Why did the Israel-Palestine conflict start?
The conflict started in 1917 when the then British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour expressed official support of Britain for a Jewish “national home” in Palestine under the Balfour Declaration.
Jewish immigration (Aliyah): Large waves of Jewish immigrants arrived in Palestine, especially following the rise of Nazism in Europe.
After the creation of Palestine, and being unable to contain Arab and Jewish violence, Britain withdrew its forces from Palestine in 1948, leaving responsibility for resolving the competing claims to the newly created United Nations.
The UN presented a partition plan to create independent Jewish and Arab states in Palestine which was not accepted by most Arab nations.
Declaration of the State of Israel:
On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel.
First Arab-Israeli War (1948-1949):
Initial Phase: As soon as Israel declared independence, armies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon invaded the new state.
Territorial Gains: Israel retained its sovereignty and expanded its territory beyond the UN Partition Plan proposal.
Palestinian Exodus: The war led to the displacement of a significant number of Palestinian Arabs, an event referred to by Palestinians as the “Nakba,” or catastrophe.
Armistice Agreements (1949): By early 1949, separate armistice agreements were signed between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.
The agreements established the Armistice Demarcation Lines, often referred to as the Green Line.
Suez Crisis (1962)
– Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula. Following the plan, Britain and France intervened.
– British, French, and Israeli forces withdrew by March 1957.
The 1970s: Continued Tensions and Hope
Yom Kippur War (1973): Despite the vast territories captured by Israel in 1967, there was no comprehensive peace settlement.
Surprise Attack: On October 6, 1973, coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, Egypt, and Syria launched a coordinated surprise attack on Israeli positions in the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. Both Egypt and Syria made significant initial advancements. However, Israeli forces managed to regroup and counterattack.
Impact: The war exposed vulnerabilities in Israel’s defence strategy, leading to political upheaval.
Camp David Accords (1978): By the late 1970s, both Egypt and Israel, encouraged by the U.S., were considering the possibility of peace negotiations.
Framework for Peace in the Middle East: The document outlined a broad set of principles for peace, including a five-year transitional period of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza.
Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty: It led to Egypt officially recognizing Israel, the normalization of diplomatic and economic relations, and the return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.
1980s: Lebanon and Intifada
Israel’s Invasion of Lebanon (1982):
Background: The early 1980s saw an escalation of cross-border attacks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) based in southern Lebanon.
Siege of Beirut: Israel’s military laid siege to Beirut, where PLO leadership was based. After months of bombardment, the PLO agreed to evacuate its fighters from Beirut.
Aftermath: The invasion significantly disrupted the PLO’s operations but inadvertently facilitated the rise of more radical groups like Hezbollah.
Formation of Hamas (1987):
Background: The Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, primarily focused on religious and social issues, sought a more active role in the Palestinian national struggle against Israel.
Formation: Hamas combined its political and religious agenda with armed resistance against Israel.
Key Tenets: The complete liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an Islamic state in place of Israel.
First Intifada (1987-1993):
Background: Growing frustration among Palestinians in the occupied territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip) due to Israeli military occupation and lack of political progress led to simmering tensions.
Nature of the Uprising: The Intifada (which means “shaking off” in Arabic) was characterized by civil disobedience, protests, and sporadic violence. Palestinians employed tactics like stone-throwing, general strikes, and boycotts of Israeli products.
Aftermath: The Intifada, demonstrating the intensity of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation, played a role in bringing both parties to the negotiation table.
1990s: Oslo Accords
About: Agreement between Israel (PM Yitzhak Rabin) and Palestine Liberation Organisation (Yasser Arafat) overseen by the US President Bill Clinton
Mutual Recognition: Both sides recognized their right to existence and Israel further recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
Interim Government: A five-year transitional period of Palestinian interim self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Phased Israeli withdrawal: Israel agreed to gradually withdraw from parts of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Economic cooperation: The accords laid the groundwork for economic cooperation between Israel and the newly established Palestinian Authority.
Challenges and criticism:
Vague on key issues: Core was not discussed, issues like the status of Jerusalem the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the borders of a future Palestinian state.
Security Concerns: The accord did not demand a complete disarmament of militant Palestinian factions.
Settlement Expansion: While the accords were being implemented, Israeli settlement expansion continued in the West Bank.
Lack of Enforcement Mechanisms: The accords lacked robust mechanisms to ensure both parties adhered to their commitments.
Oslo Accords-II (1995):
About: Agreement between Israel (PM Yitzhak Rabin) and Palestine Liberation Organisation (Mahmoud Abbas) overseen by the US President Bill Clinton
Territorial division: The West Bank was divided into- Areas A (full Palestinian control), B (joint Israeli-Palestinian control), and C (full Israeli control).
