Definitions

Palestinian uprising

Israeli–Palestinian conflict

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an ongoing dispute between the State of Israel and the Palestinians. It forms part of the wider Arab–Israeli conflict. Essentially, it is a dispute between two national identities with claims over the same area of land. Many attempts have been made to broker a two-state solution, which would entail the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. At present, the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, according to many major polls, agree a two-state solution is the best way to end the conflict. Most Palestinians view the West Bank and Gaza Strip as constituting the area of their future state, which is a view also accepted by most Israelis. A handful of academics advocate a one-state solution, whereby all of Israel, the Gaza Strip, and West Bank would become a bi-national state with equal rights for all. However, there are significant areas of disagreement over the shape of any final agreement and also regarding the level of credibility each side sees in the other in upholding basic commitments.

There are various domestic and international actors involved in the conflict. The direct negotiating parties are the Israeli government, currently led by Ehud Olmert, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), currently headed by Mahmoud Abbas. The official negotiations are mediated by an international contingent known as the Quartet on the Middle East (the Quartet) represented by a special envoy that consists of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations. The Arab League is another important actor, which has proposed an alternative peace plan. Egypt, a founding member of the Arab League, has historically been a key participant.

Since 2006, the Palestinian side has been fractured by conflict between the two major factions: Hamas, the largest party, and Fatah. As a result, the territory controlled by the Palestinian National Authority (the Palestinian interim government) is split between Fatah in the West Bank, and Hamas in the Gaza strip. This has proved problematic as Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and many other countries which means that despite the fact it won the Palestinian elections of 2006, it has not been allowed to participate in official negotiations.

The most recent round of peace negotiations began at Annapolis, Maryland, United States, in November 2007. These talks aim to have a final resolution by the end of 2008. The parties agree there are six core, or 'final status,' issues which need to be resolved: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security, borders and water. These issues are discussed at length below.

Within Israeli and Palestinian society, the conflict generates a wide variety of views and opinions (see also Israeli and Palestinian views of the peace process). This serves to highlight the deep divisions which exist not only between Israelis and Palestinians, but also amongst themselves.

A hallmark of the conflict has been the level of violence witnessed for virtually its entire duration. Fighting has been conducted by regular armies, paramilitary groups, and terror cells. Casualties have not been restricted to the military, with a large loss of civilian life on both sides.

Basic historical outline

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulted from competing Jewish and Arab national aspirations for the region of Palestine, conflicting promises by the British in the forms of the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and several outbreaks of violence between Jewish and Arab residents of the region of Palestine.

The roots of the conflict can be traced to the late 19th century, which saw a rise in national movements, including Zionism and Arab nationalism. Zionism, the Jewish national movement, was established as a political movement in 1897, largely as a response to Russian and European anti-Semitism. It sought the establishment of a Jewish Nation-State in Palestine (a region known to the Jews by the name of the historical Jewish homeland, Eretz Israel) so that they might find sanctuary and self- determination there. To this end, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund encouraged immigration and funded purchase of land, both under Ottoman rule and under British rule, in the region of Palestine.

Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine came under the control of the United Kingdom through the Sykes-Picot Agreement and a League of Nations mandate. During the mandatory period, the British made conflicting promises to both populations in the forms of the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and tensions between Arab and Jewish groups in the region erupted into physical violence as in the 1920 Palestine riots, the 1921 Palestine riots, the 1929 Hebron massacre and the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.

The British responded to these outbreaks of violence with the Haycraft Commission of Inquiry, the Shaw Report, the Peel Commission of 1936-1937, and the White Paper of 1939. The Peel Commission proposed a failed partition plan, while the White Paper established a quota for Jewish immigration set by the British in the short-term and by the Arab population in the long-term. Both Arab and Jewish groups directed violence against the British, as in the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, the King David Hotel bombing, and the assassinations of Lord Moyne and Count Bernadotte, in order to expel the mandatory government, which was held in contempt by both sides.

This violence and the heavy cost of World War II led Britain to turn the issue of Palestine over to the United Nations. In 1947, the U.N. approved the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine into two states: one Jewish and one Arab. The Jewish leadership accepted the plan, but Palestinian Arab leaders, supported by the Arab League, rejected the plan, and a civil war broke out. Israel quickly gained the upper hand in this intercommunal fighting, and on May 14 1948 declared its independence. Five Arab League countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq), then invaded Palestine, starting the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The war resulted in an Israeli victory, with Israel capturing additional territory beyond the partition borders, but leaving Jerusalem as a divided city; the territory Israel did not capture was taken over by Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan (now Jordan). The war also resulted in the 1948 Palestinian exodus, known to Palestinians as Al-Naqba.

For decades after 1948, Arab governments had refused to recognize Israel and in 1964 the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded with the central tenet that Palestine, with its original Mandate borders, is the indivisible homeland of the Arab Palestinian people. In turn, Israel refused to recognize the PLO as a negotiating partner.

In the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and East Jerusalem including the Old City and its holy sites, which Israel annexed and reunited with the Western neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The status of the city as Israel's capital and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip created a new set of contentious issues which became one major focus of the conflict.

