The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most complex and long-standing disputes in the world. It involves issues of land, religion, history, identity, and security. The conflict has claimed thousands of lives, displaced millions of people, and affected the stability and peace of the Middle East and beyond. But how did it start and why does it persist?
The origins of the conflict can be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Jewish and Arab nationalist movements emerged in response to the oppression and persecution of their communities in Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Both groups claimed historical and religious ties to the land of Palestine, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire.
The Zionist movement, which sought to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, gained support from some Western powers, especially Britain, which issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, promising to facilitate the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine. After World War I, Britain took control of Palestine as a mandate from the League of Nations, and faced increasing resistance and violence from both Jewish and Arab communities, who opposed British policies and each other’s aspirations.
The conflict escalated after World War II, when the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews in Europe increased the demand for a Jewish state, and the Arab states and the Palestinian leadership rejected any compromise or partition of Palestine. In 1947, the United Nations proposed a plan to divide Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, with Jerusalem under international administration.
The Jewish leadership accepted the plan, but the Arab states and the Palestinians rejected it, and launched a war against the newly declared state of Israel in 1948. The war resulted in Israel’s victory and the establishment of its sovereignty over most of the territory allocated to it by the UN, as well as some of the territory allocated to the Arab state.
The war also created a massive refugee problem, as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in what became Israel, and were denied the right to return. The remaining Palestinian territories were occupied by Egypt (Gaza Strip) and Jordan (West Bank and East Jerusalem), while Israel annexed West Jerusalem.
The conflict continued in the following decades, with several wars and uprisings between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and between Israel and the Palestinians. The most notable events include the 1956 Suez Crisis, the 1967 Six-Day War, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 Lebanon War, the 1987-1993 First Intifada, the 1993 Oslo Accords, the 2000-2005 Second Intifada, the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.
The 2006 Lebanon War, the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, the 2008-2009 Gaza War, the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid, the 2012 Gaza War, the 2014 Gaza War, the 2015-2016 stabbing attacks, the 2017 Jerusalem recognition, the 2018 Gaza border protests, the 2019-2020 Gaza rocket attacks, the 2020 Abraham Accords, and the 2021 Gaza War.
The main issues that prevent a resolution of the conflict are the status of Jerusalem, the borders and security of Israel and a future Palestinian state, the fate of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, and the recognition and legitimacy of each other’s national and political rights.
Various attempts have been made to negotiate a peace agreement, involving regional and international actors, such as the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the Arab League, and the Quartet. However, none of these efforts have succeeded in ending the conflict or achieving a lasting and comprehensive solution.
The conflict remains a source of suffering, violence, and instability for both Israelis and Palestinians, as well as for the region and the world. The prospects for peace depend on the willingness and ability of the parties to overcome the historical, ideological, and emotional barriers that divide them, and to address the legitimate needs and aspirations of both peoples.
The role of the international community is also crucial, as it can provide support, pressure, and incentives for the parties to engage in meaningful dialogue and compromise. The conflict is not inevitable, nor is it unsolvable, but it requires courage, vision, and determination from all sides.