Back To CourseHistory 107: World Conflicts Since 1900
8 chapters | 73 lessons
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Alexandra has taught students at every age level from pre-school through adult. She has a BSEd in English Education.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is one of the world's most enduring struggles, with both Jews and non-Jews claiming rights to the Levant (the land east of the Mediterranean Sea). Following WWII, the United Nations authorized the establishment of two new states in the land: one Jewish and one Arab. Israel created a government in 1948. The non-Jewish residents of the territory, now called Palestinians, did not. Although some Palestinians stayed, most were either forced out by Israel or encouraged to leave by Arab leaders.
Since that time, the land designated for an Arab state has been absorbed by several nations, those Palestinians who aren't citizens of Israel find themselves stateless and unwelcome in most of the region, and the nation of Israel has been in nearly-constant conflict with its Arab neighbors and/or Palestinians.
Historically, Arab nations have refused to recognize or be at peace with Israel until it does three things: release all remaining disputed territory (specifically Gaza, the West Bank and Golan Heights - captured by Israel in 1967 and since occupied by Jewish settlements), recognize a Palestinian nation, and allow Palestinian refugees the right of return to land in Israel they possessed prior to 1948.
While Israel has been willing to agree to statehood and has made some concessions regarding the settlements, the two sides cannot come to terms regarding borders and the status of refugees.
Several different groups have emerged trying to secure Palestinian demands, but their attacks have prompted Israeli invasions of neighboring nations or retaliations in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as the construction of physical barriers around some of the territories.
A deadly 6-year Intifada, or uprising, within Gaza and the West Bank lasted from 1987 until the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, when the two sides finally recognized each other and a legislature known as the Palestinian Authority was created for limited self-rule within Gaza and parts of the West Bank. But Oslo and other near-solutions have unraveled, and both sides point to the other as the problem.
In the summer of 2000, U.S. President Bill Clinton invited the two sides to Camp David to discuss peace. According to Clinton, Israel offered to withdraw from most of the West Bank and recognize a Palestinian state with its capitol in Jerusalem, but Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat refused the terms without a counteroffer. Above all, Arafat had made it clear in the past that Palestinians should have all of the West Bank (in this plan, Israel would still control 9% of the area).
So, tensions were already high when Ariel Sharon, then a candidate for Israeli Prime Minister, visited the Jewish Temple Mount, one of the holiest sites for both Jews and Muslims. When Sharon vowed that the site would forever remain under Jewish authority, a second Intifada was ignited. Suicide bombers incited fear among the Israeli population. Israel attacked these terrorist targets wherever they hid or were suspected, causing significant Palestinian civilian casualties.
In 2005, Prime Minister Sharon announced that the Israeli military and settlers would withdraw from all of Gaza and four settlements in the West Bank. Although the new policy allowed for complete Palestinian self-rule in those territories, rocket attacks on Israel increased dramatically after the disengagement, justifying the fears of some Israeli critics who felt the settlements were needed as 'buffer zones' along the borders.
The following year, 2006, Hezbollah, a Palestinian resistance group in Lebanon, crossed into Israel and attacked. Israel retaliated, despite the fact that most Hezbollah militants live among the civilian population. Once again, and in many incidents to come, Israel faced criticism for its willingness to inflict collateral damage in its defense efforts.
Also in 2006, the radical Hamas party won control of the Palestinian Authority, setting off a chain reaction of events. Intense fighting broke out between Hamas and Fatah (the previous ruling party), and the Palestinian Authority faced immediate sanctions. Many Western nations consider Hamas a terrorist organization because it calls for the destruction of Israel and complete Arab control of the Levant and accepts violence as a tactic for achieving their objectives. Israel and Egypt, with approval by the UN, began a total blockade of Gaza, inspecting all incoming ships to ensure that they're not carrying weapons or other banned materials. The West Bank, having restored the Fatah government in 2007, escaped such dramatic measures.
The blockade itself has had its own repercussions. Hundreds of tunnels now connect Gaza to its neighbors underground. They transport people and medicines, but also banned weapons and black market products; Israel suspects that they're used to carry out terrorist attacks and kidnappings. A major tunnel exiting in Israel was discovered in 2013, having been built with cement designated for civilian construction projects. The tunnels have become a new point of contention, as Gazans defend them as an unfortunate necessity, while Israel feels justified in destroying them and retaliating.
Several recent developments raised hopes. Well-publicized talks and near-agreements, such as the 2003 Roadmap for Peace and the 2007 Annapolis Conference, advocated for a permanent, 2-state solution, but haven't overcome the historic obstacles. The so-called 'Arab Spring' - a wave of governmental changes throughout the Middle East beginning in 2011 - has offered more questions than answers about Arab-Israeli relations. Hamas and Fatah created a more moderate 'unity government' in June 2014, but the Palestinians and Israelis both still claim to be the victim while pointing fingers at the other as aggressor. In fact, the summer of 2014 was one of the deadliest in recent years and summarizes the enduring conflict tragically well.
Three Israeli teens were murdered in Gaza. Israel conducted raids and hundreds of arrests. Hamas protested by launching rockets into Israel. When three Israelis murdered a Palestinian teen in retaliation, riots and violence erupted in Gaza. Israel then launched airstrikes into Gaza, inciting criticism from the UN for their attacks on a school - though the U.S. acknowledged that the school was being used by Hamas to store weapons.
So, we come back to the original demands. Basically, Palestinian leadership won't stop fighting until Israel gives up the land. But Israel won't concede more territory until they feel safe, and are unlikely to allow Palestinian refugees - whom they fear as terrorists - to reside among them.
The Arab-Israeli conflict dates back to the early 20th century. Palestinians demand possession of land designated to them in 1948 for their own state and that their people can reside freely in Israel if desired. Israel remains wary of Arab intentions toward them and will not concede all of the land it has occupied since 1967. Since the failure of the 1993 Oslo Accords, peace remains elusive in the Levant, with no lasting progress made despite several promising developments.
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Back To CourseHistory 107: World Conflicts Since 1900
8 chapters | 73 lessons