By Josef Singson and Jake Cureg
The ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians, which began in the mid-20th century, is known as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The conflict has been so wide-ranging that it has formed a part of the broader Arab-Israeli conflict. Though there has been peace between Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, the original conflict hasn’t quelled. Many heated issues include mutual recognition, control of Jerusalem, security, and the Palestinian freedom of movement. Access to certain war-torn areas and contested regions has hampered tourism and are reportedly sites of many human rights violations.
There have been many attempts to organize peace treaties between the two states. One of these has been the attempt to create an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. This was preferred in the polls by Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but a mutual agreement with the two countries cannot seem to be formed because of contentious differences in military and political views. Because of this, violence has escalated during the duration of the conflict since armies, paramilitary groups, terror cells, and other individual rogue agents became involved.
The parties involved in negotiation are the Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headed by Mahmoud Abbas. All negotiations are mediated by the Quartet on the Middle East represented by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
Since 2006, Palestine has been subdivided by a conflict between two major factions: Fatah, the traditionally dominant party, and their challenger, Hamas. Hamas’ electoral victory in 2006 was not recognized by the mediating factions and their funding was suspended. A year after the elections, Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip. The territory formerly recognized as the State of Palestine was and still is split between political factions Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The dichotomy has caused much economic and international backlash including the prevalence of violence in the region as well as resilience against all forms of international help and relief operations efforts.
For decades the two parties have withheld aid from one another, violently shelled each other, and come at each other in armed skirmishes. It was always an issue of territory, with US-backed Israel pushing into Palestinian embankments steadily to gain land that both claim is theirs. All this because of the West’s promise to the exiled Jews during the Second World War. Now, Hamas has the reputation of a terrorist group and Israel hangs the threat of nuclear weapons from the US over Palestine. Almost routinely, the world watches out for the aggressor in this bout of the conflict.
New aged dilemmas
Conflict intensified last July 17 with rocket attacks from Gaza. This led to a ground invasion and retaliation by the Israel Defense Forces. The situation stems from the breaking down of the latest round of peace talks last April. Israel halted the talks following news of a new unity agreement between Palestinian leadership and Hamas and the deadline for that round of peace talks passed without any resolution.
Fast forward to June 12, with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Hamas leaders praised the kidnapping and murder of the three Israelis, but did not take credit for the incident. The Israeli government then launched Operation Brother’s Keeper in search of the bodies. The operation also resulted in the killing of several Palestinian militants by the Israeli military, as well as hundreds of arrests. The bodies of the teenagers were eventually recovered a few days later and a burial was held in early July. Just a day after the burial was held, the burned body of a missing Palestinian teenager was found in a forest near Jerusalem.
The incidents increased tension between Israel and Palestine, causing riots in eastern Jerusalem and multiple rocket attacks launched from Gaza toward Israel. In retaliation, on July 8, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, bombing over fifty targets, among them were concealed rocket launchers, launching infrastructures, a weapon storage facility, training bases and terror tunnels shafts, in a statement from the IDF. Over 800 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, who in turn had launched over 1,300 attacks over the following days. On July 15, the Egyptian government presented a ceasefire proposal, which Israel promptly approved. Hamas however rejected the proposal and the next day came up with a proposal of their own, which aimed to end the Gaza blockade. Neither side was able to come to an agreement, and fighting continued, with Israel now launching ground assaults to supplement its airstrikes.
Fighting continued until August 1, when both sides agreed to an unconditional 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire and another attempt at peace talks. As of the time of writing however, it has been reported that Israel is set to resume offensive operations, citing that Hamas broke the truce after hearing of reports that an Israeli soldier had been captured hours into the truce. Future talks for long-term peace are not likely at the moment.
Backlash: Global Implications
While the actual fighting may be confined to the Gaza strip, the effects of the conflict reach far and wide. Of primary concern are the humanitarian issues plaguing civilians in the warzone. Aside from the civilian casualties and collateral damage due to the heavy shelling and the ground attacks, the Israeli blockades have brought forth many other issues, chief among which is the denial of humanitarian aid missions. With large amounts of infrastructure in Gaza damaged, a steady supply of food and water is hard to come by. The people have become reliant on humanitarian missions from the UN to provide food, water, and medical help. Unfortunately, these missions are heavily restricted or sometimes outright denied by the Israeli government, claiming that there is no humanitarian crisis present, much to the chagrin of the UN. Recently however, momentary ceasefire agreements have been proposed in order to allow safe passage for humanitarian missions, but even these stand on rocky ground, as Hamas continues to launch attacks during the ceasefire, or so Israel claims.
The recent spike in fighting has further strained the long-standing tension between Israel and Palestine. Aside from the usual political implications that come with a conflict, Palestinians and Israelis around the world are also affected, often with preferential treatment for one or the other depending on who they ally with. People of other nationalities have joined the fray as well, with some blatantly taking sides and staging protests to beg for their government’s support of one side. Opinions are in general remain very divided over the issue and it looks like it will be that way for some time.