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Israel-Palestine Conflict The War that Remade Middle East

Israel-Palestine Conflict The War that Remade Middle East

19-05-2024
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10 mins Read
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The Israel-Palestine conflict is a protracted dispute over land, identity, and sovereignty in the Middle East. It finds its roots in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as Jewish immigration to Palestine increased amidst the backdrop of Ottoman decline and British colonial rule.Israelis view the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 as a fulfilment of national self-determination and a refuge for Jews worldwide, while Palestinians see it as the Nakba (catastrophe), marking their displacement and dispossession. The Arab-Israeli War of 1948, the Six-Day War of 1967, and the Yom Kippur War of 1973, as well as uprisings like the First and Second Intifadas, have all played a significant role in the conflict. Despite numerous peace initiatives, including the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, a lasting resolution remains elusive.

The recent escalation erupted following tensions in East Jerusalem, including clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police over evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and restrictions on access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during Ramadan. The conflict escalated rapidly, with Hamas, the fighter group governing Gaza, firing rockets into Israel, and Israel responding with airstrikes targeting Hamas infrastructure. Ground operations ensued, leading to a significant loss of life and destruction on both sides.

The conflict has resulted in a severe humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of Palestinians killed, including many civilians, and thousands injured. Israeli civilians have also faced casualties and trauma from rocket attacks. The Israeli army killed a total of 30,800 Palestinians from October 7, 2023, to March 7, 2024. Additionally, there has been widespread displacement, with thousands of Palestinians seeking shelter in UN-run schools. The recent escalation garnered widespread condemnation and calls for de-escalation from the international community, including the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and regional actors. Efforts to broker a ceasefire have been underway, but challenges remain in achieving a sustainable resolution.

The ongoing conflict has reshaped the dynamics of the Middle East in profound ways. Despite its localized nature, the Israel-Palestine conflict reverberates throughout the Middle East, influencing regional politics, alliances, and security dynamics. The recent escalation has underscored the deep-rooted tensions and complexities inherent in the conflict, exposing fault lines within and between states and communities in the region. Understanding the conflict’s impact requires a broader examination of regional alliances, geopolitical shifts, and the interconnectedness of issues such as extremism, terrorism, and state fragility. As such, addressing the Israel-Palestine conflict is crucial for fostering stability and peace in the Middle East.

Escalation and Impact

The recent escalation was sparked by simmering tensions in East Jerusalem, particularly in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where Palestinian families faced eviction from their homes due to legal disputes with Jewish settler organizations. Furthermore, clashes between Palestinian Muslims and Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during Ramadan exacerbated tensions. Restrictions on access to the holy site and the use of force by Israeli authorities fueled anger and protests. Thus, the conflict has inflicted a heavy toll on Palestinian civilians, with hundreds killed and thousands injured in Israeli airstrikes and ground operations. Many of the casualties include women and children, as well as elderly individuals. The conflict has also had an impact on Israeli civilians, who have suffered losses and trauma as a result of indiscriminate rocket attacks launched from Gaza by Hamas and other militant groups.

This recent conflict creates severe economic hardship in the Gaza Strip, which is already grappling with severe economic hardship and infrastructure deficiencies due to over a decade of blockade. The destruction of residential buildings, businesses, and vital infrastructure exacerbates the enclave’s dire humanitarian situation. Additionally, the conflict has disrupted daily life for civilians on both sides, with businesses shuttered, schools closed, and essential services strained. The psychological toll of living under constant threat and the loss of life and property are immeasurable.

The escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza has heightened tensions across the region, with repercussions felt in neighboring countries. Protests and clashes erupted in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Palestinian communities in Israel, further exacerbating the crisis. Moreover, the conflict has implications for regional stability and security, with potential ripple effects on ongoing conflicts, alliances, and diplomatic relations. The involvement of non-state actors and regional powers adds complexity to efforts to de-escalate and resolve the crisis.

