Know Your History: The Roots of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Part III



In 1978, Egyptian President Sadat and Israeli President Begin signed the Camp David Accords which brokered an official peace between the two nations. Israel gave back the territory of the Sinai Peninsula it had gained during the 1967 Six Day War and Israel received Egypt’s diplomatic recognition of their right to exist. It was a break-through that did not spread to similar deals with other nations. Eventually, Sadat paid for his signing with his life as he was assassinated by a Muslim extremist who disagreed with his policy.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) became the official mouthpiece for the Palestinian people with Yasser Arafat as its leader. The PLO moved from a publicity-grabbing terrorist organization born in the 1960s to a political movement (Fatah), later establishing control of the West Bank (still under Israeli military occupation) through the Palestinian Authority.

The most significant peace talks of the next generation were the Oslo Accords agreed upon by Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and Arafat which could have made significant in-roads into having two separate and independent states. However, the peace plan was seriously side-tracked by Rabin’s assassination at the hands of a right-wing Israeli extremist.

With little progress towards peace and back and forth fighting between the Israelis and Palestinians, the new millennium has featured more of the tit-for-tat mentality which has stagnated peace talks and has rendered little political progress since the end of WWII. The early 2000s featured several Palestinian uprisings protesting Israeli brutality and strict control over their lives. Israel was faced with waves of suicide bombers who indiscriminately destroyed easy civilian targets like public buses.

The early 2000s also led to the rise of another political party – Hamas – which believed that radical Islam is the answer for the turmoil in the region. Hamas has inserted even greater anxiety into the peace equation simply by the fact that their goal is the utter destruction of Israel and are not at all amicable to a two or three state solution for the region. What complicates the situation more is that Hamas has received a lot of support from the Palestinian people in Gaza because of their humanitarian work. However, the relentless rocket attacks which Hamas has sent indiscriminately into Israel (including the recent attacks which prompted this 2014 incident) has forced Israel to retaliate and lock-down Gaza on several occasions as it has feared for the safety of their own citizens. These retaliation attacks against Hamas has killed many civilians. Many throughout the world have become vocal critics against the Israeli government for their intrusions into Gaza. However, others point out that Hamas is the instigators by sending rocket fire into Israel, prompting the Israeli army to reply.

The current battles being waged in Gaza are all by-products of the last one hundred years of failed diplomacy and ancient hatred.

These are the basic facts of the region. I do want to provide some analysis of the situation in a future post. But in its most basic form, these two following points highlight the most important reasons why there cannot be peace in the Middle East:

  • Some Palestinians (especially Hamas) will never agree to the idea that Israel has the right to exist.
  • Israel will never agree to have the West Bank or Gaza officially become independent until they feel the terrorist threat against them is defeated. That can only happen when the first point above does not exist.

Unfortunately, there is little realistic hope that the cycle of violence can be broken.


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