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Encyclopedia > Arab Israeli Conflict
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Israel and the Arab League states

The Arab-Israeli conflict is a long-running conflict in the Middle East regarding the existence of the state of Israel and its relations with non-Jews, most of whom are Arabs, of which a small minority are inhabitants of Israel, the rest living in predominatly Arab states. Some uses of the term Middle East conflict refer to this matter, but the region has been host to other disputes and wars not directly involving Israel (see list of conflicts in the Middle East)

Israel, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights are at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Despite the relatively small land area, number of casualties, and total size of populations involved, the conflict has been the focus of worldwide media and diplomatic attention for decades. Some groups fear that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a part of (or precursor to) a wider clash of civilizations between the Western World and the Arab or Muslim world. Animosity emanating from this conflict has caused numerous attacks on supporters (or perceived supporters) of one side by supporters of the other side in many countries around the world. The map shows the nations of the Middle East and Africa that are members of the Arab League, including many that have never been directly involved in the conflict, and Israel. Many people in other countries feel involvement in the conflict, for reasons such as cultural and religious ties with Islam and/or Arabian culture, Christianity, Judaism, or for purely ideological reasons; these include countries such as Iran and the United States.



The Arab-Israeli conflict is a modern phenomenon, which dates back to the end of the 19th century. The conflict became a major international issue after the Ottoman Empire in 1917 lost power in the Middle East, and in various forms it continues to date. The Arab-Israeli conflict has resulted in at least five major wars and a number of "minor conflicts". It has also been the source of two major Palestinian intifadas (uprisings) and is cited by al-Qaida, a largely Arab organisation, as one of the reasons for its conflict with the western world and United States. The wars and intifadas are:

