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Everything you need to know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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Everything you need to know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict



The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most well-known conflicts around the world. 

Since its beginning shortly after the birth of the State of Israel, the conflict has dominated regional geopolitics for over 70 years. And as the ongoing Israel-Hamas War shows, the conflict’s importance and intensity show no sign of slowing down. 

But what is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Where did it start? Who are the key players involved? 

Here is everything you need to know.

Palestinian and Israeli flags overlook Dome of Rock and Western Wall (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Where is Israel?

Israel is a country in the Middle East, specifically in the Levant region. It is steeped in thousands of years of history and has been the home of numerous civilizations and religious faiths.

Israel is bordered by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Palestinian territories and is on the coast of both the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. 

While most countries consider its capital to be Tel Aviv, Israel and a few other countries, such as the United States, recognize Jerusalem as the capital.

Where is Palestine?

Palestine is a self-proclaimed country, recognized largely as the Palestinian territories, located in the Middle East, specifically on the west bank of the Jordan River (known colloquially as the West Bank) and in a region along the Mediterranean coast known as the Gaza Strip. It is bordered by Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, with the Gaza Strip being on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. 

Though it proclaims Jerusalem as its capital, its de facto capital is Ramallah in the West Bank.

Where is Gaza?

Gaza, known as the Gaza Strip, is a part of the Palestinian territories and is located along the Mediterranean coast. It borders Israel and Egypt and has three border crossings: the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings with Israel and the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

Has Israel recognized Palestine?

Israel has refused to recognize a Palestinian state, though progress had been made following the Oslo Accords. 

Currently, Israel officially supports the idea of a two-state solution. Still, it is at odds with the proposed Palestinian borders, as well as the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the possibility of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel. 

However, Israel does recognize Palestinian control over certain parts of the West Bank.

A demonstrator holds up a sign reading ‘Free Palestine’ during a march rally in support of Palestinian people in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Santiago, Chile, March 17, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/Vanessa Rubilar)

Does Palestine recognize Israel?

Palestine technically does recognize Israel, with then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat announcing it as such in 1988. This was reaffirmed following the signing of the Oslo Accords. However, the Palestinian leadership continues to have strong opposition to the State of Israel, and many Palestinian factions disagree with the recognition of Israel.

Israel is oftentimes referred to by these bodies as the “Zionist occupation.”

What is the Palestinian Authority?

The Palestinian Authority is the official ruling entity in the Palestinian territories. It is led by President Mahmoud Abbas and is controlled by his Fatah party. 

The PA is based in Ramallah and exercises control over the Palestinian-run areas of the West Bank, as well as claiming control over the Gaza Strip. 

The government was meant to be an interim body rather than a permanent political entity. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at a Fatah conference in Ramallah in 2009. (credit: REUTERS)

Officially a democracy, the Palestinian Authority is, in practice, an authoritarian entity, not having had elections since 2006, with further attempts at having elections never actually manifesting. 

Abbas was elected to a four-year term in 2005, though his term in office has continued for almost two decades at the time of writing. 

The PA has also been accused of violating human rights, censoring a free press, and engaging in widespread corruption. 

Currently, the PA is fractured following the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, which saw the terrorist group and party Hamas win control of the parliament. Since then, a schism has erupted between Fatah and Hamas, and attempts at mending this split have been unsuccessful.

A young boy carrying a Hamas flag walks past Palestinian women gathered as they wait for the funeral of a young Palestinian girl, outside the family’s home in the Qalandiya Refugee camp in the West Bank, on December 18, 2015. (credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)

What is Hamas?

Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist terrorist group that was founded in 1987 by Ahmed Yassin. Its origins lie in a Muslim charity organization, Mujama al-Islamiya, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood organization. 

Since its official founding in 1987, Hamas has become infamous for its terrorist activities and its staunch refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. 

Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, but the Palestinian Authority dissolved the government and replaced it with a Fatah-led one, leading to the schism mentioned above.

Hamas has fought several armed conflicts with Israel since taking over Gaza, with the current ongoing war being sparked by Hamas’s attack on southern Israel on October 7, 2023, which saw 1,200 people in Israel killed and 250 people taken hostage. 

Hamas’s leadership is spread out between Gaza and Qatar. Its leader in Gaza is Yahya Sinwar, while the organization’s overall political leader is Ismail Haniyeh.

