- On October 7, 2023, Hamas leader Mohammed Deif announced the start of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, a large-scale offensive against Israel. This sparked the worst flare-up in the Israel-Palestine conflict in recent years. Israel declared a state of war in response and asked Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip. India also launched Operation Ajay to help Indian nationals evacuate from Israel.
- The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s longest-running and most controversial conflicts. It is difficult to understand all the angles of this conflict without comprehensive and thorough analysis. This article attempts to provide the readers with a detailed understanding of the same.
- GS I- History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism, etc.- their forms and effect on the society.
- GS II-
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
Location and Geography:
- Israel, officially the State of Israel is a country in the Middle East, located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.
- It is bounded:
- to the north by Lebanon,
- to the northeast by Syria,
- to the east and southeast by Jordan,
- to the southwest by Egypt, and
- to the west by the Mediterranean Sea.
- Jerusalem is the seat of government and the proclaimed capital, although the latter status has not received wide international recognition.
What is the Conflict about?
- At its heart, it is a conflict between two self-determination movements- the Jewish Zionist project and the Palestinian nationalist project.
- The origins of the conflict can be traced back to Jewish immigration and sectarian conflict in Mandatory Palestine between Jews and Arabs.
- It has been referred to as the world's “most intractable conflict,” with the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip reaching 52 years.
- Despite a long-term peace process and the general reconciliation of Israel with Egypt and Jordan, Israelis and Palestinians have failed to reach a final peace agreement.
- The key issues are:
- mutual recognition,
- water rights,
- control of Jerusalem,
- Israeli settlements,
- Palestinian freedom of movement, and the
- The Palestinian right of return.
- The violence of the conflict, in a region rich in sites of historic, cultural and religious interest worldwide, has been the object of numerous international conferences dealing with historic rights, security issues, and human rights.
- The conflict also has been a factor hampering tourism in and general access to areas that are hotly contested.
|Mandatory Palestine was a geopolitical entity established between 1920 and 1923 in the region of Palestine under the terms of the “Mandate for Palestine”.|
|History and Timeline of the Conflict|
- Jews have been persecuted throughout history due to their religious beliefs and foreign culture.
- Jewish communities had played a vital role in the culture of Eastern Europe for centuries, but in the 19th century, they were in danger of annihilation.
- Of all the ethnic and national groups that lived under the rule of the Russian czars, the Eastern European Jews had long been the most isolated and endured the harshest treatment.
- In the decades, from 1880 to 1920, a vast number of the Jewish people living in the lands ruled by Russia- including Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine, as well as neighbouring regions- moved in masses to the U.S (to escape Czarist Russia’s pogroms-State-sponsored massacre of the Jews.)
When did Jewish immigration to historical Palestine begin?
- There was already an indigenous Jewish population in Palestine during the Ottoman Empire and before.
- Its members were concentrated principally in the holy cities of Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Hebron.
- Nonetheless, the Jewish presence in Palestine, prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, had fluctuated through time, with various communities appearing and disappearing.
- Regardless, in 1880, before immigration began, Palestine’s Jewish population numbered about 25,000 and had been deeply rooted there for several generations.
- At the same time, when Palestine was under the Ottoman Empire, a large number to Russian Jews migrated to Palestine.
- During and after World War I, more and more Jews were coming in.
- In 1897, Jews started a movement called a Zionist movement in the U.S, to escape persecution and establish their own state in their ancestral homeland, Israel.
- The World Zionist Organisation was created to advocate for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
- As a result, a large number of Jews started flowing into Palestine and they bought land and started settling down there.
- This increased the Jewish communities in Palestine. They acquired land from Ottoman and individual Arab landholders, known as effendis, and established Jewish agricultural settlements.
- Tensions between the Zionist movements and the Arab residents of Palestine started between Arab landholders and Jews when the former felt a threat to their resources and wealth.
- By 1916, Palestine came under British control after the Sykes-Picot Agreement (a secret agreement between Great Britain and France).
- This led to the division of the old Ottoman Turkish Empire.
- Later through the Balfour Declaration, the British foreign secretary James Balfour agreed to the establishment of a Jewish homeland. The lack of concern for the “rights of existing non-Jewish communities” i.e. the Arabs led to prolonged violence.
- This exacerbated tensions between the Arabs living in Mandate Palestine and the Jews who emigrated there during the Ottoman period.
