The Israel-Palestine conflict is one of the hottest areas in international relations, surfacing in top world news almost every day. The two parties to the conflict, Israel, and Palestine, have not been able to resolve their controversy for years. In fact, the conflict shows no sign of abating and seems to escalate even further. This paper will consider the background of the Israel-Palestine conflict and try to evaluate it from a theoretical perspective.
The creation of the state of Israel occurred as a result of the Zionist movement that originated in the 1880s that led to intensive Jewish immigration to the places where Jews formerly lived (Pappe, 1999, p. 56). Although this movement gave grounds to the opposition of the Palestinian Arabs that feared marginalization, World War II, and the Holocaust sealed the fate of the locality, urging the adoption of the 1947 UN Partition Plan envisaging the creation of the Jewish state.
However, the plan was rejected by Arabs, and the proclamation of Israel as an independent state on May 14, 1948, led to the immediate attack of Arabs (Pappe, 1999, p. 199). The war that ended in 1949 created the problems Israel is dealing with today: the influx of Jewish population from other Arab lands and stream of Palestinian refugees, the descendants of which still live in refugee camps without citizenship of any nation.
Later years saw consolidation of the Palestinian movement under the auspices of the Palestinian Liberation Organization headed by the now deceased Yasser Arafat, the Six-Day War in 1967 that allowed Israel to capture the West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai, the 1982 Lebanon War, and the First Intifada in 1987 that led to “the strengthening of the ultra-orthodox parties” in Israel (Horowitz, 1989, p.viii). Palestinians were granted a temporary government called the Palestinian National Authority created in 1994 under the Oslo Accords.
Currently, the formation of the permanent structure of the Palestinian state is an issue for debate.
Areas of the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem are proposed as part of the Palestinian State. However, except the Gaza Strip recently unilaterally released by Israel, these areas remain occupied by Israeli troops. The wall called the Israeli West Bank Barrier is being built by Israel to protect the nation from security threats coming from the Palestinian territory. This wall evokes indignation of Palestinian Arabs seeing it as a way to further marginalize them. Terrorist attacks in Israel organized by Arab groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others trigger protests in Israel, whereas the military response of Israeli authorities that often lead to civilian deaths cause the same reaction in Palestine. Numerous peace proposals have been put forward including the famous Road Map; however, to this date, many of them were stalled by the new advent of violence.
Resolution of the Conflict
Israel – Palestine conflict can hardly have an easy solution. It seems that one of the ways to break with Arab extremism and terrorism is to initiate changes that would empower Arabic communities in the Middle East and beyond and lead to lasting changes in the socioeconomic status of Palestinian Arabs. The rise in the economic condition of the people will create additional opportunities for them and reduce incentives to join terrorist groups, opening new possibilities. Poverty and lack of opportunities breed crime even in developed nations like the United States; so it is no wonder that the effect is similar on Palestinian territories where people have a ready-made target for violence and the alleged culprit of all their misfortunes – Israel.
In addition to economic empowerment, political strengthening of Arab populations is a crucial factor of success. Over decades, Arabs lived without adequate political structures, and leadership often emerged arbitrarily and haphazardly. The democratization of the Middle East has become a frequent topic in the media which does not make it any less important than before. The creation of an entirely democratic state that can embrace the views of the whole population corresponds not only to the interests of Arabs; it is consistent with the interest of other nations that strive for an efficient and peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Wittes (2004) in the Policy Review claims that
…idealism and realism have converged behind the same policy for the United States in the Middle East: promote a regional transformation toward democratic development, liberal values, and open markets that will improve individual opportunities and standards of living; enable the emergence of a more moderate political discourse; promote rational, efficient, and accountable governance; and integrate the region into the broader global network of Westernized, developing countries.
This strategy is consistent with realism because it permits the realization of interests of sovereign states that strive to gain more power in interactions with each other. The ongoing military conflict weakens all parties involved. It blockades economic progress in Palestinian territories, simultaneously suppressing peaceful development in Israel and forcing the nation to allocate a significant portion of its budget revenue to security. Even the distant parties like the United States suffer negative consequences that result in the security threat from Arab terrorism, the danger that could drop to a lower level if disengagement from Iraq and resolution of the Middle Eastern conflict became a reality. Thus, one deals here with a rare case where idealism and realism indeed converge to allow a solution that will satisfy both perspectives, securing rise in power for realists and promoting democratic values dear to idealists.
The problem always threatened democratization in the Arab world that it may legitimize Islamic governments. The recent victory of Hamas in the Palestinian election was taken as an additional proof of this possibility. It seems, however, that this is a moment of truth for any loyal supporter of democracy. It is essential to winning the support of the people for more democratically-oriented parties through effective campaigning and propaganda of democratic values rather than the imposition of rule from without and curtailing democratic processes. Walking the talk is tough in international politics, but without it, initiatives in the Middle East are doomed to failure.
In this vein, it is crucial to garner enough cooperation on both sides to complete the peace process. Within both states, there are large masses of people tired of the prolonged battle. Uniting them is the core assignment of the peace process. In this context, unilateral solutions like Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territories are hardly practical. The same is true of “the Arab nationalist idea of the dismantling of Israel as a proposed method for the final settling of the dispute” (Spyer, 2005, p. 12).
This view will not lead to a productive debate since it will mean the end to Israeli sovereignty. It is vital that both parties reject demands that the other side is bound to find impossible to agree with.
It is worth noting that a measure of idealism is inescapable for the effective resolution of the conflict. The pure realist treatment of the situation is to view it as “condition of Palestine as simply a matter of competing nationalisms, as a conflict over territory” (Yacoubi, 2005, p. 193). In this case, international organizations acting as mediators of the conflict can hardly solve it, being squeezed between unwavering demands as two nations compete over the same resource. It should be noted that to this point the interference of neutral mediators has caused a little result. One of the reasons is that international intermediaries tend to side with one party or another and thus make themselves part of the power struggle between the two entities. As a result, their effectiveness can only be limited.
The resolution of Israel-Palestine conflict appears very uncertain at this point. Until both nations strengthen their democratic institutions and increase propaganda of the peaceful resolution, no efforts from without will result in a positive outcome. The realist treatment of the conflict as a pure struggle for power allows for little hope that it will eventually be resolved. Instead, a combination of realism and idealism can result in a practical solution to the problem.
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