ISSN 2330-717X

Israel-Palestine Discord: Deadly Times Ahead – Analysis

By

Ashim Pratap Deo’s quote “When you find no solution to a problem, it’s probably not a problem to be solved but rather a truth to be accepted” is quite apt with the way the Israel-Palestine discord has been on a perpetually high flame with no resolution in sight despite many wars, death and destruction, rounds of talks and ceasefires.

Advertisement

Israel officially called the State of Israel, is located in Western Asia and has an area of 22,072 square kilometres with a population of 9.22 million. It is surrounded by Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan in the east, Egypt to the southwest. It is bordered by the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to the east and west respectively.

Palestine officially called as the State of Palestine is a de jure nation claiming the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A de jure nation means being recognised as a legitimate government of a territory over which they have no actual control. West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967. Palestine has an area of 6020 square kilometres and a population of 0.51 million.

The West Bank comprises 230 Israeli settlements and 165 Palestinian enclaves which are under partial Palestinian National Authority (PNA) rule. Gaza is under the administrative control of Hamas, the largest party in the parliament of PNA.

The land of the present-day Israel was since the beginning of the 9th century the Iron Age kingdoms of Israel and Judah which fell to the Neo-Assyrian Empire and the Neo-Babylonian Empire respectively. The subsequent rulers included Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire.

With the First Crusade of 1096-1099 Christian rule was established under the Crusader States. Muslim rule came on this land in 1291 when the Mamluk Sultanate took over, which later ceded this territory to the Ottoman Empire. 

Advertisement

The 19th Century saw the beginning of the Zionist movement for the creation of a Jewish homeland. Following World War I, Britain was granted control over the region by the League of Nations and this area was called Mandatory Palestine.

After World War II, United Nations adopted the Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947 which recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish nations. 

However, a civil erupted in Mandatory Palestine on November 30, 1947 between Yishuv (Jewish residents) and Palestinian Arabs. The day the British Mandate expired on May 14, 1948, the Yishuvs declared independence and the creation of the State of Israel.

A day later the surrounding Arab countries attacked Israel leading to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. This war was fought between 29,677 Israeli soldiers and 63,500 Arab soldiers and resulted in 6373 Israelis being killed and 20,000 Arabs dying. This war ended with the 1949 Armistice Agreements which saw Israel occupying a large part of the land, whilst West Bank and the Gaza Strip were held by Jordan and Egypt respectively. 

After the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel seized control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Since then, Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan and many other Arab countries but it still remains formally at war with Syria and Lebanon and numerous efforts by the international community to resolve the Israel-Palestine issue have failed.

Israel is a developed country with a GDP of US$ 520.7 billion and per capita GDP of US$ 54,690. In contrast, Palestine has a GDP of US$ 10 billion and per capita GDP of US$ 1924 for West Bank and US$ 876 for the Gaza Strip.

Syria has a GDP of US$ 60 billion and per capita GDP of US$ 6373 whilst the figures for Lebanon are US$ 7.36 billion and US$ 4000 respectively.

And therein lies the root cause of Israel able to resist the onslaught of all its Arab nation neighbours which is its economic might. To Israel’s advantage also is that it is the only nuclear nation in West Asia. Thus, Israel is a major power in that region.

The only nation putting Israel at unease in that region is Iran. But since Iran has no common borders with Israel and is not a nuclear nation, its role is limited to aiding the militant groups of West Bank and the Gaza Strip fighting Israel.

In December 2000, Ayotallah Ali Khamenei of Iran called Israel a “cancerous tumour” which should be removed from the region. Iran will not let peace prevail in this volatile region which is amongst the world’s most dangerous regions.

Western Asia has immense geopolitical significance for the world as it has the world’s largest known oil reserves, which is 40% of the world’s known oil reserves. Western Asia comprises 21 countries out of which 13 are part of the Arab world. 

With a combined area of 5,994,935 square kilometres and a total population of around 313 million, Western Asia is surrounded by eight major seas, the Aegean Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

This region is delimited from Europe in its north and northwest by the Turkish Straits and from Africa in its southwest by the Isthmus of Suez. In its northeast and east it adjoins Central Asia and South Asia. This region is located east of Southern Europe and south of Eastern Europe. The Dasht-e-Kavir and the Dasht-e-Lut deserts in eastern Iran delimit this region from Balochistan and South Asia.

With a combined GDP of USD 9.063 trillion as in 2019, Western Asia is an economic power house too, apart from its strategic geopolitical significance.

Till late, Saudi Arabia has been the de-facto leader of West Asia. It has not recognised Israel since 1948. However recent years have seen closer Saudi-Israeli ties as part of a larger Arab-Israeli alliance against Iran. The Saudi relationship with PNA has been deteriorating too.

Iran is supporting the Houthi movement in Yemen who are embroiled in a war against the Saudis since 2015. This has enraged the Saudis and moved them closer to Israel.

Iran is trying to assert itself to be the leader of West Asia as a result of the void created due to the close relations that Saudi Arabia and Israel are having in the last few years. The opening of Saudi airspace for Israeli flights, post the US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia in July 2022 is a great indicator of normalcy returning between Saudi Arabia and Israel. 

Iran will not ensure that peace prevails in West Asia and this region will continue to remain one of the most volatile regions of the world. The Israel-Palestine discord will get deadlier in the times ahead after Iran becomes a nuclear nation.

Albert Einstein rightly remarked “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding”.

About the Writer: The writer who retired from the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army is an alumnus of NDA, Khadakwasla and IIT Kanpur. He is a M.Tech in Structures has also done MBA and LLB and is a prolific writer and a public speaker. He has been featured in the World Book of Records, London and the India Book of Records for his articles in the print media and news channel appearances. He Tweets and Koos at @JassiSodhi24. The views expressed are personal.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.