Where is the Israel-Palestine conflict heading?
Israel and Palestine are once again entangled in a series of bloody clashes as part of the on-going decades-long conflict. The conflict has resulted in significant loss of life and property and more importantly, there are no signs of either side willing to retract.
Even though the origins of the conflict can be traced deep into the history of the region, its modern phase can be said to have begun in in early 20th century. Palestine was one of the Provinces of Turkish Ottoman Empire till it came under British control in 1922 as a fall out of World war 1, and remained so till 1948.
During this period the migration of Jews to the region increased palpably and resultantly tensions between the Arab Muslims and Jews also grew considerably. As the end of Britain’s Palestine Mandate drew closer, Britain referred the Palestine Issue to UN in April, 1947.
The UN came forward with a plan (UN Resolution 181 of 29th November 1947) to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish States with the city of Jerusalem as a Corpus separatum i.e. separate entity to be governed by a special international regime under UN. The Plan was accepted by the Jews but rejected by the Arabs.
The Jews of Palestine went ahead and created an independent sovereign State in May 1948. What followed was a series of Arab-Israel wars and repeated armed clashes which keep erupting from time to time, including the current conflict which began in early Islamic month of Ramadan this year and has escalated since then and threatens to assume serious proportions.
What is at the core of the conflict?
Essentially, the conflict has three important dimensions: ethno-religious, right to self-determination and independent homeland, and related to that are the territorial claims. The Arab Muslim Palestinians and Israeli Jews are the two parties to this ethno-religious conflict.
The Jews have succeeded in establishing an independent sovereign State i.e. Israel, and in securing the full membership of the United Nations and recognition from a large number countries except from some Arab League and OIC Member States.
In contrast, the Palestinians have so far managed to secure the status of a Non-Member UN Observer State. The city of Jerusalem-sacred to Muslims, Jews as well as Christians for their own valid reasons - is at the core of the territorial dimension of this conflict.
The city including East Jerusalem (occupied by Israel in 1967 war and later annexed in 1980) is under de-facto control of Israel who considers “whole and united” Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a claim not recognised by the entire international community.
On the other hand, the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent State of Palestine to be established in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 Arab-Israel war.
Israel’s de facto control of Jerusalem on the ground has enabled it to invest vast resources and efforts into changing the physical and demographic characteristics of the City. The Palestinians also stake claim to whole of West Bank where the Palestine Authority is in administrative control of about half the territory.
Israel has gradually normalized its relations with some of the key Arab countries including Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, UAE, and is said to be moving in this direction with Saudi Arabia as well. The Palestinians have reacted by describing these developments as betrayal of the Palestinian cause by these Arab countries.
The rapprochement between Israel and Arab States may not augur well for the Palestinians who may not find some of them on their side in hours of desperate need if they are required to choose between Israel and Palestine.
At present the energies of the international community are focused on finding ways and means to de-escalate the confrontation leading to cessation of hostilities. Several countries in their individual capacities have made appeals to achieve these objectives. Regrettably, the UN, which has a poor track record in resolving global conflicts, looks toothless once again in bringing the situation under control.
Reports at hand suggest that the USA, a staunch ally of Israel, has been instrumental in blocking resolutions which would have condemned Israel’s military response.
Need of the Hour
The need of the hour is to de-escalate so as to arrest any further slide towards the brink.
Final and lasting resolution of the conflict, meeting the aspirations of the parties to the conflict, however, seems nowhere to be on the horizon.
The key player USA is not showing any sense of urgency.
Hopefully, the wise sense will prevail soon and it will be possible to prevent further loss of precious human lives and damage to property.
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