The Middle East, or referred as the Near East, has long been one of the world’s centers of perpetual instability. The world focuses on this specific region for its warfare between the Arabs and Israelis. The Arabs – Israeli roots of conflict are severely deep, even going back as far as biblical times. Historically the Jews claimed the area called Palestine as their homeland by citing the Old Testament of the Bible as God giving them the right to the promise land. In like fashion, the Arabs claim rights to the land citing various historical precedents from biblical times.1 In addition to complicating this religious issue, modern day Christian claims to biblical sites such as Jerusalem, which is a city both the Jews and Arabs define as central ground for their religious and culture. Thus, the Middle East is an area entangled in complicated, deeply rooted nationalistic claims to religious and ethic groups.
The Middle East’s incredible vast wealth of oil makes the area an extremely substantial area for the industrialized world5, and unceasingly under foreign interventions. The superpower influence that has been exerted on the Middle East has visibly heightened tension to such level that war has broken out over a short period of time. Foreign interventions have both hindered and helped the quest for peace.
During the early 1900’s, the majority of Middle East was under the soon-to-be extinct Ottoman Empire, in which nearly all regions were dominated by Arabs. While planning for WWI peace treaties, Great Britain proclaimed the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which stated that Britain will create a national homeland for the Jews.2 Following WWI, Palestine became a mandate of Great Britain under the authority of the League of Nations. A limited number of Jews were privileged to enter Palestine, and Jews felt that Britain should be more effective in bringing Jews in. At the same time, the Arabs wanted no part in Jewish immigration to a nation they viewed as their homeland. And during the next couple decades, the violence, hatred, and bloodshed escalated to unimaginable heights.
Following WWII, Great Britain decided to withdraw its troops from Palestine and disregard the responsibility given by the League of Nations for its inability to contain the endless violence between the Palestinians and the Jews.5 In an attempt to settle disputes and a solution, the United Nations suggested in 1947 that Palestine be partitioned between the Jews and the Arabs.3 When it became clear that the British intended to leave by May 15, leaders of the Yishuv decided to implement that part of the partition plan calling for establishment of a Jewish state. In Tel Aviv on May 14 the Provisional State Council, formerly the National Council, representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the World Zionist Movement, proclaimed the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called Medinat Israel (the State of Israel)… open to the immigration of Jews from all the countries of their dispersion.6
The guerrilla warfare immediately intensified between the latter. On May 14, 1948, the Arabs were no match for the Jewish forces and the Jewish state of Israel was declared.
First Middle East War
The First Middle East War took place during the time of 1948 to 1949. The Arab’s goal was to eliminate the Jewish threat in Palestine. And the Israeli’s objective was to maintain existing position in Palestine, and hopefully to expand to reclaim what they considered to be their rightful homeland in the Middle East. Initially, the Egyptian and Jordanian forces advance on Israel. The Israelis effectively repelled the attacks and moved to invade Arab territory. Soon the Israeli forces became victorious and declared its independence. The Jews controlled 77% of Palestinian Land and over one million Palestinians were forced out of their country.4 Following the war, U.N. negotiator Dr. Ralph Bunche encouraged the two nations to sign a truce.3
The consequences and implications of the First Middle East War were significant. The Israeli victory encourages an influx of Jewish immigrants from around the globe to Palestine. Arabs are now considered as refugees in their former homeland. The West Band became under the Jordanian control, and the Gaza Strip becomes under the Egyptian control. The United States begin to align itself as Pro-Israeli, and the Soviet Union aligns themselves as Pro-Arab. Despite the truce, the tension between the Arabs and Israeli did not diminish but rather magnified.6
The Suez Canal (2nd Arab – Israeli War)
The Suez Canal is a major shipping lane for goods, and control of this vital shipping region is key to controlling both economic and political power in the middle east. Nasser, had become a leader in the Arab world. His nationalization of the Suez Canal 1956 provide an opportunity for Israel with Britain and France, to attack Egypt and occupy a part of Palestine that Egypt had control since 1949.7 Soon the British and French attack Egypt to keep the canal open. Eisenhower of United States decided to take diplomatic action at the Untied Nations to force the removal of foreign troops from Egypt for they saw the actions by Britain and France were imperialistic. The fighting was halted by the UN after a few days, and a UN Emergency Force (UNEF) was sent to supervise the cease-fire in the Canal zone. In a rare instance of cooperation, the United States and the Soviet Union supported the UN resolution forcing the three invading countries to leave Egypt and Gaza. By the end of the year their forces withdrew from Egypt, but Israel refused to leave Gaza until early 1957, and only after the United States had promised to help resolve the conflict and keep the Straits of Tiran open.
