Israel and the Palestinians
Israel is situated at the connection of Africa and Asia. It is 20,000 square kilometres and unlike its neighbour Arab states it lacks natural resources. Lebanon and Syria border it in the north, Jordan in the east and Egypt to the south. Israel has also been holding Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank of the River Jordan since 1967.
It has an extremely varied geography and climate. Most of the coastline lies on the Mediterranean Sea. In the south are the valleys of Jezreel and Hulveh. There is the lake Tiberias and in the east the hills of Samaria ad Judea on the west bank. There is also the Negev desert to the south, which makes up sixty percent of the total land area. Coastal inhabitants face a hot but temperate climate with more rain relative to the north. Inland temperatures are cooler with seldom snow.
Tel Aviv is the largest city and the centre of industry. Jerusalem has been declared the capital but has not been recognised as such by the international community. Major towns in the West Bank include Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jericho.
Agriculture and industry employ millions of Israelis. Today Israel is a leading fruit exporter. The industry is mainly based on military. Service industries account for more than half the employment in Israel. Tourism is another source of income.
Politically Israel is a multiparty democracy. A President elected by parliament for a five-year term, a government under a Prime Minister and a 120-member Parliament (Knesset). The people of Israel are extremely diverse. Jews in Israel consist of East European Jews, Moroccans, and Ethiopian Jews. More Jews and Palestinians live outside their common land than in it.
Judaism is essentially the religion of ethical monotheism, which means that one God made the world and created the human beings to help complete his plan. In the Bible it is stated that Abraham found Judaism. The land promised to the Jewish was then called Canaan. They were probably a Semitic people made up of nomadic tribes and speaking a language called Hebrew. Under Moses the Jews founded the Judaean State.
Later because it was a small force Israel was invaded by the super powers of the day Egypt, Assyrian, the Hittites, Greece and finally Rome. In 636 Jerusalem fell to the Arabs. Fallowing in 1557 Ottomans invaded the city. Until the Ottoman collapse in 1918 it remained under Ottoman rule. Afterwards in 1917 when the British forces took Jerusalem and a period of bargaining between the British and the French for their regional strategic interests in the Middle East had begun.
In 1922 France declared a mandate over Syria, and in short Britain and France together controlled all of what is today Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Syria and Iraq, leaving south Arabia as a nominally independent Arab territory. Palestinian Arabs were encouraged by Transjordanss independence from Britain 1928 and Iraqs in 1932. Meanwhile Britain had already ended its Egyptian protectorate in 1922; in 1936 she limited her presence there to a Suez Canal garrison. In Palestine Britain was now caught between Jewish and Arab demands, and found it increasingly difficult to satisfy both sides.
Reacting to the phenomenal Nazi oppression of Jews, fully 225,000 Jews had left Germany and East and Central Europe for Palestine between 1933 and 1939. In February 1947 after various partition plans had failed in the face of Arab command on a unitary state, Britain referred the Palestine question to the newly formed United Nations.
A Special Committee (UNSCOP) drew up a new partition plan: it called for (i) a Jewish state in three linking segments, eastern Galilee in the north, the coastal plane from Haifa to Rehovot in the south, and the Negev desert; (ii) an Arab state, made up of western Galilee, central Palestine, a southern littoral bordering Egypt, and the port of Jaffa; (iii) an international zone in Jerusalem and Bethlehem; and (iv) economic union between all regions.*
On Jan. 12, 1948 the Jewish Agency and Jewish National Council announced plans for a limited government. Meanwhile violence was causing many Jewish peoples death. On May 14, 1948 the state of Israel was established in Tel Aviv. It also committed the new state to the United Nations Charter. At least one percent of the Jewish populations lost their lives in the war. The war not only formed the Jewish State; it also changed the demography of the region. For the first time in the 1900 years the Jewish formed a majority in their own state.
On January 23, 1950 the Israeli parliament declared West Jerusalem as the capital on April 24 the Jordanian parliament incorporated the West Bank and East Jerusalem. On May 25, 1950 Britain, France and the USA jointly stated their opposition to the violation of 1949 armistice lines, and committed themselves to preventing an arms race in the region. All the bordering Arab States remained in a state of war with Israel.
Meanwhile the Canal Zone had become a source of conflict between Egypt and the Suez Canal Company runs by Britain and France. Israel attacked Egyptian positions in Gaza and the Sinai on Oct 29; Britain and France then issued ultimatoms to both sides to withdraw from the Canal. The three main consequences of the brief Suez war were: i) diminution of Britains role in the region; ii) increasing ties between the Soviet Union and the radical Arab States of Egypt, Syria and Iraq; and iii) a growing US role in the region, backing Israel and conservative Arab states, partly to counter the Soviet Unions influence.*
From the Israeli Palestinian perspective, the war changed little. Israel demonstrated its military ability, but its forced withdrawal from the Sinai showed up its diplomatic weakness and left her with insecure borders. Furthermore Syria still bombarded settlements from the Golan Heights. Palestinians realised that Egyptian supports alone could not help win back-lost lands. The PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation- set up in 1964, calling for the liberation of all Palestine by armed struggle *) placed its forces under the commands of Egypt Syria and Iraq, and Nasser closed the Gulf of Aqaha to Israeli shipping. Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban told the UN it would break isolation by force if necessary. Egypt and Jordan signed a joint defence pact and warned other nations against supporting Israel. Iraqi forces moved through Jordan towards Israel. Early on the morning of June 5, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on Egyptian airfields; Jordanian moved against Israel. Thus began the Six-Day War.
