By Sid Spahn
The brutal conflict between Israel and Palestine is one many know about, but is often ignored due to the complex nature of politics and long history involved. This is a quick rundown of the history and timeline of the war.
Minor conflict can be dated back to around the late 19th century. The middle east was under the control of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years. Towards the end of the 1800s, what is present day Palestine was predominantly inhabited by Arab Muslims, with small populations of Christians, Druze, Circassians, and Jews. Conflict brewed between these groups with the rise of national movements like Zionism, which called for the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine, as well as Arab Nationalism. The World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund encouraged immigration and funded the purchase of land in the region of Palestine for immigrating Jews.
This immigration of Jews into Palestine with Zionist ideals became a threat to Arab and Syrian nationalism as well as threatened Arab leaders in the region. This tension was further aggravated by a perceived threat to the cultural make-up of the region due to European immmigration. However, Jewish immigration to the Palestinian area increased in waves as antisemetic tension continued to rise in Europe and especially Russia.
The Beginning of Rising Tensions
In the midst of WWI, Jewish and Arab populations in Palestine began to rise specifically to support the possibility of releasing Palestine from the control of the Ottoman Empire. In 1916, the area of present day Jordan, Israel, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories were allocated to the British Empire. In 1919, the Balfour Declaration was provisionally accepted; the declaration proposing Palestine to be a “national home for the Jewish people” but that nothing should be done against non-Jewish communities in Palestine.
After the collapse of the Ottomon empire in 1920, Zionist and Arab representatives attended a conference where they met and signed an agreement to cooperate, as the Balfour Declaration had been endorsed by the British Empire earlier that year. This agreement was not implemented, and the borders and terms mandated were not finalized until 1922.
Jewish aspirations for Mandatory Palestine were eliminated due to the Hejaz region being recognized as an autonomous state in 1923 and the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan gaining independence in 1946. However, the tragic details of the Holocaust propelled support for the Zionist movement as Jewish refugees were brought to Palestine in secret in 1946-47.
In May of 1947, the United Nations created a committee which proposed Palestine be split into an independent Arab state, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem with Jerusalem and Bethlehem to be under the control of the United Nations. Neither the Arab State, nor the Jewish State were content with the Partition plan, and the divisive extremist parties began to rise.
After this conflict, tensions continued to rise in the region, particularly between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. However, after thirty years of conflict in the middle east, especially between Egypt and Israel, the Camp David Accords, was signed. This peace treaty improved relations between not only Israel and Egypt, but also Jordan and Syria as well as any collaborative conflicts between Egypt, Jordan, and Syria against Israel ended.
However, Palestinian self governance was still unresolved. In 1987, Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip rose up against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; an uprising known as the first intifada. In 1993, the conflict was mediated by the Oslo I Accords, and set up the framework for the Palestinians to govern themselves in the West Bank and Gaza and enabled mutual recognition between the newly established Palestinian Authority and Israel’s government. This was expanded on with the Oslo II Accords which mandated the withdrawal of Israel from 6 cities and 450 towns in the West Bank.
The Start of Current Conflict
However, in 2000, a second intifada was launched by Palestinians. This was perpetuated by the failure of the 2000 Camp David Summit to reach a final agreement, grievances over Israel’s continued control over the West Bank, and especially former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the al-Aqsa mosque.
This visit to the third holiest shrine in Islam ignighted fury in young Palestinians, as this provocated memories of his role in the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in refugee camp in Lebana. In response, the Israeli government approved the construction of a barrier wall around the West bank in 2002, despite resistance from the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court.
The second intifada ended in 2005, with the end of suicide bombings, however events and statistics for Intifada related conflicts continued well into 2007.
When Mahmoud Abbas was elected in the 2005 Palestinian election, his platform was one of peaceful negotiation with Israel, and the promotion of non-violent way to achieve the goals of the Palestinian public. He called on militants to halt attacks on Israel, and in turn promised protection from Israeli attacks. However, violence on the Gaza Strip continued, leading Ariel Sharon to freeze all diplomatic and security contact with the Palestinian National Authority.