  • 1948 Arab-Israeli War, known as the Israeli War of Independence or al-Nakba, 1948-1949. Began after the British withdrawal and the declaration of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948. Arabs had formally rejected the United Nations Partition Plan of November 1947, which proposed establishment of an Arab and a Jewish state in Palestine. Jewish and Arab militias had begun a campaign to control territory both inside and beyond the partition-designated borders. Joint Jordanian, Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese and Iraqi troops invaded Palestine, and fought to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state. About 2/3 of Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled by Israeli forces, from the territories which came under Jewish control (see Palestinian Exodus); Arabs also expelled Jews from the territories which came under their control. In addition, many Arab countries' Jewish populations fled due to anti-Jewish sentiment and, in some cases (e.g. Iraq) legal oppression. About 700,000 Palestinians (estimates vary from 520,000 to 957,000[1] (http://www.arts.mcgill.ca/MEPP/PRRN/proverview.html)) and 600,000 Jews became refugees. In a few cases, (e.g. in Morocco) local Arab governments strongly encouraged Jews to stay, and some Jewish leaders (e.g. in Haifa) encouraged Arabs to stay. Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel; Palestinians were neglected by most Arab nations, which by some were blamed for the poverty and hatred prevailing in some Palestinian camps, while others blamed Israel for their expulsion. The fighting ended with signing of the Rhodes Armistice, but only two states eventually signed a peace agreement with Israel: Egypt (1978) and Jordan (1994).
  • 1956 Suez War. Began as a joint Israeli-British-French operation, which they justified as an attempt to stop attacks (see the Fedayeen) upon Israeli civilians, to abolish the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran, and to recapture the Suez Canal which Egypt had nationalized. Though the campaign to recapture the canal was succesful, the invading forces agreed to withdraw under U.S. pressure, and Israel withdrew from the Sinai as well, in return for the installation of U.N. separation forces and guarantees of Israeli freedom of shipment. The canal was left in Egyptian (rather than British and French) hands.
Nasser (Egypt), backed by other Arab states, throws Israel into the sea. Pre-1967 War cartoon. Al-Farida newspaper, Lebanon
  • Six-Day War, 1967. Began as a strike by Israel, often considered preemptive, against Egypt following the Egyptian closure of the Straits of Tiran (a casus belli, according to a possible interpretation of international law), expulsion of U.N. peacekeepers from the Sinai, stationing some 100,000 Egyptian troops at the peninsula, and a public announcement by Nasser that he intended to destroy Israel [2] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/june/5/newsid_2654000/2654251.stm). Surprise Israeli air strikes destroyed the entire Egyptian air force while still on the ground. A subsequent ground invasion into Egyptian territory led to Israel's conquest of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. In spite of Israel's request to Jordan to desist from attacking it, both Jordan and Syria began to shell Israeli targets; Israel responded by capturing the West Bank from Jordan on June 7th, and the Golan Heights from Syria on June 9th.
  • Yom Kippur War, 1973. Began as a simultaneous coordinated attack, which Egypt and Syria claimed was to recapture Sinai and the Golan Heights, respectively. Despite early successes for the Arabs, and the eventual support of the U.S. in the form of an emergency airlift of arms, intelligence support and diplomatic pressure assisted Israel in turning them back. After three weeks of fighting Israel destroyed the Syrian army and encircled the Egyptian army with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in position to threaten Damascus and Cairo. International pressure and prospects of Soviet intervention resulted in a ceasefire.
  • 1982 Lebanon War. Began when Israel attacked Lebanon, justified by Israel as an attempt to remove the Fatah militants led by Yasser Arafat from Southern Lebanon (where they had established, during the country's civil war, a semi-independent enclave used to launch terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians). The invasion was widely criticized both in and outside Israel, especially after the Sabra and Shatila massacre and ultimately led to the death of 20,000 Lebanese. Although the attack succeeded in exiling Arafat to Tunisia, Israel became entangled with various local Muslim militias (particularly the Hizballah), which fought to end the Israeli occupation. By 1985 Israel retreated from all but a narrow stretch of Lebanese territory desgnated by Israel as the Israeli Security Zone. In 2000 Israeli forces left this area, completing its withdrawal from Lebanon.
  • The First Intifada, 1987-1993. Began as an uprising of Palestinians, particularly the young, against the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The exiled PLO leadership in Tunisia quickly assumed a role, but the uprising also brought a rise in the importance of Islamist Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The Intifada ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords by Israel and the PLO.
  • The Gulf War, 1990-1991. Began with the Iraqi invasion and annexation of Kuwait but did not initially involve direct military engagement with Israel. An international coalition led by the United States and including Arab forces, was assembled to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. To draw Israel into the confrontation and fracture the multinational coalition, Iraq launched Scud missiles on Israeli cities and on Israel's nuclear military facilities at Dimona. However, under strong pressure from the U.S. which feared direct Israeli involvement would threaten the unity of the coalition, Israel did not retaliate against Iraq and the multinational coalition ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait. During the war, many Palestinians (and King Hussein of Jordan) allied themselves with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Kuwait and other Gulf Arab monarchies withdrew their support from the Palestinian cause, which was one of the factors leading to the PLO signing the Oslo Accords.
  • The al-Aqsa Intifada. Began in late September, 2000, around the time Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon and a large contingent of armed bodyguards visited the Temple Mount/Al-Haram As-Sharif complex in Jerusalem and declared the area eternal Israeli territory. Widespread riots broke out in Old Jerusalem, and Israeli authorities killed several Palestinians in the first hours of the uprising. The killing of Muhammed al-Dura, a 12-year-old boy, was videotaped and broadcast around the world, triggering further rioting. This conflict is on-going.

Reasons for the conflict

The opinions stated here are only some of the many existing in this region; they strive to represent majority viewpoints.

Israeli views

There is no single Israeli view; rather, Israelis express many views, which differ widely.

Israelis describe various reasons for what they perceive as unjustified hostility against Israel. One of the primary reasons cited is anti-Semitism.

Islamic law and non-Muslims

Israelis and supporters cite a source of the Arab-Israeli conflict as the traditional interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) which requires, among other things, that Muslim territory encompass all land that was ever under Muslim control. Since the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine once was part of the Ottoman caliphate, some Islamic clerics believe that it is unlawful and unacceptable for any portion of it to be usurped by non-Muslims. Palestinians sometimes counter this claim by pointing out that Palestinians lived peacefully in their own country, with Muslims, Christians and Jews coexisting, and their resentment of Israeli Jews emerged only as a result of the Zionist enterprise in Palestine.

