The Arab-Israeli conflict is a confrontation between several Arab countries, on the one hand, and the State of Israel with the Zionist movement, on the other. Although the State of Israel was created only in 1948, the history of the conflict spans about a century (Shapira, 2015). It had begun at the end of the 19th century, when the Zionist movement was created, which laid the foundation for the struggle of Jews for their state.
On March 26, 1979, Begin and Sadat signed a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in Washington. It ended the war between the two states and established diplomatic and economic relations between them (Aly, Feldman, and Shikaki, 2013). Under the terms of the treaty, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and recognized the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. A mutual agreement on granting autonomy to the inhabitants of the territories controlled by Israel until the final decision on their future political status was also reached.
After the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, a new meeting of the leaders of the Arab states decided to put in place the measures against Egypt that were outlined earlier. Egypt was expelled from the Arab League, and all economic assistance from the Arab countries to Egypt was stopped. Those Arab states that until then maintained diplomatic relations with Egypt (except Sudan, Somalia, and Oman), severed them. Thus, the Arab world opposed the largest Arab state, claiming to be its leader. In 1979, Israel withdrew all its troops and evacuated settlers from the Sinai Peninsula.
After Yitzhak Rabin became Prime Minister of Israel in 1992, Israel promoted a policy of compromise with its Arab neighbors. Already in 1993, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas signed peace agreements in Oslo, according to which the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was created. It gained control over parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. According to the Oslo Accord, the PLO pledged to recognize Israel’s right to peace and security and to cease terrorist activities (Aly, Feldman, and Shikaki, 2013). Within five years, it was planned to sign the final settlement agreement.
Support for peace agreements by Israeli society and the Palestinians began to decline after continued terrorist attacks and attacks on Israeli peaceful and military targets by Palestinian Islamist groups. Israeli army retaliatory actions against Palestinian groups continued, during which civilians also died. It is necessary to mention the Cave of the patriarchs’ attack in Hebron, committed by a Jewish terr or, ist and attacks of Palestinian suicide bombers from hostile PLO Islamic groups.
The execution of the first agreement was probably much more successful than the second, due to the remaining disagreements between the parties. First, it is crucial to understand the positions of each of them. The Zionist movemebased ons of which the state of Israel was created, sees in Palestine the historical homeland of the Jewish people (Shapira, 2015). It means that this nation has the right to its sovereign state. Like other nations that have it, Jews also have the right to live in their own country and govern it. It is also important to mention the phenomenon of anti-Semitism culminated in a targeted genocide against Jews. This forces the Jews to organize for self-defense and to find territory that would serve as a refuge in the event of a recurrence of the disaster. This is only possible with the creation of a Jewish state.
Numerous anthropological and archaeological studies show that Jewish tribes lived in Palestine since the 13 century BC. Jewish states existed there in the 11th-6th and 2nd-1st centuries BC as well (Rawlinson, 2018). The dominating presence of Jews in this territory continued after the conquest of the Jewish state of antiquity, Judea, by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II. This lasted until the Bar Kokhba rebellion, after which the Romans expelled a significant number of Jews were from the country. However, even after this exile, a Jewish majority remained in Galilee until the 5th century AD (Rawlinson, 2018). In Judaism, this territory is called “Eretz Yisrael,” which means “Land of Israel.” According to the Bible, it was promised to Jacob (Israel) by God as the Promised Land, which he intended for the Jews. Since the rise of the Jewish people, one of the fundamental and preached ideas of Judaism has been the connection of this nation with the land of Israel. Public organizations representing the interests of Jews believe that the territories acquired by Jews in Israel are disproportionately smaller than the property they lost during the exile. Moreover, the material losses of the Palestinians driven out of their lands are less than the losses of the expelled Jews.
However, the Arab states have their own tion on this issue, and they cannot agree on everything in the Jews. Radically-minded political and terrorist movements, as well as some governments, fundamentally deny Israel’s right to exist. Beginning in the second half of the 20th century, fundamentalist sentiment intensified in the Arab world. This is the way the religion-dictated belief spreads, according to which this territory is part of the original Muslim lands. Opponents and critics of Israel believe that the policy of this state in the occupied territories has passed into racism and apartheid. This deprives the Palestinians of their land and violates their rights, which puts them at a disadvantage.
Thus, there are major problems with which the parties cannot reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Firstly, it concerns the partition of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, for Jews, is a central place in Judaism. The principle “Jerusalem is the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state” is approved by a law adopted by the Knesset. No Israeli leader can let this city be given to the Arabs. Nevertheless, in Arabic, the city is called Al-Quds and is the third city in its holiness after Mecca and Medina for all Muslims (Nusseibeh, 2016). Another problem is that Arab leaders cannot give up claims on Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2001 proposed an unprecedented compromise. He agreed to the partition of Jerusalem and the sovereignty of the Palestinians over most of the Old City and even part of the Temple Mount. It was assumed that the capital of the Arab state would be in the suburbs. However, the Arabs refused such an agreement.
There is also a significant problem related to the refugees. About 3 million Arabs are those who fled or were expelled from Palestine since the beginning of the Arab-Israeli confrontation, as well as their descendants. Arabs insist on the unconditional right of these people to return to their homeland. However, Israel cannot agree to add another 2.5 million Arabs to the million Arab citizens of Israel. Such a change in demography would become the end of Israel as a Jewish state, and not a single Israeli politician will let it happen. Thus, even despite the good intentions of the leaders, it is difficult for states to agree on a variety of reasons. Some of them are deeply rooted parts of religion and culture, which makes the situation even more difficult.
The United States was directly involved in helping resolve the conflict. US President Jimmy Carter invited A. Sadat and M. Begin to the Camp David Summit to discuss with them the possibility of a final peace treaty and sign it. Undoubtedly, US efforts have made a significant positive contribution to the situation. However, despite these efforts, the conflict was too long and deep, and even external forces could not influence many aspects. Probably, the US could take more part in the process, invent and offer more compromises and conclude additional agreements. However, no one can quickly resolve a conflict based on the millennial foundations of each state.
Thus, the conflict between the Arab world and Israel is a big problem even in the 21st century. Even if leaders have intentions to establish peace and a vision of the situation, it is difficult for them to come to a common decision. The two agreements adopted by the countries have undoubtedly played an essential role in their relationship. However, unfortunately, the conflict remains unresolved until now. Probably, these documents did not cover the whole range of disagreements that arose between the countries. Even the intervention of other countries does not provide much help, because it is even more difficult to get to the core of the conflict from the outside. Tapper and Sucharov (2019, p. 22) state that “a multiperspectival approach creates an opportunity for us to imagine a different future for Palestinians and Israelis, possible one entirely untethered from the notion of conflict.” In any case, now states can take into account the experience of past years, and perhaps it will help them in resolving their problems.
- Aly, Abdel Monem Said, Shai Feldman, and Khalil Shikaki. 2013. Arabs and Israelis: Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East. London: Macmillan International Higher Education.
- Nusseibeh, Sari. 2016. The Story of Reason in Islam. Redwood City: Stanford University Press.
- Rawlinson, George. 2018. The History of Babylon: Illustrated Edition. Berlin: E-artnow.
- Shapira , now 2015. Israel: A History. London: Orion Publishing Group, Limited.
- Tapper, Aaron J Hahn, and Mira Sucharov. 2019. Social Justice and Israel/Palestine: Foundational and Contemporary Debates. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.