eastern and Western powers. Hamas will most likely be excluded from the discussion of the solution due to their nationalistic stance and past history of violence. Other peaceful civilian leaders will represent Palestine in this negotiation. In the case where a one-state solution is achieved through international pressure, the biggest pro is economic security and better human rights for the Palestinian people. Currently, the greatest threat to security stems from the legacy of Nakba which was established in hopes of helping the Palestinian people return to their homes. Given that such a goal is already fulfilled under the one-state solution, there will be a decreased incentive for violence. If the two states were to continue existing as two entities, then there is not likely going to be further negotiation or communication whereas if they are one state, then mutual dependence creates an incentive for peace. Moreover, a one-state solution will generally improve the standard of living for Palestinian people. This is because Israel has a higher level of civil liberties and individual rights. Currently, Palestinians outside of Israel are also experiencing significant economic instability and virtually no public services. Since Palestine is not internationally recognized as a nation, the government has limited means to develop a comprehensive public service system or conduct imports or exports.
The number one problem with the one-state solution is its feasibility. Due to increased nationalism on both sides and international support for a two-state solution, it is hard to imagine the two people coming together as one and living peacefully. Political parties in Israel, including both left and right-wing, support Israel as a Jewish state. Allowing the Palestinian population to become a part of Israel means that Israeli policy or ideology might be diluted.
A two-state solution sees Israel and Palestine as separate entities and autonomous government bodies. Given that a mutually agreed border is established, both sides are able to make laws, trade, and legislate on behalf of their citizens. One can argue that a two-state solution is better for Palestinians because they are economically poorer in terms of household income in comparison to Jewish people; therefore, a separation of the states can ensure they are not outcompeted or overshadowed in the economy if a one-state solution was to be complemented.
Anthropology of Conflict
The conflict between Israel and Palestine is a combination of multiple factors including territorial disputes, political disagreements, religious ideologies etc. However, the utmost priority should be ensuring the standard of living, including economic prosperity and personal security, for the Palestinian people. Both sides would inevitably need to make necessary concessions in order for long-term peace to be a possibility. It is also important for international peacekeepers and world leaders to prioritize a neutral tangible solution for safety rather than promote further division through politics. Especially under the current pandemic, it is even more critical to ensure both sides gain access to vaccines, health care treatments, safe shelters, and humanitarian assistance when necessary. Lastly, it is important to note that there is a lot of misinformation currently on this topic; if given the availability, individuals should take it on themselves to fact check and verify information on social media.