Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Israel Palestinian Conflict

It is one of those issues for which the world community has not been able to find a solution over decades. I would dare say that civilizations have fought over this issue, though they would have called it with a different name during their respective heydays.

As you would have by now noticed, while relying heavily on Wikipedia, I would also chip in with my own perspectives, edits and additions to gather what we need to understand the issue. Have the patience to go through the whole maze of the issue on Wikipedia? Go ahead here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli-Palestine_conflict

Be warned though that it is very easy to get lost in the maze of links that they provide. For those of you who don’t have the patience or time; or perhaps rely on my abilities to present you with something useful, read on…

It would be unnecessary for us to go into the disputes between civilizations regarding this issue. If you understand basically three landmark events relating to it, that should suffice. Other current developments always get reflected in daily news and our updates. In fact the current developments have become routine and not worthy of reporting any longer. People kill each other; that’s it. That is what it has been reduced to. The three landmark events include:

1. Arab-Israeli War

2. Six Day War

3. Oslo peace process

The Conflict

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict, is an ongoing dispute between two peoples, Jewish Israelis and Arab Palestinians, that both claim the right to sovereignty over the Land of Israel/Palestine in whole or in part. Throughout history, there have been many conflicts in this area between peoples inhabiting it. This particular conflict can be traced to the late 19th century, when Zionist Jews expressed their desire to create a modern state in their ancient homeland. The Zionist Organization sought to realize this goal by encouraging immigration thither, and purchasing land in the region, then controlled by the Ottoman Empire.

The central contentious issue of who controls the land remains the same. The State of Israel, established control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip by defeating surrounding Arab armies in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the 1967 Six Day War. When the Palestine Liberation Organization controlled the Palestinian Authority, it sought to establish an independent, viable, and sovereign state on this land. Hamas, now the majority party in the Palestinian Authority, calls for the destruction of Israel, and seeks to create a Palestinian state encompassing all of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip.

Most Palestinians accept the West Bank and Gaza Strip as at least a part of the territory of their future state. Most Israelis also accept this solution. An attempt to achieve this solution was seen in the Oslo peace process, where Israel and the PLO negotiated, unsuccessfully, to come to a mutual agreement. Vocal minorities on both sides advocate other solutions, most of which contradict the goal of 'two states for two peoples.' In both communities, some individuals and groups advocate total removal or transfer of the other community. A small minority advocates a one state solution, where all of Israel/Palestine would become a bi-national state, providing equal citizenship to all of its current residents.

The 1948 Arab Israeli war

The 1948 Arab-Israeli War, also known as the Israeli War of Independence, was the first in a series of wars fought between the State of Israel and its Arab neighbors in the long-running Arab-Israeli conflict. For Israeli Jews, the war marks the successful establishment of the Israeli state, but for Palestinian Arabs, it signifies the beginning of the events referred to as "al Nakba" (meaning "the Catastrophe"), a term used to describe the fleeing or expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian residents from the newly created state of Israel, and the subsequent Israeli ban on their return.

In 1947, the United Nations had recommended partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, a plan which Arab leaders rejected. The British mandate over Palestine was due to expire on 15 May 1948, but the Jewish leadership, led by future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, declared independence on 14 May. The State of Israel declared itself as an independent nation, and was quickly recognized by the Soviet Union, the United States, and many other countries.

By the end of May, approximately 6,000 Syrian, 4,500 Iraqi, between 6,000 and 9,000 Transjordanian, 1,000 Lebanese and 5,500 Egyptian troops had invaded the territory of the former British mandate, joining the Palestinian irregulars. The Transjordanians fought only in the areas alloted to the Arab state and to the corpus seperatum of Jerusalem, while the Syrians, Egyptians, Iraqis and Lebanese invaded the territory alloted to the newly-created State of Israel. By the end of the war Israel had repulsed them, held the territory designated for it and captured about half of the territory designated for the Arab state, as well as part of Jerusalem. The war and the armistice agreements between Israel and its neighbors resulted in the division of the former British mandate into Israel, the Gaza strip held by Egypt and the West Bank held by Jordan.

