The conflict between Israel and Palestine is the most important security issue the Middle East is facing. This conflict is related to the concept of Palestinian national identity. The Palestinians do not have a state of their own and they currently occupy the geographical area that constitutes Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip (Ghanem, 2013). The dominant Palestinian national goal is to establish an independent state in this geographical area.
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However, the Palestinians have been unable to obtain their own state. In addition to this, they have suffered from Israel’s conquest and occupation of some of their territories. These issues have led to the perpetration of violent acts against the Israeli. In addition, the Israelis have engaged in state sponsored attacks against Palestinians.
Each side is of the opinion that its use of violence against the other is justified. The conflict between Israel and Palestine has triggered the use of numerous radical warfare tactics. Both parties are guilty of practicing terrorist actions, making it difficult to classify who the actual terrorists are.
Origin of the Conflict in the Land of Israel
Role of the British Government
The defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War led to the establishment of British rule in Palestine. This was a crucial event since Palestine under British Mandate was a country separated from the Arab world and ruled over by a Christian power. Prominent Jewish leaders pushed for the support of Britain to help them establish a home in Palestine. This support was confirmed when the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs issued the Balfour Declaration in November 1917.
This declaration affirmed British determination to assist the Jews to establish a national home for themselves in Palestine. The Britain Mandate of Palestine acknowledged the Jewish people and recognized their ambition for statehood (Rowley & Taylor, 2006). At the same time, the mandate refused to recognize the Palestinian Arabs as people even though they made up 90% of the population at the time of British occupation (Khalidi, 2007).
In addition to this, Britain supported the Jewish Agency. Using this organization, the Jews were able to make a greater impact on the economy of Palestine. This provided them with better opportunities to buy more land in the region. This support further increased the animosity between the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine.
Land for the Jewish people post World War 2
The need for a Jewish state emerged after the tumult of the 19th century Europe. This turmoil led to increased persecution and enforced isolation of the Jewish people by the rest of the society. Prominent Jewish individuals in Western Europe were forced to concede that the Jewish people could only achieve peace and true equality by creating their own nation. However, the feasibility of a Jewish State only started to emerge following the events of the Second World War.
This major war contributed to the influx of Jews into Palestine (Ghanem, 2013). Owing to the rise of the Nazis, thousands of Jews fled to Europe and sought refuge in Palestine. This immigration led to a rise in the number of Jews in the Middle East making it possible for them to achieve demographic parity with the majority of Arabs.
Rowley and Taylor (2006) declare that the unwelcome influx of Jews from Europe between the mid 19th century and 1948 led to rising hostility from Palestinians and other Arabs. This initiated the Middle Eastern conflict that has continued relentlessly up to the present time.
Bordering nations prejudice towards the Jewish people
The Jewish people sought to establish a home in a region that was predominantly occupied by Arabs. The neighboring Arab states were not friendly to the Jews, whom they regarded as intruders who had come to forcefully occupy Palestine. For this reason, the Arabs used military means to try to obstruct the Jews from obtaining statehood (Ghanem, 2013). In retaliation, the Jews established the Haganah, a paramilitary organization which membership was open to all Jews in Palestine.
This militia played a major role in the War of Independence and it continued to defend Israeli interests against the Arabs. The Arab states contributed to the Israeli-Palestine conflict by waging war against Israel in 1967.
In this war, which took place in June, Israel decisively defeated the Arab states and proceeded to seize additional territory from the areas that constituted Palestine under the British Mandate (Shlaim, 1995). The West Bank and Gaza continue to be under Israeli military occupation since the Six-Day war of 1967.
Role of the U.N.
In 1947, the United Nations came up with partition plans aimed at creating two states in Palestine. Under General Assembly Resolution 181, the UN supposed to create a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine. The Palestinians rejected this partition plan since they felt that they were historically entitled to all the land. On the other hand, the Jews accepted this partition resolution thus enabling the UN to establish the state of Israel.
The Jewish settlers in Palestine hoped to expand their borders beyond those delineated by the UN resolution and between 1948 and 1949, they mobilized forces with the intention of seizing the whole of Palestine (Rowley & Taylor, 2006). The UN was ineffective in preserving peace in the Middle East.
