SIMPLE EXPLANATION OF THE ISRAEL / PALESTINE CONFLICT
BRIEF HISTORY OF PALESTINE
- Old Palestine is the area now known as Israel and Jordan.
- From 1517-1917 Turkey’s Ottoman Empire controlled Palestine.
- In World War 1, Turkey sided with Germany and lost the war.
- So Palestine was handed over to Britain to control. Palestine, at that stage, was made up of today’s Jordan and today’s Israel.
- In 1946, Britain release its control of 77% of Palestine to create a Muslim ‘Palestinian’ land named Jordan (they called themselves Trans-Jordan at the time).
- After that Muslim part of Palestine was released to become its own nation, only 23% of Palestine was left.
ISRAEL IS FORMED IN 1948
- In 1947, U.N. Resolution 181 created a partition plan to turn the remaining 18% of Palestine into a Jewish Palestinian State (Israel). Remember 77% was now Jordan, 5% was the Wes Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights which left 18% of Palestine to give to Israel.
- Note that in the UN’s map, Jerusalem is an international zone, controlled by the international community. The idea was that the international regime (which also included the city of Bethlehem) was to remain in force for a period of ten years, whereupon a referendum was to be held in which the residents were to decide the future regime of their city
- The Jewish Palestinians accepted the UN’s resolution but the Arab Palestinians rejected it because they still wanted all of Palestine. Therefore, the Resolution was not carried out and is not legally binding.
- On 14 May 1948, the “Palestinian” Jews finally declared their own State of Israel and became “Israelis.”
- Note that Israel is surrounded by 22 Muslim nations. The surrounding Arab countries occupy 640 times the land mass as does Israel and outnumber the Jews of Israel by nearly fifty to one.
THE 1948 WAR AGAINST ISRAEL ONE DAY AFTER IT WAS FORMED
- One day after Israel became a nation, seven of its neighboring Arab armies (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Yemen) invaded Israel to try and get rid of the brand new Jewish State.
- Israel lost 1% of its population during that 1948 war, but miraculously survived as a nation and won the war.
- The result of that war was that Israel grew slightly larger than the ridiculous lines the UN had put in place (giving only 18% of Palestine to the only Jewish State). Israel took over Golan Heights and managed to push the West Bank back far enough in order for Israel to take over the Western part of Jerusalem (see map below which shows on the left what the UN had proposed and on the right, the land gained by Israel when it was attacked in the war of 1948)
Following the 1948 war, Jordan had control of the Eastern part of Jerusalem and expelled all Jewish residents out of Eastern Jerusalem. It is interesting to note that Israel had no problem with allowing the Arab residents in Western Jerusalem to stay and remain part of their society. So Eastern Jerusalem contained no Jews, and Western Jerusalem was more of a vibrant, diverse hub of all religions.
THE PERIOD BETWEEN 1948 and 1967
- From 1948 – 1967, Egypt had control over Gaza, Syria had control of Golan Heights and Jordan had control over the West Bank (including the East Side of Jerusalem).
- So the Arabs of Palestine had ended up with nearly 85% of the original territory of Palestine. But that was not enough and therefore the conflict to take over Israel to create another Muslim state would continue through four more wars and continuous Arab terrorist attacks upon the Israeli citizenry.
- It is interesting to note that during 1948 – 1967 when Arabs were in control of Gaza, Golan Heights and the West Bank (including half of Jerusalem), there was not one call for an independent Palestine – there was hardly any mention of a ‘Palestinian’ people and no effort was ever made to create a second Palestinian State for the Arabs (Remember Jordan was the first Palestinian state and they had given all of the Palestinians living in the West Bank Jordanian citizenship and the right to vote in Jordan’s elections.).
- It’s worth noting at this juncture that Israel is 20000 square miles in size and it has four Arab countries on its borders (Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon). During 1948 to 1967, Jordan was not only on its borders but also occupied the West Bank, Syria had the Golan Heights and Egypt was in control of Gaza. So Israel was not only surrounded by enemies outside of its borders, but in a sense, also within its borders. Bear this geography in mind when you imagine what happened next in the 1967 war.