- In 1919, the Faisal–Weizmann Agreement was signed which promoted Arab-Jewish cooperation on the development of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine and an Arab nation in a large part of the Middle East.
- But this event had little to no effect on the conflict.
- In the 1930s, After Nazis gained power in Germany, the Jews influx to Palestine took a major turn with hundreds of thousands of them resettled from Europe to Palestine.
- Arabs saw this as a threat to their homeland and they fought bitterly with them.
- As the British Government remained as a mute spectator, violence reached its peak.
- In 1947, the British Government referred to the question of the future of Palestine to the United Nations.
- UN voted to split the land into two countries and presented a partition plan.
- Jewish people accepted the agreement and declared the independence of Israel.
Arab-Israel war (1948-49):
- Arabs saw the creation of Israel as a part of a conspiracy to move them out of their land.
- The 1948 Arab–Israeli War (1948–49), known as the “War of Independence” by Israelis and al-Nakba (“the Catastrophe”) by Palestinians, began after the UN Partition Plan and the subsequent 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine in November 1947.
- The Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria declared war on Israel.
- The Arab invasion was denounced by the United States, the Soviet Union, and UN secretary-general
- At the end of the war between Israel and Arab countries, Israel emerged victoriously.
- Moreover, it could increase its territory to a larger extent and it marked the beginning of the expansionist policy of Israel.
- As a consequence of the war, a large number of Palestinians either flee or were forced to move out of Israel and settle in refugee camps near Israel’s border.
- It was the beginning of the Palestine refugee crisis which ultimately led to the creation of a terrorist organization.
- This crisis led to the formation of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization).
- The period between 1956 and 1967 witnessed:
- the rise of Nasserism (in Egypt);
- the founding of the United Arab Republic in 1958 and its collapse in 1961;
- Syrian plans for the diversion of water from the Jordan River;
- continued fedayeen raids, mostly from Syria and Jordan, and Israeli reprisals;
- and the increasing alignment of the Arab states with the Soviet Union, which became their largest arms supplier.
- In 1964, the PLO was established by mostly Palestinian refugees mostly from Jordan. This organization later came to be known as Fatah.
- Article 24 of the Palestinian National Charter of 1964 stated:
“This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or in the Himmah Area.”
- The period between 1956 and 1967 witnessed:
- The 1956 Suez War was a joint Israeli-British-French operation, in which Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula and British and French forces landed at the port of Suez after Egyptian President Nasser decided to nationalize the Suez Canal.
- Israel justified its invasion of Egypt as an attempt to stop attacks upon Israeli civilians and to restore Israeli shipping rights through the Straits of Tiran, which Egypt claimed was within its territorial waters.
- The invading forces agreed to withdraw under the U.S. and international pressure, and Israel withdrew from the Sinai as well, in return for the installation of United Nations Emergency Forces and guarantees of Israeli freedom of shipment.
- The canal was left in Egyptian (rather than British and French) hands.
Israel against the Arab countries (1967):
- In 1967, Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.
- at the end of this Six-Day War, Israel captured:
- Golan Heights from Syria.
- West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan.
- The Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt.
- 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 a large number of Palestinians.
- Gaza and Westbank are together known as ‘Occupied Territories’, after the 1967 war.
- In 1981, Israel effectively annexes the Golan but this is not recognized by the United States or the international community.
- In 1987, Hamas, a violent offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood seeking “to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” through violent jihad, was formed.
- In 1987, Tensions in the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza reached boiling point resulting in the First Intifada.
- The First Intifada, 1987–1993, began as an uprising of particularly the young, against the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the failure of the PLO to achieve any kind of meaningful diplomatic solution to the Palestinian issue.
What does Palestine want?
- It wants Israel to withdraw to pre-1967 borders and establish an independent Palestine state in West Bank and Gaza.
- Israel should stop all expansion of settlements before coming to peace talks.
- Palestine wants Palestinian refugees who lost their homes in 1948 to be able to come back.
- It also demands East Jerusalem as the capital of the Independent Palestine state.
What does Israel want?
- Sovereignty over Jerusalem.
- Recognition of Israel as a Jewish State.
- The right of return of Palestine refugees only to Palestine and not to Israel.
What is so special about Jerusalem?
- Jerusalem is a city that straddles the border between Israel and the West Bank.
