Authors: Nandini Agrawal, Asill Singh Bard
Region Head: Yong Hwee Shi
Editor: Tan Chok Geow
The Arab Israeli conflict has been a long and ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Arab people of Palestine. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict originated in the early 19th century, with the birth of major nationalist movements among the Jews and among the Arabs, both geared towards attaining sovereignty for their people in the Middle East. The Balfour Declaration that happened in World War 1 announced the support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people (Frieden, 2020). Following this mandate, Jewish migrants headed to the land of Jerusalem and began populating the area. Tensions arose in the area as Jewish institutions were established and while Israel held firm on its claim for Jerusalem, Arabs claimed the land was always theirs to begin with including Jerusalem, which was central to the tenets of Islam (Lord, 2020).
Important issues separating Israelis and Palestinians (The problem of Jerusalem)
The most important issue that separated the Israelis and the Palestinians was the difference in their ethnicities and ideology that may have contributed to the heightened tensions between the two groups. Throughout the years, the world has seen many conflicts and none has lasted as long as the Israel Palestine conflict. In the case for the Arab-Israel conflict, it appears apart from their difference in religion and ethnicity, the major reason for the clash between the 2 would be in the status of Jerusalem.The other territorial issues surrounding Israel and Palestine are almost certainly amenable to resolution as it would be very easy for governments to agree on territorial rights but it appears in the case of Jerusalem it would be very difficult. Both land is sacred and Palestinians have a strong belief in the “right of return” of their promised land. This strong clash in ideology has appeared to have made compromise quite impossible. In the case of Jerusalem, while some critics argue that it is possible the city could be divided, and major religious sites could have some form of protection and security, both sides have strongly opposed the idea as even Israel’s Netanyahu government has claimed that Jerusalem is “Israel’s undivided capital” and Palestinians believe in their “right of land”.
Will the peace process fail?
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict has had many ongoing peace settlements where the governments and parties with the help of international organizations have tried to hold discussions to come up with resolutions to move forward. However if the peace process fails, Israel, the West Bank, and potentially even Gaza may become power vacuum states without any legal agreement to keep them distinct. This would have some repercussions as either Israel ceases to exist as a Jewish state, or the Palestinians become permanent second-class citizens in an Israel that includes the West Bank and potentially even Gaza. We argue that the peace process will inherently fail as both sides have no incentives to carry out the terms of their settlement agreement and there are no third party enforcement mechanisms. Furthermore, as neither side trusts the other, there is a strong lack of credibility on both sides, and peace processes will arguably only be a temporary solution.
US Involvement in the conflict: Why has the US been on good terms with Israel?
The close relationship between the U.S. and Israel has been one of the most controversial features of USA’s foreign policy and attracted a lot of global attention (Zunes, 2002). The US has spent over $3 billion in military and economic aid to Israel over the years as well. While some may argue that is due to the fact that American policy heavily sides with democracy, critics argue it is more of a strategic decision as a strong Israel would keep many arab countries in check, and even allow US forces in the land which would be a very beneficial military strategy for the US. Furthermore, Israel has missiles capable of reaching as far as Russia and it possesses a nuclear arsenal of hundreds of weapons, and it has cooperated with the U.S. military-industrial complex with research and development for new jet fighters and anti-missile defense systems, which would all contribute to increasing strong US influence in the region.
Is the two-state solution viable as a long term outcome to the conflict?
As mentioned before, the two states may agree upon a final resolution, but both sides lack confidence in the willingness and ability of the other side to follow through on its promises. The analysis suggests, in particular, that whether the two peoples are in two separate states or one state it is arguable that the conflict will prevail.
Recommendations and Solutions
The absence of trust between the Israelis and Palestinians is the root cause of their long standing animosity. This prevents them from following through on the concessions they might have agreed upon, in the past. Moreover, in the absence of any third party capable of reliably enforcing any agreement, the incentives to make further concessions are very limited. With the growing unpopularity of the two-state solution, the one-state solution seems hopeful with a common view regarding incorporation of both peoples into a single monetary state and enabling compromise. Not long after both parties understand that they are inextricably linked together in a single state, that they will be forced to come to some sort of arrangement that will be mutually acceptable. Even though the one-state solution puts an end to many issues, it will open doors to separate others. There still looms the possibility that with Arabs forming at least half the population, Israel will no longer be a Jewish state. If forced into a single state, the power struggle between the Israelis and Palestinians might fuel the fire instead of distinguishing it.
There are many other established democracies that have solved the problem in one way or the other, with most of them including a constitutional agreement, whereby adequate representation of all the major interest groups is facilitated. In a nutshell, the only thing that can lift the two countries out of this deep dug trench and towards a cooperative settlement is a commitment, nudging them towards an atmosphere of trust.
What does the future hold?
Israel’s politics might be a further obstacle. As for whether we will see a peaceful resolution, it is unlikely to be optimistic that a resolution will pass (SBS, 2020). Few possibilities of the future include a low intensity conflict with waves of violence. Major annexation of Israel of West Bank Territory- may eventually eliminate the possibility of a two state solution and with it, peace altogether (Youssef, 2020). Moreover, we should not neglect the risk of eruption of violence, military confrontation or even war. All the factors aggravate instability and the prospect of a single or even a multi front war.
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