In 1970, the PLO was expelled from Jordan, in what was known as the Black September. Large numbers of Palestinians moved into Lebanon after the Black September, joining the thousands already there. In 1973 a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria launched the Yom Kippur War against Israel. The Egyptians and Syrians advanced during the first 24–48 hours, after which momentum began to swing in Israel's favor. Eventually a cease-fire took effect that ended the war. This war paved the way for the Camp David Accords in 1978, which set a precedent for future peace negotiations.

Tensions between Israel and PLO led Israel to invade Lebanon in the 1982 Lebanon War, forcing the PLO to withdraw again, this time to Tunisia. During the war, Israeli allies Phalangists committed the Sabra and Shatila massacre, between 700 and 3500 unarmed Palestinians were killed by the Phalange while the Israeli troops surrounded the camps with tanks and checkpoints, monitoring entrances and exits. Further Israeli investigation found that Ariel Sharon was indirectly responsible for failing to prevent the massacre, leading to his resignation as Israel's Defense Minister.

In 1987, the First Intifada broke out, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the occupied territories. The uprising spread in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Intifada was renowned by its stone-throwing demonstrations by youth against the heavily-armed Israeli Defense Forces. Over the course of the First Intifada , a total 1,551 Palestinians and 422 Israelis were killed. During the intifada, in 1987, Ahmed Yassin co-founded Hamas with Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, Hamas has been involved in what it calls "armed resistance" against Israel since then.

The Oslo Peace Process, which began in 1993, was a key turning point in the conflict, where Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiated, unsuccessfully, to come to a mutual agreement. During the Oslo process, the PLO was permitted to establish the autonomous Palestinian Authority and associated governing institutions, to run Palestinian affairs in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with the understanding that it would uphold recognition of and mutual co-existence with Israel. However there was continual contention over whether actual events and conditions proved that there was greater acceptance of Israel's existence by Palestinian leaders or a commitment by Israel to stop settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In 2000, following the failure of the peace process, the Second Intifada, also known as the al-Aqsa Intifada, broke out. As of 2008, this Intifada has not yet officially ended.

In 2003, Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon announced a controversial disengagement plan. Israel was to remove all of its civilian and military presence in the Gaza Strip, (namely 21 Jewish settlements there, and four in the West Bank), but continue to supervise and guard the external envelope on land excepting a border crossing with Egypt, which is jointly run by the Palestinian National Authority in conjunction with the European Union. Israel also maintained exclusive control in the air space of Gaza. The Israeli government argued that "as a result, there will be no basis for the claim that the Gaza Strip is occupied territory, while others argued that the only effect would be that Israel "would be permitted to complete the wall (that is, the Israeli West Bank Barrier) and to maintain the situation in the West Bank as is.. The disengagement plan was implemented in 2005.

Hamas's victory in the 2006 elections for Palestinian Legislative Council, and Ismail Haniyeh’s ascension to the post of Prime Minister further complicated the peace process. Hamas openly states that it does not recognize Israel's right to exist, although they have expressed openness to a long-term hudna or truce.. The victory also sparked the Fatah-Hamas conflict which eventually led to the Hamas taking control of Gaza. Since Hamas took over Gaza, they have been engaged in a serious conflict with Israel

Peace proposals

Oslo peace process

In 1993, Israeli officials led by Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leaders from the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasser Arafat strove to find a peaceful solution through what became known as the Oslo peace process. A crucial milestone in this process was Yasser Arafat's letter of recognition of Israel's right to exist. In 1993, the Oslo Accords were finalized as a framework for future Israeli-Palestinian relations. The crux of the Oslo agreement was that Israel would gradually cede control of the Palestinian territories over to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. The Oslo process was delicate and progressed in fits and starts, the process took a turning point at the Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and finally came to a close when Arafat and Ehud Barak failed to reach agreement. Robert Malley, special assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs, has confirmed that Barak made no formal written offer to Arafat. Consequently, there are different accounts of the proposals considered. However, the main obstacle to agreement appears to have been the status of Jerusalem.

Camp David 2000 Summit

In 2000, US President Bill Clinton convened a peace summit between Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Barak reportedly offered the Palestinian leader approximately 95% of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem, and that 69 Jewish settlements (which comprise 85% of the West Bank's Jewish settlers) be ceded to Israel. He also proposed "temporary Israeli control" indefinitely over another 10% of the West Bank territory--an area including many more Jewish settlements. According to Palestinian sources, the remaining area would be under Palestinian control, yet certain areas would be broken up by Israeli bypass roads and checkpoints. Depending on how the security roads would be configured, these Israeli roads might impede free travel by Palestinians throughout their proposed nation and reduce the ability to absorb Palestinian refugees.

President Arafat rejected this offer. President Clinton reportedly requested that President Arafat make a counter-offer, but he proposed none. No tenable solution was crafted which would satisfy both Israeli and Palestinian demands, even under intense U.S. pressure. Clinton blamed Arafat for the failure of the Camp David Summit. In the months following the summit, Clinton appointed former US Senator George J. Mitchell to lead a fact-finding committee that later published the Mitchell Report. Later at the Taba summit (at Taba) in January 2001, the Israeli negotiation team presented a new map. The proposition removed the "temporarily Israeli controlled" areas, and the Palestinian side accepted this as a basis for further negotiation. However, Prime Minister Ehud Barak did not conduct further negotiations at that time; the talks ended without an agreement and the following month the right-wing Likud party candidate Ariel Sharon was elected as Israeli prime minister in February 2001.

