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The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes back many decades, to when the UN formed Israel in 1948. The conflict is between the Israelis who are Jewish, and the Palestinians who are Arabs, with both sides fighting over land rights in the Middle East. The surrounding countries of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, support the Palestinians, in their fight to get their homeland back. The Palestinian supporting countries immediately attacked Israel, and a big conflict in the Middle East began. The Israelis believe they have sole rights to govern, and live in their country, although the Palestinians think they should be able to live on their homeland, which they have
inhabited for many centuries.
Background on the Conflict
The formation of Israel has been the fundamental cause of the major wars, between the Arabs and the Jewish people for decades. These wars occurred in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982. The first war immediately followed Israel’s formation. In this war, the Israelis took the entire Egypt-Palestine frontier, except for the Gaza Strip. In 1956, Israel took the Suez Canal, from Egypt by raiding Arab bases, which increased their buffer zone. The buffer zone is an area that Israel controlled but did not own. This made the Palestinian’s effort to attack more difficult, because they had to cross over more land. Then in 1967 Israel shot down six Egyptian military planes, causing the Egyptians to activate their troops. Israel then eliminated the Egyptian Air Force and won what came to be known as the “Six Day War.” In this war Israel seized the city of Jerusalem; this city is of significance to both sides of the conflict, because it’s historically connected with their religious beliefs. They also obtained the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Golan Heights, which increased their land holdings. In 1973, the “Yom Kippur War” occurred. This war was caused by Egypt crossing the Suez Canal, and Syria, another Arab country attacking from the Golan Heights. Israel suffered heavy casualties, but still managed to drive them back, and retained possession of previously captured territory. In 1974, Egypt signed a cease-fire, and Syria started negotiation of peace agreements. When Egypt signed the peace treaty, and recognized that Israel has a right to exist, Israel gave back the Sinai Peninsula in 1979. Increased tensions between the two groups caused Israel to bomb Lebanon, because there are two major Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) centers situated there.
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In 1983, major violence started to occur in Israel, because of Israeli citizens not wanting the peace agreements to continue; terrorist bombings began to become more common. This violence continues to the present. In 1993, the peace process began again with the signing of the Oslo Peace Agreement. In 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and the peace process slowed. Benjamin Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister in 1996; the peace process was then slowed again because of his philosophies. In 1998 Yasser Arafat, the leader of the PLO, and Netanyahu signed the land-for-peace agreement or the Wye River Agreement. This agreement says that the Israelis will hand over pieces of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in small portions each year until it is renowned by the Arabs. In 1999 Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister and began the peace process going again. (CNN Online)
Jewish View of the Conflict
Jews have moved around the world for decades as a result of religious discrimination, the most serious of which was ethnic cleansing during World War II. In the mid 1900’s Jews began to return to the Middle East, because they had nowhere to go. This increased the region’s Jewish population from 15,000 in 1900 to 600,000 in 1947. (FAS.org) Since there are many Arab nations, and no Jewish nations, the UN established Israel, to provide a place for the Jewish people to live. Arab nations were not at all happy with the formation of Israel, because the UN stole their homeland. This caused many wars and terrorist upheavals. The Israelis believed they had a right to stay on the land, because it was given to them, and they had nowhere else to go. As a result, the Israelis fought many wars to defend their right to stay. The country lost hundreds of thousands of lives, as soldiers fought the wars to defend their country. The Israeli government has had to take many precautions to protect its citizens. These include taking over land to establish buffer zones, deploying military troops in the zones, and the constant manufacturing of war goods. (CNN)
Palestinian View of the Conflict
Arabs populated the area of Palestine in approximately 2000 B.C. The land has been an area of conflict for thousands of years, since it is the crossroads of the world. (World Book) There have been many invasions and hundreds of battles, many caused by the ever-powerful Ottoman Turks. When the UN formed Israel, the Palestinians lost their homeland, which they have occupied for centuries. As a result of losing their land, more than 472,000 were made homeless, and they were left to fend for themselves. Many went to Lebanon and Jordan, since they were told they could not stay in Israel. Arabs from surrounding countries have supported them in their battle to gain their land back, because they have become a minority, and have overpopulated the surrounding Arab countries. (Gazioglu) They also believe they should have an area of land. The Palestinians have also lost many people, due to the constant fighting and bombing of terrorist groups. Battles such as the Six Day War, and the Yom Kippur War, have turned Arab nations into war zones. (Britannica)
