The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is the ongoing struggle between Israelisand Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century. The origins to the conflict can be traced back to Jewish immigration, and sectarian conflict in Mandatory Palestine between Jews and Arabs. It has been referred to as the world’s “most intractable conflict”, with the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip reaching 52 years.
Despite a long-term peace process
Despite a long-term peace process and the general reconciliation of Israel with Egypt and Jordan, Israelis and Palestinians have failed to reach a final peace agreement. The key issues are: mutual recognition, borders, security, water rights, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, Palestinian freedom of movement, and Palestinian right of return. The violence of the conflict, in a region rich in sites of historic, cultural and religious interest worldwide, has been the object of numerous international conferences dealing with historic rights, security issues and human rights, and has been a factor hampering tourism in and general access to areas that are hotly contested.
Many attempts have been made to broker a two-state solution, involving the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel (after Israel’s establishment in 1948). In 2007, the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a number of polls, preferred the two-state solution over any other solution as a means of resolving the conflict.
Majority of Jews see the Palestinians’ demand for an independent state
Moreover, a majority of Jews see the Palestinians’ demand for an independent state as just, and thinks Israel can agree to the establishment of such a state. The majority of Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have expressed a preference for a two-state solution. Mutual distrust and significant disagreements are deep over basic issues, as is the reciprocal scepticism about the other side’s commitment to upholding obligations in an eventual agreement.
Within Israeli and Palestinian society, the conflict generates a wide variety of views and opinions. This highlights the deep divisions which exist not only between Israelis and Palestinians, but also within each society. A hallmark of the conflict has been the level of violence witnessed for virtually its entire duration. Fighting has been conducted by regular armies, paramilitary groups, terror cells, and individuals. Casualtieshave not been restricted to the military, with a large number of fatalities in civilian population on both sides. There are prominent international actors involved in the conflict.
The two parties engaged in direct negotiation
The two parties engaged in direct negotiation are the Israeli government, currently led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), currently headed by Mahmoud Abbas. The official negotiations are mediated by an international contingent known as the Quartet on the Middle East(the Quartet) represented by a special envoy, that consists of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations.
The Arab League is another important actor, which has proposed an alternative peace plan. Egypt, a founding member of the Arab League, has historically been a key participant. Jordan, having relinquished its claim to the West Bank in 1988 and holding a special role in the Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem, has also been a key participant.
Palestinian side has been fractured by conflict between the two major factions
Since 2006, the Palestinian side has been fractured by conflict between the two major factions: Fatah, the traditionally dominant party, and its later electoral challenger, Hamas. After Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006, the Quartet conditioned future foreign assistance to the Palestinian National Authority (PA) on the future government’s commitment to non-violence, recognition of the State of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements.
Hamas rejected these demands, which resulted in the Quartet’s suspension of its foreign assistance program, and the imposition of economic sanctions by the Israelis. A year later, following Hamas’s seizure of power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, the territory officially recognized as the PA was split between Fatah in the West Bank, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The division of governance between the parties had effectively resulted in the collapse of bipartisan governance of the PA. However, in 2014, a Palestinian Unity Government, composed of both Fatah and Hamas, was formed. The latest round of peace negotiations began in July 2013 and was suspended in 2014.