Some Israelis contend that one of the primary reasons for continued Muslim Arab hostility towards Israel is that sharia forbids Jews or Christians from being considered equal to Muslims. Muslims respond that this runs counter to the tradition of tolerance towards "People of the Book" in Islam. The long tradition of Palestinian Christian resistance to Israel and its policies, including such noted figures as Edward Said and George Habash, and the various Palestinian secular movements such as the PLO itself, are unexplained phenomena according to this worldview, though proponents do point to the rapid decrease of the Christian Palestinian population (along with those of most Christian Arabs) as, at least in part, the result of Muslim hostility to non-Muslims. In December 1997 The Times of London noted: "Life in (PA ruled) Bethlehem has become insufferable for many members of the dwindling Christian minorities." (Source: The Beleaguered Christians of the Palestinian-Controlled Areas (http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp490.htm)). According to a report published in December 2001 by the rightwing think tank, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies The Christian Exodus from the Middle East (http://www.defenddemocracy.org/usr_doc/Christian_Exodus.pdf), "Christians in the Palestinian territories have dropped from 15% of the Arab population in 1950 to just 2% today."

Traditionally, where Jews and Christians and other non-Muslims were under Muslim rule, they were considered dhimmi, or protected people. Historian Benny Morris of Ben-Gurion University writes that the dhimma — the "writ of protection," also called the Pact of Umar after Muhammad's successor, the second caliph "Umar 'ib al-Khattab (643-44) — was intended to embody Koranic attitudes toward Jews and Christians. The dhimmi communities were traditionally required to pay a poll tax known as the jizya, and another tax called the kharaj, which was imposed by the Muslim conquerors on nonbelievers whose lands they confiscated. So long as they paid these taxes, writes Morris, the dhimmi were allowed to live on the land under Muslim protection, though a later insertion to the pact allowed Muslim rulers to tear up the agreement at will and expel the protected communities. Under the writ, the dhimmi were not allowed to strike a Muslim or carry arms; were allowed to ride asses only, not horses or camels, and then only sidesaddle; were not allowed to build new houses of worship or repair old ones; and under particularly repressive regimes that lasted a short time, had to wear distinctive clothing. The historian Elie Kedourie described the attitude toward the dhimmi as one of "contemptuous tolerance." Muslims "treated the dhimmi, and especially the Jews, as impure," writes Morris (2001). However, Muslim scholar Muhammad Hamidullah writes in the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs: "If Muslim residents in non-Muslim countries received the same treatment as Dhimmi in the Islamic regime, they would be more than satisfied; they would be grateful."

Despite the pact, Muslims rose up against Jewish communities, according to Morris, many times between 1033 until the 1940s. Morris writes: "In 1066, nearly three thousand Jews were massacred in Grenada, Spain. In Fez, Morocco, some six thousand Jews were murdered in 1033, and massacres took place again in 1276 and 1465. There were massacres in Tetuan in Morocco in 1790; in Mashhad and Barfurush in Persia in 1839 and 1867, respectively; and in Baghdad in 1828. The Jewish quarter of Fez was almost destroyed in 1912 by a Muslim mob; and pro-Nazi mobs slaughtered dozens of Jews in Baghdad in 1941. Repeatedly, in various parts of the Islamic world, Jewish communities — contrary to the provisions of the dhimma — were given the choice of conversion or death. Usually, though not always, the incidents of mass violence occurred in the vulnerable extremities of the Muslim empire rather than at its more self-confident core. But the underlying attitude, that Jews were infidels and opponents of Islam, and necessarily inferior in the eyes of God, prevailed throughout Muslim lands down the ages," (Morris, 2001).