Road Map for Peace

One peace proposal, presented by the Quartet of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States on September 17, 2002, was the Road map for peace. This plan did not attempt to resolve difficult questions such as the fate of Jerusalem or Israeli settlements, but left that to be negotiated in later phases of the process. Israel did not accept the proposal as written, but called out 14 "reservations" or changes before they would accept it, which were unacceptable to the current Palestinian government. The proposal never made it beyond the first phase, which called for a halt to Israeli settlement construction and a halt to Israeli and Palestinian violence, none of which was achieved.

Negotiations based on the "Road Map" resumed with the Annapolis conference in late 2007 and are underway as of early 2008.

Arab Peace Initiative

The Arab Peace Initiative (Arabic: مبادرة السلام العربية) is a peace initiative first proposed by Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, then crown prince, in the Beirut Summit. The peace initiative is a proposed solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular.

The initiative was initially published on 28 March 2002 in Beirut Summit, and agreed on again in 2007 in the Riyadh Summit. The peace initiative achieved the unanimous consent of all members of the Arab League, including both the Hamas and Fatah Palestinian factions.

Considered a progressive proposal that would end the Arab-Israeli conflict, unlike the Road map for peace it spelled out "final-solution" borders based explicitly on the UN borders established before the 1967 Six-Day War. It offered full normalization of relations with Israel, in exchange for the withdrawal of its forces from all the Occupied Territories, including the Golan Heights, to recognize "an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as a "just solution" for the Palestinian refugees.

Although the proposal was rejected outright by Israel when it was first proposed in 2002, the Arab League continues to raise it as a possible solution, most recently in 2007, and recent meetings between the Arab League and Israel have been held. According to Haaretz, Arab leaders, have threatened on February 2008 to withdraw their proposal unless Israel explicitly expresses an acceptance of the initiative.

Core issues

A variety of concerns have emerged as key issues in seeking a negotiated settlement between the two sides. Since the Oslo Accords, finalized in 1993, the government of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) have been officially committed to an eventual two-state solution. There are six core or 'final status' issues which need to be resolved.

Jerusalem

The borders of Jerusalem is a particularly delicate issue, with each side asserting claims over this city. The three largest Abrahamic religionsJudaism, Christianity, and Islam—include Jerusalem as an important setting for their religious and historical narratives. Israel asserts that the city should not be divided, and should remain unified within Israel's political control. Palestinians claim at least the parts of the city which were not part of Israel prior to June 1967. As of 2005, there are more than 719,000 people living in Jerusalem; 465,000 are Jews (mostly living in West Jerusalem) and 232,000 are Muslim (mostly living in East Jerusalem).

The Israeli government, including the Knesset and Supreme Court, is centered in the "new city" of West Jerusalem and has been since Israel's founding in 1948. After Israel captured the Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, and assume complete administrative control of East Jerusalem. In 1980, Israel issued a new law stating, "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.

At the Camp David and Taba Summits in 2000-2001, the United States proposed a plan in which the Arab parts of Jerusalem would be given to the proposed Palestinian state while the Jewish parts of Jerusalem were retained by Israel. All archaeological work under the Temple Mount would be jointly controlled by the Israeli and Palestinian governments. Both sides accepted the proposal in principle, but the summits ultimately failed.

Israel has grave concerns regarding the welfare of Jewish holy places under possible Palestinian control. When Jerusalem was under Jordanian control, no Jews were allowed to visit the Western Wall or other Jewish holy places and the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated. In 2000, a Palestinian mob took over Joseph's Tomb, a shrine considered sacred by both Jews and Muslims, looted and burned the building, and turned it into a mosque. There are unauthorized Palestinian excavations for construction on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which could threaten the stability of the Western Wall. Israel, on the other hand, has seldom blocked access to holy places sacred to other religions, and never permanently. Israeli security agencies routinely monitor and arrest Jewish extremists that plan attacks, resulting in almost no serious incidents for the last twenty years. Moreover, Israel has given almost complete autonomy to the Muslim trust (Waqf) over the Temple Mount.

In addition, Israel expresses concern over the security of its residents if neighborhoods of Jerusalem are placed under Palestinian control. Jerusalem has been a prime target for terrorism since 1967. Many Jewish neighborhoods have been fired upon from Arab areas. The proximity of the Arab areas, if there these regions were to fall in the boundaries of a Palestinian state, would be so close as to threaten the safety of Jewish residents. Nadav Shragai states this idea in his study for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, "An Israeli security body that was tasked in March 2000 with examining the possibility of transferring three Arab villages just outside of Jerusalem - Abu Dis, Al Azaria, and a-Ram - to Palestinian security control, assessed at the time that: 'Terrorists will be able to exploit the short distances, sometimes involving no more than crossing a street, to cause damage to people or property. A terrorist will be able to stand on the other side of the road, shoot at an Israeli or throw a bomb, and it may be impossible to do anything about it. The road will constitute the border.' If that is the case for neighborhoods outside of Jerusalem's municipal boundaries, how much more so for Arab neighborhoods within those boundaries.