The consequences of this event became the end of British and French Foreign Dominance in the Middle East. The Soviet Union suffered loss of status in the eyes of Arabs for its ineffectiveness in helping the Arabs. The tension escalates even more between the Arabs and Israelis.8
In 1964, the PLO or Palestinian Liberation Organization is established seeking revenge and a chance to take back Palestine.
The Six Day War
After the Suez-Sinai war Arab nationalism increased dramatically, as did demands for revenge led by Egypt’s president Nasser. The formation of a united Arab military command that massed troops along the borders, together with Egypt’s closing of the Straits of Tiran and Nasser’s insistence in 1967 that the UNEF leave Egypt, led Israel to attack Egypt, Jordan, and Syria simultaneously on June 5 of that year. Israel begin to launch sudden attack on Egypt, destroying much of Egypt’s airforce while it sat on the ground. And this time, Israel secures the Sinai Peninsula, West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights.6
The Six-Day War left Israel in possession of Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, which it took from Egypt; Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which it took from Jordan; and the Golan Heights, taken from Syria. Land under Israel’s jurisdiction after the1967 war was about four times the size of the area within its 1949 armistice frontiers. The occupied territories included an Arab population of about 1.5million.1
After the Six Day War, the tension builds even more. Guerilla warfare is increasingly used by Israeli and Arabs, and acts of terrorism increase between the two groups. The United States begin to increase its sales of weapons to Israel. Peace in the Middle East seems hopeless.
UN Security Council Resolution 242
Resolution 242 was passed after the War of 1967 or the Six Day War. It hopes to serve as a corner stone for future diplomatic efforts in peace process in coming years. The resolution states that Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict be withdrawn, and a termination of claims or states of belligerency. Each country must respect and recognize the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace, free from threats or violence. The resolution also states the necessity for each state to have freedom of navigation through international waterways, and a future need for a just settlement of the Palestinian refugees.9
Yom Kippur War
In 1973, Egypt joined Syria in a war on Israel to regain the territories lost in 1967. The two Arab states struck unexpectedly on October 6, which fell on Yom Kippur, Israel’s holiest fast day. Israeli forces managed to defeat the attackers after a three-week struggle, but at the cost of many casualties, and the Arabs’ strong showing won them support from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and most of the world’s developing countries. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait financed the Arab forces, making it possible for Egypt and Syria to receive the most sophisticated Soviet weapons, and the Arab oil-producing states cut off petroleum exports to the United States and other Western nations in retaliation for their aid to Israel.8
From the result of this war, the Israelis, with American aid, manage to capture territory from Syria and crossed the Suez Canal. Over seven hundred troops are sent by the UN and negotiate peace and the Arab forces finally were withdrawn on May 7, 1974.5
UN Security Council Resolution 338
In the later stages of the Yom Kippur War – after Israel retaliated the Syrian attack on the Golan Heights and established a battlefield on the Egyptian side of the Suez Canal – international efforts to stop the fighting were intensified.
The following are the resolutions adopted:
1. Resolution calls for all parties who are involved in the current war to cease all means of firing and any military progress be terminated immediately.
2. All parties who were involved in the current war affair must implement in all parts of the UN Security Council Resolution 242 which was adopted in 1967.
