How Do We Solve The Arab-Israeli Conflict?

For sixty-one years the Israeli’s and Palestinians have been at each others throats, and what has been achieved? The answer is, nothing!

The divisions are now as deep as they were in November 1947 when the United Nations decided to form a partitioned homeland for the Jews in Palestine.

This was not as arbitrary as it may sound. Europe was awash with Jewish refugees from the infamous Nazi concentration camps, and there was a historical precedent for the positioning of a Jewish State in Palestine, namely ancient Judea, the original Jewish lands of biblical times.

Judea had been conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Byzantines among others, before eventually being made part of the Ottoman empire in 1516, to which it belonged until the 20th Century. Each conqueror tried to remove the Jews from the land and almost succeeded, but a small number always managed to remain around Galilee.

Following the United Nations decree, Israel declared independence on the 14th of May 1948 and the new Jewish state was born. Since then, a continuous conflict has been raging between the Jews, Palestinians, and bordering Arab nations.

Several wars were fought between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and each time Israel came out on top. This led to the formation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasser Arrafat in the late sixties-early seventies, which carried out devastating attacks against Jews and Jewish interests world-wide, including the killing of the Israeli Olympic Athletic Team at the 1972 Summer Games.

In 1967 Syria, Jordan and Egypt massed armies on Israel’s borders, but were defeated in a pre-emptive strike by Israeli Forces in what is now referred to as the Six-Day War. Israel occupied the Left Bank, the Golan Heights, Gaza, and Sinai peninsular to the Red Sea. There followed another war in November 1973 when they were again attacked. Once more Israel carried the day, despite suffering heavy losses.

Later that same year, the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat became the first leader of an Arab country to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and signed a peace accord. He was later assassinated by members of the Egyptian military during a parade.

Since that time, several US Presidents, and many different governments have tried, and failed, to get the two sides to agree on a solution to the problems. But what are the problems?

They are, not necessarily in order of importance, the return of Israel to the pre-1967 war boundary’s i.e. return of the West Bank and Gaza to Palestinian control, the Golan heights to Syria and the Sinai to Egypt, removal of all Israeli settlements on Arab land, and the return of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.

Each of these have been rejected by successive Israeli governments for a variety of reasons.

First lets look at the boundary’s. Israel insists on having a buffer zone between it and its Arab neighbours, and, there are a large number of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. Israel would also lose its vital port on the Red Sea, Elat.

Secondly, the removal of all settlements on Arab land would be very unpopular with the settlers, causing widespread condemnation of any government that tried it.

Thirdly, the returning of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians, who also want it as their capitol, is a very thorny issue, being as it is probably the most important religious site in the world. Judaism, Islam and Christianity all lay claim to the city as one of their most holy sites. On top of this, there are 465,000 Jews living mostly in West Jerusalem, and 232,000 Muslims living for the greater part in East Jerusalem.

The Israeli government insists the city remain united under their control and should be their capitol. Meanwhile, the Palestinians insist Israel retreat to its pre-1967 borders, thereby giving up East Jerusalem. Like two dogs fighting over a single bone.

There are without doubt very tough problems to solve, because Israel sees its security as a number one priority, which is understandable; and the Palestinians want their lands back, which is a reasonable request.

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block to a peace deal is purely the length of time this conflict has been going on. So much mistrust and hatred has built up on both sides over the years, that the two sides may never agree on a solution. Then of course there is Hamas.

The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has taken a softer line with the Israeli government, and appears more willing to negotiate than Hamas, who refuse to recognise Israels right to exist.

Hamas is a terrorist organization that still continues to attack Israel at every opportunity, most recently evoking a week long attack by Israeli Forces on Gaza after they attacked southern Israel with rockets. The stand Hamas has taken is also responsible for splitting the Palestinian nation.

In my opinion, both sides have to be prepared to make big sacrifices if peace in the Middle East is to be achieved.

With regard to Israel’s safety, I believe the only solution is for the Palestinians to accept a de-militarized zone around Israel until such time as sufficient trust is established. Israel should be allowed an observation post on the Golan Heights to ensure no militarization of the land around the Heights by Syria.

So far as the settlements are concerned, the inhabitants should be given the ultimatum of returning behind Israel’s borders with government financial help, or remain where they are under Palestinian control.

Jerusalem should become an open city, perhaps under UN or joint 50/50 Israeli-Palestinian control, so neither side can claim sovereignty. Both sides will need to find somewhere else for their capitol.

For its part, the Palestinian government, along with Hamas, must recognise Israel as a sovereign state and guarantee its borders.

It may seem to some that Israel is making more concessions than the Palestinians, and that may be true, but if they are to live in security with their neighbours I believe this is the only way. At least both nations will be able to flourish and prosper without the continued threat of war.

I further believe that such an agreement will take the wind from the sails of Iran, who has for decades been fermenting hatred and distrust of the Jewish State, plus arming people like Hamas. If the rest of the Muslim world can accept such an agreement, they in their turn should bring the necessary pressure to bear on this rogue state and bring it into line with the rest of humanity.


Here’s hoping Allah and God can shake hands on this agreement.


Roy.

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