- The city of Jerusalem is sacred to a number of religious traditions, including the Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which consider it a holy city.
- It’s home to some of the holiest sites in both Judaism and Islam.
- Both Israel and Palestine have declared Jerusalem their capital.
- UNESCO has classified the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls as a World Heritage Site, meaning it is regarded as “being of outstanding international importance and therefore as a deserving special protection.”
Know the Territories-
- Camp David Accords (1978): “Framework for Peace in the Middle East” brokered by the U.S. set the stage for peace talks between Israel and its neighbours and a resolution to the “Palestinian problem”.
- This, however, remained unfulfilled.
- Oslo Accords (1993): Under the Oslo Accords Israel and the PLO agree to officially recognize each other and renounce the use of violence.
- The Oslo Accords also established the Palestinian Authority, which received limited autonomy in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.
- In 2002, Saudi Arabia offered a peace plan in The New York Times and at a summit meeting of the Arab League in Beirut.
- It essentially calls for:
- full withdrawal,
- a solution of the refugee problem through the Palestinian “right of return”,
- a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem in return for fully normalized relations with the whole Arab world.
- This proposal was the first to receive the unanimous backing of the Arab League.
- It essentially calls for:
- In 2005, Israel begins a unilateral withdrawal of Jews from settlements in Gaza. However, Israel kept tight control over all border crossings (blockade).
- In 2012, UN upgrades Palestinian representation to that of “non-member observer state”.
- In 2020, the West Asia peace plan unveiled by U.S. President Donald Trump sought to give the Israelis what they have long wanted- an expansive state with Jerusalem as its “undivided capital” and tight security control over a future Palestinian state.
- The term “Palestine refugees” originally referred to both Arabs and Jews whose normal place of residence had been in Mandatory Palestine but were displaced and lost their livelihoods as a result of the 1948 Palestine war.
- The about 711,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from the areas that became Israel were not allowed to return to their homes.
- They were usually not allowed to leave refugee camps and mix with the local Arab society either, leaving the Palestinian refugee problem unsolved even today.
- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was established to alleviate their condition.
- Nearly one-third of the registered Palestine refugees, more than 1.5 million individuals, live in 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
- A Palestine refugee camp is defined as a plot of land placed at the disposal of UNRWA by the host government to accommodate Palestine refugees and set up facilities to cater to their needs.
- Areas not designated as such and are not recognized as camps.
- UNRWA also maintains schools, health centres and distribution centres in areas outside the recognized camps where Palestine refugees are concentrated, such as Yarmouk, near Damascus.
- The plots of land on which the recognized camps were set up are either state land or, in most cases, land leased by the host government from local landowners.
- This means that the refugees in camps do not 'own' the land on which their shelters were built, but have the right to 'use' the land for a residence.
- Socioeconomic conditions in the camps are generally poor, with high population density, cramped living conditions and inadequate basic infrastructures such as roads and sewers.
- Recently, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a decision regarding the scope of its territorial jurisdiction over issues pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to this, ICC has agreed to look into the human right violations that occurred during the Israel-Palestine issue.
- Palestinian Authority has welcomed this decision. On the other hand, Israel has criticized the ICC action as an unwarranted intervention that undermines its sovereignty and threatened that the move may eventually eliminate the possibility of a two-state solution.
|Israel-Palestine conflict and US|
- The US has been playing a significant role as the mediator in the Israel-Palestine. However, its credibility as a mediator had long been questioned by Palestinians.
- The United States has been criticized by the OIC (Organization of Islamic cooperation) and other Arab organizations, for vetoing most Security Council decisions critical of Israel.
- The USA has more Jews than Israel. Jews have significant control over US media and the economy.
- Also, Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget.
- The United States has been vocal about its intention to veto any Palestinian bid for statehood.
- That's why Palestine had to be satisfied with a ‘non-member observer’ status in the UN.
- However, the period after 2012, saw a degrading US-Israel relationship.
- Iran's Nuclear deal of 2015 ( the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) irritated Israel and it criticized the US for the deal.
- The US requested the United Nations to pass a resolution that declared Israel’s growing settlements in the occupied territories illegal.
|Emergence of Hamas|
- 1987: Founding of Hamas, a violent offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood seeking to fulfill its agenda through violent jihad.
