The conflict between Israel and Palestine is famous all over the world, it isn’t just a conflict in the Middle East, it’s the conflict that makes worry the United States and whole Europe.
On the 12th of July 2006, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite organization attacked northern Israel, where two soldiers were kidnapped. Again it was the reason for multi-dimensional conflict. “The month-long war touched upon an array of critical U.S. foreign policy issues in the Middle East, ranging from the continued instability arising from the lack of a comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli peace process, to the preservation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence which remains hampered by the inability to disarm Hezbollah” (Brown, 2001).
There are two ethnic groups – Israelis and Palestinians – and they are fighting for the same geographical territory. Both these groups have deep roots on this territory, they can present a lot of arguments to prove that this area belongs to them. These arguments are reasonable from both sides, they have historical and religious basement. The question is: who is right here and how to solve this conflict?
Roots of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
During the World War II about 6 million Jews were exterminated, it caused mass migrations of Jews to different countries, especially to Palestine. The British foreign secretary promised to help Israelis and to establish on the territory of Palestine a national home for Jews. Of course, it led to the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs, Britain couldn’t solve it and transmitted the Palestine question to United Nations.
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The resolution of 1947 adopted by the General Assembly proclaimed the establishment of a Jewish and a Palestinian state. Arab leaders and Arab population didn’t accept this resolution. They immediately held military operation. As a result, in 1967 the Arab-Israeli War broke out. Israel obtained access to the West Bank (The Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights). This war caused even stronger contradictions between Arab world and Israel. “There are now an estimated two million Palestinian refugees in the countries bordering on Israel, or 3.4 million if Gaza and the West Bank are included” (Hollis, 2004).
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) headed the struggle. The body of this organization is the Palestinian National Council (PNC). This organization was aimed to destroy Israel. On the 14th of December 1998 in Gaza took place the peace conference, which dealt with Israel-Palestine conflict. President Clinton attended this conference, the Palestinian National Council promised not to direct PLO to the destruction of Israel.
In the year 1991 the situation in the Middle West changed and in this year in Madrid was held a peace conference, initiated by the United States. The necessity of this conference was caused by the Palestinian intifada, which is a popular Palestinian uprising against the occupying power of Israel. It started in December 1967 in The West Bank and in Gaza. “Daily clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, strikes, closure of the border and other unrest all contributed to the enormous international attention that the conflict aroused” (Hollis, 2004).
In fact, this conference hasn’t changed Palestinian or Israeli attitude to the conflict, but its further consequences are rather important in the conflict resolution. What is more, both sides didn’t want to continue the negotiations at all. The time has shown that the conference was really important because it created the framework of the negotiation. This conference had two directions: the negotiations between Israel and its neighbors, so-called bilateral negotiations, and the negotiations between some countries involved in this conflict, so-called multilateral negotiations. This official peace proved to be weak. Still Israel and Palestine weren’t ready for an open constructive dialogue. At the conference there were Israeli and Palestinian people, and it was difficult to name their communication “normal”. The media, which was present at the conference, only roused the conflict. Direct contact between representatives from Israel and Palestine was impossible, so the representatives of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) must have been the members of Jordan’s delegation, of course, it didn’t help to solve the conflict.
The Influence of EU on the Conflict
Both countries, Israel and Palestine have long historical relations with the countries of EU. Despite this fact the influence of the EU countries on the conflict is significantly limited. This is especially true to Israel, which shows distrust and discontent with the pollicies of the EU. Israel shows much more trust to the United States of American than to the countries of EU. This can be explained by the constant support the US shows to Israel.
The EU wants to play an important role in the process of conflict resolution. The EU has developed and expressed several clear theses concerning this conflict. It insists on the end of Israeli occupation, dismantlement of Israeli settlements and recognizing of the Palestine as an independent state. In return it agreed to recognize Israel as an independent state with the boundaries, which existed before 1967. The EU sees its role on the Middle East as paramount. Such a statement is explained by both, historical facts and contemporary relations between the countries of the EU and Arabian countries. EU is greatly concerned with the prominent role of the US in this conflict.
