The Arab-Israeli Conflict
Israel Attacks Gaza, Dec 08

Why did Israel attack Gaza?

History of the Conflict

Arab-Israeli Conflict 1948 - 2006
Text by James Oakes, St Helena Secondary College
Key question: What has been the nature of the Arab Israeli conflict and its repercussions?

The Arab–Israeli conflict has continued to dominate international news in 2006. It is a conflict that has lasted beyond the Cold War, and gives us an insight into what modern post-Cold War conflict has become. The Iraq Study Group report in December 2006 has suggested there can be no peace in Iraq until this conflict is settled. With the declaration of the end of the Iraq War in 2003, the US administration re-engaged with the problem, proposing the so-called ‘road map’ for peace. But events and developments since have not seen progress towards peace.

Each of the wars fought over the Israeli state – the civil war of 1948, the Suez Crisis in 1956, the Six-Day War of 1967, the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 – have all the characteristics of Cold War conflicts. Israel’s involvement in the much-later Gulf War, albeit as a target, and the first and second Intifada, where it fought the displaced Palestinians, were and are major conflicts of the post-Cold War era. (The Intifada is the uprising by Palestinian Arabs against the people and state of Israel in response to Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.) In 2006, the continued cycle of retribution saw attacks on invasions of Gaza and southern Lebanon after unilateral withdrawals showing that peace is still a long way off.

This conflict is extremely complex, with historic land claims, religion, race, politics, personalities and superpower politics all having an influence. It is significant because of its effect on the world’s balance of power and economy, the regional balance of power in the Middle East, and its potential to set alight the brewing Islam versus the West conflict. It is also significant because it is a conflict that is ongoing, beginning with the Cold War and continuing, long after the Cold War ended.

The key issues are:
The Palestinian people want their own state.
The future of Israeli settlements built since 1967 in the Occupied Territories, particularly the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The future of Jerusalem as a holy site for Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
Poverty, access to water and pollution.
The generation of fanatics who capable of terrorism.

The great religions

The Middle East is at the crossroads of the world. For centuries it has been inhabited by nomadic tribes who have lived in the desert, moving between oases, and along the rivers of the region. It has been at the intersection of trade routes between Europe, Asia and Africa, particularly in spices, incense, cotton and timber. It is the birth place of three of the world’s great religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is an area of the world that has seen great conflicts throughout the centuries, which continue today. Both Jews and Arabs claim to be the rightful owners of the land now occupied by Israel and both claim to be able to justify their case by referring back to their histories. So let’s have a look at the origins of Judaism and the evolution of the Jewish state, Christianity and Islam and explain how they are intertwined.
The Jewish people have inhabited the Middle East for centuries. Judaism is their religion and is based on the Old Testament of the Bible, which tells of the Israelites leaving Israel because of famine to settle in Egypt, only to be enslaved by the pharaohs. Moses leads them home to Palestine around 1300 BCE. The Jews believe God promised Palestine to Abraham and the Israelites, the chosen people.

During the reign of King Solomon in 1000 BCE, a great building program was underway in Jerusalem, with the Great Temple as the most important new city feature. The Great Temple became the centre for Judaism. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in the 6th century BCE, and the Jews were exiled again, but returned a few decades later. The Temple was rebuilt in the late 6th century BCE.

In the 1st century BCE, Palestine came under Roman control. The Israelites could not accept Roman rule or culture and rebelled. These rebellions the Romans put down with their customary force and, in the process, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. The Jews were exiled across Europe and would not return for almost 2,000 years. Today, only the Western, or Wailing, Wall of the Temple remains and is Judaism’s most holy site.

The Jews did not find the exile in Europe a pleasant experience. They were not accepted anywhere and, in fact, they were expelled from England in 1292 and from Spain in 1492. Across Europe they were targets for anti-Semitism – people blamed them for everything from the plague to political unrest and, because they lived in isolated communities with their very distinctive dress and appearance, they were ready-made targets for vilification, abuse and even, in numerous cases, for murder and massacre, as was the case with the Russian pogroms of the 1880s.

It was in fact the Russian ‘pogroms’ or massacres that prompted the Jews to look for a homeland where they would be free from persecution. This movement came to be known as ‘Zionism’, based on Zion, the old name for Palestine. Jews began to make their way back to Palestine in the 1880s, setting up some of the first colonies there with financial support from rich supporters overseas. Their leader, Theodore Herzl, wanted a separate Jewish state in either Argentina or Palestine. At the first Zionist Congress in 1897, it was agreed that Palestine was the best bet and a fund was established to buy land there.

