The Palestinian-Israel conflict seems to be getting more entrenched every year with little hope of a conciliatory resolution. The present wave of unrest in the Arab Israel started on 30 March 18 and more than 151 Palestinian lives have been lost and over 12,000 have been injured. It all started with students staging peaceful protests after weekly prayers for the right to visit their native places in Israel; and they aimed to peak the protests on 70 anniversary of huge number of Palestinian being made homeless.
The catalyst to already inflammatory situation was the shifting of the US embassy to Jerusalem a day prior to the Al Naqba day falling on 15 May, 2018. A day before the 70th anniversary of birth of Israel, the Israeli Defence Forces shot dead 62 Palistianian protesters and injured over 2,000. The Israelis claim that most of the killed were Hamas terrorists whereas Hamas denies the claim and maintains they were innocent civilians who were protesting against the ongoing blockade of Gaza since 2007.
On 15 May, 1948, Israel declared its independence from British mandate and the next day all its neighbours attacked the newly born state. The Arabs named the incidence as Al Nakba, meaning The Catastrophe when 750,000 Palestinians became refugees and went to the neighbouring countries to include Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. After 70 years, this strength of refugees has grown to five million and Israel is unwilling to accept these Palestinians into their country as a result of any future peace talks. Palestinian problem is root cause of all unrest in the Middle East and unless this issue is resolved peace cannot return to the region.
As per the two nation theory of United Nations of 1947 after the British expressed their desire to finish the mandate, Gaza and West Bank consisting of about half the land mass was to go to the Palestinian state and rest of the areas to the newly created Jewish state named Israel. After 1948 war, Gaza came under Egyptian control whereas West Bank went to Jordan. Some of the Palestinian refugees who had gone to Jordan were assimilated into the Jordanian state while those in West Bank remained in their homes under the Jordanian rule. After 1967 War, both the Palestinian pockets were captured by Israel and Jewish settlements started coming up in Gaza and West Bank.
Yasser Arafat raised Fatah, a militant organisation in 1959 in exile in Egypt. In 1964 Arab League helped raising of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Yassir Arafat became the undisputed leader in 1969 by merging Fatah into PLO. Coinciding with the beginning of First Intifida in December 1987, Sheikh Yassin raised Hamas in Gaza which soon became a militant organisation and started targeting Israeli civilians as well as soldiers. Both Fatah and Hamas kept fighting under Yassir Arafat for the rights of the Palestinians till the Oslo Accord of 1993 and end of Intifida.
Ariel Sharon, the then PM of Israel in 2005 realised after the second Intifida that peace would keep eluding Israel unless they returned some captured areas to Palestinians. Being a strong leader he ordered all 8500 Jewish settlers in Gaza to vacate the settlements and they were allotted land in neighbouring areas in Israel to build houses. Incidentally, no citizen in Israel owns any land which belongs to the state. Land is allotted on lease to build houses. Hamas which was becoming more vocal and aggressive challenges Palestinian Authority in Gaza and came to power in 2006 by ousting Fatah from Gaza. Since 2007, Israel has had a blockade of Gaza wherein free movement into and from Israel for jobs or medical treatment is severely restricted.
There have been two rounds of wars between Hamas in Gaza and Israel in 2006 and 2014 wherein Hamas has resorted to missile attacks and Israel to air attacks. Timing of 2014 Israeli attacks is considered to be very significant by the international community for two reasons. Firstly, Hamas had shown an inclination to burry its differences with Fateh and come under the umbrella of a united Palestinians Authority operating from the West Bank. The second was that Israel had developed Iron Dome System with collaboration with USA for 4.2 billion dollars wherein over 98 percent of missiles fired from Gaza are intercepted and destroyed by automatic firing of Patriot missiles within seconds.
The situation is still precarious and Israel also has the naval blockade in place wherein no food items, medicines, building material or weapons can come from the sea. Till the year 2000, the beginning of Second Intifida, around 26,000 Palestinians used to go into Israel for work on daily basis.
Today Hamas has been discredited and is frustrated with the ongoing blockade by Israel. Palestinian Authority in West Bank is also very weak with overwhelming presence of armed Isreali Defence Forces. Their writ runs only in 14 percent areas of A Zone in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza also does not listen to them. By recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel with great fanfare when the Palestinians were getting killed in Gaza ; the USA has clearly indicated that two state theory is unattainable and Palestinians will have to stay within a Jewish state as second grade citizens. An Israeli Journalist Mark Lavie has explained Gaza as a hellhole. As per him, there is genuine suffering, poverty and hopelessness.
Today, nearly two million Palestinians are living in desperation in forty by ten kilometres Gaza Strip and are at the end of their wits. They are living in abject poverty with overall 40 percent unemployment which translates to 60 percent for the youth. There is shortage of food items, medical supplies and electricity and as per the United Nations estimates, Gaza Strip will be unliveable by 2020. The population is caught between Hamas and the Israeli Armed Forces.
Hamas is losing credibility and ground as it is helpless when it comes to alleviating sufferings of people. Israelis are playing into the hands of Hamas by killing large number of civilians. They are indirectly helping Hamas by diverting the frustration and anguish of the people with Hamas Administration. The international community feels that Israeli has resorted to disproportionate use of force. Even on last Friday of Ramazan called Al Quds, four Palestinians have been killed and over 400 have been injured. Peaceful agitation started by some students after the weekly prayers has turned into indiscriminate firing of rockets from Hamas and a lesser known militant group called Islamic Jihad. Israeli soldiers continue to fire for effect and the end of this impasse is not in sight. Egypt has tried to broker peace between the two warring sides but it does not last for more than a few hours. Palestinians also feel that Egypt’s gesture of opening the blockade from their side for the holy month of Ramzan is also a cosmetic one but will not resolve the problem.
Recently, Palestinians have scored a small moral victory by persuading Argentinian soccer team not to come for the much publicised match with Israel in Jerusalem. But peace will still keep eluding the Middle East and coming months are likely to be more violent because Israel with the help of Trump Administration has buried the two nation theory and under the right wing government of Netanyahu has reconciled to conflict management as conflict resolution seems to be a distinct possibility.