Palestinians have grave concerns regarding the welfare of Christian and Muslim holy places under Israeli control. . They point to the several attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Masjid al Aqsa) since 1967, including a serious fire in 1969, which destroyed the south wing, and the discovery, in 1981, of ancient tunnels under the structure of the mosque which some archaeologists believe have weakened the building structures on the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Some Palestinian advocates have made statements alleging that the tunnels were re-opened with the intent of causing the mosque's collapse. Israel considers these statements to be totally baseless and unfounded, and to be deliberately intended to incite aggression and public disorder, and stated this in a 1996 speech at the UN. The Israeli government claims it treats the Muslim and Christian holy sites with utmost respect (see previous paragraph).

The question of Palestinian refugees

The number of Palestinians who were expelled or fled from Israel following its creation and their descendants now stands at around four million.

Palestinian negotiators have so far insisted that refugees, and all their descendants, from the 1948 and 1967 wars have a right to return to the places where they lived before 1948 and 1967, including those within the 1949 Armistice lines, citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN General Assembly Resolution 194 as evidence.

The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 declared that it proposed the compromise of a "just resolution" of the refugee problem. Palestinian and international authors have justified the right of return of the Palestinian refugees on several grounds:

  • Several authors included in the broader New Historians assert that the Palestinian refugees were chased out or expelled by the actions of the Haganah, Lehi and Irgun. A report from the military intelligence SHAI of the Haganah entitled "The emigration of Palestinian Arabs in the period 1/12/1947-1/6/1948", dated 30 June 1948 affirms that:

"At least 55% of the total of the exodus was caused by our (Haganah/IDF) operations." To this figure, the report’s compilers add the operations of the Irgun and Lehi, which "directly (caused) some 15%... of the emigration". A further 2% was attributed to explicit expulsion orders issued by Israeli troops, and 1% to their psychological warfare. This leads to a figure of 73% for departures caused directly by the Israelis. In addition, the report attributes 22% of the departures to "fears" and "a crisis of confidence" affecting the Palestinian population. As for Arab calls for flight, these were reckoned to be significant in only 5% of cases...

  • The traditional Israeli point of view arguing that Arab leaders encouraged Palestinian Arabs to flee has also been disputed by the New Historians, which instead have shown evidence indicating Arab leaders' will for the Palestinian Arab population to stay put.
  • The Israeli Law of Return that grants citizenship to any Jew from anywhere in the world is viewed by some as discrimination towards non-Jews and especially to Palestinians that cannot apply for such citizenship nor return to the territory from which they were displaced or left.
  • The strongest legal basis on the issue is UN Resolution 194, adopted in 1948. It states that, "the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible." UN Resolution 3236 "reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return". Resolution 242 from the UN affirms the necessity for "achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem," however, Resolution 242 does not specify that the "just settlement" must or should be in the form of a literal Palestinian right of return.

Many Israelis are open to compromise on the issue, by means such as the monetary reparations and family reunification initiatives offered by Ehud Barak at the Camp David 2000 summit. Others, however, are opposed. The most common arguments given for this opposition are:

  • The Israeli government asserts that the Arab refugee problem is largely due to the refusal of all Arab governments except Jordan to grant citizenship to Palestinian Arabs who reside within those countries' borders. This has produced much of the poverty and economic problems of the refugees, according to MFA documents. There were other much larger refugee problems after World War II which were eventually solved, while this one persisted.
  • Concerning the origin of the Palestinian refugees, the official version of the Israeli government is that during the 1948 War the Arab Higher Committee and the Arab states encouraged Palestinians to flee in order to make it easier to rout the Jewish state or that they did so to escape the fights by fear. The Palestinian narrative is that refugees were involuntarily expelled and dispossessed by Jewish militias and by the Israeli army, following a plan established even before the war. Historians haven't solved this issue yet and still debate the causes of the 1948 Palestinian exodus.
  • Since none of the 900,000 Jewish refugees who fled anti-Semitic violence in the Arab world were ever compensated or repatriated by their former countries of residence—to no objection on the part of Arab leaders—a precedent has been set whereby it is the responsibility of the nation which accepts the refugees to assimilate them.
  • Although Israel accepts the right of the Palestinian Diaspora to return into a new Palestinian state, Israel insists that their return into the current state of Israel would be a great danger for the stability of the Jewish state; an influx of Palestinian refugees would lead to the destruction of the state of Israel.

Israeli settlements

In the years following the Six-Day War, and especially in the 1990s during the peace process, Israel re-established communities destroyed in 1929 and 1948 as well as established numerous new settlements on the West Bank. These settlements are now home to about 350,000 people. Most of the settlements are in the western parts of the West Bank, while others are deep into Palestinian territory, overlooking Palestinian cities. These settlements have been the site of much intercommunal conflict.

Insistence by some Palestinians that all Jewish communities within the territories to be part of a Palestinian state be removed. This includes ancient communities (Hebron), communities destroyed in 1948 and since re-established (Gush Etzion), and settlements established since 1967. The Palestinian position on the Jews of the Old City of Jerusalem is unclear.

The issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and, until 2005, the Gaza Strip have been described as an obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, by the international media; as well as the international political community (including the US, the UK, and the EU). These actors have also called the settlements illegal under international law, furthermore, the International Court of Justice as well as international and Israeli human rights organizations consider the settlements illegal. However Israel disputes this; several scholars and commentators disagree, citing recent historical trends to back up their argument, it has not changed the view of the international community and human rights organizations.

As of 2006, 267,163 Israelis lived within the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The establishment and expansion of these settlements in the West Bank and (at the time, the) Gaza Strip have been described as violations of the fourth Geneva Convention by the UN Security Council in several resolutions. The European Union and the General Assembly of the United Nations consider the settlements to be illegal. Proponents of the settlements justify their legality using arguments based upon Article 2 and 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention, as well as UN Security Council Resolution 242. On a practical level, some objections voiced by Palestinians are that settlements divert resources needed by Palestinian towns, such as arable land, water, and other resources; and, that settlements reduce Palestinians' ability to travel freely via local roads, owing to security considerations.

In 2005, Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, a proposal put forward by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was enacted. All Jewish residents in the Gaza strip were evacuated, and all residential buildings were demolished.

Various mediators and various proposed agreements have shown some degree of openness to Israel retaining some fraction of the settlements which currently exist in the West Bank; this openness is based on a variety of considerations, such as: the desire to find real compromise between Israeli and Palestinian territorial claims, Israel's position that it needs to retain some West Bank land and settlements as a buffer in case of future aggression, and Israel's position that some settlements are legitimate, as they took shape when there was no operative diplomatic arrangement, and thus they did not violate any agreement. .

President George Bush has stated that he does not expect Israel to return entirely to the 1949 armistice lines, due to "new realities on the ground. One of the main compromise plans put forth by the Clinton Administration would have allowed Israel to keep some settlements in the West Bank, especially those which were in large blocs near the pre-1967 borders of Israel. In return, Palestinians would have received some concessions of land in other parts of the country.

Security

Without the West Bank, Israel would be only nine miles across at its narrowest point, close to its greatest population center. Many fear that this would leave it vulnerable to any future attacks by an Arab alliance. Moreover, such an army would be fighting from the higher ground of the West Bank, and would find its invasion made easier, since it would not have to cross the Jordan River.

The threat of Qassam rockets fired from the Palestinian Territories into Israel is also of great concern. In 2006--the year following Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip--the Israeli government recorded 1,726 such launches, more than four times the total rockets fired in 2005. Many Israelis see this as evidence that greater Palestinian autonomy necessarily comes at the expense of Israel's ability to defend itself against threats from the Palestinian territories.

Contrarily, many maintain that Israeli concessions will result in reduced friction between Israelis and Palestinians, and that this will in turn bring about a reduction of violence.

Borders and international status

In the past Israel has demanded control over border crossings between the Palestinian territories and Jordan and Egypt, and the right to set the import and export controls, asserting that Israel and the Palestinian territories are a single economic space.

Palestinians insist on contiguous territory which will in turn rupture the existing territorial contiguity of Israel. In the interim agreements reached as part of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority has received control over cities (Area A) while the surrounding countryside has been placed under Israeli security and Palestinian civil administration (Area B) or complete Israeli control (Area C). Israel has built additional highways to allow Israelis to traverse the area without entering Palestinian cities. The initial areas under Palestinian Authority control are diverse and non-contiguous The areas have changed over time because of subsequent negotiations, including Oslo II, Wye River and Sharm el-Sheik. According to Palestinians, the separated areas make it impossible to create a viable nation and fails to address Palestinian security needs; Israel has expressed no agreement to withdrawal from some Areas B, resulting in no reduction in the division of the Palestinian areas, and the institution of a safe pass system, without Israeli checkpoints, between these parts. Because of increased Palestinian violence to occupation this plan is in abeyance. The number of checkpoints has increased; resulting is more suicide bombings since the early summer of 2003. Neither side has publicized a proposal for a final map. (Some maps have been leaked. These, purporting to show Israeli proposals, are reputed to come from the Israelis and the Palestinians ).

The division of resources and Water

Palestinians note, as one of their most central concerns, that their society must be given land and resources with enough contiguity to give them a viable society, and that they must therefore not be forced to give up too many resources to Israel, as this may cause economic collapse.

In the Middle East, water is a resource of great political concern. Since Israel receives much of its water from two large aquifers which are sprawled across Green Line, the use of this water has been contentious in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since some of the wells used to draw this water lie within the Palestinian Authority areas, there are many who question the legality of using their water for Israeli needs.

But critics of this argument point out that even though Israel withdraws some water from these areas, it also supplies the West Bank with 40 MCMs--77% of its consumption. While Israel's consumption of this water has decreased since it began its occupation of the West Bank, it still consumes the vast majority of it: in the 1950s, Israel consumed 95% of the water output of the Western Aquifer, and 82% of that produced by the Northeastern Aquifer. This water was drawn entirely on Israel's own side of the pre-1967 border. By 1999, these numbers had declined to 82% and 80%, respectively.