British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, wrote to leading Zionists in 1917 declaring British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Arabs were furious. As Hitler rose to power in Germany the number of Jews migrating to Palestine, despite occasional Arab revolts and civil unrest, steadily increased. The Arab leadership tried everything from armed resistance to a general strike, but were decisively defeated by the British, who also announced that Palestine was to be divided into an Arab and a Jewish state, with the Jewish settlers to get a little more than half the territory.

During the course of World War II, some six million Jews were to die in the concentration camps set up by the Nazis. It made the survivors and Jews everywhere determined that this would never happen again, and the best safeguard, as they saw it, was to have their own homeland. Jewish immigration to Palestine boomed and the British, who controlled Palestine at the time, were powerless to stop it. The Palestinians already living there fought back, desperate to avoid being swamped by the new arrivals.

In July 1946, the Israelis showed to what lengths they would go to drive the British out. Members of the Irgun, a Jewish terrorist group, detonated a car bomb at the King David Hotel headquarters of the British military, killing eighty-eight in the blast. The British, unable to maintain the high troop levels necessary to keep things under control, decided to leave in 1947 and handed the problem over to the United Nations. The UN decided that the only solution to the problem was to divide Palestine into two separate states, with the greater area going to the Jews, on the expectation that more Jews would be arriving from Europe soon. Jerusalem was to be administered by the UN, but located in the Arab part of the divided land. The importance of the issue of who has control of Jerusalem cannot be underestimated as it has led to frequent clashes in the past.

Christianity also has its source in Palestine. Christians believe Jesus Christ, the son of God was born in Bethlehem, in Palestine, and died on the cross in Jerusalem, its capital, only to rise again. This is the event that began the Christian religion that permeates Western culture. Christians see Jerusalem as a holy site of great importance as, from there, Christianity spread throughout the world.

In the 2000 or so years since Christ lived in Palestine, Christianity has gone through many changes, which are evident in the number of different groups within Christianity today. While they have many issues of difference, they do have common beliefs. Although not a central part of the Israel–Palestine conflict, Christianity is a factor that needs to be explained, as it is part of the complexity of the problem. For example, when Palestinian guerrillas or terrorists holed up in a Christian church in Bethlehem to avoid capture by the Israelis, the eyes of the Christian world were watching closely.

Gerry Engwerda and James Oakes,
International Studies 2005, Victorian Association of Social Studies Teachers (VASST) inc, Melbourne, 2004

Jerusalem was the centre of Christianity and linked to Judaism by the Old Testament. Paul, one of Jesus’ disciples, was one of those who spread the word and became the leader of the early Christian church, taking their ideas to Rome. Paul’s Epistles became central to Christian belief and included the ideas which were the basis of the organisation of the early church and the position of bishops or leaders of the church.

In the early centuries, the beliefs and practices of the early church became entrenched and accepted throughout the Roman Empire. But in the eastern Roman Empire in the 7th and 8th centuries, Christianity began to conflict with the new and dynamic faith of Islam. This was not only a military battle, but an ideological one as well.

The Turks had control of the Holy Land and, by the 11th century, Christian armed expeditions, called the Crusades (1095–1291), tried to wrest control of Jerusalem from Islam. Some initial success was had and Jerusalem was under Christian control for 200 years. But the fourth Crusade, in 1202–4 was a disaster. Instead, the Turks, or Ottoman Empire, expanded into Europe, bringing Islam with it.

The organisation of the Christian churches remained an important institution in feudal Europe. During the 16th century there began a tumultuous period for the church, called the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. This was an attempt by people to reform the medieval Catholic Church, which, according to some, had become corrupt and misdirected. It led to the formation of the Protestant churches, such as the Lutheran Church and the Church of England. In response, the Catholic Church went through a period of reform as well, later called the Counter-Reformation.

With the age of exploration, Christianity spread throughout the world, but with the development of nations and city states, the development of trade and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, the church and state in the West became separate entities.

In modern times, there has been a close relationship between Christianity and Judaism. They share the Old Testament and, after all, Christ was a Jew.

