Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Israel Palestine developments

GS2 – History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc. – their forms and effect on the society.


  • On May 1, 2017, Hamas published a policy document approved by all the movement leaders.
  • The leaders clarified that the document was not replacing the Hamas Charter but was aimed at adapting the movement’s position to the current time.
  • The policy document is aimed at casting the movement in a pragmatic, democratic, tolerant, and non-extremist light, in order to burnish its image in the world and to present a political position that it shares with Fatah and the PLO.
  • However, it is full of internal contradictions that are irresolvable.
  • One of these is the contradiction between the political view that it sets out regarding a state in the 1967 borders as a “national, agreed-upon, and joint formula” by Hamas, Fatah and the PLO and other statements in the document setting out Hamas’s unwillingness to relinquish any part of Palestine, its demand for the refugees’ return to their homes, and its non-recognition of Israel.
  • The document also states that Hamas insists on continuing the armed struggle and jihad.
  • Hamas’founding charter, which was published in 1988, defines Hamas “as a universal Islamic movement and one of the branches of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Consequently, Hamas has been tied to the Brotherhood for the past 29 years.
  • The newDocument of General Principles and Policies announced from Doha, Qatar, many articles that were included initially and that mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood were removed.

 Israel Palestine history

  • The region of present Israel has been battled over for millennia. The nations and people in charge of it keep shifting. If the question is “who was there first,” then the answer is the Jews.
  • Their faith is a few millennia older than Christianity and Islam, and was founded in the land of “Judea,” which is now in the West Bank.
  • In Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest city, Jews have had an unbroken presence since the city was built. However, this presence was at time limited to one or two Jews. Christians and Muslims have controlled the region at times.
  • The Nation of Israel is an ancient term referring to the Jewish people, but an actual nation called Israel (specifically, a kingdom) was founded about 1000BCE.
  • Around 70AD, the first Jewish Revolt occurred (and failed), Jerusalem was sacked, and a large (but not 100%) Jewish exile occurred. A few more exiles and leadership changes and the land became predominantly Christian.
  • In 614 the land became Persian, briefly. By 640, Arabs conquered the region and Jerusalem fell (again), and the land was renamed “Filastin”. It’s also worth pointing out that the Jews and Arabs were allies at this point against the Persians.
  • Islam existed at this point, but it would be replaced as the dominant faith of the region in 1095 during the Crusades. The Moslem leadership shifted repeatedly, with the last Muslim governors being the Turks, as the land was part of the Ottoman Empire.
  • At no point in this timespan did “Palestinians,” be they Jews or Christians or Muslims, control their own land or have their own nation since the fall of the Kingdom of Israel. The term “Zionism” arose at this time, reflecting the desire for Jews to return to their ancestral homeland. The movement at this point was religious and small.
  • In 1917, when the British, French and Russians controlled much of the regions once belonging to the Ottomans, including what is now Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as what was then “Palestine.” Note that Jews existed in Palestine at this time along with the Arab Muslims, the various Christians, and a few other faiths like Samarian and Bahai’i. N.