There was an attempt by the United State, in 2013, to revive the peace process that had been halted in 2000. However, this peace process was interrupted in 2014 when Fatah, the ruling Palestinian political organization at the time, formed a unity government with Hamas.
Hamas, one of two major Palestinian political parties, was desginated a foergin terroist organization by the Untied States in 1997, and has also been designated a terrorist organization by dozens of other counties, some only as a military wing. Naturally, the U.S. could not work with what they had designated as a terrorist organizaiton.
In 2014, continued conflicts in Palestinian territories brought on confrontation between Israel and Hamas. Hamas, in turn, fired nearly three thousand rockets at Israel, in which they retaliated with a major offensive in Gaza.
This didn’t end until late August 2014 when Egypt was able to broker a cease-fire deal between the two parties. However, 73 Israelis and 2,251 Palestinians had been killed.
In 2015, tensions rose between Israelis and Palestinians once again, with consistent stabbings, attempted stabbings, shootings, and car rammings, mostly being individual assaults from Palestinians against Israelis. These commonly resulted in Israeli security forces frequently killing attackers, which often amounted to summary executions.
After this rise in tensions, President Mahmoud Abbas announced that Palestine would no longer abide by the territories created by the Oslo Accords. As a result, in March and May of 2018, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip conducted weekly protests and demonstrations at the border. Their final protest coincided with the anniversary of the Nakba, the Palestinian exodus of the area Israel currently inhabits. Most protesters were peaceful, but some stormed the perimeter fence and threw rocks. However, 183 demonstrators were killed and more than 6,000 were wounded by live ammunition.
At the same time, violence broke out once again between Hamas and the Israeli military, with the worst period of violence since 2014. Before reaching a cease-fire, militants in Gaza fired more than 100 rockets into Israeli territory, with Israel responding with strikes on more than fifty targets in Gaza; all in about 24 hours.
In the United States, the Donald Trump administration had a foreign policy priority of achieving an Israel-Palestine deal. The administeation canceled funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to Palestinian refugees, and relocated the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
This set the U.S. embassy at the center of conflict, with Israel considering the “complete and united Jersusalem” as its capital whilte Palestine claiming East Jerusalem as the Capital of a future Palestinian State.
Two years later, in January of 2020, the Trump administration released its “Peace to Prosperity” plan. This was rejected by Palestinians because of its vision of a future for Palestine that was argued to be biased to Israel and imposing harsher requirements on Palestine. Later the same year, the United Arab Emirates agreed to “normal relations” between themselves and Israel in a peace deal. These relations include business relations, tourism, direct flights, scientific cooperation, and full diplomatic ties at the ambassadorial level.
In October of 2020, a court in Israel ruled that Palestinian families living in a neighorhood in East Jerusalem were to be evicted by May 2021, with any land handed over to Jewish familes. Several families filed an appeal to the court ruling, prompting protests and demanding an end to the forced displacements of Palestinians from Jerusalem.
In April of 2021, Palenstinians protested in the streets of Jerusalem against the evictions of the redients of Sheikh Jarrah and began hosting nightly sit-ins. In early May, the court ruled in favor of the evictions, and protests continued. In the following weeks tensions rose between protestors, Israeli settlers in the previously evicted land, and Israeli police. In this month of Ramadan, violence broke out at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. Israel police used stun grenades, rubber bullets, and water cannons as a means to control protestors, leaving hundreds of Palestinians wounded.
On May 10, 2021, after many days of violence in Jerusalem, Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups launched hundreds of rockets into Israeli territory. Israel responded with air strikes and artillery bombardments against Gaza. Israel claimed to be targeting Hamas and the other militants and their infrastructure, but their aerial campaign expanded to targets like residential buildings, media headquarters, and refugee and healthcare facilities.
Finally on May 21, Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire, thanks to Egypt. Both sides claim victory; 250 Palestinians killed, 2,000 wounded, and 72,000 displaced.
The main concern after all this history? A third intifada could break out, and considering current tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, that would end in large-scale violence and increase regional insecurity.