(The neutrality of this article is disputed.)

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians revolves today around these two issues:

While the latter issue has always been a part of the conflict the aforementioned issue was introduced into it in 1967 during the Six day war. Other conflicts related to these two have also sprung up at a later stage. It is those two issues that both parties agree must be solved before a just and lasting peace can be established.

Table of contents
1 History
2 The Peace Process
3 Peace and reconciliation
4 Related Articles
5 External Links


In the 1880s, the Zionist movement was initiated in Europe. This movement held that the Jewish people had a right to a state of their own, and that the state should be in a part of their historic homeland, the area then known as Palestine. At that time Palestine was a part of the Ottoman Empire. Under Ottoman rule, Palestine had substantial regional independence, and Muslims, Jews and Christians inhabitated the area.

In 1917 the British army took control of Palestine and Transjordan from the Ottomans. (MAP) In that year its government issued the Balfour Declaration, viewing "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people ... it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine".

The Zionists interpreted that as a promise from the British that they would help them build a state in Palestine, in part because of divided opinions in British government, with some endorsing that view and some not.

In 1920, the San Remo conference largely endorsed the 1916 Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Agreement, allocating to Britain the area of present day Jordan, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and Iraq, while France received Syria and Lebanon.

In 1922, the League of Nations formally established the British mandate for Palestine and Transjordan, at least partially fulfilling Britain's commitments from the 1915-1916 Hussein-McMahon Correspondence by assigning all of the land east of the Jordan River to the Emirate of Jordan, ruled by Hashemite King Abdullah but closely dependent on Britain, leaving the remainder west of the Jordan as the League of Nations British mandate of Palestine.

Arabs opposed the division of their lands into multiple territories under the control of various European powers, arguing that it was unjust and imperialist. They also opposed the idea of turning part of Palestine into a Jewish state, with some objecting to any form of Jewish homeland. This was the source of much of the Palestinian and Arab resentment against British rule. It also extended to the growing number of Jews immigrating to Palestine.

See the related articles on the British mandate of Palestine and the History of Jordan.

Jewish immigration

Initially, the trickle of Jewish immigration emerging in the 1880s met with little opposition from the local population. However, in the 1920s and 1930s, as Anti-Semitism grew in Europe, Jewish immigration began to increase markedly, causing Arab resentment of British immigration policies to explode.

Zionist agencies purchased land from absentee landlords and replaced the Palestinian Arab tenants with European Jewish settlers. In addition, the influental Jewish trade union Histadrut demanded that Jewish employers hire only Jews. As a result, Arabs feared that they would become alienated.

As many European Jews entered Palestine illegally, British attempts at immigration restrictions were largely ineffective. Arab resentment towards the British continued to grow.

The Great Uprising

In 1936, the British proposed a partition of Palestine between Jews and Arabs. The partition was rejected by both the Arabs and the Zionist Congress.

During the years 1936-1939 there was an upsurge in militant Arab nationalism that later became known as the "Great Uprising". The uprising came as Palestinian Arabs felt they were being marginalized. In addition to non-violent strikes and protests, some resorted to acts of violence targetting at British military personnel and Jewish civilians. The uprising was put down by the British forces.

The British placed restrictions on Jewish land purchases in the remaining land to limit the socio-political damage already done. Jews alleged that this contradicted the League of Nations Mandate which said:

... the administration of Palestine ... shall encourage, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency ... close settlements by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not acquired for public purposes.

Jews argued that the British had alloted twice as much land to Arabs as Jews instead of the same amount. Arabs held that the contract was disproportionately in favour of Jewish settlement when the relative size of the two populations at the time was considered.

World War II and its aftermath

During the war and after, the British forbade European Jews entry into Palestine. This was partly a calculated move to maximize support for their cause in World War II among Arabs. That the Zionists would support the anti-semitic Axis was unlikely and the British considered it more important to sacrifice Jewish sentiment in favour of Arab support. The immigration policy was also in response to the fact that security in Palestine had begun to tie up troops much needed elsewhere.

The Zionist leadership decided to begin an illegal immigration (haa'pala) using small boats operating in security. About 70,000 Jews were brought to Palestine in this way between 1946 and 1947. A similar number was captured at sea by the British and imprisoned in camps on Cyprus.

Details of the Holocaust (through which the German Nazi government was responsible for the deaths of approximately six million European Jews) had a major effect on the situation in Palestine. It propelled large support for the Zionist cause and lead to the 1947 UN Partition plan for Palestine.

The 1947 partition plan

The United Nations, the successor of the League of Nations, tried to solve the dispute between Zionists and Palestinians. The UN appointed a committe, UNSCOP, and considered two main proposals. The first called for the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states in Palestine, with Jerusalem and its surroundings to be placed under international supervision. The second called for the creation of a single federal state containing both Jewish and Arab constituent states. Seven out of ten UNSCOP delegates voted in favour of the first proposal.

