Israel – Arab World Conflict: Background, History and Key Events
The religious convictions of the various parties and their conceptions and views of the chosen people in their policies concerning the “Promised Land” and the “Chosen City” of Jerusalem have a significant impact on the contemporary history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Hebrew Bible claims that God made a promise to the Children of Israel regarding the Land of Canaan, also known as Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel). The Qur’an also makes reference to this.
According to the Quran, Muslims also assert rights to that territory. They contend that the Land of Canaan was given to what they view as Abraham’s elder son, Ishmael, from whom Arabs claim descent, in contrast to the Jewish claim that this land was only promised to the ancestors of Abraham’s grandson Jacob (Yisrael). Muslims hold a high regard for numerous locations that were sacred to Biblical Israelites, including the Temple Mount and the Cave of the Patriarchs. Muslims have built Islamic landmarks on these historic Israelite locations over the past 1,400 years, including the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, which is considered to be the holiest site in Judaism.
The two groups are now at odds over who has the right to control Jerusalem as a result of this. Muhammad is believed to have traveled to heaven for the first time via Jerusalem. According to Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, all of Palestine (including the present-day Israeli and Palestinian territories) is an Islamic waqf that needs to be run by Muslims.
The creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine has been the objective of the Jewish nationalist movement known as Zionism. Despite having its roots in eastern and central Europe in the latter part of the 19th century, Zionism is in many ways a continuation of the Jewish people’s long-standing ties to Palestine, where, according to Britannica, one of the hills of ancient Jerusalem was known as Zion.
According to the Balfour Declaration, which it had issued three years earlier, the British government received permission from the League of Nations in 1920 to administer a mandate over Palestine in order to promote the creation of a Jewish national home. The Arab population of Palestine, which was left out of the agreement, would vehemently voice its opposition, upending the convergence between its strategic interests and the advancement of historical justice for the dispersed and persecuted Jewish people of the Bible. Thus, Jewish and Muslim communities expanded their roles as actors beyond the religious sphere to include acting as national collectives.
Theodor Herzl, an Austrian journalist who believed assimilation to be the most ideal but impractical due to anti-Semitism, gave Zionism a political turn. He claimed that if Jews were coerced into becoming a nation, the only way they could live normally would be to congregate in a single area. The movement’s Basel program was drafted at the first Zionist Congress, which Herzl called in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897. It stated that “Zionism strives to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.”
The Arab-Israeli war was series of military conflicts between Israeli forces and various Arab forces, most notably in 1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2006.
According to United Nations Resolution 181, the British Mandate of Palestine was divided into a Jewish state and an Arab state in November 1947. Jews and Arabs in Palestine started fighting almost immediately. Conflict continued to worsen as British troops prepared to leave Palestine, with both Jewish and Arab forces engaging in hostilities. One of the most notorious incidents was the April 9, 1948, attack on the Arab village of Dayr Ysn. Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Gang forces carried out a brutal massacre there, which caused widespread panic and incited retaliation. Days later, 78 people were killed when Arab forces attacked a Jewish convoy traveling to Hadassah Hospital.
Israel proclaimed its independence on May 15, 1948, the day before the British forces were to leave. The following day, Arab forces from Egypt, Transjordan (Jordan), Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon captured east Jerusalem, including the tiny Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and took control of the southern and eastern parts of Palestine that had not been allocated to the Jews by the UN partition of Palestine. In light of the British withdrawal, the invasion’s stated goal was to reestablish law and order. This was justified by incidents like the one at Dayr Ysn and a worsening refugee crisis in nearby Arab nations. While this was happening, the Israelis successfully repelled numerous Arab attacks while controlling the main route to Jerusalem through the Yehuda Mountains (also known as the “Hills of Judaea”). Except for the Gaza Strip, the Israelis had succeeded in occupying the entire Negev by early 1949, all the way to the old Egypt-Palestine border.
A temporary border between Israel and its neighbors was established between February and July 1949 as a result of individual armistice agreements between Israel and each of the Arab states. Israel refers to the conflict as its War of Independence. The large number of displaced people brought on by the war led to it becoming known in the Arab world as the Nakbah (“Catastrophe”), hence the name.
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When ardent Pan-Arab nationalist and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power, tensions once more rose. Nasser had an adversarial attitude toward Israel. The Suez Canal, which connects Europe and Asia and was largely owned by French and British companies, was nationalized by Nasser in 1956. In response, France and Britain made a deal with Israel, whose ships were forbidden from using the canal and whose southern port of Elat had been blockaded by Egypt, whereby Israel would invade Egypt, and France and Britain would then step in, purportedly as peacemakers, and seize control of the canal.
Israel invaded Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in October 1956. With thousands of prisoners taken, the Israeli army seized Gaza, Rafa, and Al-Arsh in just five days, and it now controls the majority of the peninsula east of the Suez Canal. The Gulf of Aqaba was then used by the Israelis to establish sea communications. A UN Emergency Force was stationed in the region in December following the joint Anglo-French intervention, and Israeli forces withdrew in March 1957. Arabs perceived Egypt’s victory during the Suez Crisis, as it is sometimes called, despite the fact that its forces had been routed on all fronts. The blockade of Elat was lifted by Egypt. In the Sinai Peninsula, a UN buffer force was deployed.
In what became known as the Six-Day War (or June War), Arab and Israeli forces engaged in battle for the third time between June 5 and 10, 1967. Early in 1967, Syria increased the amount of Israeli villages it was bombing from its Golan Heights positions. Nasser gathered his forces close to the Sinai border, dismissing the UN force there, and once more attempted to blockade Elat after the Israeli Air Force shot down six Syrian MiG fighter jets in retaliation. Egypt and Jordan agreed to share defense obligations in May 1967.
