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The impact of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the domestic politics of the Arab states (Lebanon, Jordan) Essay


Introduction

The concept of peace in the Middle East has remained a mirage for a long time with each day bringing a new conflict to an area that is conversant with the issue of war. The largest share of the conflict is centered on the Israeli state. However, the remaining part of the war is fought between Israel and the Arabic states.

The Arab-Israeli conflict began in the year 1948 when Lebanon and four other Arab nations attacked Israel in a bid to stop the establishment of the state in a land that they claimed to be traditionally theirs. The land, which is considered holy by the Arabs, was named Palestine with the Palestinians being Arab inhabitants.

To reclaim their land from the Israelis, the Palestinian launched guerilla wars on Israel from the nations in which they took refuge after their displacement. One of the nations with a large number of the Palestinians was Lebanon.

Israel launched a war against it to counter the attacks by the Palestinian forces. The Jordanian civil war of 1970 forced the relocation of the Palestinian guerillas into Lebanon where they based their war against Israel. However, the Palestinians remaining in the kingdom and those in the West Bank formed a simple majority and a threat to the existence of the Monarchial system of administration. With this hint on the Arab-Israel conflict, the essay looks at the effects that the conflict had on the domestic politics of Lebanon and Jordan.

Domestic Politics in Lebanon

Before the Palestinians moved to Lebanon to begin their attacks on Israel, the Lebanese community consisted of Muslim and Christian societies, which coexisted after fighting a civil war that established an uneasy peace. Soon after the entry of the Palestinians coupled with the settlement of the Palestinian Liberation Army in Lebanon, a civil war broke out among the Christians with Syria and Israel jumping in to take sides.

The Israelis later attacked south Lebanon after the PLO launched attacks on their population. As a result, there has been repeated fighting between Lebanon and Israel, which has had fundamental effects on the direction of its domestic politics. In fact, Lebanon has been characterized for long by power sharing since 1943.

This case has ensured that the diverse society gets representation in matters of administration. The power sharing that is based on the 1943 national pact allows the society comprising mainly of religious communities to regulate their conflicts in an attempt to coexist to a certain degree thus counteracting destabilization (Tamirace 4).

Since 1943, there had been recurrent strains in the pacifying formulae mainly by the foreign forces represented by Syria and Israel. Power sharing was revived in this nation after the 15-year-old war ending in 1990.

According to Tamirace, “…the new updated power sharing formula also known as the Ta’if agreement, which was signed in 1989, fixed some institutional and political flaws” (3). Syria had a large role to play in this agreement. This accord would ensure that its interests in the country were protected and its schedules propagated. The interference and dictatorship from Syria was thought to stop in the year 2005 when they withdrew their forces from Lebanon (Khalaf 32) under a high international pressure.

The Palestinian involvement in Lebanon’s conflict began in 1975 when four people believed to be Phalangists were killed during an attempt on Pierre Jumayl’s life where they were held accountable of the attempt (1975 and End of Civil War 3).

In the following weeks and months, there was a sporadic violence between the Palestinian forces and the Phalangists. The national army and the government were indecisive on whether to intervene or take sides. The government could also not make a decision on whether to deploy the military in this crisis.

During this time, the underlying factor was the minority ‘Maronites’ who refused to share power with the Muslims who were the majority in the country despite the 1943 National Pact (1975 and End of Civil War 6). The conflict led to the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet. Rashid Karami formed a new government with Franjiyah retaining presidency despite the strong opposition from various groups that wanted him to step down (1975 and End of Civil War 7).

The conflict was mainly Christians versus Muslims who were organized into the Lebanese front and the Lebanese National Movement respectively, which sought to change guard in the leadership (1975 and End of Civil War 7). Cease fires were routinely brokered with the Lebanese front claiming to have gotten the most out of the conflict.

The conference in Riyadh is thought to have brought the civil war to an end characterized by the creation of the Arab Deterrent Force consisting mainly of Syrian troops (1975 and End of Civil War 8). In the year 1976, Sarki’s administration took charge of the country. It tried to establish the national Army, which had disintegrated and taken sides in the civil war. However, it failed to establish control of south Lebanon, which was still in the hands of Palestinian fighters engaging in conflict with Israel.