The status of the dhimmi improved marginally with the rise of the Ottoman empire, when the Sublime Porte declared in 1856 that all Ottoman subjects were equal, but it worsened again when the empire collapsed. Morris gives as an example of the treatment of the dhimmi, the phenomenon of stone-throwing at Jews by Muslim children, which, he says, amounted to a local custom in Yemen and Morocco. The Jewish dhimmi were forbidden, under pain of death, to defend themselves by striking the children. The Syrian delegate to the United Nations, Faris el-Khouri, told the U.N. in 1947 that: "Unless the Palestine problem is settled, we shall have difficulty in protecting and safeguarding the Jews in the Arab world, (New York Times, February 19, 1947).

Some Muslims respond by contesting the accuracy of this understanding of dhimmi status, and by stating that in any event it is irrelevant, since currently no Muslim nation imposes these laws on its non-Muslim citizens (though Saudi Arabia requires all citizens to be Muslim). They also argue that Qur'anic passages regarding relations with non-Muslims are often taken out of context and assert that the tolerance of Muslims toward Jews was one of the reasons Jews fled to Palestine to escape European persecution.

Muslims say that the dhimma, or writ of protection, only applies when Muslims are rulers, and as Muslims have not ruled Jews in Israel during the current conflict, they argue that any purported connection between the conflict and the history of the dhimmi is incorrect.

Israel and war

Israelis generally claim that, when nations declare war against Israel, Israel by definition is then at war with them. Israelis claim that they have always preferred peace to war: for example, immediately after the Six-Day War, Israel maintains that it offered to return the Golan Heights to Syria and the Sinai Peninsula (including the Gaza Strip) to Egypt in exchange for peace treaties and various concessions, but that Syria and Egypt refused the offer. This offer was very soon withdrawn. Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian President at the time, proposed negotiations towards peace with Israel in the early 1970s but Israel refused the offer, claiming that it held unreasonable preconditions.

Israel and the peace process

Israel claims that it demonstrated flexibility and understanding, as it managed to bring about the initiation of the peace process, agreed to painful concessions, and partially implemented them. As opposed to this, most Israelis see the predominant Palestinian views of the peace process that do not recognize Israel's right to exist, and indicate, in their opinion, that the only real long-term Arab goal is the complete destruction of the Jewish state.

Interpretations of Zionism

Most Israelis see Zionism as merely the desire of Jewish people to live as a free people in the land of Israel. Zionism does not prohibit Arabs, Druze, Bedouin and other non-Jews from living in Israel as well, although by most interpretations it requires a Jewish majority to be established. People of all races, colors and ethnic backgrounds live in Israel; therefore, they argue, Zionism is not racism, as it does not imply the superiority of Jews over any other nationality or ethnicity, although it does insist on Israel being a "Jewish state". However, during the 1930s, ideas of a 'population exchange' of Palestinian Arabs and Jews between Arab states and Israel, were popular among Zionists, and some, particularly supporters of Moledet, believe in the forced transfer of Arabs from Israel.

Zionists hold that Zionism is not colonialism, since they claim it does not wish to enslave any other peoples or take over any lands other than the one in question, nor to exploit them, but rather is about allowing the Jewish people to have a state in one small area. In response to the objection that the Palestinians were and are exploited by Israelis living on what is claimed to be their land, Israelis reply that the Palestinians were, up until recently, on a path to their independence from Israel; a path from which, as most Israelis now feel, the Palestinians diverted by starting a war against them. This view is regarded as incorrect by most Palestinians as well as by many Arabs and others outside Israel.

Threat to the state

Many Israelis and supporters of Israel, and some Palestinians and supporters of Palestine, take the view that the very existence of the state of Israel is at stake. Most of the other parties to the dispute maintain formally that Israel should be recognised as a state, although some consider that it should be destroyed. Israelis regard many of the Arab criticisms against the state of Israel as threats to the state's existence, and say that against the multitude and power of the Arab states, there is only one Jewish state, which, they feel, should behave vigilantly, and assert its power in both a defensive and preemptive manner as deemed necessary.

Return of refugees

When dealing with the question of the right of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to return to Israel, along with millions of their descendants, most Israelis feel that the introduction of a large number of people into the limited geographical resources of the country would create a demographic shock that would bring about the destruction of the State of Israel. They believe furthermore that this destruction is too high a price to pay to find a solution to the Palestinian refugees, and that it could create millions of Jewish refugees, while not necessarily solving the problems of the Palestinians.