Finally, Israel cites the Oslo II Accord. In this treaty, both sides agreed to maintain "existing quantities of utilization from the resources." In so doing, the Palestinian Authority established unequivocally the legality of Israeli water production in the West Bank. Moreover, Israel obligated itself in this agreement to provide water to supplement Palestinian production, and further agreed to allow additional Palestinian drilling in the Eastern Aquifer. Many Palestinians counter that the Oslo II agreement was intended to be a temporary resolution, and that it was not intended to remain in effect more than a decade later. Indeed its name is "The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement."

This agreement also established the right of the Palestinian Authority to explore and drill for natural gas, fuel and petroleum within its territory and territorial waters. It also delineated the major terms of conduct regarding regulations on the parties' facilities.

Major issues of contention

A variety of concerns have become prominent issues between the two sides in regards to ongoing day-to-day interactions, and actions by either side towards the other.

Incitement to violence and societal attitudes in Palestinian society

One key issue for Israelis is their concern that key Palestinian leaders have promoted incitement against and overall non-acceptance of Israel, including promotion of violence against Israel. Israelis have pointed to key statements by Palestinians in media, and community organizations which appear to promote violence towards and non-acceptance of Israel.

Debate on Gaza blockade

The Israeli Government's cut in the flow of fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip has also been called collective punishment of the civilian population, which violates Israel’s obligations under the laws of war. Starting February 7 2008, the Israeli Government reduced the electricity it sells directly to Gaza. This follows the ruling of Israel’s High Court of Justice’s decision, which held, with respect to the amount of industrial fuel supplied to Gaza, that, “The clarification that we made indicates that the supply of industrial diesel fuel to the Gaza Strip in the winter months of last year was comparable to the amount that the Respondents now undertake to allow into the Gaza Strip. This fact also indicates that the amount is reasonable and sufficient to meet the vital humanitarian needs in the Gaza Strip.” The Jerusalem Post argued that Palestinians had killed two Israelis in the process of delivering fuel to the Nahal Oz fuel depot, which makes the arguments against the blockade lack credibility.

With regard to Israel’s plan, the Court stated that, “calls for a reduction of five percent of the power supply in three of the ten power lines that supply electricity from Israel to the Gaza Strip, to a level of 13.5 megawatts in two of the lines and 12.5 megawatts in the third line, we [the Court] were convinced that this reduction does not breach the humanitarian obligations imposed on the State of Israel in the framework of the armed conflict being waged between it and the Hamas organization that controls the Gaza Strip. Our conclusion is based, in part, on the affidavit of the Respondents indicating that the relevant Palestinian officials stated that they can reduce the load in the event limitations are placed on the power lines, and that they had used this capability in the past."

In earlier times, during the British Mandate, the term "collective punishment" was freely used by the British government to refer to measures they took against Arabs when unknown Arabs attacked Jews, or against Jews when unknown Jews attacked Arabs during the British mandate over Palestine after 1919. In that era, it meant closure of shops, restriction of movement, and taxes or fines levied on towns as punishment. Supporters of Israel have argued that Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians constitutes collective punishment of Israelis for the actions of their government.

Other Issues

Status of the occupied territories

Occupied Palestinian Territories is the term used by the UN to refer to the West Bank and Gaza Strip—territories which Israel conquered from Egypt and Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War—in the conflict. The Israeli government uses the term Disputed Territories, to indicate its position that some territories cannot be called occupied as no nation had clear rights to them and there was no operative diplomatic arrangement when Israel acquired them in June 1967. The area is still referred to as Judea and Samaria by some Israeli groups, based on the historical regional names from ancient times.

In 1980, Israel outright annexed East Jerusalem. The United Nations rejected this annexation on August 20 of that year. Israel has never annexed the West Bank or Gaza Strip, and the United Nations has demanded the "[t]ermination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force" and that Israeli forces withdraw "from territories occupied in the recent conflict" - the meaning and intent of the latter phrase is disputed. See United Nations Security Council Resolution 242#Semantic dispute.

It has been the position of Israel that the most Arab-populated parts of West Bank (without major Jewish settlements), and the entire Gaza Strip must eventually be part of an independent Palestinian State. However, the precise borders of this state are in question. In 2000, for example, Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat an opportunity to establish an independent Palestinian State composed of the entire Gaza Strip and 92% of the West Bank. Due to security restrictions, and Barak's opposition to a broad right of return, Arafat refused this proposal.

Some Palestinians claim they are entitled to all of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. Israel says it is justified in not ceding all this land, due to security concerns, and also because the lack of any valid diplomatic agreement at the time means that ownership and boundaries of this land is open for discussion. Palestinians claim any reduction of this claim is a severe deprivation of their rights. In negotiations, they claim that any moves to reduce the boundaries of this land is a hostile move against their key interests. Israel considers this land to be in dispute, and feels the purpose of negotiations is to define what the final borders will be.

Other Palestinian groups, such as Hamas, insist that Palestinians must control not only the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, but also all of Israel proper. For this reason, Hamas views the peace process "as religiously forbidden and politically inconceivable".