During this rule, the Palestinians’ problem was clearly visible. They tried to do all they could to quell violence in the south of Lebanon. Syria’s attack of the Phalange militia in Zahlah in 1980 and early 1981 led to Israel intervening to protect its perceived Christian allies in Lebanon. In the event, Israel shot down two Syrian helicopters over Lebanon (1975 and End of Civil War 8).

This attempt threatened peace thus arousing a conflict within Lebanon involving the Israelis and Syrians with the Syrians introducing surface-to-air missiles in Lebanon (1975 and end of Civil War 9: Khalaf 32). The war was however averted with the mediation of the Arab states and the US. Since 1977, south Lebanon had hosted many refugees from the other parts of the country due to the state of relative peace that was experienced then.

Israel took this opportunity to establish a safe northern border by supporting the Christian militias here who were perceived to be friendly to the Jewish nation. Migration into this area by the Palestinians supported by the Syrians sparked yet another conflict with the Maronite Christians and Shia Muslims living with the support of Israel (1975 and End of Civil war 9).

Israel attacked and occupied south Lebanon in 1978 after recurrent Palestinian attacks, which mainly targeted the civilian settlements in northern Israel (The History Guy 14).

The main cause of the invasion was the Palestinian attack of a bus near Tel Aviv, which killed a number of Israelis (1975 and End of Civil War 9). With the withdrawal of Israeli forces after three months, the United Nations peacekeeping force was mandated with the administration of South Lebanon.

Later, the South Lebanon Army took control after all the forces were withdrawn (1975 and end of Civil War 9). Sarki’s administration also saw the development of shifts in domestic politics with Prime Minister Huss being unable to form an all-inclusive national government thus remaining in government for an additional two years (1975 and End of Civil War 14). In the late 1980, Shafiq al Wazzan became the prime minister.

His government experienced even greater problems with divisions emerging (1975 and End of Civil War 12). It is during the reign of this government, “Israeli support of the Lebanese Front was curtailed in 1981 as a condition set by the Lebanese National Movement and Syria for any attempt at an overall resolution of the Lebanese situation” (1975 and End of Civil War 14). When Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982, the political landscape here was not stable.

In fact, there were presidential campaigns in the same year. The Phalange Party was considered dominant at the time with Bashir Jumayyil heading to victory because of all the military factions and guerillas operating then. It had a large subscription of militia referred as the Lebanese forces (1975 and End of Civil War 14).

In the year 2006, there was yet another war between Israel and Lebanon after Hezbollah (the Lebanon Shiite Muslim group) captured two Israeli soldiers on the border (RL33566). Before then, the conflict had just involved the Israelis and the Palestinians militants who operated from the Gaza strip.

Israel attacked Hezbollah’s bases. However, it retaliated with rocket fires into northern Israel (Sharp 2). The UN Security Council Resolution was used to broker peace between these two sides. This effort took effect on the 14th of august the same year (Sharp 2).

Before the onset of the incursion, and as late as 2005, Syria dictated the political situation in Lebanon through its large force that was mandated to keep the peace as part of the Arab League Peace-keeping force (Sharp15). In the same year, the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri who was very critical on the insolvent Syrian troops in Lebanon led to the withdrawal of the troops in April of 2005 following international pressure (Sharp15).

This was followed by parliamentary elections months later without the direct involvement of Syria in the balloting process (Sharp 15). Before the elections, there had not been any free and fair democratic elections in Syria since the year 1972. Fuad Siniora became the prime minister and leader of the cabinet in this representative coalition government (Tamirace 4).

The forces opposed to Syria carried the day. Investigations into the murder of the former prime minister were launched. This outcome had been considered a victory against Syrian interests in Lebanon. However, it turned out to be unsuccessful as Hezbollah propagated the Syrian interests by attacking Israel. The newly formed government also consisted of groups that supported Syrian interests while others were opposed to them (the interests). The intelligence assets that Syria left behind also remained in place.