Shifts in Regional Dynamics

Arab-Israeli normalizationagreements:

The Arab-Israeli normalization agreements, particularly the Abraham Accords signed in 2020, have indeed marked a notable departure in the dynamics of Arab-Israeli relations. These agreements, involving Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, represent a significant shift in the region’s geopolitical landscape.

* Firstly, the normalization agreements signify a departure from the long-standing Arab consensus on the Palestinian issue. Traditionally, Arab states have maintained a unified stance in support of the Palestinian cause, including the demand for an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. However, the Abrahamic Accords challenge this solidarity by establishing formal diplomatic ties between Israel and Arab states without addressing the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This shift has raised concerns among Palestinians about the potential marginalization of their aspirations for statehood and self-determination.

* Secondly, the normalization agreements reflect a pragmatic approach by participating Arab states towards Israel. Shared security concerns, economic interests, and a desire to counter Iranian influence in the region are a few of the factors that motivate this pragmatism. For Gulf states like the UAE and Bahrain, the agreements offer opportunities for enhanced security cooperation with Israel, particularly in the face of common threats such as Iran’s regional ambitions and non-state actors like Hezbollah and Hamas. Additionally, economic incentives, including trade and investment opportunities, have played a significant role in motivating Arab states to normalize relations with Israel.

Moreover, the normalization agreements have broader implications for regional stability and security. By fostering closer ties between Israel and Arab states, the agreements have the potential to contribute to a more stable and integrated Middle East. Increased cooperation in areas such as security, technology, and energy could promote mutual prosperity and help address common challenges facing the region.

However, it’s essential to recognize that the normalization process is complex and faces challenges. While some Arab states have embraced the agreements, others remain hesitant due to domestic political considerations and public opinion. Additionally, the normalization of relations with Israel does not necessarily equate to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which remains a central issue in the region’s dynamics.

Role of non-state actors and proxy warfare:

Non-state actors, particularly groups like Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, indeed wield significant influence in the Israel-Palestine conflict. These groups operate outside the traditional structures of state governance but possess considerable military capabilities and political sway, often shaping the course of the conflict.

Hamas, the militant organization governing the Gaza Strip, has been a key player in the conflict, employing tactics such as rocket attacks, tunnelling, and guerrilla warfare against Israel. These actions challenge Israel’s conventional military superiority and have resulted in significant casualties and damage on both sides. Hamas’s control of Gaza and its ability to mobilize popular support among Palestinians give it leverage in negotiations and conflict dynamics.

Similarly, Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, has emerged as a formidable force in the region. With its extensive arsenal of rockets and missiles, as well as its experience in asymmetric warfare, Hezbollah poses a significant threat to Israel’s security. The group’s involvement in the Israel-Lebanon border conflicts, particularly the 2006 war, underscored its military capabilities and ideological commitment to confronting Israel.

Furthermore, the Israel-Palestine conflict serves as a proxy battleground for regional powers vying for influence in the Middle East. Iran, in particular, backs Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, providing financial, military, and political support to these groups. Iran sees them as allies in its broader geopolitical ambitions and its efforts to challenge Israel’s regional dominance.

On the other hand, Israel receives support from the United States and certain Gulf states, which view Iran as a destabilizing force in the region. This support includes military aid, intelligence sharing, and diplomatic backing, reinforcing Israel’s position vis-à-vis its adversaries.

The involvement of non-state actors and external powers adds layers of complexity to the Israel-Palestine conflict, turning it into a multi-dimensional struggle with regional ramifications. The actions of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, influenced by their own agendas and external backers, can escalate tensions and complicate efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution.

Understanding the role of non-state actors and proxy warfare is crucial for comprehending the dynamics of the Israel-Palestine conflict and devising effective strategies for conflict resolution. Addressing the root causes of extremism, reducing external support for militant groups, and promoting dialogue and reconciliation among all stakeholders are essential steps towards achieving lasting peace in the region.