3. Peace talks and negotiations must start as soon the resolutions above are implemented for establishing a durable peace in the Middle East.8
1978 Camp David Accords
Israeli Prime Minister Begin, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and United States President Jimmy Carter met at Camp David to attempt to negotiate a peace settlement. The agreement called for:
1. Israeli’s withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula.
2. Plans for the five-year plan of self government for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
3. A peace treaty to be signed by Egypt and Israel.
In the late 70s came a breakthrough. Egypt’s President Sadat took the initiative and in November 1977 made a ground-breaking visit to Israel. After long negotiations under the watchful and persuasive aegis of the United States, Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement, the culmination of face-to-face talks in 1979 in the American presidential retreat of Camp David. The deal was land for peace. Egypt gradually received back the Sinai, taking full control in 1982. In return, Israel had a lasting peace with what until then had been its most significant Arab enemy.10
Prime Minister Begin and Sadat shared a Nobel Peace Prize for their agreement. The relationship between Egypt and Israel improved noticeably, but deteriorated between Israel and other Middle-East nations.10
Due to the Camp David agreement, the Arab community decide to exile Egypt for a period of eight years. Many Egyptians and Arabs in general are incensed for the Camp David Agreement and in 1981, President Anwar Sadat was assassinated.11
Invasion of Lebanon
From 1978 the presence of Palestinian guerrillas in Lebanon led to Arab raids on Israel and Israeli retaliatory incursions , but on June 6, 1982 Israel launched a full-scale invasion . Israel invades Lebanon with the aim of destroying the Palestine Liberation Organization. The reason for the invasion are as follows:
1. The PLO is responsible for the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games.
2. The PLO is responsible for the hijacking at Entebbe, and the hijacking and killing of passengers of the Achille Lauro.
Talks between Israel and Lebanon, between December 1982 and May 1983, resulted in an agreement , drawn up by US secretary of state George Shultz, calling for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon within three months. Syria refused to acknowledge the agreement , and left some 30,000 troops, with about 7,000 PLO member in the northeast. Israel retaliated by refusing to withdraw its forces from the south.12
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Relations between Israel and the Palestinians entered a new phase in the late 1980’s with the intifada, a series of uprisings in the occupied territories that included demonstrations, strikes, and rock-throwing attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. The harsh response by the Israeli government drew criticism from both the United States and the UN.6
The Madrid Conference
Before the Madrid Conference of 1991, only Egypt had accepted Israel’s offer to negotiate face-to-face. In May 1989, Israel presented a new peace initiative to the Middle East. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War produced a change in the basic political order of the Middle East, prompting the Arab world to reassess its attitude toward Israel and to enter into negotiations to consolidate a future for the Middle East. In October 1991, a conference was convened in Madrid, Spain to under take direct peace talks. The conference was designed to serve as an opening forum for all the participants, having no power to impose solutions or veto agreements.13
The forum set up bilateral tracks which are meant to resolve the conflicts of the past, and multilateral tracks, which are meant to build the Middle East of the future, which building confidence among the regional parties. The negotiations between Israel and Palestinians are specifically based on a two separate formula: A five year interim self government arrangement, to be followed by negotiations on the permanent status issues.
It has been eight years since the Madrid Conference.13 The peace process has dramatically changed the way of the Israelis and Arabs relate to one another. Compromises, negotiations, and extensive communication are changing people’s attitudes and away from open warfare and stubborn hostility. As time passes, the world can see the tangible fruits of peace, both economic and political between Israeli and Palestinians.
Events in the Middle East took a surprising turn in 1993. After secret negotiations, Prime Minister Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat flew to Washington, D.C., and agreed to the signing of a historic peace agreement. Israel agreed to allow for Palestinian self-rule, first in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho, and later in other areas of the West Bank. In early 1994, negotiations for self-rule were temporarily derailed after a Jewish settler massacred at least 29 Palestinian Arabs at a mosque in Hebron, in the West Bank. In May 1994, Israeli troops withdrew from Jericho and the towns and refugee camps of the Gaza Strip, and the areas came under Palestinian control.14 In July 1994 Prime Minister Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan signed a peace agreement ending 46 years of war and strained relations. The agreement, which was signed at the White House in the presence of U.S. President Bill Clinton, laid the groundwork for the full peace treaty signed by Rabin and Jordanian Prime Minister Abdul-Salam al-Majali in October 1994. Under the terms of treaty, the two countries resolved their longstanding dispute over land and water rights; Israel agreed to return about 350 sq km (about 135 sq mi) of disputed territory and to avail Jordan of an annual supply of water.7 The two governments also agreed to cooperate in areas including trade, tourism, transportation, environmental protection, and economic development.8 Jordan pledged that it would not allow its land to be used for anti-Israel purposes, and Israel recognized Jordan’s claims to Islamic shrines in Jerusalem. The latter angered Palestinians, many of whom denounced the treaty as an infringement on the PLO’s agreement with Israel, which called for Israeli-Palestinian negotiation on the final status of Jerusalem.