Christians supported the establishment of Israel after World War II, and many Christians travelled to Israel to see the places associated with the life of Jesus and the beginnings of Christianity. There continues to be great concern in the West about the Israel–Palestine conflict, and Western countries have generally supported Israel rather than the Palestinians.

With the end of the Roman Empire, the Arabs took control of Palestine. Islam took hold of the Arabs in the 7th century. Islam is a system of beliefs based on the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. Islam has spread far and wide over the centuries, but had its beginnings in the Middle East, in what we know today as Saudi Arabia.

The tribes of Arabia where Islam started traditionally had little contact with the West. Disparate and argumentative, they were at the distant end of the Roman Empire and rarely under their control. The Hejaz region was the only area that had anything to do with outsiders.

Hejaz was at the very centre of the trade routes between east and west and north and south. Great camel caravans would pass through it, heading in either direction, and, because the trip was long and dry, it represented a welcome stopping-off point for the caravans carrying gold, silks, spices and ivory.

The most important place was the capital city, called Mecca. It had a well 140 feet deep that produced crystal clear cold water that was said to have magical properties. People came from all over to drink it. Nearby was a curious rock. Jet black and shiny, it also was said to have supernatural properties and may well have been a meteorite. Whatever it was, people treated it with respect and perhaps were somewhat afraid of this unusual object. Again, people came from miles around to see it and touch it. Seeing what a drawcard it was, Meccans built a stone hut around the black rock called the ‘kaaba’, or cube, and charged entry for the curious. Mecca became a place of pilgrimage and, by the 5th century, was very rich indeed as a result.

The founder of Islam, Mohammed, was born here in 570 AD. His grandfather was the keeper of the keys to the kaaba. Mohammed was orphaned at the age of six and started his first paid job when he was ten. God made it known that he wanted Mohammed to go out and preach and unite the Arabs under one God.

Initially, there was great conflict and opposition to this new religion, but it gradually won all the battles and gained majority support in Mecca. From then on, only Allah was worshipped and the kaaba became a house of worship. Tribal delegations from all over Arabia came to Mecca and, for the first time, Arabs were united and at peace.

Mohammed continued to receive revelations from God, which were later written down in the Holy Book, the Koran. As well as the Koran, followers of Islam, or Muslims, had the Hadith (traditions) to tell them how to live and how to conduct themselves. Mohammed said that there were five pillars that supported the House of Islam and were central for any true believer.

Every Muslim was required to:
have faith in Allah and Mohammed, his messenger
pray five times a day
fast for one month – the month of Ramadan
give alms to the poor
make the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina at least once.

Early power struggles between a minority sect, the Shi’a, and the majority Sunni still divide Islam today. Some 15% of the Arab world is now Shi’a, but they generally live as minorities in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, where they are often the victims of discrimination. They are, however, the majority in Iran, where they make up 95% of the population. The Shi’a, perhaps because of their persecution at the hands of the dominant Sunni, strongly emphasise the concept of ‘Jihad’ or holy struggle and martyrdom. Sometimes referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam, Jihad may be taken to mean a struggle against external enemies, but can also mean a struggle against oppression and bad leadership from within. Furthermore, it can mean a struggle against one’s own weaknesses and sins. The Shi’a often take it to mean a struggle to the death, with martyrs earning an instant place in paradise.

Gerry Engwerda and James Oakes,
International Studies 2005, Victorian Association of Social Studies Teachers (VASST) inc, Melbourne, 2004

Meanwhile, Islamic groups continued to war on outside powers and each other and were only ever truly united against the Christian Crusades, which took place between 1095 and 1291, when the last Christian stronghold at Acre fell to the Muslim General, Saladin. Arabs ruled the Middle East for more than 500 years after the decline and fall of the Roman Empire around 300 AD. Their empire stretched from India in the east to Spain in the West. By the 16th century, the Arab world had come under the control of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

The creation of Israel

In 1948, the new state of Israel was established. War broke out immediately with neighbouring Arab states who sought to dislodge the Israelis from their newly reacquired home. In the fierce fighting that followed, some 700,000 of the 860,000 Palestinians who were still living in Palestine fled into neighbouring states like Jordan and Lebanon, not just to avoid the war but also often because they were being attacked by extremist Jewish settlers intent on driving them out. There the Palestinians settled into refugee camps, often within sight of their former farms in
Palestine, and waited for the day when they could reclaim their homes and farms. That was in 1948 – they are still waiting, despite four Arab–Israeli wars and an Intifada against what they see as Israeli occupation forces.
By 1951, 657,000 Jewish immigrants had arrived in Israel and, with the support of the US, they began to build a nation.