Alternative solutions to the refugee problem

Israel states that it is willing to discuss alternative solutions, such as granting a right of return to a limited number of people on a humanitarian basis (such as the unification of families) and compensating the rest, in the framework of a comprehensive peace plan. Such discussions have yet to take place.

Many Israelis believe that such a proposal would be an act of goodwill, as there was also a huge number of Jewish refugees from Arab nations and Arab-controlled areas of Palestine that left their homes between 1947 and 1967, totaling over 800,000, who were not compensated. The reason that all these Jews and their descendants are not in refugee camps is that the State of Israel absorbed almost 600,000 of them, sometimes giving them the property of Palestinian refugees under the Absentee Property Act by which such property could be confiscated; other nations absorbed the rest. In contrast, Israelis claim that Palestinian Arab refugees were confined by other Arabs in refugee camps for many decades in order to artificially create a refugee crisis as a way to create an army to one day fight against Israel, although in fact Palestinians were nowhere forced to remain in refugee camps. Children born in Jordan to Palestinian parents are given Jordanian nationality, but in Syria, for example, they are not.

Land disputes and violence

Liberal Israelis oppose settlements, believing they are illegal under International law and/or thwart peace efforts. However, most Israelis do not view the building of houses and stores in Israeli settlements as an act of war, and believe that disputes over land do not justify violent resistance or terrorism, but that there should be politically negotiated solutions. This view is rejected by Palestinians and many outside Israel, as Israel's leadership continues to build settlements on Palestinian land, an activity that is roundly condemned by most of the world except Israel and the United States.

Concerns regarding violence or civil war

Some Israelis fear the consequences if they decide, or are eventually forced, to depopulate the Israeli settlements. They believe some settlers may resist by force, perhaps even creating a risk of civil war. When Israel withdrew from settlements in the Sinai Peninsula in the early 1980s, moderate clashes between the Israel Defense Forces and settlers occurred. Those settlers amounted to but a tiny fraction of the settler population in the West Bank. A recent survey by Peace Now indicated about two thirds of the settlers would comply with a government order to evacuate.

Treatment of minorities in Israel

Many Israelis believe that minorities in Israel are treated justly. Within Israel's pre-1967 borders, Arab minorities are given freedom of religion and culture and political organization. They are typically not conscripted into the Israeli military (though they are accepted as volunteers), so they will generally never have to fight their peoples. However, this can deny them job opportunities, as some jobs in Israel require previous military service. Israelis claim that Arab countries such as Syria and Yemen do not give full rights and freedoms to Jews, and others, such as Saudi Arabia, do not even allow Jews to be citizens, to which some respond that these states, unlike Israel/Palestine, do not have large indigenous populations of other religions (though they once did), nor were they created by UN mandate in the 20th century on land occupied by other peoples.

Palestinian and other Arab views

There isn't any single Palestinian view; rather, there are many different Palestinian views, which differ widely.

Treatment of Jews by Muslims and its consequences

Many Muslims assert that Jews were treated better by Muslims than by other rulers who persecuted them. This resulted in the migration of Jews (especially those fleeing the Spanish Inquisition) to the Ottoman Empire (http://www.mersina.com/lib/turkish_jews/history/life.htm), including the present-day region of Israel and surrounding areas. Had the Muslim treatment of Jews been the same as the treatment Jews received in Europe, these Muslims argue, Jews would have left Muslim areas, just as they left Nazi Germany and Russia, instead of migrating in. According to this view, Palestinians may be paying the price (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3772609.stm) for their forefathers' failure to see that Jewish migration might one day lead to the creation of an independent Jewish state.

Jewish-Muslim relations in Middle East affected by creation of Israel

Supporters of this viewpoint regard these historic good relations in Middle East as having been shattered by the creation of Israel. They cite the example of Mizrahi Jews, who had long been living in large measure peacefully among Arabs and Muslims, but who left after the establishment of the state of Israel for a variety of reasons (depending on the country), including Muslim hostility because of the new state.