When did the Israeli-Palestinian conflict begin?

The starting point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the subject of fierce debate since many believe the Palestinian national identity didn’t begin until the middle of the 20th century. In contrast, others believe the Israeli national identity did not technically exist until the establishment of the State of Israel. 

What is agreed upon, though, is that Jews and Arabs have conflicted with one another in the region since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This coincided with the arrival of Jewish Zionist settlers into the future State of Israel to escape antisemitic persecution in Europe. At the time, the land was ruled over by the Ottoman Empire, though by the end of World War I, the British took it over and instituted the British Mandate of Palestine. 

Over the coming decades, the two demographics would grow increasingly in conflict as tensions grew, with the Arabs staging multiple revolts in the mandate. In 1947, a plan was proposed by the British to partition Israel into Jewish and Arab states. The Jews agreed, but the Arabs did not. 

A year later, Israel declared independence, and war was declared. Surrounded on all sides by enemy nations, Israel proved victorious, and many Arabs ended up fleeing their homes – an event Palestinians refer to today as the Nakba. 

Tensions exploded in the late 1980s as Palestinians launched the First Intifada, an uprising aimed at lashing out at what they perceived as an oppressive Israeli occupation. The intifada ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords, which many hoped would lead to a lasting peace. However, fierce opposition by hardliners among both Israelis and Palestinians prevented this, particularly with the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and the election of a new right-wing Israeli government.

In 2000, the Second Intifada started up, lasting several years and seeing multiple casualties. It ultimately ended following the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, though it continues to have control over Gaza’s borders and airspace.

While the most visible part of the conflict now takes place in Gaza, there is still considerable tension among Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, where terrorist attacks and bouts of violence still occur.

IDF troops operate in the Gaza Strip. June 17, 2024. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

Are Israel and Palestine fighting over Gaza?

The ongoing Israel-Hamas War is fought largely in the Gaza Strip, but it is not a fight “over” Gaza. Only a small minority of Israeli lawmakers are calling for the full annexation of Gaza. Rather, the ongoing war is over the eradication of Hamas and the freeing of the hostages held in Gaza.





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ICJ: Settlements in West Bank, east Jerusalem are illegal

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ICJ: Settlements in West Bank, east Jerusalem are illegal



The International Court of Justice said on Friday it can give a non-binding advisory opinion on Israel’s ‘occupation’ of Palestinian territories, rejecting calls by Israel and a handful of other countries to refuse to give one.

The decision is expected to address the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip as a single entity. 

The ICJ claimed that Israel’s settlement policies and exploitation of natural resources in the Palestinian territories were in breach of international law.

 





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US military aid may be withheld over alleged human rights abuses by haredi units – CNN

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US military aid may be withheld over alleged human rights abuses by haredi units – CNN



Former Commanders of Netzah Yehuda battalion have been allowed to climb IDF ranks despite the US State Department finding in April that five units within the battalion violated human rights in incidents pre-dating Hamas’s October 7 attack, CNN reported on Saturday. The department is now considering withholding military aid as some fail to remedy their behavior. 

While the CNN investigation explicitly looked at Netza Yehuda, current and former US officials said that the department was examining other IDF units as well. An additional three units were found to have committed human rights violations prior to October 7, the officials claimed.

Four of the five Netzah Yehuda units had, according to the department’s findings, had “effectively remediated” themselves. 

The United States reportedly considered withholding military aid from the remaining unit, which did not correct itself following the discovery of violations, but no decision has yet been made.

Awaiting the decision, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “If anyone thinks they can impose sanctions on a unit of the IDF, I will fight with all my strength.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Foreign Minister Israel Katz at the NATO Summit in Washington on June 10, 2024. (credit: MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS)

A department spokesperson told CNN that it had “concluded that several Israeli security force units were credibly implicated in gross violations of human rights” and that for four of those, the Israeli government had “taken effective steps to bring those responsible to justice.”

“We continue to assess reports of GVHRs by Israeli security forces, in accordance with the law, and all US security assistance to Israel is provided consistent with domestic and international law,” the spokesperson added.

 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote to House Speaker Mike Johnson in a letter seen by CNN. In it, Blinken said the US was working with Israel “on identifying a path to effective remediation” for the Netzah Yehuda battalion. Blinken did not explicitly name the remaining unit.