Mutual recognition

The Oslo peace process was based upon Israel ceding authority to the Palestinians to run their own political and economic affairs. In return, it was agreed that Palestinians would promote peaceful co-existence, renounce violence and promote recognition of Israel among their own people. Despite Yasser Arafat's official renunciation of terrorism and recognition of Israel, some Palestinian groups continue to practice and advocate violence against civilians and do not recognize Israel as a legitimate political entity. Simultaneously, at the time of Hamas's victory in the 2006 elections, polls indicated that 66% of Palestinians supported mutual recognition and a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

Palestinians state that their ability to spread acceptance of Israel was greatly hampered by Israeli restrictions on Palestinian political freedoms, economic freedoms, civil liberties, and quality of life. Many feel that their own opposition to Israel was justified by Israel's apparent stifling of any genuine Palestinian political and economic development.

It is widely felt among Israelis that Palestinians did not in fact promote acceptance of Israel's right to exist. One of Israel's major reservations in regards to granting Palestinian sovereignty is its concern that there is not genuine public support by Palestinians for co-existence and elimination of terrorism and incitement. Some Palestinian groups, notably Fatah, a political party founded by PLO leaders, claim they are willing to foster co-existence if Palestinians are steadily given more political rights and autonomy. In 2006, Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council, where it remains the majority party. While Hamas has openly stated in the past that it completely opposed Israel's right to exist, and its charter states this, there is evidence that its position may have softened recently. However, Israel contends that Hamas has refused to recognize Israel in any valid way, and that it supported recent rocket attacks on Israel.

Israel cites past concessions, such as Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August, 2005, which did not lead to a reduction of attacks and rocket fire against Israel, as an example of the Palestinian people not accepting Israel as a state. Palestinian groups and Israeli Human Rights organizations (namely B'Tselem) have pointed out that while the military occupation in Gaza was ended, the Israeli government still retained control of Gaza's airspace, territorial water, and borders, legally making it still under Israeli control. Practically, they also point out that mainly thanks to these restrictions, the Palestinian quality of life in the Gaza Strip has not improved since the Israeli withdrawal. Furthermore, given that the Israeli army has run incursions into the Gaza Strip on various occasions, closed off its borders, and placed an embargo on the region, the Gazan economy has since gone into free fall. This has led and continues to result in warnings of the Palestinian population becoming more radicalized unless conditions improve.

Many significant Palestinian terrorist groups refuse to recognize Israel's existence, based on their belief that Israel has repeatedly taken Palestinian resources and violated their perceived rights. Based on this, they seek to destroy Israel at some point in the future. In response, some Israeli groups and individuals oppose any territorial or political concessions to Palestinians.

Government

The Palestinian Authority is considered corrupt by a wide variety of sources, including by some Palestinians themselves. Some Israelis argue that it provides tacit support for extremists via its relationship with Hamas and other Islamic terrorist movements, and that therefore it is unsuitable for governing any putative Palestinian state or (especially according to the right wing of Israeli politics), even negotiating about the character of such a state. Because of that, a number of organizations, including the previously ruling Likud party, declared they would not accept a Palestinian state based on the current PA. (Likud's former leader Ariel Sharon, publicly declared that he rejected this position as too radical).

A PA Cabinet minister, Saeb Erekat, declared this indicates that Israel is seeking to maintain its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Israel has not recognised a Palestinian state, and has carried out extrajudicial killings of suspects within the West Bank and Gaza whom it claims have planned and led terrorist attacks within Israel. Some international observers have recommended that negotiations proceed anyway, claiming that internal Palestinian reform can be undertaken if negotiations make progress.

Airspace

The West Bank and Israel form a strip only up to 80 kilometers wide. Israel has insisted on complete Israeli control of the airspace above the West Bank and Gaza as well as that above Israel itself. A Palestinian compromise of joint control over the combined airspace has been rejected by Israel.

Palestinian army

The Israeli Cabinet issued a statement expressing that it does not wish the Palestinians to build up an army capable of offensive operations, considering that the only party against which such an army could be turned in the near future is Israel itself. However, Israel has already allowed for the creation of a Palestinian police that can not only conduct police operations, but also carry out limited-scale warfare. Palestinians have argued that the IDF, a large and modern armed force, poses a direct and pressing threat to the sovereignty of any future Palestinian state, making a defensive force for a Palestinian state a matter of necessity. To this, Israelis claim that signing a treaty while building an army is a show of bad intentions.

Current status

The Oslo peace process obligated both sides to work towards a two-state solution, as noted above. However, during the process itself, there were numerous acts of violence by both sides. Israelis claimed they were acting only in response to Palestinian acts of terrorism. Palestinians claimed they were only carrying out legitimate resistance, against numerous violations by Israel of Palestinian rights, and political sovereignty.

In addition, during this process, both sides expressed dissatisfaction and grievances with the other side. The main Israeli allegation was that Palestinians were actively inciting and funding terrorism against Israel. The main Palestinian complaint was that Israel was repeatedly violating Palestinian rights, which made it pointless to attempt to persuade ordinary Palestinians to accept Israel.