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In 1949, the UN volunteered to oversee the peaceful resolution of border disputes between Israelis and the Palestinians. Oren and Halevi (2003) note that the UN proved powerless to prevent terrorist activity between the two groups and this failure culminated in the 1956 Sinai War.
Religion and politics
Religion has played a critical role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it contributed to most of the impasses encountered in an attempt to reach a workable solution to the issue. For the Palestinians, the establishment of a Jewish state in their traditional land was seen as a forceful intrusion on Islamic land. This is the reason why the Palestinians refused to recognize Israel as a nation when the UN presented the Partition Resolution in 1947.
The neighboring Arab states also saw the formation of the State of Israel as a plot by the Christian West to undermine the dominance of Islam in the Middle East. On the other hand, the Jews assert that they have a historical right to occupy the land they currently own and the city of Jerusalem.
Any attempts to remove the outposts near the settlements in the West Bank have been met with resistance from Jewish Settlers. Clive (2003) asserts that these settlers are willing to engage in acts of violence concerning the issue of the Settlements not only against Palestinians but also against the state authorities.
Politics have played a major role in how leaders act on both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides. Israeli citizens are opposed to any resolution of the conflict that does not guarantee their security. Tel Aviv has been opposed to any solution that gives Palestinians strategic lands therefore compromising Israeli national security. Subsequent Palestinian Authorities have pledged to confront individuals and organizations engaged in terror.
However, these pledges have not been delivered on since most of the organizations carrying out terror attacks against Israel have the backing of majority of the Palestinian population. Palestinian leaders have little room for maneuver owing to the different ambitions of the many Palestinian factions.
Clive (2003) states that before any agreement with Israel can be met, Palestinian authorities have to “secure a ceasefire among all Palestinian factions and attempt to establish a modicum of coherence among the Palestinian body politic” (131).
Leaders and Organizations
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964 and it emerged as the representative of Palestinian national aspirations following the defeat of the Arab states by Israel in the six-day war in 1967. While previously a weak umbrella organization of Palestinian factions and militias was in exile, this organization gained credibility by staging raids against Israel after the Six-Day War.
The Party acquired great influence during the leadership of Yasser Arafat and it was involved in major peace talks including the Camp David Accords (Rane, 2009). The PLO lost its influence following the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004.
A major political party that also has links to terrorism is Fatah. Founded by Yasser Arafat, this party has played a significant role in the revolutionary struggle of the Palestinians against Israeli occupation (Ghanem, 2013). In the past, the group used its military wing to engage in violent attacks against Israel. However, the party renounced violence and it is no longer considered as a terrorist movement.
In the recent years, Hamas has emerged as the most dominant party in the Palestinian territories. This organization, which has a radical military wing, has had political victories in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Hamas is committed to establishing a state for the Palestinians in the Middle East and it does not recognize the legitimacy of Israel.
The rise of Hamas to power has been paralleled by harsh policy lines against the Palestinian Authority by Israel. Bar-Tal and Akiva (2006) document that Israel has carried out unilateral political programs aimed at undermining Hamas and encouraging the continuation of violence.
Role Players and Soldiers
Yasser Arafat was the most famous leader of the PLO and he took over leadership in 1969. Under his leadership, the PLO gained international prominence through acts of terrorism and militancy against Israel.
These acts were perpetrated on behalf of the Palestinian national cause. Arafat was viewed by Arabs as an important political leader who fought for the Palestinian national aspirations (Rane, 2009). However, to the Israelis Arafat was a terrorist who masterminded many attacks that led to colossal deaths and destructions in Israel.
Mahmoud Abbas succeeded Yasser Arafat as the leader of the PLO and he assumed presidency of the State of Palestine in 2008. Abbas has played a crucial role in negotiations with Israel since he advocated for moderateness. However, Bar-Tal & Akiva (2006) state that Abbas was considered to be weak since he did not control the armed groups and he has not made serious efforts to fight terrorism.