Security arrangements: The accord outlined protocols for security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Israel Defence Forces.
Safe passage: Provisions were made for safe passage for Palestinians between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, facilitating movement.
Economic relations: Provided for the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations to govern economic interactions between Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Challenges and Criticism:
Territorial fragmentation: It made the viability of a contiguous Palestinian state more challenging.
Economic dependence: The Palestinian economy remained heavily dependent on Israel thereby leading to power imbalances.
Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin: Rabin’s death was a significant blow to the peace process and its momentum.
Bypassing other Palestinian groups: Hamas and other Palestinian factions were not part of the negotiations, which they criticized and resisted.
2000s: Second Intifada & Wars in Gaza
Second Intifada (2000-2005)
Background: Following the breakdown of the Camp David Summit in July 2000, tensions were high.
Outbreak: Violent confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli security forces soon escalated into a full-blown uprising.
Nature of the Uprising: Compared to the First Intifada, the Second Intifada was more violent, with a higher death toll. It involved suicide bombings by Palestinian militant groups and military operations by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Wars in Gaza
Background: Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006. Tensions between Hamas and Fatah led to a brief civil war in Gaza, after which Hamas took control in 2007.
Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza, citing security concerns due to rocket attacks.
Gaza War (2008-2009):
Operation Cast Lead: Launched by Israel in December 2008, it aimed to stop rocket fire and weaken Hamas. It ended in January 2009 with a unilateral ceasefire by both sides.
- 2010-Present: Tensions and Peace Attempts
- 2010 Peace Talks
- The United States initiated the talks.
- The discussions aimed to address core issues, such as
- The borders of Israel and a future Palestinian state
- The status of Jerusalem
- The right of return of Palestinian refugees and security arrangements
- They effectively collapsed within weeks, mainly over the issue of Israeli settlement construction.
- The Palestinian side wanted a freeze on settlements as a precondition to continuing the talks, which was opposed by Israeli settlement construction.
U.S. Embassy Move to Jerusalem (2018)
Announcement: In December 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Reactions: The move was celebrated in Israel but was met with strong opposition from Palestinians and widespread international criticism. Massive protests erupted in Gaza and the West Bank.
Peace to Prosperity Plan (2020)
Introduction: The U.S., under President Trump, unveiled a new peace proposal in January 2020, often referred to as the “Deal of the Century.”
Key Points: The plan favored many Israeli positions, such as annexing parts of the West Bank, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, and not allowing the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Reactions: While Israel’s leadership welcomed the plan, Palestinians rejected it outright, stating it denied them a viable state.
Abraham Accords (2020)
Agreement: Brokered by the U.S., the Abraham Accords led to the normalization of relations between Israel and several Arab states, including the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco.
Significance: This marked a strategic realignment in the Middle East, with many Arab states prioritizing regional threats (like Iran) over the Palestinian issue.
Gaza Conflict (2021)
Trigger: Tensions around the potential eviction of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and Israeli police actions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan culminated in rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes in May 2021.
Conflict: The 11-day war resulted in the deaths of over 200 Palestinians and 12 Israelis.
Ceasefire: An Egypt-brokered ceasefire took effect on May 21, 2021.
Present Conflict – Hamas Attack (2023)
The genesis of the present conflict lies in the attack of militants from Hamas on Israeli forces and citizens and the subsequent capture of numerous civilians, leading to an emergency in the nation.
Motives: Hamas described the assault as retaliation for Israel’s military operations in the West Bank and incidents at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Losses: Over 5,000 missiles were fired from Gaza, which is under Hamas’ control. The skirmish resulted in casualties on both sides of the border.
Operation Iron Swords: In response to an unexpected assault by Hamas, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) initiated Operation ‘Iron Swords’. Under the operation, the IDF is striking Hamas targets in Gaza.
The Israeli government had decided to make ground incursions in Gaza, destroy Hamas, and hand over Gaza to international authorities.
- Regional repercussions
- Potential for broader regional war especially with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
- Endangerment of Israel’s diplomatic relations with Arab neighbors, threatening Abraham Accords and I2U2.
- Possibility of reinforcements for Gaza from neighboring countries.
- Hostage Issue
- Hamas’s threat regarding hostages complicates the potential invasion. Hostages’ fate remains uncertain during any ground incursion.
- Post-Invasion Implications
- Uncertainty of a lasting political solution following the military action.
- Historical challenges faced by Israel during its previous occupation of Gaza.