Modern conflict

  • Social and political developments in Europe convinced Jews they needed their own country, and their ancestral homeland seemed like the right place to establish it. European Jews — 90 percent of all Jews at the time — arrived at Zionism partly because of rising anti-Semitic persecution and partly because the Enlightenment introduced Jews to secular nationalism.
  • Between 1896 and 1948, hundreds of thousands of Jews resettled from Europe to what was then British-controlled Palestine, including large numbers forced out of Europe during the Holocaust.
  • Many Arabs saw the influx of Jews as a European colonial movement, and the two peoples fought bitterly. The British couldn’t control the violence, and in 1947 the United Nations voted to split the land into two countries. Almost all of the roughly 650,000 Jews went to the blue territory in the map to the right, and a majority of the Arab population (roughly twice the size of the Jewish community) went to the orange.
  • The Palestinians, who saw the plan as an extension of a long-running Jewish attempt push them out of the land, fought it. The Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria all later declared war on Israel, as well.
  • Israeli forces defeated the Palestinian militias and Arab armies in a vicious conflict that turned 700,000 Palestinian civilians into refugees. The UN partition promised 56 percent of British Palestine for the Jewish state; by the end of the war, Israel possessed 77 percent — everything except the West Bank and the eastern quarter of Jerusalem (controlled by Jordan), as well as the Gaza Strip (controlled by Egypt). It left Israelis with a state, but not Palestinians.
  • Today, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees, defined as people displaced in 1948 and their descendants. A core Palestinian demand in peace negotiations is some kind of justice for these refugees, most commonly in the form of the “right of return” to the homes their families abandoned in 1948.
  • Israel can’t accept the right of return without abandoning either its Jewish or democratic identity. Adding 7 million Arabs to Israel’s population would make Jews a minority — Israel’s total population is about 8 million, a number that includes the 1.5 million Arabs already there.
  • The West Bank is a chunk of land east of Israel. It’s home to 2.6 million Palestinians, and would make up the heart of any Palestinian state. Israel took control of it in 1967 and has allowed Jewish settlers to move in, but Palestinians (and most of the international community) consider it illegally occupied Palestinian land.
  • In 1967, Israel fought a war with Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel fired the first shot, but claims it was preempting an imminent Egyptian attack; Arabs disagree, casting Israel as an aggressor. In six days, Israel routed the Arab powers, taking the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan.
  • Israel has controlled the West Bank since the Six-Day War (as it’s called). For many Jews, this is wonderful news in theory: the West Bank was the heartland of the ancient Jewish state. It’s also home to many Jewish holy sites.

 What is Gaza issue?

  • Gaza is a densely populated strip of land that is mostly surrounded by Israel and peopled almost exclusively by Palestinians. Israel used to have a military presence, but withdrew unilaterally in 2005. It’s currently under Israeli blockade.
  • Egypt controlled Gaza until 1967, when Israel occupied it (along with the West Bank) in the Six-Day War. Until 2005, Israeli military authorities controlled Gaza in the same way they control the West Bank, and Jews were permitted to settle there.
  • Gaza is governed by the Islamist group Hamas, which formed in 1987 as a militant “resistance” group against Israel and won political power in a 2006 US-based election. Hamas’s takeover of Gaza prompted an Israeli blockade of the flow of commercial goods into Gaza, on the grounds that Hamas could use those goods to make weapons to be used against Israel.
  • Hamas’s chartercalls for the destruction of Israel. Though Hamas does not recognize Israel’s legitimacy, in 2011 it committed to a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. It’s not clear whether Hamas could reconcile itself to the existence of Israel.
  • Hamasled the charge in using suicide bombings against Israel in the 1990s and 2000s, though in recent years it has shifted to rockets and mortars as its weapons of choice. The organization also offers Palestinians a robust network of social services, which it developed as an alternative to deeply corrupt PA institutions.

Isreal-Palestine Peace process

  • Sometimes called “Oslo” after the 1993Oslo Accords that kicked it off, the peace process is an ongoing American-mediated effort to broker a peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians. The goal is a “final status agreement,” which would establish a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in exchange for Palestinians agreeing to permanently end attacks on Israeli targets — a formula often called “land for peace.”
  • Secretary of State John Kerry’s fairly intense efforts to revive the peace process fell apart in April 2014. The immediate cause was the (now mostly defunct) Hamas-Fatah agreement to form an interim joint government, as Israel refused to negotiate with Hamas. But the talks really failed because the two sidessimply couldn’t come to terms on mutual concessions necessary to keep the talks afloat, reflecting a deep underlying mistrust between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership.
  • This is far from the first time the peace process looked dead; in fact, many people believed the peace process to be over in January 2001. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had just rejected his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak’speace offer (there’s huge disagreement as to just what that offer entailed). Moreover, renewed talks failed to generate an agreement, and worsening violence during the second intifada violence made another round of talks seem impossible.
  • Despite the 2001 failure, the general Oslo “land for peace” framework remains the dominant American and international approach to resolving the conflict. The Bush administration pushed its own update on Oslo, called the“road map,” and the Obama administration has made the peace process a significant foreign policy priority. Any successful peace initiative would need to resolve the four core issues that have plagued the peace process: West Bank borders/settlements, Israeli security, Palestinian refugees, and Jerusalem.
  • So far there’s been little success, and there are three major hurdles to any agreement.
  • First, Israel continues to expand West Bank settlements, which Palestinians see as a de facto campaign to erase the Palestinian state outright. Second, the Palestinians remain politically divided between Fatah and Hamas after the shared government’s effective collapse, and thus are unable to negotiate jointly. And even if it worked, Israel still has shown zero indication that it would negotiate with a government that includes Hamas.
  • Third, and finally, it’s not actually clear how to get talks started. The current right-wing Israeli government is skeptical of concessions to the Palestinians. The Palestinians, having essentially decided that Israel isn’t serious about peace, have launched a campaign for statehood in international institutions aimed at pressuring Israel into peace — which might well backfire by convincing Israelis the Palestinians are done with the US-led peace process.
  • To restart talks, the US needs to somehow get the two sides to start taking each other’s commitment to peace a little more seriously. It’s not at all clear how it could do that.