Naval blockades imposed by Israel have made it impossible for Palestinians to obtain heavy weaponry from the overseas. The destruction of the Palestinian Authority infrastructure has also prevented the Palestinians from forming a strong standing army. Palestinians have therefore engaged in small-scale terrorist attacks against Israel using weaponry smuggled from neighboring Arab states. Palestinians have carried out multiple terrorist attacks against Israel.
Most of these attacks have been through rockets fired from Gaza to the streets of Israel. Over the decade, numerous Palestinian factions that promote the use of violence against Israel have emerged. Israeli and Palestinian authorities often call for a cease-fire when negotiations are being carried out between the two parties to try to achieve peace. However, the various Palestinian factions retain the freedom to engage in retaliatory action in response to Israeli transgression (Clive, 2003).
The Jewish people believe that they have a right to occupy Israel. They have a religious attachment to the land since it is the land of their ancestors. The Israeli government is therefore unwilling to come to an agreement that will jeopardize its people or cause them to loss land.
Bar-Tal and Akiva (2006) confirm that the Israelis are not ready to achieve a solution that might give power to a Palestinian government that holds extremist views. For this reason, Israel has been opposed to Hamas, a party that endorses radical Islamic views.
Leaders and Groups
Yitzhak Rabin was an Israeli statesman who served two terms as the prime minister of the country. He was a member of the Haganah in the 1940s and he enlisted in the Israeli Army after independence. Yitzhak Rabin was involved in the Second Camp David talks, which aimed to end the conflict in the Middle East. A right-wing Israeli radicals who opposed to the agreement that Rabin was willing to make with the Palestinians assassinated this leader in 1995.
A significant Israeli leader is Ariel Sharon, who served as Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006. Ariel played a role in the major Israeli wars including the Suez War, the Six-Day War and the Lebanon War of 1982.
His skills as a strategist and a commander turned him into a legend in Israel. The Prime Minister’s move to withdraw Israeli Troops from the Gaza Strip was applauded by the international community but denounced by Right-Wing parties in Israel.
Counter-terror policies or terrorist attacks
Israel has reacted to the intense violence carried out by Palestinians with a number of military operations. Israeli security forces have destroyed much of the infrastructure built by the Palestinian Authorities and carried out counter attacks against Palestinian Gaza and the West Bank.
In addition to large-scale military operations against Palestinians, Israel has sanctioned a policy of targeted assassinations against Palestinian leaders who are deemed a threat against Israel. Clive (2003) confirms that Tel Aviv has shown a preference for targeted assassinations against those deemed to be behind the worst atrocities perpetrated upon Israel’s streets.
The Israeli-Palestine conflict that began in the late 19th century continues to devastate the region to date. This paper is set out to show that each side has contributed to the violence witnessed. Peace has not been achieved in the region because of actions perpetrated by both the Israelis and the Palestinians. On their part, the Palestinians have engaged in armed violence against Israeli occupation and refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the state of Israel.
On the other hand, Israeli security forces have continued to occupy Gaza and the West Bank and carry out counter attacks against Palestinian militants. These issues have made it impossible for a final-status peace agreement to be reached. As long as no agreement is reached, Israel and Palestine will continue to engage each other in a long-term low-level limited war.
Bar-Tal, D., & Akiva, E. (2006). Why Israel Does Not Want to Negotiate. Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics & Culture, 13 (2), 6-12.
Clive, J. (2003). Terrorism, Liberation or Civil War? The Al-Aqsa Intifada. Civil Wars 6 (3), 129-137.
Ghanem, A. (2013). Palestinian Nationalism: An Overview. Israel Studies, 18(2), 11-29.
Khalidi, R. (2007). The war for Palestine: rewriting the history of 1948. Cambridge: Cambridge University.
Oren, M., & Halevi, K. (2003). Fantasy. New Republic, 229 (24), 19-22.
Rane, H. (2009). Jihad, competing norms and the Israel Palestine impasse. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 63 (1), 41-63.
Rowley, C.K., & Taylor, J. (2006). The Israel and Palestine land settlement problem, 1948–2005: An analytical history. Public Choice, 128 (1), 77-90.
Shlaim, A. (1995). The Debate about 1948. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 27(3): 287-304.