In response to this apparent Arab rush to war, Israel launched an unexpected airstrike that completely destroyed Egypt’s air force on the ground. Israeli forces also won handily on the battlefield. Israeli forces expelled Jordanian troops from the West Bank and drove Syrian troops off the Golan Heights. They also captured the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. Importantly, Jerusalem remained under complete Israeli control.
Following the Six-Day War, there was sporadic fighting that in 1973 escalated into a full-fledged conflict. Israel was caught off guard on October 6, the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur (hence, “Yom Kippur War”), by Egyptian forces crossing the Suez Canal and by Syrian forces entering the Golan Heights. The Arab armies were more aggressive and capable of fighting than they had been in previous conflicts, and the Israeli forces took a heavy toll. The Israeli army, however, turned around many of its early defeats and advanced into Syrian territory. It also surrounded the Egyptian Third Army by crossing the Suez Canal and setting up camp on its western bank. The fortifications along the Suez Canal that Egypt had destroyed in its initial victories, however, were never rebuilt.
On October 26, the fighting that had continued throughout the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, came to an end. Israel formalized its cease-fire agreements with Egypt and Syria on May 31, 1974, and November 11, respectively. On January 18, 1974, Israel and Egypt signed a disengagement agreement that called for Israel to withdraw into the Sinai west of the Mitla and Gidi passes while Egypt scaled back its military presence there. Between the two armies, a UN peacekeeping force was established. A second contract, signed on September 4, 1975, added to this one.
Israel and Egypt officially put an end to their 30-year-long state of war on March 26, 1979, when they signed a peace agreement. According to the terms of the agreement, which came about as a result of the Camp David Accords signed in 1978, Israel gave Egypt the whole of the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for Egypt recognizing Israel’s right to exist. Following that, the two nations established regular diplomatic ties.
Israel bombed Beirut and southern Lebanon on June 5, 1982, less than six weeks after the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had completely left the Sinai, as a result of rising hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel invaded Lebanon the next day, and by June 14 its land forces had encircled Beirut and reached its outskirts. However, the Israeli government decided to stop its advance and start talks with the PLO. The PLO evacuated the city with the help of a multinational force after much delay and intense Israeli shelling of west Beirut. Israeli soldiers eventually left west Beirut, and by June 1985, the Israeli army had left Lebanon entirely.
Hezbollah launched an operation against Israel in July 2006 in an effort to put pressure on the government to free Lebanese prisoners. The operation resulted in the deaths of several Israeli soldiers and the capture of two others. Israeli forces invaded southern Lebanon in an offensive to reclaim the captured soldiers. More than a thousand Lebanese were killed and about one million were displaced during the 34-day conflict. Hezbollah has come under fire from several Arab leaders for igniting the conflict. However, Hezbollah received praise from a large portion of the Arab world for its ability to battle the Israel Defense Forces to a standstill.
Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in June 2006 after they broke into an army post close to the Israeli side of the Gaza Strip. In the assault, two IDF soldiers were killed, and Shalit was hurt when an RPG struck his tank. Israel began Operation Summer Rains three days later to secure the release of Shalit. He was held hostage by Hamas until 18 October 2011, when he was traded for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, and they were unable to see him.
The Arab-Israeli alliance against Iran was formed in November 2017 as a result of improving ties between Israel and the Gulf States, and it attracted significant media attention in light of the Warsaw Conference in February 2019. The coordination took place in light of the standoff against Iranian interests throughout the Middle East between Israel and the Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia, as well as the proxy conflicts between Iran and Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Gulf Cooperation Council’s core members are the Arab nations that take part in the coordination group. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman are a few of them. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, led a delegation to Oman in 2018 where they met with Sultan Qaboos and other top Omani officials.
Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s sovereign council, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Uganda in February 2020 and decided to normalize relations between their two nations. Israeli aircraft were given permission to fly over Sudan later that month. Following this, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed the Abraham Accords on August 13, 2020. The goal of the treaty was to end hostilities between the two nations. Israel also consented to put the Jordan Valley annexation plans on hold.
As violence in Sheikh Jarrah, Gaza, and the West Bank increases as a result of Israel’s military operations against militants in the occupied territory, several Arab states have declared their solidarity with Palestine.
According to state news agency SPA, Saudi Arabia is leading Arab group discussions about the conflict between Palestine and Israel at the UN. Abdallah Yahya Al-Mouallimi, the Kingdom’s permanent representative at the UN, met with Volkan Bozkir, the president of the General Assembly, to discuss the recent Israeli attacks, according to the report. According to the report, Al-Mouallimi also met with China’s permanent representative to the international organization. Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation for the UAE, also expressed his concern about the rising hostilities between Israel and Palestine.
The right of the Palestinian people to create their own state was also affirmed during a phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister of Iraq Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, according to the Iraqi news agency INA. Baghdad residents gathered to denounce Israeli attacks against “defenseless Palestinians” and “the violation of Islamic sanctities in the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” according to the report, reflecting the Iraqi leader’s expression of support.
Additionally, the Tunisian Presidency released a statement endorsing the Palestinians’ right to peace and their ability to establish a sovereign state. According to the Tunisian state news agency TAP, the presidency condemned “the provocations and violations committed by the occupation forces in the precincts of the holy places and which have already caused several “innocent” victims.”
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