Four recent political initiatives expressed by EU include: the road map, Geneva initiative, the Separation Barrier, and Israeli plan for Gaza Strip. The road map is a demand to create a plan, naming exact dates and describing exact steps, which would be performed for conflict resolution. Israel and Palestine should have decided on the final solution about the ways to deal with the disagreements by 2005. “Unlike the Gaza Disengagement Plan presented a minimalist plan, the Geneva Initiative took the proposed resolution of the conflict a step further, attempting to deal with such problematic issues as the status of Jerusalem and the issue of refugee return” (Newman, 304). Geneva initiative, sponsored by Switzerland, was not supported by all the members of the EU. The EU supported the construction of fence between two countries. This idea belonged to Palestine and was severely condemned by Israel. The fourth subject of concern of the EU is a Gaza disengagement plan. “The intention is to withdraw all Israeli troops and evacuate Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and a small area in the north of the West Bank, by the end of December 2005.” (Newman, 306) This plan was proposed by Israel Prime Minister Sharon and supported by the USA. The EU actively criticized this initiative.
Jerusalem as the Main Problem
Of course, Jerusalem is the main point and the main problem in the process of negotiations. According to the UN partition of lands, East Jerusalem was planned to be under permanent international administration. In the course of the 1948 war East Jerusalem and even the whole West Bank became the part of Jordan. Beginning from 1948 till 1967 East Jerusalem belonged to Jordanian-Palestinians and West Jerusalem was in possession of Jews. During the 1967 war the situation changed: Israel captured East Jerusalem and Palestinian people had to escape. According to the current international law East Jerusalem is an occupied territory nowadays. Here is valid the Fourth Geneva Convention of the year 1948, according to which occupying power has no right to remove its population to this area.
Israel regards Jerusalem as the capital, however only few countries have their embassies in West Jerusalem. Most European countries “will not recognize Jerusalem as the capital for any of the parties as long as the status of the city remains unresolved, and in November 1997 they voted in favour of a resolution in the UN General Assembly condemning the Israeli policy of settlement in the city” (Steinberg, 2004). Most European countries continue to support the peace process in Israel-Palestine conflict.
The most controversial issues in this conflict still deals with the division of the territory. Palestinian people state that their country must include Gaza and the whole of the West Bank. They also insist that the Palestinian territories must be determined according to the borders of the year 1967. Israel, on the contrary, claims that these territories must belong to it. It requires decreasing of the territory of Palestinian State.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has deep roots in the history. It’s a serious religious and historical conflict. Israelis and Palestinians are two absolutely different ethnic groups, which have different notions or religion and their aim on the earth. These two nations are fighting for the same territory. This territory for both, Palestinians and Israelis, is very important and they both have their particular rights on it. Jerusalem is the holly ground for them both. Israelis and Palestinians have their own reasons to think so and they can present a lot of arguments to support their point of view. There were held a number of peace conferences that were aimed to solve this conflict, but they all could lead only to temporary peace. However, the conflict exists even now.
Brown, N. (2001) “Democracy, History, and the Contest over the Palestinian, Adam Institute Conference on “Attitudes toward the Past in Conflict Resolution,” Jerusalem, November 2001. 43
Chopra, J. (2004) Planning Considerations for International Involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Working Report of Track II negotiations. Unpublished.
Hassassian Maunuel. U.S. National Interests in the Middle East/ The U.S.A. and The ConflictVol.4 Nos. 3 & 4 1997
Hermann, T & Yuchtman-Yaar, E. (2002) International Intervention in Protracted Conflicts: The Israeli-Palestinian Case. The Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace research, Tel Aviv University. P
Hollis, R et al (2004) The Israeli-Palestinian Road Block: Can Europeans Make a Difference? Royal Institute of International Affairs, March 2004.
Newman, D., (2000), “Citizenship, identity and location: the changing discourse of Israeli geopolitics”. In: K. Dodds & D. Atkinson (Eds.) Geopolitical Traditions: A Century of Geopolitical Thought. London: Routledge. pp.: 302-331
Newman, D., and Yacobi, H,. (2004). The EU and the Israel\Palestine Conflict: An Ambivalent Relationship. EUBORDERCONF Workling Paper No. 4.
Steinberg, G. M., (2004). Learning the Lessons of the European Union’s Failed Middle East Policies, Jerusalem Viewpoints, 510 (7) 5764 / 1 a paper presented at the conference on “Troubled Waters: Europe And Its Relations With The United States And Israel”, The Helmut Kohl Institute for European Studies, Hebrew University, May 2003
Stetter, E. S., (2003). Cross Pillar Politics of the European Union – EU Actors and the Centralisation of Foreign and Interior Policies.
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