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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Historical Background

Palestinians have continuously resided in Palestine since four thousand years before Christ. Their ancestors built the cities of Jerusalem, Nablus, Jericho, Beisan, Acca and Jaffa. The Hebrews arrived in the land between 1400-1200 B.C., and only maintained control over it during the lifetimes of King David and his son King Solomon – a period of about 80 years. The land then came under Greek and Roman rule, and was then conquered by Islam in the year 637 A.D. under the second Caliph, Omar. By that time, the Jews had already left Jerusalem, and Christianity was the dominant religion. The Caliph granted full security to all Christians, including personal safety, and protection of property, religion and churches. The Muslims declared Jerusalem the capital of Palestine, and the city remained under Islamic rule until the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, except for a brief time of Christian rule under the Crusaders.

In this century, the eastern Mediterranean became subject to British and French occupation as a result of the First World War, and Palestine came under British military occupation. The British encouraged the Arabs to gain their independence from the Ottoman Empire and promised them support if they stood on the side of the allies during the First World War. However the British reneged on the promise, and British Foreign Minister Arthur James Balfour promised the International Zionists a homeland for the Jews in Palestine. At the time, the population of Palestine was comprised of 95% Arabs (both Christians and Muslims), 4% Palestinian Jews, and 1% expatriates. The Jews owned only 2% of the land.

Israel occupied the Palestinian lands in 1948 when it announced its independence. It captured the rest of Palestine in 1967. Since then, the Palestinians have lived under Israeli occupation. According to Lt. Col. Abo-Sak, their struggle to liberate themselves was ignored during the Cold War and the competition between the East and the West to gain more influence in the Middle East as a strategic region. Israel has gained strong support in the West as a result of this competition. In the meantime, the Palestinians have been unable to persuade the superpowers to enforce United Nations Resolution 242 and 338 calling for Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab land.

In 1991, the United States led a peace initiative, co-sponsored by Russia. The first conference was held in Madrid, Spain, in October of that year and was attended by delegations from most of the Middle Eastern countries, including Palestinians and Israelis. In September 1993, Israel and the PLO signed the Declaration of Principles. Between 1992 and 1996, Israel was invited to many conferences held in Arab countries as a sign of its neighbors’ good will.

After a radical Israeli opposed to the peace process assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Labour partly lost the Israeli election of 1996, giving way to the Likud party led by Benjamin Netanyahu. This new government will not commit itself to the peace accords signed by the previous Israeli government, and the peace process has slowed to a standstill. The new Israeli government has violated the terms of the peace accord by, among other things, building new Israeli settlements in occupied lands, also in contravention of international law.

Divided in their views of how the peace process should proceed, the Palestinians and Israelis have initiated media campaigns for international support. Tensions have thus escalated in the region, re-igniting old hatreds and fears of war.

"Part of A Study by Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed F. Abo-Sak"

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Added: May 2011
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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
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