Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Recent Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Repercussions on the Region

After World War Two, the conflict between the Arab and Jewish population of the British mandate of Palestine became a major international issue. The United Nations, the United State, and the Soviet Union were determined to initiate a two-state solution. The UN-mandated partition was put into effect in 1948, but was rejected by the Palestinians and every Arab state. Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948. Almost immediately, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq declared war on the nascent nation. By the conclusion of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Israel had greatly expanded its borders, and signed ceasefire agreements with all its Arab neighbours. A significant exodus of Palestinians from Israel occurred during this time, coupled with an even greater Jewish exodus from Arab lands. These changes in demographics helped lay the long-term groundwork for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since it drastically increased the size of the Jewish population of Israel, and created a problem of Palestinian refuges. By the end of 1949, only 150,123 Palestinians remained within Israel. For this reason, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict took a back seat to the broader Arab-Israeli Conflict during this time. Palestinians played a crucial role in the Egyptian-Israeli conflict during this time beginning in 1950; Egypt began using fedayeen to conduct a war of proxy against Israel. These units of Palestinians—often trained and equipped by Egypt—would infiltrate across what was then the Israeli-Egyptian border at Gaza, and conduct guerrilla raids against Israeli targets (mostly civilian in nature in the first five years of the 1950s, “884 Israelis were wounded or killed by” Palestinian fedayin trained and sent into Israel by the Egyptians. The fedyain attacks were cited as being among the factors leading up to the Israeli decision to participate in the Sinai Campaign in 1956.

The scope of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict again broadened after Israeli conquered the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt during the Six-Day War. A peace movement poster: Israeli and Palestinian flags and the words peace in Arabic and Hebrew. Similar images have been used by several groups proposing a two-state solution to the conflict.

In 1993, Israeli and Palestinian leaders from the Palestine Liberation Organization strove to find a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict known as the Oslo peace process. Perhaps the most important milestone of this period was Yasser Arafat’s letter of recognition of Israel’s right to exist. The crux of the Oslo agreement was that Israel would gradually cede control of the Palestinian territories over to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. The Oslo process was delicate and progressed in fits and starts, but finally came to a close when Arafat and Barak failed to reach agreement. Robert Malley, special assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs, has confirmed that Barak made no formal written offer to Arafat. Consequently, there are different accounts of the proposals considered. However, the main obstacle to agreement appears to have been the status of Jerusalem.


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