The Israeli-Palestinian conflict did not begin centuries ago, but instead, after World War II. In a series of three articles, The Classical Historian traces the Israeli-Palestinian conflict throughout history. Before World War II, there was not an extended history of conflict between Jews and Arabs. In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, the United Nations voted to establish two countries west of the Jordan River; a Jewish and a Palestinian Arab country. The Jews accepted this plan, but the Palestinians and surrounding Arab countries did not. In 1948, Jews in Palestine declared the birth of the modern country of Israel, consisting of the lands the United Nations had set aside. The surrounding Arab nations (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon) militarily occupied the land that had been set aside for the Palestinian Arabs. These four countries attacked Israel. Over the next 29 years, Israelis fought the Arab nations in all-out war, in smaller, disconnected battles, or against Arab terrorist attacks. Major wars during this time were the initial Israeli-Arab War in 1948, the Suez War in 1956, the 1967 Six-Day War, the War of Attrition in 1969-1970, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. During these wars, Israel defeated the Arabs and conquered land that the United Nations had set aside for an Arab Palestinian country. Israel holds some of this land, believing that it is necessary to repel invasions from the Arab countries.
Many Arab countries and people continue to refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and a constant state of war exists. Palestinians organized themselves into various terrorist organizations, aiming to destroy Israel. A terrorist organization attempts to harm its enemy by using horrific acts of barbarity, such as purposefully killing innocent civilians on a bus or in a pizza restaurant, or by assassinating athletes and journalists and women and children. Yasser Arafat founded the terrorist group Fatah in 1959, and in 1970, the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) was established in Jordan and later moved to Lebanon. Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Qaeda are more modern terrorist organizations aimed against Israel.
1979-1986, Egypt and Lebanon Recognize Israel
Major peace developments occurred in 1979 and the 1980s. In 1979, with U.S. President Carter acting as the chief negotiator, Egypt and Israel signed a peace agreement, and Egypt became the first Arab country to recognize Israel’s right to exist. In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon and destroyed much of the PLO. In 1983, Lebanon recognized Israel’s right to exist, the PLO was forced to leave Lebanon, and Israel agreed to not invade Lebanon.
1987-1993 The First Intifada
In 1987, the First Palestinian Intifada began. Intifada means “shaking off” or “shaking up.” Arab Palestinians violently protested Israel’s occupation of lands that the United Nations originally had chosen for the Palestinian country. Israel had taken these lands in the wars against the Arab countries. Israel argued that occupation of these lands was necessary so it wouldn’t be attacked from those areas.
Much changed from 1987 to 1993. In the Intifada, Palestinians threw rocks at Israelis, attacked civilians, and Israel used its military supremacy to defeat the protesters. Palestinians targeted both military targets and Israeli citizens. One technique used during the Intifada was the suicide bomber. A Palestinian would strap bombs to himself, go on a crowded bus or in a restaurant, and blow himself up, killing innocent Israelis.
About 2,000 Palestinians and 300 Israelis were killed during this time. Palestinians claimed Israel was an occupying force that abused its power. Israel claimed the right to exist and protect itself. At the end of the Intifada, Israel withdrew from much of the two areas it had occupied, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The PLO, led by Arafat, renounced violence, accepted the United Nations plan for two states in Palestine, and recognized Israel’s right to exist. Israel recognized the PLO as the representatives of the Palestinian people. It was to be known as the Palestinian Authority (PA) from now on.
1993-2000 The Oslo Accords
The Oslo Accords were various agreements between Israel and the PA that was to eventually establish two countries, Israel and Palestine, and resolve the problems that had existed between the Israelis and the Palestinians since World War I. It began with much enthusiasm on both sides, but ended in armed conflict. Disagreements involved the capital city of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, and Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
2000-2005 The Second Intifada
Open conflict between Palestinians and Israelis continued. As in the First Intifada, Palestinians targeted both soldiers and civilians and used suicide bombers. In contrast with the First Intifada, Israel aggressively asserted control over civilian areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, killing terrorist leaders in their homes, destroying PA infrastructure, and maintained occupying forces. PA leader Yasser Arafat died in 2004. The new PA leader, Abbas, agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to stop all fighting. The cease fire began in 2005.
2005 to Present Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah, and Israel
In the last 9 or 10 years, Israel has fought against radical Islamic groups in the West Bank and Gaza, in Lebanon, and has militarily occupied parts of Palestine. Israel has also continued to expand Jewish settlements into areas that Palestinians claim as their own. Hamas, Fatah, and Hezbollah are three terrorist organizations whose stated goal is to destroy Israel.
Hamas won elections in the Gaza Strip in 2007 and took over administration. Hamas also defeated the Palestinian Authority. Along with running the government, Hamas built tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip to smuggle in weapons used to attack the Israelis. Over the years, Hamas has launched missiles at Israel. Fatah, another terrorist organization, controls the West Bank. On November 2012, Israel launched a military offensive aimed at destroying the military power of Hamas. Hamas has launched more than 1100 missiles into Israel, and Israel successfully degraded Hamas’ ability to fight. Hezbollah is in southern Lebanon, and periodically launches missiles into Israel or conducts military raids.
2018 Trump Moves U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem
Since 1995, every U.S. President has spoken about moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. However, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip object to the embassy in Jerusalem because it legitimizes the country of Israel. It is the stated goal of Hamas and Fatah to create a Palestinian country and to destroy Israel. Other Arab nations, and some Asian nations, also desire to annihilate Israel. Hamas and Fatah want Jerusalem to be a capital of an Islamic country. Because manyj have a strong hatred against Israel, each U.S. President has been afraid to move the embassy.
The opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem is a sign of American-Israeli friendship and a challenge to terrorist groups and countries who want to destroy Israel. When President Trump campaigned, he declared his administration would move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This month, Trump followed through with his pledge.