What is the Middle East Crisis
Splashed on the pages of newspapers almost every day are fresh atrocities in the Middle East. In this short article, we provide a brief primer on the conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian people.
The conflict started primarily as a result of the following events:
1. Jewish immigration to Palestine in search of a national state under the Zionist movement around the time of World War II, and
2. The conflict between the Palestinians and Jews during the British rule of Palestine in the years between 1920 and 1948.
Why are Israel and Palestine still fighting?
The key issue of the Israel and Palestine conflict is the rights to land. When the Jews came to Palestine in the early 20th century, most of them fleeing anti-Semitism and persecution, they wanted to establish a national state for their people. At the time, Palestine’s population comprised predominantly Arabs and Muslims.
The Jews saw in Palestine the Biblical promised land which they planned to make a haven for Jews from all over the world to return to. They referred to this land as the land of Israel. The Arabs resisted Israeli settlement, seeing the land as rightfully belonging to them. A United Nations plan was made to partition the land between the Jews and the Arab-Muslim group but failed. Several wars have been fought between the two over the land.
The outcome of the six-day war fought in 1967 between Israel and its neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, is especially important to understand the conflict persisting today. In June 1967, Israel launched what it termed as pre-emptive airstrikes on Egypt. Egypt was defeated with heavy losses. Israel captured Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria, thereby significantly increasing their territory.
Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982. It left Gaza in 2005 but shortly after, the Hamas group widely recognized as a terrorist group took control and won elections. The Hamas group wants Palestinians to be able to return to their home and will use violent means to these ends. Currently, Israel holds Gaza under blockade which means it controls who and what resources enter and leave. The West Bank remains under Israeli control and is populated by many Palestinians.
Life in Gaza is fraught with hardship. Gaza fires rockets regularly at Israel and many people living on the border have had to adapt their lives around this hazard. The blockade has been eased to allow food but people are still struggling for access to other basic necessities like fuel. In the West Bank, Palestinians live under Israeli military occupation. Although it is not as dire as Gaza, Palestinians in the West Bank are still treated like prisoners.
In the past few years, negotiations have been undertaken for both a two-state solution and a one-state solution. The two-state solution would have separate states for Israelis and Palestinians side by side. Israelis and Palestinians would have the opportunity to run and govern themselves the way they like since neither group can come to an agreement on governance in a single state. The one-state solution would merge Israel, Gaza and the West Bank into one country. This could have two forms: the end of Israel as a Jewish state by a single democratic country, or Israel forcing out Palestinians by annexing the West Bank.
Polling suggests that both groups prefer a two-state solution. However, the futility of negotiations has led to speculation that a one-state solution is inevitable.