Suez Canal Crisis

The Cold War came to the Middle East in 1956 with the Suez Canal Crisis. Nationalist movements were gaining strength in other parts of the world and the clash between Britain and Egypt over the Suez Canal was another conflict that saw the growing superpowers of the US and Soviet Union become involved more deeply in the Middle East.
Arabs saw the US and Britain as supporting Zionism, and therefore sought to build Arab unity against Israel and looked to the Soviet Union for support. One of their leaders was Gamal Abdel Nasser, who came to power in Egypt after a military coup in 1952 that replaced the corrupt pro-British regime of King Farouk I. Nasser forced the British to withdraw from the Suez Canal, a very important strategic asset for both the British and the French. In response to Nasser’s warming to the Soviets, Britain and France cancelled loans for Egypt’s Aswan Dam. Nasser responded by

File written by Adobe Photoshop® 5.0
File written by Adobe Photoshop® 5.0

threatening to nationalise the canal to pay for the dam and his modernisation program.

The British and French then negotiated with Israel to assist in taking the Suez Canal by force. The war began in 29 October 1956, with an attempt to make a safe zone 16 km each side of the canal. International support was not forthcoming and the US was furious. The Soviets also threatened to send troops to force the British and the French to back down. With threats to oil supplies and further escalation imminent, Britain and France were forced into an embarrassing withdrawal.

Britain’s and France’s decline as world powers was clearly evident, although Israel improved its position, with UN peacekeepers in the Sinai. Nasser emerged a hero of Arab nationalism and the Soviets became involved in the region, providing much of the funding for the Aswan Dam and Egypt’s military.

Between 1956 and 1967 Arab–Israeli conflict was on hold. Israel was coping with economic problems and unemployment and in 1963 there seemed to be no clear-cut candidate to replace the former prime minister David Ben-Gurion.

Nasser had tried to unite Arabs in the United Arab Republics (UAR), working closely with Syria to do so. Elsewhere in the Arab World, but particularly in Iraq and Syria, the Baath Party was becoming important, with a mixture of nationalist, socialist and anti-Israeli feeling.

In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in the refugee camps from various guerrilla groups and political factions. It began a bombing campaign on Israel, mainly originating from Syria. Israel raided PLO bases in Syria, and Syria responded by shelling Israel from the Golan Heights, which was along the south-western border of Syria. All of which led to the Six Day War of 1967. Syria called on Nasser to assist. He ordered the UN out of the Sinai and blockaded the Strait of Tiran. The Israelis took this as a declaration of war. Israel attacked in a lightning six-day war during which they destroyed Egypt’s and Syria’s air forces and swept into the Sinai and the Golan Heights.

Arab confidence and stature was again shattered, the Sinai and the crucial Golan Heights were lost, and the Palestinians were again under Israeli control on the West Bank (formerly part of Jordan). Conflict continued in the Sinai until 1970, when the US convinced Israel’s then prime minister Golda Meir to negotiate with Egypt.

Yom Kippur War, 1973

After Nasser’s death, Anwar Sadat became leader of Egypt. He wanted a negotiated settlement with Israel, but Golda Meir was unwilling to cooperate. Sadat believed only war would bring Israel to negotiate. Sadat organised the support of President Hafid al Assad of Syria, who wished to regain the Golan Heights. On 6 October 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, an important religious festival. With weapons supplied by the Soviet Union, the Egyptians had early success. However, after ten days of hard fighting, the Israelis gained the upper hand and, with the threat of full-scale Soviet involvement and pressure from the US, brought an end to the conflict.
Both superpowers were involved in the conflict. The USSR had armed and supported Egypt and threatened to become directly involved, mobilising troops along its southern borders. The US had armed and supported Israel and, at the height of the conflict, went on nuclear alert.


Another new dimension of this conflict was the Arab use of oil as a ‘weapon’ or negotiating tool. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), dominated by Arab countries and controlling 70% of the world’s oil supplies, threatened the West’s supply of oil and forced the price of oil up. This was very damaging to the world’s economies and became known as the ‘oil shocks’. The price of a barrel of oil went up from US$9 to over US$36 in the matter of a month. You can well imagine the consequences of this for Western economies.