The newly formed government consisted of the majority of anti-Syrian group with the former prime minister’s son as the leader of Hezbollah and another group that was headed by a former Army officer (Sharp16). Emile Lahoud was elected the president with Syrian support.

The cabinet so created also had troubles in making decisions due to the mixed membership and differences in royalty. It was the first cabinet to have Hezbollah minister serving in it. In fact, they were two in number. The issues dominating here were the position of the president and the proposed disarmament of Hezbollah’s forces still fighting in southern Lebanon. This crippled the government in decision making, as it could not deliberate on internal, regional, and international issues, which were affecting its people such as the war with Israel.

With the 2006 war, Hezbollah took the advantage and gained more support at the expense of the government in Lebanon. During the war, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah became a hero due to the people’s perception of their military prowess and the ability to initiate relief projects faster than the government organizations (Sharp16).

Nasrallah’s soaring popularity and the success of Hezbollah in establishing relief supply to those affected by the war ensured that those who were against Hezbollah or even critical of their war campaigns against Israel were silenced temporarily (Sharon 32).

The Syrian support that was initially received with criticisms was then reignited with the success of Hezbollah. Those who opposed it were only left in the dark over the killing of the prime minister. Lebanon is a religiously diverse nation. Any leadership has to involve the various religious factions in the country in an effort to establish a fragile peace (Sharp17).

Hezbollah has continually used the conflict with Israel to earn its domestic support. In many occasions, the firing of rockets into northern Israel allows it to institute its relief on the people by targeting their vulnerability to earn its political superiority. With this tactic increasingly working for the group, the conflict with Israel is likely to last for long. The Sunni Muslims, Christians, and Shiite groupings in the country pose a challenge in establishing a central government and an effective army since they have deep-rooted differences.

It is therefore worth considering that the formation of an all-involving government continues to be a challenge to the people of Lebanon. On one side, Christians are considered to gather support from Israel with the Muslims being against the continued intimidation by the Israeli army. Israel’s response in the conflict by carrying out a large-scale destruction of infrastructure and killing of civilians was seen as a campaign against the county’s Muslims.

Hezbollah used this tactic to win the hearts and support of people. Throughout the 34-day war with Israel, the differing political groupings in Lebanon did not openly portray their differences. The power sharing deal later became a dividing factor for the Lebanon organizations in control. With the end of the war, debates emerged as to who was suited to take control of the divided nation. The main opposing forces remained those against the Syrian involvement and those advocating for Syria’s policies.

Domestic Politics in Jordan

Jordan has also had its share of the Arab–Israeli conflict. As such, the effects of the clashes on its internal politics are evident. After independence from the colonial masters, the state of Jordan set to reinvent itself. The Bedouin tribe consists of most of the ancestors of the Jordanian people who have had a monarchial system of government. With the emergence of Israel, the Palestinian Refugees who referred the area they settled as West Bank inhabited a large part of Jordan.

The Arab-Israeli war of 1967 gave control of the West Bank to Israel, which later relinquished control to the PLO in 1988 (Sharp 18). There have been divisions between the Palestinians in Jordan and the natives. This case has dictated the existing political and social difference. Jordan is a hereditary monarchy under the leadership of the Heshemite family claiming to be the descendants of Prophet Mohammad (Sharp 13).

Since 1999, the ruler has been King Abdullah who succeeded his late father King Hussein who had ruled for 47 years. The differences existing in this country are because of cooperation that the king gives to the US policy in the region and his role in the Arab-Israeli conflict (Sharp 18). Many of the Palestinians in the country do not support his agendas based on this issue. The Muslims here too are opposed to his stand on Israel and the US.

The government of Jordan has been pitted as one of those governments committed to a lasting peace in the Middle East. Jordan had taken part in the Arab-Israeli conflict between 1948 and 1973. However, King Hussein declared peace with Israel due to its conventional military superiority and the development of the Palestinian National Movement that threatened its national security too (Sharp 19).