In 2006, Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council, prompting the United States and many European countries to cut off all funds to the Palestinian Authority. The US cited three conditions that the Palestinian government would need to satisfy for a resumption of aid: an end to violence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to the Road Map for Peace. Palestinian critics stated that the US and Israel themselves complied with none of these conditions, and that Israel's support of the Road Map was accompanied by 14 reservations which, they say, drain it of its substance. Furthermore, they assert that Israeli violence against Palestinians continues without discussion. Israel states that its recent military operations are in response to Hamas's frequent rocket attacks from Gaza into Sderot, and on other Israeli cities.

In early 2007, Hamas and Fatah met in Saudi Arabia and reached agreement to unite their respective parties. In March 2007, Fatah and Hamas took office under a new unity coalition government. There remained much debate as to whether the PNA was now a credible negotiating authority, and whether sanctions should be lifted. When the Fatah-Hamas coalition collapsed and armed conflict ensued, the debate changed to whether the newly separated Fatah was a credible negotiating partner.

In June 2007, Hamas militarily defeated Fatah in the Gaza Strip in response to attacks. Critics said Fatah had attempted an overthrow and possible coup, funded and assisted by the United States, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, engineered by US National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy Elliott Abrams, led by Mohammed Dalan. Various forces affiliated with Fatah engaged in combat with Hamas, in numerous gun battles. Most Fatah leaders escaped to Egypt and the West Bank, while some were captured and killed. Fatah remained in control of the West Bank, and President Abbas formed a new governing coalition, which some critics of Fatah said subverts the Palestinian Constitution and excludes the majority government of Hamas.

In line with their policies, Israel, the United States, and several allied governments, have censured Hamas for its non-recognition of Israel. They have also assisted President Abbas and Fatah, who hold stances in favor of recognition of Israel. It is the position of the UN, the International Criminal Court, and a vast majority of the international community that Israel and the Palestinians should come to a peaceful resolution based on international laws, UN Resolutions, reciprocal recognition of self-determination and human rights.

In May 2008, Tony Blair announced a new plan for peace and for Palestinian rights, based heavily on the ideas of the Peace Valley plan.

Casualties

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the occupied Palestinian territory (OCHoPT) was established in late 2000 by the United Nations as a response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza caused by military incursions and closures (See also: Second Intifada). The office monitors the conflict and presents figures relating to both internal-violence and direct conflict clashes.

Casualty figures for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the OCHAoPt
(numbers in brackets represent casualties under the age of 18)
Year Deaths Injuries
Palestinians Israelis Palestinians Israelis
2005 216 (52) 48 (6) 1260 (129) 484 (4)
2006 678 (127) 25 (2) 3194 (470) 377 (7)
2007 396 (43) 13 (0) 1843 (265) 322 (3)
Total 1290 (222) 86 (8) 6297 (864) 1183 (14)

All numbers refer to casualties of direct conflict between Israelis and Palestinians including in IDF military operations, artillery shelling, search and arrest campaigns, Barrier demonstrations, targeted killings, settler violence etc. The figures do not include events indirectly related to the conflict such as casualties from unexploded ordnance, etc. or events when the circumstances remain unclear or are in dispute. The figures include all reported casualties of all ages and both genders.

B'Tselem, an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO), also maintains comprehensive statistics on the conflict for both the First Intifada and the Second Intifada:

Casualty figures for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from B'Tselem for the period from 09.12.1987 to 29.9.2000 (First Intifada)
(numbers in brackets represent casualties under the age of 18)
Year Deaths
Palestinians Israelis
Dec 9-31 1987 22 (5) 0 (0)
1988 310 (50) 12 (3)
1989 305 (83) 31 (1)
1990 145 (25) 22 (0)
1991 104 (27) 19 (0)
1992 138 (23) 34 (1)
1993-13.9.93 138 (37) 42 (0)
14.9.93-31.12.93 42 (4) 19 (0)
1994 152 (24) 74 (2)
1995 45 (5) 46 (0)
1996 74 (11) 75 (8)
1997 21 (5) 29 (3)
1998 28 (3) 12 (0)
1999 9 (0) 4 (0)
2000 until 28.9 16 (2) 2 (0)
Total 1549 (304) 421 (18)

Casualty figures for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from B'Tselem for the period as of 29.9.2000 (Second Intifada)
(numbers in brackets represent casualties under the age of 18)
Year Deaths
Palestinians Israelis
2000 (as of 29.09.2000) 279 (83) 41 (0)
2001 469 (82) 191 (36)
2002 1032 (157) 421 (47)
2003 588 (119) 185 (21)
2004 828 (179) 108 (8)
Total 3196 (620) 946 (112)

Figures include both Israeli civilians and security forces and casualties in both the Occupied Territories and Israel.

Casualty figures for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the 1936-1939 Great Arab Revolt
Source Cited by Deaths
Palestinians Israelis
Arnon-Ohana, 1982, 140 Morris, Righteous Victims p 159. 4,500 (killed by other Arabs)
Various Morris, Righteous Victims p 159. 3,000 to 6,000 several hundred

Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy and treaties

See also

Geography:

References

Further reading

External links

Academic, news, and similar sites (excluding Israeli or Palestinian sources)

Other sites:

  • For analysis of various sociopolitical and legal issues regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, see: Professor Gad Barzilai's site:

Peace proposals

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