India’s Stand on Israel-Palestine Conflict
India supports a two-state solution, maintaining diplomatic ties with both Israel and Palestine, advocating peaceful resolution, and balancing strategic partnerships while emphasizing historical support for the Palestinian cause. India favored Palestine for multiple reasons:
- Gandhiji’s disapproval of a Jewish state.
- A significant Muslim demographic
- Ties with Arab nations.
- UN Voting Patterns
- India voted against the partition of Palestine and opposed Israel’s UN admission.
- Shift in the Policy
- Post-Cold War Developments
After the Cold War, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao decisively formed diplomatic relations with Israel, overlooking potential repercussions from Arab countries.
1992 saw India form complete diplomatic ties with Israel, a pivotal move.
India, however, persisted in its advocacy for Palestine.
India’s Diplomatic Balance
Guided by its national priorities, India strives to:
- Bolster its relations with Israel.
- Continue its support for Palestine.
- Enhance its rapport with the Arab nations.
Strengthening Ties with Israel
- Recent years have seen India-Israel relations grow across sectors like trade, defence, technology, and counter-terrorism.
- India’s backing for Israel is partly attributed to its challenges with cross-border terrorism, though the circumstances in both countries vary.
Support for Palestine
Despite closer ties with Israel, India maintains its support for Palestine.
- India donated USD 29.53 million to UNRWA for Palestinian refugees.
- India dispatched 6.5 tonnes of medical assistance and 32 tonnes of disaster relief for Palestinians.
- De-hyphenation Diplomacy
- 2017: Indian Prime Minister’s maiden visit to Israel.
- 2018: First official visit to Palestine.
- India, in 2017, voted against the US and Israel regarding Jerusalem’s unilateral declaration as the Israeli capital.
- While India denounces terrorism, it opposes unfettered retaliation bombings.
India’s Unwavering Position
- India advocates a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine to coexist peacefully.
- The 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, mediated by the US, endorsed the two-state solution.
- Indian Prime Minister’s 2018 trip to Ramallah in the West Bank underscores this stance.
- Implications of Israel-Palestine conflict on India
- Defense Ties with Israel: Israel is a top military equipment supplier to India, with defense deals valued at about USD 2.1 billion. Such supplies might get delayed.
- Concerns about Energy Security: Regional disturbances can influence energy prices, thus affecting India’s economic landscape.
- Implications for India-Middle East-Europe Corridor: India inked the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) pact.
- Regional instability may bring security concerns, potentially hindering IMEC’s seamless execution.
Challenges to Peace in the Israel-Palestine Conflict
Several challenges hinder peace attempts between Israel and Palestine, these include:
- Ancient disputes: Long-standing religious and territorial conflicts are deeply entrenched in both parties.
- Capital controversy: Both the Israelis and Palestinians view Jerusalem as their rightful capital, creating friction.
- West Bank settlements: Palestinians perceive Israeli settlements in the West Bank as barriers to peace, and the sentiment is reciprocated.
- Border conflicts: There are unresolved debates over the boundary lines, particularly following the 1967 war.
- Refugee return: Palestinians advocate for the refugees’ right to come back to their original homes within Israel.
- Safety issues: Both sides harbor mutual suspicions and apprehensions of violence, such as missile strikes from Gaza and Israeli defense actions.
- Political fragmentation: Distinct political factions exist within each group, like Hamas and Fatah for Palestinians and diverse Israeli political groups.
- Foreign interference: Outside political agendas and preconceptions can occasionally intensify tensions.
- Financial inequalities: Economic restrictions and imbalances can escalate tensions and provoke more disputes.
Possible Solution to the Israel-Palestine Conflict
Conflicts with deep historical roots and varying interests require continuous and multiple stakeholder collaboration for peace efforts. Some of the possible solutions to the conflict include:
- Two-state solution: Establishing a sovereign Palestinian nation next to Israel
- One-state solution: One nation where both Jews and Palestinians possess equal privileges.
- Alliance model: Pairing two nations with combined duties and free transit between them.
- Border realignments: Modifying boundaries based on the present-day situation, trading lands settled by Israelis.
- Joint capital in Jerusalem: The city acting as a mutual capital or under global governance.
- Refugee repatriation: Tackling the issue of Palestinian refugees’ return, with potential compensation or alternative settlement solutions.
- Disarmament: Forming a weapon-free Palestinian nation to mitigate Israeli defence apprehensions.
- Financial Infusion: Global funding to strengthen Palestine’s economy and enhance living standards.
- International collaboration: Engaging adjacent Arab nations to promote regional harmony and teamwork.
- Community Diplomacy efforts: Localized campaigns fostering unity between Israeli and Palestinian residents.