Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in the Light of History

Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is part of the Arab-Israeli conflict, is an ongoing dispute between two peoples, Jewish Israelis and Arab Palestinians, who both claim the right to sovereignty over the Land of Israel / Palestine in whole or in par. Throughout history, there have been many conflicts in this area between peoples inhabiting it. This particular conflict can be traced to the late 19th century, when Zionist Jews expressed their desire to create a modern state in the ancient land of the Israelites, which they considered to be their rightful homeland. The Zionist Organization sought to realize this goal by encouraging immigration thither, and purchasing land in the region, then controlled by the Ottoman Empire. After decades of the British Mandate, numerous attempts to partition the land and hostilities, the State of Israel was established. Local Arab nations started the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, in which Israel prevailed, and won control over borders which remained in place until the Six Day War. For decades after 1948, Arab governments refused to recognize Israel. They contended that Israel had engaged in unfair practices towards local Arabs, and that its creation was based on unfair diplomatic decisions.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964, before Israel occupied any of the lands of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the Six Day War. The PLO’s central original tenet was complete non-recognition of Israel in 1998, Yasser Arafat stated that he recognized Israel’s right to exist, thus providing the first step needed to enable negotiations between Israel and the PLO. During the Oslo Peace Process which began in 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization was permitted autonomy to run Palestinian affairs in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the form of the Palestinian National Authority with the understanding that it would uphold recognition of and mutual co-existence with Israel. However there was continual contention over whether actual events and conditions proved that there was greater acceptance of Israel’s existence by Palestinian leaders. In 2006, Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council, where it remains the majority party. Its charter openly calls for the destruction of Israel, and seeks to create a Palestinian state encompassing all of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. This has greatly impeded any diplomatic progress, as Israel declines any contact with Haas, as long as the latter calls for the destruction of Israel.

Most Palestinians accept the West Bank and Gaza Strip as at least a part of the territory of their future state. Most Israelis also accept this solution. An attempt to achieve this solution was seen in the Oslo peace process, where Israel and the PLO negotiated, unsuccessfully, to come to a mutual agreement. Vocal minorities on both sides advocate other solutions, most of which contradict the goal of ‘two states for two peoples.’ In both communities, some individuals and groups advocate total removal or transfer of the other community. A small minority advocates a one state solution, where all of Israel, the Gaza Strip, and West Bank would become a bi-national state, providing equal citizenship to all of its current residents.

One central question of this conflict is the degree to which Palestinians are willing and able to accept the right of Israel to exist, and are willing to uphold acceptance of this principle. Similarly, another central question is the degree to which Israel feels conditions exist in which it is possible to allow Palestinians to achieve sovereignty. Israel asserts that one major condition of Palestinian sovereignty must be acceptance of mutual co-existence and elimination of terrorism. Some Palestinian groups, notably Fatah, a political party founded by PLO leaders, claim they are willing to foster co-existence if Palestinians are steadily given more political rights and autonomy. However, Hamas, which is currently the majority ruling party in the Palestinian Legislative Council, openly states that it completely opposes Israel’s right to exist.

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