THE WAR OF 1967
- In 1967, the three powerful armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria mobilized along Israel’s narrow and seemingly indefensible borders in preparation for a massive invasion. The battle cry heard throughout the Arab world was “Slaughter the Jews” and “Throw the Jews into the Sea!” But the Jews of Israel, remembering 2,000 years of being butchered, gassed, burned and skinned (eg. The Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, the Arab rampages of early Palestine and particularly the Holocaust), planned and executed a perfect pre-emptive strike against Egypt. Within two hours the Egyptian Air Force did not exist – most of its planes destroyed while still on the runways. Unaware that the Egyptians had no more air force, King Hussein of Jordan, launched his attack from the West Bank into Israel ‘s belly while Syrian troops prepared to descend down the Golan Heights high ground into northern Israel.
- From 1948 to 1967, while Egypt had ruled Gaza, Syria had ruled the Golan Heights and Jordan had ruled the West Bank, they could easily have set up a second Arab Palestinian State in those territories, but they didn’t even consider it. Instead, in 1967 they used those territories to launch a war against Israel, which is how (and why) Israel took possession of those territories after they successfully managed to survive the 1967 war against them.
- The result of the 1967 war was that Israel now had Gaza, Golan Heights and the West Bank under its control, and most importantly, it got back the whole of Jerusalem.
- On 27 June 1967, three weeks after the war ended, Israel extended its law and jurisdiction to East Jerusalem, including the city’s Christian and Muslim holy sites.
- Israel conducted a census of Arab residents in the areas annexed. Residents were given permanent residency status and the option of applying for Israeli citizenship.
- Israel also opened up access again for everyone to get to their holy sites within the city of Jerusalem and began restoring the Jewish and Christian holy sites that had been left to deteriorate under Jordanian rule.
- Today, the status of Jerusalem remains one of the core issues in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. . All branches of the Israeli government are located in Jerusalem, including the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), the residences of the Prime Minister and President, and the Supreme Court.
- Jerusalem is also the declared capital of Palestine.
A SURPRISING MOVE BY ISRAEL AFTER THE WAR OF 1967
- After the 1967 war, the Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights all started packing to move after Israel had soundly defeated the Arab invasion and their areas were no longer under Arab control. In a stunning move, the one-eyed IDF General at the time, Moshe Dayan, persuaded them to stay. The most stunned by this gesture were the Arabs, who knew what they would’ve done had they won. Dayan said he wanted Israel to educate them, offer them modern medical treatment, provide them with employment both in the West Bank, Gaza and inside Israel Proper itself. As nice a gesture as this was, many look back at this moment as being a pivotal mistake given what Israel has suffered at the hands of Arabs since then, and still is today.
THE OSLO ACCORDS
- The Oslo Accords, signed in Washington in 1993 and Taba, Egypt, in 1995, were the first peace treaties ever signed between Israel and the Palestinian leadership.
- They are named after the Norwegian capital where the two sides launched eight months of secret negotiations, in which Peres played a key role.
- The first agreement led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority the following year with limited powers of self-rule, initially only in parts of the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank town of Jericho.
- It foresaw further phased pullbacks by the Israeli army and was meant to lead to an independent Palestinian state.
- Crucially, many key issues (including the status of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the right of return for Palestinian refugees) were not agreed upon, with the two sides saying they would be subject to later negotiations.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE OSLO ACCORDS
- After the Oslo Accords, Israel transferred Gaza to the Palestinians and it has been under Palestinian control ever since.
- Just two years after the iconic handshake and a few months after the second Oslo agreement was signed, a Jewish militant opposed to the agreements shot Rabin twice in the back as he was leaving a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv.
- He died in hospital several hours later along with, many Israelis would argue, the Oslo accords.
- Peres took over, but within a year lost an election to Benjamin Netanyahu – Israel’s current prime minister and an outspoken opponent of the agreements.
- Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, Palestinian attacks, including bus bombings, and political hardening on both sides meant the promise of the agreements was never realised. Arafat died in 2004.
- More than 20 years on, the agreements, which were not meant to last more than five years, are still the basis of relations between Israel and Palestinian officials in the West Bank.
- Jordan accounts for 77% of Palestine’s original land mass. The people of Jordan are culturally, ethnically, historically and religiously no different than the Arab-“Palestinians” on the “West Bank.” Even the flag of Jordan and the flag of the proposed 2nd Arab-Palestinian state on the West Bank look almost identical and many argue that there is no difference between the Arab Palestinians west of the Jordan River and the Arab Palestinians on its eastern shore (being Jordan).
- Israel only has 18% of Palestine (23% if the occupied territories are included).
- In spite of this, 53% of Palestinian Arabs do not support there being a Jewish nation at all and want Israel written off the map replaced in full with another Muslim nation.