 How has Hamas changed its policy towards Israel?

  • In its new policy document, Hamas has indicated that it is willing to make some concessions towards Israel.
  • The document states clearly that it is not waging a battle against the Jewish people but it is against the state of Israel and wants a “fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of 4th of June 1967”.
  • This aim of establishing a new Palestinian state along the lines of the pre-1967 border indicates a willingness to adjust to the new regional reality.

 Is Hamas distancing itself from the Muslim Brotherhood?

  • The new charter abandons past references of the movement’s association with the Muslim Brotherhood. Closely linked to the pan-Islamist movement when it was formed in the late 1980s, Hamas has moved away from the Brotherhood ever since the Mohamed Morsi regime was ousted in Egypt.
  • Hamas, which rules the Gaza strip that has been blockaded by Israel, is totally dependent on Egypt for access to the outside world. And Egypt is now ruled by a regime that has declared an open war on the Brotherhood. Besides, Saudi Arabia, a benefactor of Hamas, is ideologically opposed to the Brotherhood.
  • So keeping a distance from the Brotherhood could help Hamas cultivate better ties with both Cairo and Riyadh.

So what is the core agenda of Hamas?

  • At the core of Hamas’s agenda is liberation of the Palestinians, and a return of all displaced people to a sovereign Palestinian state.
  • However, it is obvious that Hamas does not want to give up on any of its core agenda items like religion, nationality and ethno-linguistic identity.

Does that mean a fundamental shift?

  • This is not yet clear as it demands fulfilment of all other conditions such as the return of all people who were displaced by the establishment of Israel in 1948.
  • What is particularly problematic is that Hamas has rejected all agreements, including the Oslo accords, that tried to normalise ties with Israel, without quite spelling out what sort of negotiations it would prefer. Its rejection of past peace efforts is also a sign that Hamas cannot attain change just by publishing a new agenda document.

So, is the issue of Jerusalem now secondary?

  • On the contrary, Hamas has maintained a tough position on Jerusalem and has in fact extended its claim not just to the Old Jerusalem but also to its “surroundings”.
  • A Palestinian state will have to be built around Old Jerusalem according to this new vision document.

What is issue on Jerusalem?

  • Jerusalem is a city that straddles the border between Israel and the West Bank. It’s home to some of the holiest sites in both Judaism and Islam, and so both Israel and Palestine want to make it their capital. How to split the city fairly remains one of the fundamental issues dividing Israelis and Palestinians.
  • For the first 20 years of Israel’s existence, Jerusalem was divided. Israel controlled the parts of Jerusalem and its suburbs while Jordan controlled the rest.
  • Jordan controlled the Temple Mount. The hill hosts the Western Wall,a retaining wall of an ancient Jewish temple and one of Judaism’s holiest sites, and two of Islam’s most important landmarks, the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Israeli Jews weren’t allowed to pray in the area while Jordan controlled it. During the 1967 war, Israel took control of East Jerusalem.
  • Israel calls Jerusalem its undivided capital today, but almost no one (including the United States) recognizes it as such. UN Security Council Resolution 478condemns Israel’s decision to annex East Jerusalem as a violation of international law and calls for a compromise solution.
  • Jews have moved in and around Jerusalem in huge numbers. They now make up about two-thirds of the city.
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