Opponents of this viewpoint, including some Mizrahi Jews themselves, see this as one-sided at best. They point to the persecutions of the Jews of North Africa in the 12th century under the Almohades, the slaughter of thousands of Jews in Fez in 1465 (after the Jewish deputy vizier Harun (Aaron), who had imposed heavy taxes on the population on behalf of the vizier, was accused of treating a Muslim woman "offensively"), [3] (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths/mf15.html#c) and to similar massacres in Libya, Algiers, and Marrakesh in the 18th and 19th centuries (Morris, 2001). They also point to waves of synagogue destructions and forced conversions throughout the Arab world from the 11th to 19th centuries, and to the fact that, by the 19th century, most Jews of North Africa were forced to live in mellahs or ghettos, and were subject to a number of restrictions and humiliations.

Choice of war

As the refugees' exile continued, some Palestinian groups chose war, considering it as a necessary way to regain what they saw as their rights over the land they came from. The failure of these efforts to improve the Palestinians' condition fuelled increased hostility.

Treatment of Muslim and Christian population

Palestinians feel that the Jewish state of Israel was established under conditions that were deeply unfair to them. Some Palestinians do not oppose a Jewish state as such, but all Palestinians feel that it should not have been established at their expense. They argue that after World War II - and, indeed, after World War I - the world allowed a state for Jewish people in Palestine to be established without much concern for the existing indigenous Arab population. According to this view, Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes by Jewish militias before and during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war (see Palestinian exodus.) Those who remained in Israel face various forms of discrimination; for example, housing and employment discrimination is prevalent. Palestinians are denied many job opportunities, as many employers require previous military service, and only Jews and some other groups, such as Druze and Bedouins, typically serve in the IDF.

The return of refugees

Palestinians have made reference to the statement made by Folke Bernadotte, the UN mediator, concerning the right of return of refugees: "It would be an offense against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes, while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine" (UN Doc Al 648, 1948). Count Bernadotte was subsequently assassinated by former terrorist organization Lehi, led by Yitzhak Shamir (later to be Prime Minister of Israel).

Approach of the U.S.

The lifeguard (the US) admonishes the struggling boy (the Palestinians) in the jaws of the shark (Israel) to leave the shark alone.

Palestinians cite many reasons for the perceived lack of support of their cause in the United States, despite the perception that it is more broadly supported in Europe. One such reason is postulated to be ethnic bigotry in the U.S.; while stereotyping of many other groups is no longer rampant, some Palestinians believe that Muslims and Arabs, in particular, continue to be vilified and victimized by crude attacks. Some Palestinians also cite what they describe as strong influence by Zionist organizations on elected officials in the U.S. political system.

Israel and international law

See also International law and the Arab-Israeli conflict

Palestinians believe that they have International law on their side. For example, they cite UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which calls for refugees wishing to live in peace with their neighbors to be allowed to return to their homes, or to receive compensation if they don't wish to return. They also cite UN Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for Israel to withdraw from territories occupied during the Six-Day War, the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying power from confiscating occupied land and transferring its own population to that territory, and General Assembly Resolution 446, which declared that the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.

However, supporters of the Israeli position point out that General Assembly resolutions have no impact in International law, and in any event doubt that the refugees wish to "live in peace with their neighbors". As well, they note that UNSC Resolution 242 deliberately did not state all territories captured during the war, as the framers recognized some territorial adjustments were likely (it mentioned "secure and recognized boundaries", recognized Israel's right to live "free from threats or acts of force", and most Arab states voted against it), and that Israel had complied with the latter sense of the resolution when it returned the Sinai to Egypt in 1982. Finally, they state that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not technically apply to the territories, since they have no "High Contracting Party", and that the Convention in any event only applied to forcible transfers of populations into or out of captured territories. However, a conference of High Contracting Parties in 2001 stated that the Convention did apply in the territories. Some observers, in particular Israelis, have expressed doubts as to whether the return of refugees is compatible with the continued existence of the state of Israel, and the establishment of a "just and lasting peace" in the region. Others, in particular Palestinians, believe such a peace is possible only if refugees are either allowed to return or fairly compensated.