Impact on regional alliances and geopolitical balances:

The impact of the Israel-Palestine conflict on regional alliances and geopolitical balances cannot be overstated. The recent normalization agreements between Israel and some Arab states, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, have indeed signaled a significant shift in the traditional alliances of the Middle East.These normalization agreements represent a departure from historical enmities and a recognition of shared interests, particularly concerns over Iran’s regional influence and the desire for economic cooperation. By establishing formal diplomatic ties with Israel, these Arab states have signaled a willingness to priorities pragmatic interests over longstanding ideological opposition to Israel’s existence. This has led to discreet cooperation between Israel and these Arab states in areas such as security, technology, and intelligence sharing, reshaping the regional landscape.

Moreover, the convergence of interests between Israel and some Arab states has blurred the lines between adversaries and allies in the Middle East. Traditionally, the region has been divided along sectarian and geopolitical lines, with Sunni-majority states led by Saudi Arabia forming one bloc and Shia-majority Iran leading another. However, the normalization agreements have challenged these divisions and opened the door for the potential realignment of alliances.The Israel-Palestine conflict also intersects with broader geopolitical dynamics in the Middle East, including the rivalry between Iran and its rivals, particularly the Saudi-led bloc. Iran has long provided support to militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, viewing them as proxies in its regional struggle for influence. The normalization agreements and growing cooperation between Israel and some Arab states have raised concerns for Iran, which perceives these developments as a threat to its regional ambitions.

Furthermore, the involvement of external powers such as Russia and Turkey adds another layer of complexity to the Israel-Palestine conflict and its regional implications. Both countries have sought to expand their influence in the Middle East, often by leveraging their relationships with various actors involved in the conflict. Russia, for instance, has provided diplomatic support to Syria and has engaged with Hamas, while Turkey has expressed solidarity with the Palestinian cause and has supported Hamas politically.

The Israel-Palestine conflict has been a defining issue in the Middle East for over a century, shaping the region’s politics, alliances, and security dynamics. It remains one of the most intractable and enduring conflicts, with deep historical roots and complex geopolitical implications. The conflict’s impact extends beyond the borders of Israel and Palestine, influencing regional stability, alliances, and diplomatic relations. Understanding its significance is essential for addressing broader challenges and fostering peace and prosperity in the Middle East.

The recent escalation of violence underscores the urgent need for sustained diplomatic efforts and a renewed commitment to peace. Achieving a just and lasting resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict requires dialogue, negotiation, and compromise from all parties involved. The international community, including key stakeholders such as the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and regional actors, must redouble their efforts to facilitate peace talks and support confidence-building measures. Diplomatic initiatives should priorities addressing the underlying grievances of both Israelis and Palestinians, including issues related to land, security, refugees, and Jerusalem. Moreover, efforts to promote reconciliation, mutual understanding, and coexistence are essential for building a sustainable peace.

The Israel-Palestine conflict has taught valuable lessons about the complexities of achieving peace in a deeply divided and conflict-prone region. It has highlighted the importance of addressing root causes, promoting dialogue and understanding, and fostering inclusive and sustainable solutions. Moving forward, regional stability and prosperity depend on addressing the underlying drivers of conflict, including socio-economic disparities, political grievances, and security concerns. Measures to address larger regional challenges like extremism, terrorism, and state fragility must go hand in hand with efforts to promote peace and reconciliation. By learning from past mistakes and embracing a shared vision of peace and coexistence, the Middle East can overcome its divisions and build a brighter future for all its peoples.


Reference:

1. Shlaim, A. (2019). 13. The Rise and Fall of the Oslo Peace Process. In International Relations of the Middle East (pp. 298–316), Oxford University Press, https://doi.org/10.1093/hepl/9780198809425.003.0013
2. Webman, E. (2009). The Evolution of a Founding Myth: The Nakba and Its Fluctuating Meaning. In Palestinian Collective Memory and National Identity (pp. 27–45). Palgrave Macmillan US. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230621633_2
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Md Obaidullah
The author of this article is lecturer at the Department of Development Studies, Daffodil International University, Dhaka
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