Terrorism and hijackings

Apart from the nations who were in conflict with Israel, guerrilla groups and militia, operating from Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank area, continued action against Israel. One such group was Fatah, the military wing of the now well-established PLO. Other extremist groups formed, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Black September. These groups took the battle to the world with aircraft hijackings and assassinations. This included the kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games in Germany.
The Israelis fought these groups whenever they could. An example of how serious they were was their 1976 raid on Entebbe airport in Uganda to spectacularly end the Palestinian hijacking of an Israeli aircraft.

Peace accords

On 26 March 1979, following the Camp David Accords of 1978, Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt signed an historic peace treaty. This treaty was the first agreement between an Arab state and Israel and won Begin and Sadat the Nobel Peace Prize. It saw the staged withdrawal of Israel from the Sinai Peninsula. President Jimmy Carter, who had replaced President Gerald Ford in 1976, had made peace in the Middle East a high priority. He had also encouraged President Assad of Syria to agree to peace, but did not make progress.

It was Sadat who sought peace, travelled to Israel, spoke in the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament), and met Begin at Camp David in secret talks that agreed on a process for the return of the Sinai and the eventual granting of Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza and West Bank areas.

Other Arab countries were unhappy with Sadat’s recognition of Israel, as they were still committed to the destruction of Israel. Sadat was later assassinated by members of an Egyptian extremist Islamic terror group.

Conflict in Lebanon

Opposition to Israel continued, with attacks coming from groups within Lebanon. This small country to the north of Israel became a home for Palestinian refugees. Israel responded to attacks from the PLO, with air strikes and military incursions into Lebanon itself. This exacerbated tensions between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon, and civil war broke out. Christian groups, such as the Phalangist and Tiger militias, were in conflict with the Shiite and Druze Muslim militias, who were supporting the PLO. This destructive civil war destroyed the once-beautiful city of Beirut and saw forty thousand deaths. The Syrians intervened first, trying to subdue the PLO and then the Christian militias.

In March 1978, Israel invaded southern Lebanon to establish a buffer zone, aimed at stopping PLO attacks across the border. The UN sent a six thousand-strong peacekeeping force, and the Israelis armed the Christian militias and gave them control of the territory Israel had occupied.
In June 1982, Israel again invaded Lebanon to destroy PLO strongholds. Again, Israel withdrew a year later and was replaced by an international peacekeeping force which became the target of suicide bombers. This force withdrew in 1984. Fighting continued in the civil war in Lebanon, so Syria occupied the country in 1987, trying to suppress militias. The PLO continued raids into Israel, and a new extremist group, called Hezbollah (Party of God), arose.

In October of 1989, the Ta’if Agreement for National Reconciliation was negotiated that was the basis for the end of the civil war. Hezbollah and the PLO were still active in south Lebanon.

Israel finally withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.

The Intifada

Although Israel’s conflicts with neighbouring states has declined in recent years, conflict with various Islamic groups has not diminished. A new development occurred in 1987 with the Intifada. This was a spontaneous uprising of young people on the West Bank, with demonstrations, rioting and stone throwing. It was a response to the continuing Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas organised direct action. The Israeli army responded with an iron-fist policy, using live ammunition against demonstrators. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir ignored international condemnation of these actions.

More peace plans

In February 1988, US Secretary of State George Schultz put forward a peace plan which was supported by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, but rejected by Shamir. The way forward came with a change of attitude in the PLO. Diplomatic activity convinced the PLO that the only way forward would be to recognise Israel’s right to exist. This occurred in December 1988 and paved the way for the US to negotiate with the PLO.

The Gulf War of 1990–91 held back and then kick-started the peace process again. Saddam Hussein tried to incited Israel into joining the war by launching Scud missile attacks on Israeli cities. The US supplied Patriot ant-missile missiles to Israel and encouraged them not to retaliate, for fear of dividing the international coalition against Iraq. The PLO supported Saddam Hussein and Iraq in the Gulf War, but many backers of the PLO had supported the US in the Gulf War. The PLO was encouraged to talk. These talks took place in November 1991 in Madrid, Spain. Little was achieved.