Jewish settlements in West Bank and Gaza

Palestinians point out that Israel accelerated the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip throughout the Oslo peace process. These settlements are off limits to Palestinians and other Arabs, while any Jewish citizen of Israel can at any time choose to settle there. In 2000, at Camp David, the Palestinians were offered a nominally independent state composed of discontiguous parts of most of Gaza and the West Bank, with Israeli control over its airspace, borders and trade. Led by Arafat, the Palestinians rejected this offer, claiming that this state would be a "Bantustan" (a state divided in many pieces) without sovereignty. President Clinton and the Israelis asked the Palestinians to offer a counter-proposal, but Arafat declined and returned to the West Bank. Later, further negotiations did take place, but they were terminated by the Israeli side.

Rejection of Saudi peace plan

In 2002, Saudi Arabia offered a peace plan in the New York Times based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. These UN resolutions call for withdrawal from occupied territories in addition to full recognition of Israel by the whole Arab world. This proposal was backed by some in the Arab World and criticized by others, but the Israeli government rejected it and it fell by the wayside.

State based on ethnic and religious claims thousands of years old

Most Arabs deny that historical grounds can justify the existence of a Jewish nation today. They hold that events that happened thousands of years ago do not justify evicting the Palestinians from their homeland. Many Palestinians also maintain that any state based on ethnic or religious preference is immoral, and point to the various legal constructs within Israeli law which they claim confer privilege to Jews exclusively.

Effects of Jewish immigration

Some Arabs maintain that there is nothing wrong with Jewish immigration into Palestine, in itself, any more than there is with Jewish immigration into any other part of the world. But in their view most of the Jews arriving in Palestine did so with the intention of taking it over and establishing a Jewish majority state by force. Thus, because of what they claim as an original expulsion of indigenous Palestinians, along with its continued expansion of settlements, Israel has primary or sole responsibility for the conflict and subsequent failures of any peace process, they say.

Palestinians as victims of extremism

Some Palestinians believe that their cause may be damaged by extremists within their own ranks; an issue that is mirrored in the Israeli camp. Some view the conflict as essentially extremist vs. moderate, as opposed to Israeli vs. Palestinian. Pro-Israel advocates often assert that two sets of views exist from the same speaker, with a tolerant view usually expressed in English, and an anti-peace view usually expressed in Arabic, with pro-Arab advocates making similar charges about Israeli speakers. Most if not all Palestinian spokespeople declare that they wish Israel had never come into being, regarding its creation as a historic injustice. However, some accept its existence today and call merely for a state of their own. Still others envisage a one-state solution in all of historic Palestine. Within this one-state view, there are both secular and Islamist visions for the future. The secular view holds that a just and lasting peace is most likely if there exists a fully democratic government for all citizens, where legal status and civil rights are not based on ethnic and religious identity. The Islamist view aspires to an Islamic government in Palestine. In both views, Jews currently living in Israel might be allowed to remain there unmolested as free and equal citizens of a future state of Palestine (in the secular Arab view) or as dhimmis along with Druze and Christians, in the Islamist Arab view. Some Jews view it as extremely unlikely that they would be allowed to live unmolested in any sort of one-state Palestine.

Today, many Palestinians think that an equitable arrangement for all involved parties requires dialogue with Israelis and the international community. The PLO has officially accepted the right of Israel to exist within the borders prevailing prior to the Six-Day War. However, some PLO representatives, including Yasser Arafat, have also declared at times that they saw these statements as politically necessary steps. Some observers interpret this to mean that they view the two-state solution as a stepping stone to a more integrated long-term solution. Others, particularly some Israelis, claim that these statements betray a hidden agenda and worldview where the peace process with Israel is only a temporary measure in support of the ultimate Palestinian goal, which is the destruction of the state of Israel, and presumably the eviction of its Jewish citizens. They point to the fact that the PLO never updated its formal statement of policy, the Palestinian National Covenant to reflect their recognition of the State of Israel and that it still calls for the destruction of Israel; however the U.S. Embassy in Israel is on record confirming that "On April 24, 1996, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) amended the charter by canceling the articles inconsistent with its commitments to Israel" [4] (http://www.usembassy-israel.org.il/publish/peace/plo_note.html). Still, belief in an existential threat from the PLO causes alarm among much of the Israeli public.