Israel had i) captured the Gaza Strip and the entire Sinai peninsula up to the Suez Canal; ii) gained control of East Jerusalem iii) captured the Golan Heights in the north from Syria.* Israeli forces now occupied more than three times as much territory as they did post 1948. The Arab world, however, shocked by the extent of their defeat, resolved not to negotiate with Israel.
On November, 22 the UN Secretary Council unanimously adopted Resolution 242 proposed by Britain demanding: i) Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories; ii) mutual respect for the sovereignty of all states in the area with secure boundaries; iii) freedom of navigation in international waterways; iv) a just settlement of the refugee problem and v) demilitarized zones.* Both Israel and the frontline Arab states (except Syria) accepted the resolution, though disagreed over the definition of Israeli withdrawal. The PLO rejected the Resolution, as it made no mention of Palestinian national rights.
Meanwhile a War of Attrition* begun with Israel around the Suez Canal and costing 177 Israeli lives and 681 Fedayeen casualties in 1968. By summer 1971 all Fedayeen were expelled from the kingdom and fled to Syria and Lebanon after the eleven day Black September conflict. In revenge Fedayeen killed the Jordanian premier, Wasfi al-Tal.
By September 1975 Israel had withdrawn a further 40 kilometres in the Sinai creating a UN demilitarized buffer zone. Both sides promised to not use force and non-military cargoes en route to Israel could again travel the canal. In return the USA promised to help Israel militarily and economically, to discuss with her over a Geneva peace conference and general Middle East settlement and finally not to deal with a PLO under its present orientation.
The two years that followed the war saw new and apparently contradictory trends emerge: i) the willingness of Arab states to negotiate disengagements agreements with Israel ii) Arab use of the oil weapon to punish pro-Israeli Western States iii) increased Palestinian terrorism.* Arab states restricted the flow of oil to most western nations, thus forcing the price to quadruple and sparking of a worldwide economy crisis. This proved a stronger bargaining counter at this stage for Palestinian rights.
On Oct 22, 1973 the UN Security Council passed the first cease-fire end resulting, in the creation of a new UNEF to be deployed on the Suez Front in November. The formal signing of a cease-fire at kilometre 101 between Israel and Egypt was the first complete agreement since the armistice of 1949. US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had begun intense shuttle diplomacy to achieve peace. In May Israel withdrew from land she had captured from Syria in the war and returned to the town of Quneitra, while holding on the strategic Golan Heights.
On April 12 that year municipal elections were held in the West Bank in accordance with Jordanian law. The result was a victory for National Bloc, largely composed of pro-PLO and New Communists. They now controlled Nablus, Hebron and Ramallah, but lost to pro-Jordanian candidates in Jericho and Bethlehem. The question of Jewish settlements was a major issue in the election.
In 1975 secret buying West Bank land by the Israel Lands Authority had prompted unrest. Strikes broke out and the suppression by the military administration resulted 17,000 Palestinians to leave the West Bank.
Yitzhak Rabin took power in April 1974 from Golda Meir; he faced a divided labour party, plus downturn economy, which led to high inflation because of oil ambargo and high cost of rearming. Later in April 1977, Rabin resigned because of financial scandals and replaced by Peres. Effects of inflation and impatience over perceived international hostility to the Jewish State, made for a new right-wing tendency just before the general election in may 1977. Over the years Israels political orientation had changed, from being a nominally non-aligned socialist state to a firm ally of the west, particularly of the USA.
On November 19-20, Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel and Knesset (Israeli Parliament). Later, on December 25-26 Begin became the first Israeli leader visiting an Arab country, where he announced his plan for returning the Sinai to Egypt and for Palestenian self-rule in Judea, Samaria and Gazza. In March, a Palestinian group killed 37 Israelis, resulting 7000 Israeli troops invading south Lebanon to seal the border against further raids, but after Syria threatened to back the Palestinians, Israel called a cease fire. They accepted UN troops along the Litani River, and begun withdrawing troops. Israels departure from Lebanon did not stop the civil war. Later the peace process got underway again when Sadat and Begin met for talks in Camp David, USA, in September 1978.
Two framework agreements were signed on September 18. The first proposed full autonomy for the West Bank and Gazza Strip Palestinians. The second agreement committed Israel and Egypt to signing a peace treaty within three months, and proposed similar treaties in time between Israel and each of her other neighbours, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
However two important issues remained unresolved: the first problem was the future of Jewish settlements in the territories and secondly the status of east Jerusalem.
