As is well-known, the Israel–Palestine conflict is an ongoing long-term religious, territorial, national and political struggle between Israelis and Palestinians. This historical struggle up until now led to a number of wars in the region. With some variations, this crisis has already brought enormous consequences to all sides — deaths and injuries of thousands of people, displacement of millions of Palestinians, security risks, destructions of establishments (such as schools and roads), mutual hatred among Israelis and Palestinians against each other and many others. The long conflict also destabilized the entire region several times and brought enormous socio-economic negative impacts. Furthermore, it has enormous impacts beyond the region.

As it historically appears, the oldest part of the city of Jerusalem — the central position in both Israeli nationalism and Palestinian nationalism — was settled in the 4th millennium BCE, making Jerusalem one of the oldest cities in the world. But the city of Jerusalem was attacked, captured, recaptured and besieged many times by different forces such as Ancient Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Israelites, the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, Byzantines, the Islamic Caliphates, the Crusaders, the Ottomans and the British. But the present conflict has its particular roots in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially with the arrival of a large number of Jews from the then Russia in the late 19th century and their purchase of lands from Arabs for settlements, the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and re-invigorated Israeli or Jewish nationalist movement and Palestinian Arab nationalist movement during the British Mandate after the WWI.

Of course, the nationalist movements of both parties led to sporadic conflicts with increased rigour in the 1930s and, after WWII, eventually escalated into the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Situations, however, deteriorated by the arrival of a large number of Jews from Europe during the Holocaust of WWII and the creation of the state of Israel by the United Nations in 1948, without the creation of the state of Palestine. A massive conflict occurred in 1948 between Israel and Palestinians, involving a few Arab countries including Egypt and Jordan. Subsequently, another major conflict occurred between Israel and several Arab states (including Egypt, Jordan and Syria) in 1967.

Since the historical 1967 Six-Day War, Israel occupied a large amount of land — the West Bank, Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. After Israel captured the Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, it assumed complete administrative control of East Jerusalem, even though this area is historically claimed by Palestine. Since then, small scale conflicts or violence between Israel and Palestine, including conflicts and violence during the 1st Intifada from 1987-1993, in the 2nd Intifada in 2001, conflicts in 2008-09 and the Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014, along with the building of Jewish settlements by Israel in several Palestine territories particularly in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, have been continuing till date.

It is, of course, undeniable that various resolution attempts or peace initiatives have been made by different states and intergovernmental organizations including the diplomatic Quartet that is consisted of the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the European Union and the United Nations and the Arab League, for the resolution of the crisis. Some important initiatives are the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Camp David Summit in 2000, the Taba Summit in 2001, the Arab Peace Initiative at Beirut (or the Beirut Summit) 2002, the Road Map for Peace by the UN Quartet in 2002, the Arab Peace Initiative during 2077-2009, the 2010-11 Direct Negotiations, and the 2013-14 Peace Talks. However, the crisis has not yet been resolved.

Up until now, three solution options such as one-state, two-state and three-state are more prominent. Briefly saying, the one-state solution, also known as bi-national state solution, usually indicates a single state of Israel and Palestine with citizenship and equal rights in the combined entity for all inhabitants, without regard to ethnicity or religion. This option is more similar to the pre-World War II Mandatory Palestine  — which is rendered as a geo-political entity established between 1920 and 1923 in the region of Palestine as part of the Partition of the Ottoman Empire under the terms of the British Mandate for Palestine. Though this option is now debated in academic circles and has not yet been officially pursued resolving the crisis, interests in the unified state are growing among some quarters because the two-state approach (see below) has not yet been successful.

The two-state solution refers to a solution with two states for two groups of people. Alternatively speaking, this option seeks two independent states — the State of Palestine and the state of Israel. In this solution, East Jerusalem belongs to Palestine, while West Jerusalem belongs to Israel. Indeed, this is considered to be the most agreed upon and most pursued option for resolving the long historical crisis. Even if there are some disagreements regarding the demarcation of the permanent borders (since Arabs claim for pre-1967 borders, while Israel claims for re-negotiated borders), the pre-1967 borders or the Green Line, or the 1949 Armistice border, that is considered in the UN resolution 242 which was adopted in 1967 and widely supported by other parties including the EU can be rendered as more acceptable in this option.

Three-state solution — or the Egyptian–Jordanian solution or the Jordan–Egypt option — is an option to make peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by returning control of the West Bank to Jordan, control of the Gaza Strip to Egypt and keeping the control of areas before pre-Six Day War under the control of Israel. This solution replicates the situation that existed between the 1949 Armistice Agreements and before the 1967 Six-Day War. Indeed, beginning in 1949, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip and Jordan occupied the West Bank; at that time, moreover, there was no Palestine Arab state. This option is considered by some since the two-state option is less viable, although it has some serious concerns — including the unwillingness of Jordanian politicians to providing citizenship to Palestinians and the unlikelihood of Palestinians to accept it.

Of the above solutions, the one-state solution does not reflect the interests of two nations divided by religious and/or ethnic lines, which played vital roles in, and are indispensable from, the nationalistic movement by conflicting parties. A three-state solution will altogether deny Palestine movement for statehood. Indeed, both the one-state and three-state solution deny the right to self-determination for which Palestinians have been struggling. Though the two-state solution remained unviable so far, it meets the needs and interests of distinctness of national and religious identities and interests of both Israel and Palestine. Despite the fact that this option has not yet been successful, this option, thus, still seems to be the most reasonable solution to the crisis.

Of course, it is undeniable that the world has some important roles to play in the resolution of the long crisis, although earlier efforts went in vain. In this respect, the United Nations should play mediating roles for the two-state solution — with or without further negotiation on the borderlines. Furthermore, regional actors — including the Arab League — and global powers need to come forward and cooperate with the United Nations and play due to roles for the preferred solution. Of course, both regional and global powers played vital roles in bringing conflicting parties to the table of negotiations earlier. In order to mediate and coordinate activities, a new commission for Israel and Palestine needs to be created in the UN. But it may not be easy to bring parties into the solution without the significant and earnest roles of the USA.

Of course, there are some other challenges that deserve to be given focus for reaching the desired solution. Building Israeli settlements in different Palestinian territories including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip is a big challenge to any peaceful solution. While it violates the rights of the Palestinians, it reduces the chances of a solution. Of course, religious extremism is another concern. While there are many Palestinians who consider conflict with Israel as holy war, many Israeli also consider the same in their own religious lines. Additionally, the security risks of the Israel and Hamas’ attacks on Israel need to be well-addressed for reaching any solution.

It is undeniable that the Palestinian refugee crisis is one of the contentious points. Up until now, the total number of refugees has turned to be around five million and most of them are living in different places of the Near East, West Bank, Gaza strip and camps in other countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Even if many refugees were born outside Palestine, they are descendants of original Palestinian refugees. Thus, all Palestinian refugees have justified rights to return to their home places. In fact, this vital problem needs to be adequately addressed with measures such as securing the return of refugees to their place of origin for any peaceful and sustainable solution to be complete.

NB: This article is a section of a book of the author entitled “Toward A Better World” which is in-press.

© The Eastern Herald
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Amir Sayem
Studied Masters of Population Sciences from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Writing about issues including social, political, public health, environmental, and international relations. Contributor to The Eastern Herald from Bangladesh.