Recent Developments of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

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  • 0:59 Palestinian Demands
  • 2:26 Camp David Summit and…
  • 3:34 Disengagement and…
  • 4:30 The Gaza Blockade and Tunnels
  • 6:00 The Struggle Continues
  • 7:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alexandra Lutz

Alexandra has taught students at every age level from pre-school through adult. She has a BSEd in English Education.

Despite the 2000 Camp David summit, peace remains elusive between Israel and Palestinians. Problems include a second Intifada, safety concerns from Hamas and Hezbollah, Israeli retaliations that harm civilians, and the Gaza blockade and tunnels.

Background to the Modern Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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.

Palestinian Demands

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.

Camp David Summit and the Second Intifada

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.

Disengagement and Re-Engagement

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.

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