After the personal negotiations of President Carter the two sides signed a peace treaty on March 26,1979, in Washington. The terms of their new treaty included: i) Israeli military and civilian withdrawal from the whole Sinai Peninsula over three years, ii) installation of UN forces in key border areas; iii) restoration of normal diplomatic relations between the countries; iv) guaranteed rights of passage for Israeli shipping and cargo in the Suez Canal; v) the recognition of the Straits of Tiran and Gulf of Aquaba as international waterways; vi) Egyptian agreement to sell Israel oil from her Sinai oilfields; and vii) negotiations towards granting full autonomy to the Palestenians of the West Bank and Gaza.*
Palestenian autonomy was enshrined in the peace treaty, but what it meant in reality was uncertain, therefore PLO reacted these proposals. Once again they engaged in violent actions. The peace talks with Egypt had inspired a new grouping within Israel opposed to the Land of Israel Movement. Called Peace Now, with the belief that security could only come through peace.
Meanwhile, the 6000 strong UNIFIL forces in the south Lebanon were powerless to stop Israels Peace for Galilee campaign. Within a month, the Israeli Defence Forces reached the Lebanese capital, Beirut. As PLO fighters were ensconced in civilian areas of the city, many civilians died in the attack. At first Israel denied collusion, but following widespread Peace Now demonstrations in the country against the massacre, Sharon resigned as Defence Minister; but Begin said Israeli troops would only leave Southern Lebanon if there was an overall peace agreement and a stable government in Beirut, and if all 22000 Syrian troops in the Bekaa Valley left too.
An agreement was signed on May 17, 1983 between Lebanese and Israeli officials stating the Israeli withdrawal plus an end to the state of war existing between the two countries; and finally the creation of a security region in the south to prevent reinfiltration of the PLO. The last troops had left in June 1986, leaving behind a six-mile security zone controlled by their substitute military force, the South Lebanon Army. For their part 12000 PLO fighters had been forced to leave Beirut and go to neighbouring Arab states. An estimated 175000 displaced refugees required emergency aid. The PLOs political and welfare infrastructure was destroyed. These resulted a dissension in the PLO. On the other hand Arafats ability to secure 4700 PLO detainees from Israeli prisons in an exchange for 6-captured Israelis in December 1983 impressed the Arab states. On August 30, a UN conference on Palestine held in Geneva, awarded the PLO the diplomatic status of a sovereign state, and adapted a program of action to create a Palestinian state. Attacks against civilians continued however.
On August 28, 1983, Menachem Begin had announced his plan to resign as Israel Prime Minister; he was succeeded by former Foreign Minister, Itzhak Shamir on October 10. On March 22, the opposition carried a bill calling for new elections.
The following issues divided Israel: i) Lebanon with the left criticising Likud for putting military conscripts in a compromising position, and for allowing excessive civilian causalities; and with the right critical of the failure to remove the PLO presence; the 400 percent rate of inflation partly fuelled by the Lebanese campaign; West Bank settlements and the treatment of Palestinians; the growing gulf between secular Zionists and Orthodox Jews; and Israels loss of allies. In the elections voters deserted the two major groupings for the smaller parties and the result was inconclusive. After much bargaining, the Allignments and Likud agreed on a national coalition government. The coalition government pursued the Camp David autonomy talks, and sought direct negotiations with Jordan. Relations with Egypt had deteriorated after the recall of Egyptian ambassador. Israel received military aid from the USA, and also increased contacts with France, the UK, West Germany and China. Peres maintained his efforts for diplomatic advance and met king Hassan of Morocco. He tried to show PLO as the greatest obstacle to peace. At the same time, the Israels economy was at last improving, but political and financial scandals continued. Also the terror in the streets increasingly continued.
The February 11, 1985 agreement between Arafat and Hussein proposed a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation at peace talks. The most important improvement in the further years was Palestine National Councils (PNC) rejecting terrorism in all its forms including institutionalised terrorism and repeating the earlier commitments restricting the violence to Israel and the occupied territories. Immediately all Arab states except Syria plus countries from the Non-aligned Movement and China. The USSR recognised the proclamation but not the state itself. Israel denounced the declaration and began campaigning against it. The USA said the PLO statements were an advance but still too vague *. Within Israel a lobby for talks with PLO was getting strength. After forty-one years of the state of Israel, the chances for a resolution to the Palestinian problem have never appeared so distant or so close.
Interpretation of the Book
This book is written in 1988, and the book includes the historical development of the Israel State and the Palestinian conflicts until the year 1987. It is a highly descriptive book, involving information but lacking of personal views of the writers.
Meanwhile, the description of the conflict with detailed examples of events, helps the reader to understand the issue more clearly and easily.
In my opinion this conflict between the two states affects the neighbouring countries in the region as well as the other states that have strategic interests in the Middle East. Therefore it is not a two-player game, instead it is a multi player game, and with each player having own goals and own rules.
Also in the Middle East, religion becomes an obstacle in the solution of the conflicts. The observation of the conflict by taking the religion in to consideration is not well mentioned in the book.
As it is well seen in this book too, like in almost all the countries of the Middle East, these two countries have strong impact of military on their policies, and also their foreign affairs are too much dependent to their internal political structures.