About Netzah Yehuda and the controversy surrounding it 

The battalion was created in 1999 to facilitate ultra-Orthodox Jews’ religious requirements while they fulfilled their service in the military. 

The unit has been accused of abuses in the West Bank over the last 10 years. In one case, leading to the death of an elderly Palestinian-American man, CNN reported. Omar Assad, 78, was reportedly held gagged and bound. After freeing Assad, he was reportedly abandoned while unresponsive and died of a heart attack.

After investigating the death of Assad, the IDF concluded the incident was the result of “a moral failure and poor decision-making on the part of the soldiers.” It promised to see  Lt. Col. Mati Shevach reprimanded and the platoon commander and company commander removed from their positions. 

Shevach, despite being reprimanded for the incident, was later promoted to deputy commander of the Kfir Brigade, which oversees Netzah Yehuda. After two years in this role, Shevach transferred to a role allowing him to train forces at the military’s Urban Warfare Training Center.

In a similar case, Lt. Col. Nitai Okashi, who oversaw the Netzah Yehuda battalion from 2018 until 2020, received a number of promotions, which led him to commanding roles. These promotions were given despite 14 soldiers from his unit being arrested for assaulting a Bedouin man in the West Bank in 2019. In an earlier incident, Okashi spoke in support of some of his soldiers in court in January of that year after the soldiers were filmed beating and verbally abusing a father and son in the West Bank, CNN reported.

Asked to comment on the leadership mentioned in the above incidents, the IDF told, CNN “It should be noted that in relation to the events that took place in 2015 and 2019 … the involved had been indi,cted and the military court had imposed prison sentences in both cases, along with additional punishments.”

A former unit member told CNN that Palestinians were subjected to excessive and violent treatment by Netza Yehuda soldiers. The anonymous member also claimed that commanders encouraged vigilante violence against Palestinians.

The whistleblower feared that the promotion of commanders from Netza Yehuda into other battalions and roles would spread criminal behavior throughout the IDF.

“A lot of us probably did not see Arabs, Palestinians in particular, as someone with rights – okay, like they’re really the occupier of some of the land, and they need to be moved,” he said, explaining the mentality of the units.

The soldier added that his unit was well exercised in performing acts of “collective punishment [against] Palestinians.”

Responding to CNN’s request for comment on the alleged abuses, the IDF asserted that the battalion “operates in a professional and ethical manner” and that its soldiers and commanders “act according to the orders and protocols expected of soldiers in the IDF.” 

The IDF also assured CNN that it would investigate “every exceptional incident” that and would be responsible.

The other Israeli units accused of human rights violations

The Yamam unit was accused of violations over the killing of Ahmad Jamil Fahd, who was shot by counterterrorism forces in 2021 near Ramallah; the alleged shooting of Bedouin man Sanad Salaam al-Harbad by Israel Border Police in Rahat in March 2022 and the alleged rape of a teenager at the Russian Compound (Moscobiyya detention center) in Jerusalem in 2021 by an interrogator from the Israeli Internal Security Forces.

Former director of the State Department’s political-military affairs bu,reau Josh ,Paul told CNN that there was “not even the slightest basis” to believe the three aforementioned units had made efforts to reform. 

Speaking on the alleged rape of a teenage boy in custody during a previous interview, Paul said that the allegation was credible. He alleged a charity had informed the State Department of the allegation and that Israel proceeded to shut down the charity’s base shortly after. 

“Do you know what happened the next day? The IDF went into the [charity’s] offices and removed all their computers and declared them a terrorist entity,” Paul told CNN.

Alleged violations after October 7

CNN cited three examples of alleged violations conducted by the IDF after October 7. 

While admitting that CNN couldn’t verify the civilian death count provided by Hamas or Israel, it cited the successful hostage rescue mission, which saw four hostages released from captivity in June. The hostages were being held in the Nuseirat refugee camp, and a firefight between terrorists and the IDF during the rescue mission led to “under 100 deaths,” according to Israel. Hamas claimed the number of casualties to have reached over 270. However, Hamas has regularly inflated numbers and fails to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

In addition to the rescue mission, CNN reported Israeli Border Police shot and killed a 3-year-old Palestinian girl in the West Bank in January and a 12-year-old boy in east Jerusalem in March.