The state monarch has been in many conflicts with most of them relating to the issue of the Palestinians living there. Most of the Palestinians have attained citizenship with a demand that they be included in decision making in a place where they form a simple majority. The government deals with the issue in a continuous basis, as the Palestinians continuously press for their rights.

Violence usually breaks out between the Palestinian factions and the native supporting the monarch, as each group seeks to assert control over the country. The monarch that is made of the native Hashemite family has had the problem of dealing with the Palestinian majority. Therefore, any decision made politically has to involve a state of peace rather than maintaining it.

The monarch rejects calls by Israel for the reunification of the West Bank with Jordan Proper since this move can alter the status quo in Jordan to cause the Palestinians to increase in power and push for the desolation of the monarchy. The peace pact signed between Israel and Jordan means that a state of peace is in the offing. However, the Palestinian refugees have always been critical of this agreement by believing that there can be no peace with the state of Israel occupying their ancestral land.

They therefore agitate the existing peace in Jordan on several occasions to ensure that they are heard and that their dream of one time going back home is kept alive. With the increasing number of Palestinians in the West bank and the larger Jordan, tension is always high. The Monarch has to please them since they are the simple majority.

This depicts the effect that the Arab-Israeli conflict has had on the Jordanians, as it was the source of the displaced Palestinians. There can be no peace and stability in Jordan without consideration of the Palestinian majority. Any solution will have to involve them too rather than maintaining the status quo that has been there for decades in Jordan.

Conclusion

The Arab-Israeli conflict has generated internal problems for the neighboring Arab states. These problems have dictated the changes of events in the politics of these nations. Since the war was fought, the states of Lebanon and Jordan have had to deal with internal pressure from groups against Israel and those supporting it.

In Lebanon, peace has remained elusive. On the other hand, wars fought have often had roots in the Arab-Israeli conflict. With the migration of the Palestinian forces from Syria to their base in the southern Lebanon, Israel has often considered Lebanon as an enemy. It has even supported the various Christian and moderate Islamic groups fighting the Palestinians. The central government has long consisted of groups supporting the Syrian army’s intention of defecting Israel tactically in Lebanon.

This has ensured that many administrations have failed in their role of pacifying the country. Lebanon has long been viewed as a playground for the Arabic stats led by Syria on one side and Israel on the other. This means that the existing divisions have further deepened. Therefore, the crisis remains unsolved. In the case of Jordan, the Arab-Israeli war caused the migration of Palestinian refugees into this Monarchy.

Over time, the Palestinians became the majority. They have continually demanded a share of the national resources. The ruling monarch family has long seen this as a threat. It uses laws to ensure that the Palestinians do not take over the status quo. The Palestinians however have made political agitations against the kingdom. Besides, they are frequently involved in conflicts to establish the rule of the nation. These two countries demonstrate the effect that the Arab-Israeli conflict has had on the nations of the Middle East.

Works Cited

Khalaf, Samir. Civil and Uncivil Violence: A History of the Internationalization of Communal Conflict. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. Print.

Sharon, Behn. U.S., Hezbollah vie to Rebuild for Lebanese; Hope to Win Public Opinion. The Washington Times, August 18, 2006; Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2006. Washington DC.: Word Press, 2006. Print.

Sharp, Jeremy. Jordan background and U.S. Relations. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, 2012. Print.

Sharp, Jeremy. Lebanon: the Israel-Hamas-Hezbollah conflict. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 2006. Print.

Tamirace, Fakhoury-Mühlbacher. The July war and its effects on Lebanon’s power-sharing the challenge of pacifying a divided society Journal of Peace Conflict & Development 10, March 2007, 2007. Web. <>.

The History Guy. The History Guy: A Resource for History, Military History, Politics, and Biography, n.d. Web. <>.

1975 and End of Civil War. No Side Held A Decisive Military Advantage. Lebanon’s History: Civil War. Ghazi.de, n.d. Web. <>.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The impact of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the domestic politics of the Arab states (Lebanon, Jordan)'. 21 November.

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