Attacks on Israeli army

Many Palestinians distinguish between violent resistance against Israel military occupation, and violent acts against Israeli civilians. They hold that the former is legitimate resistance under the Fourth Geneva Convention, while the latter comprise illegitimate acts of terrorism. However, opinion polls consistently shows these Palestinians to be in the minority. Other Palestinian voices reject violence altogether and look to exclusively non-violent resistance as a solution. Palestinians making the case for purely non-violent resistance, or for armed resistance against only military targets but not Israeli civilians, invoke both practical arguments that such tactics are counterproductive, as well as moral and legal arguments against the use of violence, especially against civilians. Most Palestinians claim that Israel's occupation engenders routine violence against Palestinian civilians that is institutionalized and carried out on a much larger scale than anything Israelis experience. They often question what they see as the media's one-sided use of the word "terror" in cases where Palestinians are perpetrators and Israelis are victims, while ignoring what they view as state terrorism carried out by Israel against the Palestinian population.

Some Palestinian and Arab leaders believe that Palestinians are justified in using violence against any Israeli, seeing all Israelis as illegal occupants, and arguing that Israel's universal conscription renders almost all Israelis potential combatants. They see these illegal occupants as the source of tens of thousands of deaths, and million of refugees. Some claim that trusting the international community to help them to get their rights back is useless, suggesting that, in recent history, as long as Palestinians were peaceful no state made any serious efforts to solve their problem. In their opinion, only when other countries see Palestinian problems as causing problems to themselves do they help Palestine.

They also argue that the civilian deaths caused by their operations are dwarfed by those dismissed as "collateral damage" caused by the full scale military campaigns done by various world powers. Some see the innocent deaths caused by such operations as regrettable, but as only option to solve the problems of millions of Palestinians. Furthermore, they point to the use of violence against non-combatants by most other independence struggles, including, they say, the American War of Independence.

Despite having underlying grievances in common, the relationships between the PLO and Hamas and other Palestinian factions is rife with philosophical and tactical differences, as well as frequent power struggles, all of which tend to work to Israel's advantage and weaken Palestinians' ability to influence the outcome of the conflict.

Israeli tactics

Arab publications and others have compared Zionism to German Nazism and other historical examples of oppression and ethnic cleansing. Many Arabs, and others, believe Israel practises a form of apartheid against the Palestinian people, as bad as, or worse than, that practised by South Africa, and that Zionism is a form of colonialism and has been carried out through extensive ethnic cleansing. Pro-Israel advocates reply that these claims are non-factual and the comparisons are specious, or with assertions that such claims are hypocritical, since Arabs have created twenty-two Arab states, in some of which the remaining Jews are discriminated against. Palestinians hold that the existence of other Arab nations is irrelevant; they want to have the land they owned back, rather than being forced to throw themselves on others' charity in foreign countries. Probably 50%-60% of Jordanian population is ethnically Palestinian (former refugees and their descendants; estimates vary widely) but the country is ruled by the Hashemite Bedouin family. In the 1970s, the PLO attempted to launch a coup against the Jordanian monarchy, which led to death of some 20,000 Palestinians and the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan.

The USSR traditionally used Arabs as a proxy in the Cold War against the var curLink = ""; function pv(e, num) { var span = document.getElementById("pv" +num); if (curLink != "") { curLink.style.display = "none"; } curLink = span; if (!document.all) { span.style.left = e.pageX; span.style.top = e.pageY+30; } else { //span.style.pixelLeft = e.offsetX+190; //span.style.pixelTop = e.offsetY+110; op = e.srcElement.offsetParent; span.style.pixelLeft = e.clientX+document.body.scrollLeft; span.style.pixelTop = e.clientY+document.body.scrollTop+30; } span.style.display="block"; } function unpv(num) { var span = document.getElementById("pv" +num); span.style.display = "none"; }



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