Arab-Israeli Conflict and Political Zionism

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The Arab-Israeli conflict began with the concept of Political Zionism, which advocates for Jews as a distinct nation entitled to reclaim their ancestral homeland, referred to as Israel or Palestine. This movement sought to create a Jewish state in Palestine and was seen as groundbreaking during the 19th Century.

During World War I, Jews supported the Central Powers due to their strong dislike of czarist Russia. Both sides sought Jewish support, but Germany could not endorse Zionism because it was associated with the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Palestine. However, British Prime Minister Lloyd George and Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour expressed their support for Zionism through a letter called the Balfour Declaration. This declaration ensured that Britain would govern Palestine after the war and work towards establishing a Jewish homeland there, while also protecting the rights of non-Jewish communities. After the war ended, British Forces occupied Palestine alongside Faysal’s Arab army from Iraq.

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The British established a provisional military government in Jerusalem, which eventually led to a clash between Jewish settlers and Arab residents. This conflict escalated in April 1920 when Palestinian Arabs rebelled, causing the death of Jews and property damage. As a result, it marked the beginning of the Arab nationalist revolution in Palestine. In 1922, the League of Nations granted the Palestine mandate to Britain. This mandate included fulfilling the Balfour Declaration, which aimed to promote Jewish immigration to Palestine and establish a Jewish “national home”. However, the Arab population feared that they would remain under colonial control until Jews became the majority in Palestine.

Winston Churchill issued a white paper denying preferential treatment to Jews and proposed restricting Jewish immigration in line with Palestine’s “absorptive capacity.” Another violation of the mandate was the establishment of the Emirate of Transjordan, which excluded two-thirds of Palestine from Jewish development, asserting the partition was temporary. The initial civilian governor of Palestine saw potential resolution in Jewish-Arab differences through Jewish emigration, but this hope diminished after the 1929 “Wailing Wall Incident.” The Wailing Wall (a).

The Western Wall, also known as the k.a., is a remaining structure from the second Jewish Temple. It represents the desire to rebuild the Temple and restore ancient Jewish traditions. The Wall is also part of the Temple Mount enclosure, which houses the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque. Muslims were concerned that Jewish activities near the Western Wall could lead to claims of ownership over this important site. In 1928, benches were added for seating by Jewish worshippers.

Despite the police repeatedly taking them away, the Jews persistently returned to their designated location. The Muslims interpreted this as an effort by the Jews to reinforce their ownership of the Wall and responded by constructing a highway nearby to divert the attention of worshipers. This led to numerous confrontations that eventually escalated into a minor civil conflict. Furthermore, Arab communities carried out massacres in various regions of Palestine.

The British constabulary in Britain was found to be insufficient, which led to the dispatch of a commission of inquiry. The commission later released a report that supported the Arab stance. Lord Passfield, the colonial secretary, attributed fault to the Jewish Agency and the Zionists, resulting in stricter limitations on Jewish immigration. To alleviate domestic humiliation, the British government released a letter attempting to downplay the condemnation by Passfield. Although this did not placate the Zionists, it further angered the Arabs. As a consequence of growing Arab resentment, the Arab Higher Committee in Palestine called for a nation-wide strike, resulting in the paralysis of the country for several months.

In an effort to find a peace plan acceptable to all, Britain appointed Lord Peel to lead a commission of inquiry. The commission proposed dividing Palestine, with most of the land going to Arabs and a smaller area for Jews. However, Palestinians strongly objected, fearing it would result in losing their homeland. In response, Britain made changes but eventually withdrew the offer. In 1939, a conference was held with Jewish and Arab leaders in hopes of reaching an agreement, but unfortunately consensus could not be reached.

Britain issued the White Paper, which established a ten-year deadline for Palestine to gain full independence. However, it also limited Jewish immigration until 1944, and required Arab approval thereafter. Consequently, Britain was seen as breaking its promise to assist in establishing a Jewish homeland. In retaliation, the Arab community rejected the White Paper due to its delay of their own independence and inability to stop Jewish immigration.

During the later part of World War II, Zionist terrorist groups (such as the Irgun Tzvei Le’umi and the Stern Gang) were involved in destroying buildings and British installations in Palestine. In 1947, the British approached the UN General Assembly and admitted that they could not carry out their mandate. As a result, the UN set up the Special Committee on Palestine, which suggested dividing Palestine into seven parts: three for Arabs, three for Jews, and one for both communities. However, neither Palestinians nor Arab countries supported this proposal.

The Zionists reluctantly accepted the plan, considering it a step towards establishing their own Jewish State despite their concerns. Nevertheless, Jewish paramilitary groups quickly took over unallocated territories, leading to retaliatory attacks by Arab commandos on Jewish targets. Both sides resorted to acts of terrorism, resulting in harm to innocent civilians. This sparked widespread disorder and compelled many Palestinians to flee and seek shelter in neighboring countries.

In May 1948, the Jewish Agency Executive Committee declared that the areas in Palestine under Jewish control were now part of the State of Israel and that the restrictions on Jewish immigration mentioned in the White Paper no longer applied. The Zionists invited Arab residents of Israel to join them as equal citizens in constructing a prosperous nation. Nevertheless, many Palestinians distrusted the Zionists and sought assistance from their fellow Arab neighbors. As a result, this led to a conflict between Israel and Arab nations during 1947-48.