The six day war

The Six-Day War, also known as the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Third Arab-Israeli War, Six Days' War, an Naksah (The Setback), or the June War, was fought between Israel and its Arab neighbours Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Algeria also contributed troops and arms to the Arab forces. In the months before June 1967, Egypt expelled the United Nations Emergency Force from the Sinai Peninsula, increased its military activity near the border, blockaded the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships, and called for unified Arab action against Israel. In June 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt's airforce fearing an imminent invasion by Egypt. Jordan then attacked western Jerusalem and Netanya. At the war's end, Israel had gained control of eastern Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. The results of the war affect the geopolitics of the region to this day.

The Oslo Peace Process 1993

The Oslo Accords, Officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Declaration of Principles (DOP), were finalized in Oslo, Norway on August 20, 1993, and subsequently officially signed at a public ceremony in Washington D.C. on September 13, 1993, with Mahmoud Abbas signing for the Palestine Liberation Organization and Shimon Peres signing for the State of Israel.

In essence, the accords called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank and affirmed a Palestinian right of self-government within those areas through the creation of a Palestinian Authority. Palestinian rule would last for a five year interim period during which a permanent agreement would be negotiated (beginning no later than May 1996). Permanent issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, Israeli settlements in the area, security and borders were deliberately excluded from the Accords and left to be decided. The interim self-government was to be granted in phases. Until a final status accord was established, West Bank and Gaza would be divided into three zones:

* Area A - full control of the Palestinian Authority.

* Area B - Palestinian civil control and Israeli security control.

* Area C - full Israeli control, except over Palestinian civilians. These areas were Israeli settlements and security zones without a significant Palestinian population.

Together with the principles the two groups signed Letters of Mutual Recognition - The Israeli government recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people while the PLO recognized the right of the state of Israel to exist and renounced terrorism, violence and its desire for the destruction of Israel.

The aim of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations was to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, an elected Council, for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years, leading to a permanent settlement based on Resolution 242 and Resolution 338, an integral part of the whole peace process.

In order that the Palestinians should govern themselves according to democratic principles, free and general political elections would be held for the Council.

Jurisdiction of the Palestinian Council would cover the West Bank and Gaza Strip, except for issues that would be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. The two sides viewed the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit.

The five-year transitional period would commence with the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area. Permanent status negotiations would begin as soon as possible between Israel and the Palestinians. The negotiations would cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors, and other issues of common interest.

There would be a transfer of authority from the IDF to the authorized Palestinians, concerning education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation, and tourism.

The Council would establish a strong police force, while Israel would continue to carry the responsibility for defending against external threats.

An Israeli-Palestinian Economic Cooperation Committee would be established in order to develop and implement in a cooperative manner the programs identified in the protocols.

A redeployment of Israeli military forces in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would take place.

The Declaration of Principles would enter into force one month after its signing. All protocols annexed to the Declaration of Principles and the Agreed Minutes pertaining to it, should be regarded as part of it.

Concluding remarks:

It is a geopolitical reality that we are living in a unipolar world with the US as the leader. It is also equally a reality that Israel has tremendous influence over US. This is believed to emanate from the fact that a large part of US business is controlled by Israelis or people of Israeli origin. It is also a reality that Arabs, in spite of their oil power are not able to hold any sway over the US, the largest consumer and importer of oil from the Middle East. As long as the geopolitical realities remain like this, there is no solution to this problem. Israel will keep on suppressing the Palestinian Intifada with an iron hand. Palestinians will never give up their fight. There will be casualties on both sides.

I may look cynical; but the fact is that in spite of following this issue closely for more than two decades, I have not been able to see anything other than intransigence on the part of the parties to the conflict.

So many other conflicts appeared on the world horizon and disappeared after some time; but not this one.

3 comments:

Suresh Nandigam said...
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Suresh Nandigam said...
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