- Hamas– It is regarded as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. In 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian Authority's legislative elections. It ejected Fatah from Gaza in 2007, splitting the Palestinian movement geographically, as well
- 1987: Tensions in the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza reached boiling point resulting in the First Intifada (Palestinian Uprising). It grew into a small war between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army.
Recent Clashes between Israeli Forces & Hamas
Cause of the clashes:
Impact of Assault on Israel-Saudi Arabia Ties:
What is the Solution?
- The best solution is a “two-state solution” that would establish Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and most of the West Bank, leaving the rest of the land to Israel.
- Though the two-state plan is clear in theory, the two sides are still deeply divided over how to make it work in practice.
- One state solution (only Palestine or only Israel) is not a viable option.
- The European Union, UN, US, and Russia had released a Road Map for Peace in 2003, which outlined a clear timetable towards a Palestinian state.
- The democratization of the Palestinian society through which new credible leadership can emerge is necessary.
- The need of the hour is to treat this conflict as an Israeli-Arab conflict rather Israel-Palestine.
- As we have seen, conflict is not only between Israel and Palestine but also with other Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Syria etc.
- All of them should participate in the negotiations and the final agreement should be recognized formally by each one of them along with UN general assembly and security council.
- It is time for the international community to find a just and lasting peaceful solution to the World’s most intractable conflict soon.
Why is the Solution so difficult to achieve?
- India was one of the few countries to oppose the UN’s partition plan in November 1947, echoing its own experience during independence a few months earlier.
- In the decades that followed, the Indian political leadership actively supported the Palestinian cause and withheld full diplomatic relations with Israel.
- India recognized Israel in 1950 but it is also the first non-Arab country to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole representative of the Palestinian.
- India is also one of the first countries to recognize the statehood of Palestine in 1988.
- In 2014, India favoured UNHRC’s resolution to probe Israel’s human rights violations in Gaza.
- Despite supporting the probe, India abstained from voting against Israel in UNHRC IN 2015.
- India supports the two-state solution and India has also urged both sides to refrain from attempts to unilaterally change the existing status quo, including in East Jerusalem and its neighbourhood.
- As a part of Link West Policy, India has de-hyphenated its relationship with Israel and Palestine in 2018 to treat both the countries as mutually independent and exclusive.
- In June 2019, India voted in favour of a decision introduced by Israel in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that objected to granting consultative status to a Palestinian non-governmental organization.
- So far India has tried to maintain the image of its historical moral supporter for Palestinian self-determination, and at the same time to engage in military, economic, and other strategic relations with Israel.
- Until 2017, India’s position was that it supported “the Palestinian cause and called for a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel”.
- India dropped the references to East Jerusalem and the borders in 2017 when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited Delhi.
- At the recent United Nations Security Council debate (May 2021), India reaffirmed its support for Palestine.
- However, India stopped short of making any direct reference to the status of Jerusalem or the future Israel-Palestine borders.
- India’s Permanent Representative to the UN said: “India reiterates its strong support for the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-state solution.”
- India has expressed deep concern over the violence in Jerusalem, especially on Haram esh-Sharif/Temple Mount during the holy month of Ramzan and about the possible eviction process in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.
- At present, while India is firmly putting the two-state solution on the table, it made no reference to East-Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital, it opines that the contours of the boundaries must be discussed, settled and recognised by the parties.
- India’s recent comments point to its evolving position on the larger Israel-Palestine issue.
Role of India:
- Historically, India has urged the leadership of both sides to engage in direct negotiations to advance the goal of a two-state solution.
- In Palestine, India’s efforts are focused on nation-building and strengthening institutions through the India-Palestine development partnership covering various sectors of the Palestinian economy.
- With Israel, India shares a special relationship in the domains of defence, Science & Tech, etc.
- In this context, India can leverage its soft power to propel these two countries towards lasting peace.
Abraham Accords, a forward leap:
- The recent normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, known as the Abraham Accords, are further proof that the only way to achieve genuine peace is through direct negotiations.
- All regional powers should envisage peace between the two countries on the lines of the Abraham Accords.
The world at large needs to come together for a peaceful solution but the reluctance of the Israeli government and other involved parties has aggravated the issue more. Thus a balanced approach towards the Israel-Palestine issue would help to maintain favourable relations with Arab countries as well as Israel. A mediation that listens to the issues of both sides is required.
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