Paul told CNN that, under the Leahy Law (1997), the US would be prohibited from supplying military aid to foreign security units credibly implicated in human rights violations. 

“Had the US used the leverage that Leahy laws provide over the years to encourage the IDF to crack down on misbehavior and to snuff out its current culture of impunity, we would have seen at the very least a much stronger unit discipline at a tactical level,” said Paul.

Commanders, such as those promoted from the Netza Yehuda battalions, would also be under vetting under the Leahy Law.





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Starmer talks Gaza, Palestinian statehood in calls with Netanyahu, Abbas

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Starmer talks Gaza, Palestinian statehood in calls with Netanyahu, Abbas



Newly elected Prime Minister Kier Starmer put the Gaza war and a two-state solution high on his foreign policy agenda, with calls to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday.

Starmer underscored Great Britain’s commitment to recognizing Palestinian statehood in his conversation with Abbas.

He noted that Great Britain could recognize Palestinian statehood during the process for a two-state solution rather than at the end of one.

It’s a stance that had been held by former Foreign Secretary David Cameron from the Conservative Party, but who had said that the time to do so was not now.

Starmer brought the issue up in his first phone call with Abbas. A readout of the call from 10 Downing Street framed it this way: “Discussing the importance of reform, and ensuring international legitimacy for Palestine, the Prime Minister said that his longstanding policy on recognition to contribute to a peace process had not changed, and it was the undeniable right of Palestinians.”

PA HEAD Mahmoud Abbas attends the World Economic Forum in Riyadh, last month. To rely on Abbas’s corrupt, impotent, poisonous, and terror-glorifying Palestinian Authority as a ruling alternative to Hamas would be insane, the writer argues. (credit: HAMAD I MOHAMMED/REUTERS)

Abbas affirmed his commitment to a two-state resolution to the conflict and underscored the importance of British unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood, according to WAFA, the Palestine News & Information Agency.

WAFA further reported that newly appointed Foreign Secretary David Lammy would soon visit the region, including the West Bank.

Calls made by the UK’s new PM

Starmer’s calls with Netanyahu and Abbas were the 14th and 15th ones he made to heads of government or international blocs since taking office on Friday. His first call was to US President Joe Biden, his second was to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his third was to European Union European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The British politician swept into office on Friday as the head of the left-wing Labour Party, marking a dramatic upset for the United Kingdom which has been ruled by the right-wing Conservative Party since 2010. 

Starmer had worked since his wresting of the party’s helm from its former leader Jeremy Corbyn, to distance Labour from the anti-Israel and antisemitic accusations leveled against it during the Corbyn years. 

He alluded to that transformation in his victory speech on Thursday night, when he said it took four-and-a-half years to change the party.

“This is what it is for, a changed Labour Party,” he said.

Pundits have speculated that Starmer, whose wife Victoria is Jewish will maintain the strong Israeli-British ties, but would be more critical of Israel with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Former British prime minister Rishi Sunak had been one of Israel’s staunch allies during these last nine months when it has fought Iranian proxies on its southern and northern borders.

Great Britain was also one of five armies that took to the skies in April to defend Israel against an Iranian drone and missile attack. 

Starmer told Netanyahu he looked forward to “further deepening the close relationship between the two countries” as the two men discussed the “importance of regional security in the Middle East,” according to Downing Street.

The British Prime Minister said he was “committed to continuing the UK and Israel’s vital cooperation to deter malign threats,” Downing Street said in its readout of the call. Starmer also said he was concerned by the cross-border violence between the IDF and Hezbollah as he called on all parties to act cautiously.

Lammy told Reuters he wanted a balanced position on the war in the Middle East and would use diplomatic efforts to ensure a ceasefire is reached and the remaining 120 hostages held by Hamas are released.

“The time has come for the United Kingdom to reconnect with the outside world,” Lammy said in an interview in Berlin.

“I want to get back to a balanced position on Israel and Gaza. We’ve been very clear that we want to see a ceasefire … We want to see those hostages out.”

He added: “The fighting has to stop, the aid has got to get in, and I will use all diplomatic efforts to ensure that we get to that ceasefire.”

Lammy did not elaborate.

Reuters contributed to this report.





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