Navigating The Complexities Of The Israel-Palestine Conflict – OpEd


The Israel-Palestine conflict is one of the long-standing disputes between Israelis and Palestinians over land, self-determination, and security in the region. 

The origin of the conflict can be traced back to the late 19th century when a movement called Zionism emerged, advocating for the establishment of a Jewish homeland. In 1947, the United Nations proposed a partition plan dividing Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states that was rejected by the Arabs leading to a series of conflicts. 

On May 14,1948, the State of Israel was established, and neighboring Arab states immediately launched a military intervention to prevent its creation. This resulted in the 1948 Arab Israeli War, known by Israelis as the War of Independence and by Palestinians as the Nakba (catastrophe), leading to displacement and refugee crises on both sides. Since then, the conflict has witnessed several major wars and unfortunate events further exacerbating tensions.

These wars have led to territorial changes, with Israel occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which are territories Palestinians claim for their state. The conflict has also witnessed a period of negotiations and attempts for peace, such as the Camp David Accord in 1978, and the Oslo Accords in the 1990s. However, the peace process has been marred by a lack of trust, competing claims to land and resources, security concerns, and divergent visions for the future. 

The aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians for self-determination, access to resources, security, and a peaceful coexistence remain at the heart of the issue that have contributed to its complexity and longevity.  The core issues that have made the conflict complex and difficult to resolve are following: 