The partition plan was rejected by the Palestinians and the surrounding Arab states because they felt it was unfair that the Zionists should receive half of Palestine when they only constituted one third of the population. The offical Zionist leadership accepted the plan, but some notable Zionists rejected it, like Menachem Begin, Irgun's leader.

Main article: 1947 UN Partition plan

The war for Palestine

Shortly after the 1947 partition plan war broke out in Palestine between Zionists and Palestinians. On May 14, 1948, the Zionists announced the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel. Simultaneously Palestine's neighbour states entered the war in support of the Palestininians.

The 1949 Armistice Agreements that Israel signed with its neighbours, left 78% of Palestine in its hands. The remaining 22%, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, was annexed by Egypt and Transjordan respectively.

Additionnally, the war created about 750,000 Palestinian refugees who lived inside Israel's borders. Israel didn't allow them to return, and with the exception of Transjordan, they were not granted citizenship in the host countries were they ended up. Most of them, and their offspring, still today live in refugee camps. The question on how their situation should be resolved is one of the main issues of the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Main article: 1948 Arab-Israeli war See also: Palestinian Exodus, Immigration to Israel from Arab lands

The founding of PLO

In 1964, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded. It was the first Palestinian organization that worked for the right of Palestinian refugees to return, and, initially, for the destruction of Israel. From the start, the organization used armed struggle in the conflict with Israel. Since 1969, the PLO has been lead by Yasser Arafat.

At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, the Palestinian Black September group, a militant faction of the PLO, carried out the Munich massacre, resulting in the deaths of eleven Israeli Olympic athletes. It was among the first Palestinian attacks to became world news.

Since this period, the PLO has officially renounced armed struggle, and has become recognized as the legitimate representative organization of the Palestinian people.

Main article: Palestine Liberation Organization

The Six-Day War

During the Six-Day War (June 5-June 11 1967), Israel conquered the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Sinai has since been returned to Egypt, but the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are still occupied. These areas have become known as the "Occupied Territories".

The war also created a new wave of 200,000 to 300,000 Palestinian refugees. They also, have not been allowed to return.

1982 Lebanon War

After the PLO was ousted from Jordan, its previous base, in 1970 it relocated to southern Lebanon. From there it carried out attacks into Israel. That was the reason for the 1982 Lebanon War in which Israel invaded Lebanon and forced PLO to relocate to Tunisia.

During the war, the bloody Sabra and Shatila Massacre took place. It was carried out by Phalangist Christian Arab militias, allied to Israel, on September 16-17, 1982. The International Committee of the Red Cross counted 2,750 victims. For its involvement in the Lebanese war and its indirect responsibility for the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, Israel was heavily criticized.

Main article: 1982 Lebanon War

The first intifada

The First Intifada began in 1987. It was a spontaneous uprising among Palestinians in the Occupied Territories against Israeli repression. Daily, the riots escalated throughout the territories and were especially severe in the Gaza Strip. The intifada soon became an international concern. On December 22 that year the UN Security Council passed Resolution 605 which condemned Israels handling of the Intifada.

The Peace Process

In 1991, a breakthrough occured when US president George H.W. Bush called a conference in Madrid, Spain, dubbed the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991. It broke down but was replaced by a series of clandestine meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators hosted by Norway. These meetings produced the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israel, signed by PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin with US President Bill Clinton on the White House lawn. Rabin, Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres were awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. The main article is: Oslo Accords.

Palestinian views of the peace process

See Palestinian views of the peace process

Israeli views of the peace process

See Israeli views of the peace process

Camp David 2000 Summit

After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, the peace process slowed to a grinding halt. The Palestinians living in the occupied territories did not see their living conditions improve. Additionally the illegal Israeli settlements, seen by the Palestinians as one of the largest obstacles to peace, were not beginning to be dismantled. Instead their population almost doubled on the West Bank even if few new settlements were constructed. This along with sporadic suicide bombing attacks from Palestinian militant groups and the subsequent retribution from the Israelis made the situation untenable.

In 2000, Clinton convened a peace summit between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. But these talks failed to produce any agreement at all.

Main article: Camp David 2000 Summit

Al-Aqsa Intifada

On September 28, 2000 the, by Palestinians, hated Israeli opposition leader, Ariel Sharon made his famous visit to the Temple Mount (also called Al-Haram As-Sharif). The already violent situation broke out into what has become known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

More suicide attacks than ever before was executed in Israel. In response, the Israeli army reoccupied the West Bank in [[Operation Defensive Shield]] enforcing strict military law, sealed off the Gaza Strip and imposed economic sanctions on the Palestinians. To this date, the violence has resulted in over 3000 deaths, according to the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group 2569 Palestinians and 695 Israelis, and the situation continues to be unstable.