There have been many Israeli leaders throughout the years, who have tried to make peace for both groups of people. Ehud Barak (1942-present) is a military leader, who battled in such wars as the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. In 1991 he was promoted to lieutenant general, the highest rank in the Israeli military. In 1995 Barak left the military and joined Yitzhak Rabin in politics. While in politics Barak seeks to improve Israelis middle class life, education and health services. Along with that he has helped keep the peace process moving along. (CNN)
Yitzhak Rabin (1922-1995) was a soldier, statesman, and Prime Minister. He was born in Jerusalem. He fought in the war of Independence, and headed the armed forces during the Six Day War. He became a Prime Minister in 1974, but resigned after financial scandal. He then again was elected Prime Minister in 1992. After his election he began the peace process with the Palestinians. For his efforts he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. Unfortunately he was assassinated in 1995. (Biography)
Benjamin Netanyahu (1949-present) was born in Tel Aviv. His family moved to the U.S. when he was a child. He soon became Israel’s U.S. ambassador, and was elected to Israel’s parliament in 1988. It is said his “hard line politics” strained relations with the U.S. and slowed the peace process. (Biography)
Yasser Arafat (1929-present) was born in Jerusalem. In 1969 he became the leader of the PLO. In 1988 when Jordan surrendered the West Bank to Israel, he thought that the Palestinians would eventually be given the land by Israel, so he persuaded many of his colleagues to believe that Israel had the right to co-exist. This was a large step that Arafat took toward peace in the Middle East. Arafat also received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. Arafat is a major key to the peace negotiations, since he is one of the few Arab leaders that will listen to the Israelis.(Biography)
King Hussein of Jordan received his education in Egypt and England, where he attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. On August 11, 1952, at the age of seventeen, Hussein was proclaimed King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Throughout his 47-year reign, Hussein steered a somewhat neutral course in the face of the political upheavals inside and outside his country, favoring the Western powers, particularly Britain, and pacifying Arab nationalism. After the 1967 war with Israel, the PLO made increasingly frequent raids into Israel from Jordan, their power developing to such an extent that he ordered the Jordanian army to move against them, and after a short civil war (1970), the PLO leadership fled abroad. His decision to cut links with the West Bank (1988) prompted the PLO to establish a government in exile. King Hussein was stricken with Lymphatic cancer in 1992 and he died on February 7, 1999, at the age of 63, leaving a void in the Arab efforts to regain their land. (Facts)
As the years have passed, there have been many leaders, and still there has been no resolution to the everlasting conflict in the Middle East. Such things as scandals, and assassination have stalled the peace process, and many leaders found it easier to fight than to attempt to solve the conflict.
Each side of this conflict has a very substantial argument for why they should own this land. In 1947 the majority of the Jewish population had migrated to the Middle East from Europe, as a result the UN thought that the Middle East would be a good area in which to establish a Jewish state. This idea gained a lot of support from the Jewish people; therefore the Jewish people are fighting hard to save their nation. On the other hand, the Palestinians have lived on this land for centuries, and defended it against many other invading enemies. This drives the Palestinians to believe that it is their right to own the land.
Currently Ehud Barak, and Yasser Arafat have met, and have committed to finishing the peace process by September 2000. In order for them to be successful at this they both have to be willing to make sacrifices, and compromise for the good of their people. It is only in this way that the legitimate needs and desires of both the Israelis and the Palestinians can be met.
- Interview with Halide Gazioglu, Turkish American living in Vail, the
Palestinian View, 3/6/00.
- Unknown Author, “Arafat, Yasser,” http://www.biography.com, 1995
- Unknown Author, “Rabin, Itzhak,” http://www.biography.com, 1995
- Unknown Author, “Netanyahu, Benjamin,” http://www.biography.com, 1995
- Unknown Author, “Key Issue: Arab-Israeli Relations,” http://www.facts.com, 1995-2000
- Unknown Author, “Struggle for Peace, Special Section,” http://www.cnn.com
- Unknown Author, “Israelis, Palestinians Seal Hebron Pullout Accord: Jordan’s Hussein
Helps Break Deadlock,” http://www.facts.com, 01-16-1997
- Unknown Author, “Former general Barak runs on social, economic issues,”
- Unknown Author, “ Arab Conflict,” http://www.eb.com, 1997