To recognize the efforts of the leaders of Middle East for their quest for peace, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1994.
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On November 4, 1995, Prime Minister Rabin was slaim by the bullets of an assassin while attending a peace rally in Tel Aviv. Leaders from almost 80 countries came to Jerusalem to pay tribute to his memory and to express support for Israel and the peace process. Israel remains committed to the last Prime Minister Rabin’s legacy of the quest for peace; for peace is the key to the future. The successful implementation of the Peace Treaty between Israel and Jordan and the continuing implementation of the agreement with the Palestinians testify to the viability of this process.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated:
I would like to call on the Palestinians and the Arabs states not to miss this opportunity. Violence and the threat of violence can only multiply the misery. Compromise and cooperation can turn this part of the world into a true promised land. Let us work together so that our children and grandchildren will compete not on the battlefield but on computers. Let us work together so that this region, which gave the world its three great monotheistic religions, will also give it the hope of permanent peace, stability, prosperity and brotherhood.
Wye River Conference
From October 15th to the 24th last year, Clinton’s negotiating team sat down with Yassir Arafat, the Palestinian Liberation Organization leader and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu at Maryland. The Wye Agreement was called for:
1. Israel had agreed to an American compromise proposal aimed at breaking a 19-month deadlock over interim Israeli troop withdrawals from the West Bank. Under the U.S. plan.
2. Israel would turn over an additional 13 percent of West Bank land, of which 3 percent would be a nature preserve that barred construction. An additional 14.2 percent will pass under full Palestinian control. That would bring roughly 40 percent of the territory under full or partial Palestinian control.
3. Arafat will also get an economic circulatory system: a two-year-old airport in Gaza will be allowed to open and Israel will establish two safe passage corridors between the West Bank and Gaza.14
The talks were intense, a marathon of violent mood swings and numbing restatements of position. They were scheduled to last four days, and went more than twice that long. The 60 core negotiators–20 per side–had been there for a week, and were plainly sick of each other. Two of the most often-heard refrains, recounts one negotiator, were I can’t do it, and I won’t do it. The night before, the Israelis had threatened to walk out, and Clinton had told his team, It’s now or never. We’re going to get an agreement today, or we’re not going to get an agreement.15
When it all seems hopeless, Clinton marshaled a secret weapon, King Hussein. For the second time in a week, the ailing monarch had flown to Maryland. He was driven to Wye, where he issued what Clinton later called a stern instruction. Hussein reminded them all of the larger purpose of what they were doing, recalls a senior U.S. official. ‘You can’t afford for this to fail, you owe this to future generations, you owe this to your children.’ You could hear a pin drop. That lifted people up, and gave everybody some impetus–which lasted for an hour or so.14
When the agreement is finally signed, the world praises Bill Clinton for the spectacular performance and outcome of this productive summit. A tremulous Yasir Arafat called the president a great leader of the world. Clinton is a warrior for peace, gushed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, hours after the U.S. president successfully called his bluff over a last-minute demand for release of imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard. I mean, he doesn’t stop, Netanyahu said. He has this ability to maintain a tireless pace and to nudge and prod and suggest.15
In conclusion, one must agree that Israel is an interesting and fascinating part of the globe in which so much beliefs and strong ideology has been passed down for centuries. Personally, I see so many miracles that occur on a day to day basis in Israel that I can never find Israel dull or tedious. Empire rise and fall, but Israel manages to survive since the biblical times and establish statehood in present day is an incredible feat. There has been times in this research when I believed that Israel would get wiped out by the united Arab Nations or the PLO, but somehow a foreign aid comes along and pulls Israel from annihilation. I also believe that Israel has God on their side. The same God guided the Jews from Egypt to Cannan and finally establishes Statehood for them will be with every fighting Israeli solder and every Israeli politician now and forever.