  1. The issue of territory and borders: The issue of territory lies at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim historical, religious, and cultural ties to this land, particularly in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. During many wars until 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem (previously under Jordanian control) and the Gaza Strip (previously under Egyptian control) and the Golan Heights from Syria. These territorial gains significantly altered the borders of Israel and the occupied territories, effectively extending Israel’s control over territories. The new borders established de facto Israeli control over the West Bank, East Jerusalem (including the Old City), the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. These territories are seen by Palestinians as the basis for their state. However, Israel has established settlements in the occupied territories, leading to disputes over land and the viability of a contiguous Palestinian state.  
  2. The issue of self-determination: The issue of self-determination also lies at the heart of this conflict. Both Israelis and Palestinians have a deep-seated desire for self-determination, which encompasses their right to establish their own independent and sovereign states. For Israelis, self-determination represents the fulfillment of the Zionist movement’s goal of creating a Jewish homeland in response to centuries of persecution and the horrors of the Holocaust. On the other hand, Palestinians seek self-determination to address historical grievances, regain control over their homeland, and establish an independent Palestinian state. The clash between these two national aspirations has led to competing claims and struggles for territorial control. Efforts to achieve a two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security, have been at the center of international peace initiatives. The right to self-determination is a fundamental principle enshrined in international law and the United Nations Charter. The international community has recognized the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians and has called for a just and lasting resolution to the conflict that respects the self-determination of both peoples. 
  3. The status of Jerusalem: Status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious and complex issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital and consider it a vital part of their national and religious identities. The city holds significant religious sites for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, including the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchere, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan, with Israel controlling West Jerusalem and Jordan controlling East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy sites. In 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan and subsequently annexed it, a move that has not been internationally recognized. In the 1980, it passed the Basic Law declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. However, the international community, including the United Nations, does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over East Jerusalem and considers it occupied territory. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their state. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) officially declared East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine in 1988, and it remains a central demand in peace negotiations. Efforts to resolve the status of Jerusalem have been a key focus of peace negotiations, such as the Oslo Accords in the 1990s. The issue of Jerusalem has sparked numerous protests, clashes, and violence over the years, and any attempts to alter the city’s status quo or make unilateral decisions regarding its future have consistently heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. 
  4. The issue of Israeli settlements: Israeli settlements is one of the major points of contention in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Israeli settlements are Jewish communities built in the occupied territories. The international community widely considers Israeli settlements in the occupied territories as illegal under international law. They are seen as violating the Fourth Geneva Convention. The establishment and expansion of settlements have been viewed as a significant obstacle to achieving a negotiated two-state solution. The growth of settlements is making the creation of a Palestinian state increasingly challenging. The growth of Israeli settlements has led to an increase in the Jewish population in the occupied territories. This raises concerns about the demographic balance and the ability to establish a future Palestinian state with a significant Palestinian majority. The presence of Israeli settlements has resulted in various human rights violations and discriminatory practices against Palestinians. These include restrictions on movement, access to resources, and unequal treatment under Israeli law. Palestinians often face difficulties in obtaining building permits and face demolitions of their structures, while Israeli settlers receive preferential treatment and enjoy rights and services not available to Palestinians. Efforts to address the issue of Israeli settlements have been a vital component of peace negotiations and diplomatic initiatives. However, settlement expansion has continued over the years, making the resolution of this issue increasingly complex. 
  5. Security and violence: Security in the region have been persistent and deeply entrenched aspects of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Both Israelis and Palestinians have faced threats, acts of violence, and ongoing security challenges, contributing to a cycle of retaliation and mistrust. Acts of terrorism and violence have been perpetrated by individuals and groups on both sides. The conflict has witnessed multiple military operations and large-scale clashes. Israel has conducted military campaigns in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, aiming to combat militant groups and prevent attacks on its citizens. These operations have often resulted in civilian casualties and infrastructure damage, while Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza have led to Israeli retaliatory strikes. Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have been a focal point for security concerns. Settlements are often guarded by Israeli security forces, which has led to confrontations with Palestinians living nearby. Additionally, settlers themselves have been involved in clashes with Palestinians, resulting in violence and property damage The conflict has also fueled radicalization and extremism on both sides. Extremist factions within Palestinian society have embraced violence to resist Israeli occupation, while some far-right Jewish groups in Israel have engaged in acts of violence against Palestinians. These radical elements further complicate efforts to achieve peace and perpetuate a climate of fear and hostility.  
  6. The issue of refugees and the right of return: Refugee problem is a significant aspect of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The conflict has resulted in the displacement of a significant number of Palestinians, creating a refugee problem that has spanned generations. Understanding the historical context and differing perspectives on this issue is crucial. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, a large number of Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes. They became refugees, seeking refuge in neighboring Arab countries. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established to aid and support to Palestinian refugees. Palestinians argue that the right of return is an inherent right recognized under international law, specifically United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, which calls for the return of refugees and the compensation of those who choose not to return. On the other hand, Israel contends that implementing a full right of return for Palestinian refugees would undermine the Jewish character of the state. It is important to note that the refugee issue is not solely a Palestinian concern. Jewish refugees who fled or were expelled from Arab countries following the establishment of Israel also seek recognition, compensation, and redress for their displacement. Ultimately, resolving the refugee issue requires a comprehensive and negotiated solution that considers the legitimate rights and concerns of both Palestinians and Israelis. It necessitates addressing individual claims, providing options for restitution, compensation, resettlement, and creating conditions that enable a just and durable resolution to the conflict.  
  7. The issue of water resources: Water resources in the region are another significant aspect of the conflict due to water scarcity in the region and the competing needs of Israelis and Palestinians. The Jordan River and underground aquifers are the primary sources of freshwater in the area. Israel has implemented advanced water management techniques, including desalination plants, wastewater treatment, and efficient agricultural practices. As a result, Israel has been able to meet its water needs. However, Palestinians in the occupied territories face significant water shortages and difficulties in accessing sufficient and clean water. Moreover, restrictions by Israel on drilling wells, limited access to water sources, and unequal distribution, have disproportionately affected Palestinian communities. Water scarcity and inadequate infrastructure have adverse effects on Palestinians’ daily lives, including limited access to clean water for drinking, sanitation, and agriculture. It also impacts economic development and agricultural productivity. Efforts have been made to address the water issue, such as joint water management projects and cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian authorities. However, progress has been slow, and disagreements over the allocation and control of water resources persist.  

Efforts have been made in the past to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict and are still being made but rejectionist extremists from both sides have not let the peace process complete. Serious efforts are required to address this complex aspect of the conflict. It’s very unfortunate that in this age of organizations and rhetoric for human rights and peaceful world the issue of Israel Palestine is unresolved and the Palestinians are facing extreme human rights violations. Issue requires a serious joint effort by organizations, major world and regional powers to address the complex dynamics of the conflict so that a viable peace should be ensured in the region where both Israelis and Palestinians could live a peaceful life. 

Muhammad Adam Khan

Muhammad Adam Khan, Student of Peace and Conflict Studies at National Defence University,Islamabad, Pakistan. Contact: [email protected]

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