In 1992, Israel’s Yitzak Rabin’s Labour Party defeated Shamir, and Rabin recognised the need for a negotiated peace. In January 1993, secret talks were held in Oslo, Norway, which lead to the Oslo Accords.

The main terms of the agreement were:
Israel’s withdrawal from the Occupied Territories
the implementation of Palestinian self-rule
Jewish settlers in Palestine remaining under Jewish jurisdiction
after two years, negotiations moving to address the future of Jerusalem and the Israeli settlements.

Extremist groups rejected the accords and the Intifada continued. The cycle of killing continued, with Hamas orchestrating bombings, kidnappings and assassinations, while Rabin, Arafat and Peres received the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Palestinian National Authority was established in 1993 to administer the West Bank and Gaza, but it struggled to control extremist groups like Hamas. On the other side, in 1995, Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist.

In the aftermath of Rabin’s assassination and continued bombing campaigns by Hamas, Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party was elected in 1996, promising security and a tougher line with the Palestinians. His right-wing coalition included extreme orthodox groups who opposed the peace process. He expanded the Jewish settlement program and refused to talk to Arafat. Two advances were the Hebron Agreement and Wye River Agreement. In 1997, Israel agreed to withdraw from 80% of Hebron, and in 1988, the Wye River Agreement saw a further withdrawal from another 13% of the West Bank. In fact, there had been little progress.

In July 1991, Netanyahu was defeated by Ehud Barak, leading a left-centre coalition. Barak met Arafat at Camp David in July 2000, but little was achieved, Jerusalem being the stumbling block.

The Second Intifada

In September 2000, the right-wing opposition leader, Ariel Sharon, led a delegation of his party to the Temple on the Mount, a Jewish shrine which is also claimed by Muslims as Haram al Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary. This provocative visit triggered the second Intifada, with demonstrating crowds, bombings and a ruthless Israeli army response.

In the closing months of 2000, US President Bill Clinton and Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, attempted to resume the peace process. This time it failed over the issue of Jerusalem, and then the Clinton presidency ended.

In June 2003, President Bush, after largely ignoring the Palestinian problem, presented the ‘road map’ for peace, designed to bring peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Supported by the US, the UN, the EU and Russia, and based on benchmarks and performance indicators, it was a three-phase plan aiming to bring about peace by 2005.

Essentially the ‘road map’ stated that a solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict could only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism. It argued that in order for a democratic Palestinian state to be established, the Palestinian people need a leadership which can act decisively against terror and which is willing and able to build a practising democracy, and that Israel has to be ready to do what is necessary to assist this process.
In Phase 1 the Palestinians were to renounce and stop all terror attacks, draft a revised constitution for a Palestinian parliament and re-establish an effective, restructured security force. Free and fair elections would then follow. The Israelis, for their part, would withdraw from any settlements occupied since September 2000, dismantle any that were set up after March 2001, and freeze any new settlements. Both sides would restore the status quo that existed up until that time. Israel would also provide humanitarian assistance and allow freedom of movement.

Phase 2 would start after the Palestinian elections were held and would see the establishment of a permanent Palestinian state, albeit with provisional borders, with a sovereign government based on the new constitution. It might even include UN membership for the new state.

Phase 3 was to be a stabilising phase for consolidating and stabilising Palestinian institutions. This process was to be monitored by the US, Russia, the European Community and the UN, and was to lead to a permanent status solution for Palestine in 2005. The final agreement would address the issues of refugees, the status of Jerusalem, and a commitment to establish a lasting peace between Israel and its other Arab neighbours. All of this was to be based on measurable progress on key issues (for example, the ability of the Palestinian authorities to rein in terror squads).

However, towards the end of 2006, the Intifada showed no signs of abating, with the number of casualties on both sides continued to rise. The Israelis continued to retaliate to the Palestinians’ suicide bombing attacks. Israeli forces have assassinated Hamas leaders and flattened the houses of suicide bomber families with tanks and bulldozers. As well, Israel pushed on with building a security fence and wall to separate Israel from the West Bank-occupied territories which appear to annex territories with new Jewish settlements.