The Arab armies were defeated by the Israeli forces, despite underestimating their determination. This defeat humiliated the Arab armies and discredited their regimes in Palestine. The UN managed to secure multiple cease-fires, but fighting resumed each time. Eventually, separate armistices were agreed upon between each Arab country and Israel after Israel expelled Arab forces from the Gaza area. The UN Conciliation Commission organized a conference for both sides to resolve their differences, but negotiations broke down before they could convene.

Israel’s desire was for a complete resolution, whereas the Arabs insisted on Israel’s retreat from the territories designated for the Jewish State in 1947. The refugees experienced the greatest hardship. Some chose to leave their homes prior to the outbreak of conflict, while others fled during the actual fighting. Israel argues that Arabs spread instructions for Palestinians to depart, enabling their armies to more easily engage Israelis; however, no evidence has been uncovered to substantiate Israel’s allegations. Conversely, Arabs contend that Jewish extremists terrorized Palestinians until May 1948, and the Israel Defense Force expelled other Arabs during later stages of the war.

The Palestinians were placed in camps close to Israel’s borders without having their own state. Arab countries faced economic difficulties in absorbing them, and those who did accept them could not assimilate them fully. The Palestinians resisted assimilation because they wished to go back home, while Israel refused to readmit all the refugees. As a result of the catastrophe in Palestine, over 500,000 Arabs were displaced, and they would support any leader who could restore their homes and dignity. The Ba’th party, advocating militant resistance against Israel, was particularly appealing to them.

Israel responded to a rise in Arab commando raids by implementing stronger military measures. Additionally, Israel showed interest in joining Britain and France’s plan to attack Egypt following the nationalization of the Suez Canal as a way of punishing the Arabs. Subsequently, Israel successfully eradicated commando bases in Gaza and breached Egypt’s blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba. However, due to pressure from the United States, Israel eventually withdrew from both the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established with the objective of reclaiming Palestinian homeland and dismantling Israel.

The PLO disrupted Israel’s national water-carrier system and conducted guerrilla operations against the country, resulting in significant casualties and property destruction. In retaliation, Israel attacked commando bases in the Jordanian West Bank. This triggered a preemptive assault on neighboring Arab nations’ airfields by Israel in June 1967, marking the beginning of the Six-Day War.

During this conflict, Israel achieved various victories including breaking the blockade at Egypt’s Gulf of Aqaba, occupying Jordan’s West Bank and Old City, and gaining control over Syria’s Golan Heights. Initially defensive in nature, Israel decided to retain these spoils of war as bargaining chips which raised concerns among Arabs about Israeli territorial expansion.

Resolution 242 was developed by the UN Security Council as a plan for all members to accept. It required Israeli forces to withdraw from recently occupied territories, while also recognizing Israel’s right to exist. However, this resolution neglected the rights and interests of the Palestinians. Despite its ambiguous nature, both parties agreed to comply with it, although they interpreted it differently. Nevertheless, international rivalry persisted as the US and the USSR clandestinely provided arms to the region.

In the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Egypt and Syria coordinated an unexpected assault on Israel. Egypt invaded the Sinai while Syrians advanced through the Golan Heights. Israel initially focused on fighting in the north, allowing Egypt to regain control of certain portions of Sinai. However, Israeli forces managed to expel most of the Egyptian forces, except for the Third Army, which remained stuck in the peninsula and faced potential annihilation.

Kissinger believed that Egypt would be more willing to engage in peace talks if they could retain some of their initial gains, which led to negotiations between Egypt and Israel. This also resulted in other Arab nations ceasing anti-Jewish activities. However, the question of the Palestinians’ place of residence remains a critical concern for achieving Middle East peace. It is crucial for Israel to be willing to relinquish its claims on Jerusalem and ensure security within a shared historic city. Globally, distrust and suspicion persist, particularly within this region.

I may not be knowledgeable in such a sensitive diplomatic situation, but even an expert cannot determine the solution for peace when both sides lack trust. However, I believe that achieving peace requires a significant amount of economic diplomacy. The Israeli government appears to be adopting a tough approach in addressing the Palestinian request for a shared capital city. The negotiations between the US and Israel are no longer yielding productive outcomes. The US must resort to some economic pressure, like withholding foreign aid, in order to convince Israel to stop constructing housing developments in disputed territories.

However, the political viability of withholding foreign aid from Israel in the presence of a strong Jewish lobby in DC is questionable. It is unlikely that political figures would risk losing support by taking such action. To achieve peace and stability in the Israeli-West Bank area, a feasible approach could be to provide equal amounts of foreign aid to both Palestinians and Israelis. This would allow Palestinians to develop the economy in the West Bank and give them hope for the future while awaiting finalization of a peace plan. Additionally, considering having a third-party military presence on the border between the West Bank and Israel may also be acceptable.

Works Cited

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Arab-Israeli Conflict and Political Zionism. (2018, Aug 21). Retrieved from

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