The Crisis In The Middle East

Israel vs. Palestine Row over Gaza


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : West Bank, Gaza

Mains level : Israel-Palestine Issue

India has termed Gaza violence as grave concern and called for immediate resumption of talk between Israel and Palestine.

Here we explain the roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the two-state solution and why it has not materialized.

What is the Israel-Palestine conflict?

  • The land to which Jews and Palestinians lay claim to was under the Ottoman Empire and then the British Empire in early 20th century.
  • Palestinian people —the Arab people from the same area— want to have a state by the name of Palestine in that area.
  • The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is over who gets what land and how it’s controlled.
  • Jews fleeing the persecution in Europe at the time wanted to establish a Jewish state on the land which they believe to be their ancient homeland.
  • The Arab at the time resisted, saying the land was theirs.
  • The land at the time was called Palestine.
  • In 1917’s Balfour Declaration, the United Kingdom declared its support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.
  • Arabs resisted it which led to violence.

When did the migration begin?

  • Some 75,000 Jews migrated to Palestine from1922-26 and some 60,000 Jews emigrated in 1935, according to a history published by the University of Central Arkansas.
  • It adds that Palestinian Arabs demanded the UK to halt Jewish emigration, but the UK ignored such calls. There were violent incidents, leading to deaths of some 500 people.
  • In 1923, the British Mandate for Palestine came into effect.
  • The document was issued by the League of Nations, the failed predecessor of the United Nations (UN).
  • The Mandate gave the UK the responsibility for creating a Jewish national homeland in the region.
  • In 1936, the UK government, recommended the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

Issue at the UN

  • In 1947, Britain referred the issue of Palestine to the UN, which came up with a partition plan.
  • It put up two proposals. One, two separate states joined economically —the majority proposal— and, two, a single bi-national state made up of autonomous Jewish and Palestinian areas, the minority proposal.
  • The Jewish community approved of the first of these proposals, while the Arabs opposed them both.

Israel declares independence

  • In May 1948, Israel declared its independence.
  • The Arab countries of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt invaded the newly-declared country immediately.
  • When the war ended, Israel gained some territory formerly granted to Palestinian Arabs under the UN resolution in 1947.
  • It also retained control over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively.

The two-state solution and why it hasn’t worked out

  • The two-state solution refers to an arrangement where Israeli and Palestinian states co-exist in the region.
  • However, such a solution has not materialised over the decades.
  • As outlined in the beginning and in the briefly explained roots of the conflict, the two-state solution means two separate states for Israelis and Palestinians.

There are four main reasons why the two-state solution has not materialized by now:

[1] Borders

  • There is no consensus as to how to draw the lines dividing the two proposed states.
  • Many people say borders should have pre-1967 lines.
  • In 1967 Israeli-Arab war, Israel captured Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, Old City of Jerusalem, and Golan Heights.
  • Israel is not willing to give up these gains. It returned Sinai to Egypt in 1982.
  • Moreover, there is the question of Israeli settlements in West Bank.

[2] Question of Jerusalem

  • Both Israel and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital and call it central to their religion and culture.
  • The two-state solution typically calls for dividing it into an Israeli West and a Palestinian East, but it is not easy to draw the line — Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites are on top of one another.
  • Israel has declared Jerusalem its ‘undivided capital’, effectively annexing its eastern half, and has built up construction that entrenches Israeli control of the city.

[3] Refugees

  • A large number of Palestinians had to flee in the 1948 War.
  • They and their descendants —numbering at 5 million— demand a right to return. Israel rejects this.
  • The return of these people would end the demographic majority of Jews, ending the idea of Israel that’s both democratic and Jewish.

[4] Security

  • Security concerns are also central to Israel as it’s constantly harassed by terrorist group Hamas that controls Gaza Strip.
  • Hamas and other Islamist group in Gaza launch rockets into Israel time-to-time.
  • Moreover, there are also concerns of Palestinians’ attack inside Israel.
  • This year in March-April, at least 18 Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks inside Israel.
  • A total of 27 Palestinians were also killed in the period, including those who carried out attacks inside Israel. Palestinians too have their concerns.
  • For Palestinians, security means an end to foreign military occupation.

Why the two-state solution is needed?

  • Besides fulfilling the basic desire of both Jews and Arabs of their own states, supporters of two-state solutions say it must be backed because its alternatives are simply not workable.
  • A single state merging Israel, West Bank, and Gaza would reduce Jews to a minority.
  • At the same time, in such a state, Jews would be a significant minority which would mean that the Arab majority would be miffed.

Moral reasoning too for a two-state solution

  • It says that the aspirations of one person should not be overridden for others’ aspirations.
  • It’s a struggle for collective rights between two distinct groups of people.
  • Jews are the global micro-minority with a very small piece of land to exist.
  • Depriving Israeli Jews of a Jewish state or Palestinians of a Palestinian state would represent a subordination of one group’s aspirations to someone else’s vision.

Way forward

  • India opines that long-term peace in Israel and Palestine can be achieved only through a negotiated two-State solution leading.
  • This can be done with the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine living within secure and recognized borders.


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