For the Palestinians these developments make for more roadblocks and more curfews that directly affect their chances of earning a living. Before the Intifada some 135,000 Palestinians worked in Israel and now there are virtually none. Exports have dried up from the Palestinian areas, unemployment has skyrocketed and wages have been cut in half. What it means is that there is a growing unemployed young underclass who have nothing to do but watch Arabic TV and grow resentful. The young flock to the extremist groups like Hamas rather than the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas was seen as doing something, striking back, ideologically pure while the PA was seen as hopelessly compromised, corrupt and run by the ineffectual Arafat. The Israelis also had little sympathy for Arafat after he refused Barak’s offer in 2000 of 90% of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as the basis for a new Palestinian State..

Life has continued to be uncomfortable for Israelis as well. Israel has been at war since 1948, the economy must sacrifice 10% of GDP to Defence spending and everyone must serve in the armed forces for 2 to 3 years. Suicide bombings have also taken their toll on morale. In recent times missile attacks from Lebanon and Gaza have become more sophisticated and the greater range. One bomber may kill a small number of people but psychologically may seriously affect many more. The constant presence of troops on the ground, helicopter gun ships in the air overhead and tanks on street corners must also take their toll on the nerves.

Meanwhile leadership instability on the part of both sides has made any progress towards a more peaceful state of affairs even harder. Both sides revert to time honoured method of tit for tat strikes. Palestinian car bombs or suicide bombers are quickly followed by an Israeli air strike on suspected Hamas strongholds and/or leaders.

Sharon before his stroke late in 2005, decided on unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.
He also forced evacuate Israeli settlers out of the highly contentious Gaza Strip causing trouble at home with the extreme right of Israeli politics. Sharon wanted to reduce the number of troops needed on the ground in the Gaza Strip as well as scoring some credit in the peace stakes but many in Israel see it as a sell out to extremists and terrorists.

Sharon’s strategy changed in that he had come to believe a military solution was unlikely to succeed and a political solution seems even further away, as it is difficult to know who to negotiate with Arafat dead, Arafat’s death
late in 2004 had ushered in a new era in the conflict but with the fractured nature of Palestinian opposition a lasting solution in this conflict that has transcended the cold war seemed even further away. Even the re-elected President Bush of the US mading reconciliation the number one priority of his second and last term in office has not made a difference.

In 2006, Olmet, Sharon’s successor has continued the policy refusing to negotiate with Hamas. Hamas had won the Palestinian elections in January 2006 and as a declared terrorist organisation attracted sanctions and hostility from Israel and the US.

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The Israelis continued to retaliate against suicide bombing attacks. The army and air force assassinated Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) leaders and flattened with tanks and bulldozers the houses of suicide bomber families. As well, Israel pushed on with building a security fence and wall to separate Israel from the West Bank-occupied territories that appeared to annex territories with new Jewish settlements.

In July, the Israeli’s invaded southern Lebanon in retaliation for the kidnapping of 2 Israeli solders and the killing of others.
They also returned to Gaza in retaliation for missile attacks that have become increasingly sophisticated.

The second Intifada that began in September 2000 has shown no sign of abating. Explaining this conflict is not a simple matter. It involves a number of factors that ebb and flow where chances for peace appear and rapidly disappear as yet another third party destroys the options with a bomb attack, or one of the two main protagonists carry out actions that prevent progress and, in fact, damage it badly. There are different explanations of the causes, and there are arguments about the future prospects of peace, as indeed there is significant debate about the morality of the tactics of both the PLO and the Israelis.

Late in 2006, tensions between Hamas who control the Palestinian Authority government, and the Fatah faction of the PLO, whose leader is the President Abbas, threaten civil war in the West Bank and Gaza.
The future is very uncertain indeed, and the conflict continues to inspire acts of terrorism.


Key knowledge
This knowledge includes
· the causes and nature of armed conflicts in the post Cold War period, including global terrorism;
· the definition of terrorism and terrorist and state and non state terror;
· views of the causes and effects of international terrorism and terrorists;
· the extent of and limitations on the power of the United States as a superpower in relation to other
sources of power;
· the success or failure of state/s or group/s involved in a specific conflict in the post cold war period, including global terrorism.
Key skills
These skills include the ability to
· analyse key points of conflict in the post Cold War world;
· use and explain key concepts in understanding international relations such as `terror', `terrorism', `international law', `superpower', 'neo-imperialism';
· evaluate the extent of success for the State/s or group/s involved in a specific post cold war conflict;
· synthesise evidence to draw conclusions about the nature of conflict in the post Cold War world.

(International Politics, VCE Study Design 2005-1008, VCAA, 2005)