Israel claims that it is Arafat that is responsible for the violence from the Palestinian side and has also claimed that they have evidence for that claim. Arafat disputes that claim and has many times condemned the suicide bombings.

Main article: Al-Aqsa Intifada

"Road Map" for Peace

In July 2002, the "quartet" of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia outlined the principles of a "road map" for peace, including an independent Palestinian state. The road map was released in April 2003 after the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as the first-ever Palestinian Authority Prime Minister. Both the US and Israel called for a new Prime Minister position, as both refused to work with Arafat.

The plan called for independent actions by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with disputed issues put off until a rapport can be established. In the first step, the Palestinian authority must "undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere" and a "rebuilt and refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus" must "begin sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure". Israel was required to dismantle settlements established after March 2001, freeze all settlement activity, remove its army from Palestinian areas occupied after September 28, 2000, end curfews and ease restrictions on movement of persons and goods.[1]

After gaining office, Abbas stated that he could not act against Hamas without causing a civil war. It also became clear that Abbas only had control of a fraction of the Palestinian security apparatus, with the bulk remaining under Arafat's control. On June 29, 2003, Hamas and Islamic Jihad agreed to a 3-month "hudna" (temporary ceasefire), conditional on Israel ceasing its assassinations of Palestinian leaders and a mass release of Palestinians in Israeli administrative detention. Israel promised to withdraw some forces from Palestinian areas but would not promise to discontinue its practice of assassinations.

For about 6 weeks there was a substantial decrease in violence, with exceptions on both sides. After that the hudna unravelled rapidly. On August 12, Israel killed two Hamas militants and two others in Nablus. The next day a Hamas bomber and an Islamic Jihad bomber from Nablus each killed one Israeli and injured several. On August 14, Israel assassinated Muhammad Seeder, the Islamic Jihad chief of military operations in Hebron. On August 19 a Hamas suicide bomber killed 34 religious Jews who were returning by bus from prayer at the Wailing Wall. Two days later Israeli helicopters killed the 4th ranking leader of Hamas, Ismail Abu Shanab. Hamas and Islamic Jihad renounced the hudna at this stage, though it was clearly already dead. Over the following days, Israel continued helicopter missile strikes against Hamas heads in the Gaza strip. Israeli commandos also targeted Hamas heads in Hebron (Abbedalla Quwassama, Ahmed Bader) and Nablus (Mohammed Hanabli).

Armed Fatah activists publicly threatened Abbas's life. Abbas was not given any power from Arafat to carry out any of the aspects of the road map to peace, and Abbas eventually resigned due to lack of political support both from the Palestinian Authority and the public in general. In his resignation speech, Abbas sited the lack of support both from Arafat and Israel as the cause of his failure.

Main article: Road map for peace

Alternative peace proposals

With the road map in difficulties, pressure has grown to find an alternative way forward. On December 7, 2003, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed a unilateral withdrawal from large parts of the West Bank and Gaza strip, annexing some territory but abandoning some Jewish settlements. This was interpreted by many as a trial balloon on behalf of Ariel Sharon, who followed it up with a speech on December 18 giving the Palestinian Authority "a few months" to comply with the road map before Israel took "unilateral steps". The speech was strongly criticised by the United States government, which warned against pre-empting the road map's outcome, and by many on the Israeli right, who saw any withdrawal as an end to their Zionist mandate to take over more land.

Another approach was taken by a team of negotiators led by former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo following two and a half years of secret negotiations. On December 1, the two parties signed an unofficial blueprint for peace in Geneva (dubbed the Geneva Accord) which set out a basic framework for the resolution of the conflict. In terms of its end goals, it was not too dissimilar from those of the road map, but it adopted a "big bang" approach of settling all the big issues at once rather than taking a step-by-step approach. It was met with bitter denunciation by the Israeli government and many Palestinians, with the Palestinian Authority staying non-committal, but it was warmly welcomed by many European governments and some significant elements of the Bush Administration including Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Yet another approach was proposed by a number of parties inside and outside Israel: a "binational solution" whereby Israel would formally annex the Palestinian territories but would make the Palestinian Arabs citizens in a unitary secular state. Championed by New York Professor Tony Judt, the suggestion aroused both interest and condemnation. It was not actually a new idea, dating back as far as the 1920s, but it was given extra prominence by the growing demographic issues raised by a rapidly expanding Arab population in Israel and the territories. Somewhat surprisingly, some Israeli settler groups supported it, seeing it as a way by which Israel could permanently legitimise its hold on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Considering the huge political and demographic issues that it would raise, however, it seems a highly improbable solution to the problem.

Peace and reconciliation

Despite the long history of conflict between Israelis and Arabs, there are many people working on peaceful solutions that respect the rights of peoples on both sides.

Main article: projects working for peace among Israelis and Palestinians

Related Articles






Until 1949




Ideology & Ideas

Media coverage

Elements of the conflict

Organizations and armed forces





Related conflicts

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