Looking beyond ceasefire and violence | By Dr Rajkumar Singh


Looking beyond ceasefire and violence

AFTER 11 days of fierce violence and blood bath resulting in hundreds of deaths, on 21 May 2021, Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire which generally we see a problem lingering for the last 53 years and causing occasional struggle and struggle – big and small since 1967 when an agreement was concluded on establishing two separate nations for Jews and Palestine respectively but later it was refused to obey by a party perhaps due to historical reasons and the whole matter remained disputed as earlier.

If we examine the root cause of their conflict, the most important place is Jerusalem, the present capital of Israel, a city in Western Asia.

It is one of the oldest cities in the world and considered by three major faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — as their holy place where the followers of all the three ruled and made the same place their capital, made sufficient prayer places, and on the basis of that they all claim it to be their own.

This central theme has divided/sub-divided the nations of the region and the globe in for and against the contending parties of the conflict.

In today’s context there are many ifs and buts of the problem, but most of the nation’s consider the agreement of 1967 as landmark around which the possibility of permanent peace lies, although over the time several groups, parties — moderate and extremist — have emerged aiming to get political power through various means, legal or otherwise, but at the end they all make the matter worse to fulfil their narrow and short-sighted objectives, based on traditional and unscientific approach, restless to drag the nation and society back rather than pushing it forward in a modern way.

Jerusalem: A bone of contention: In modern times, although the declaration of making Israel a nation was made on 14 May 1948 by David Ben-Gurian, the Head of the Jewish Agency and Harry S. Truman recognised the new nation same day, the work for the same started more than 30 years ago in 1917 when the territory came under the British rule as a result of the Battle of Jerusalem and its Foreign Minister Balfour, in a declaration expressed the intention to make a Jewish homeland in Palestine and requested the Jews across the world to come at the place and settle and even at the time the proposal was supported by the United States of America.

At the time of this declaration the region had a small minority of Jewish population, but in later years it increased significantly from 1922 to1948 it rose from 52,000 to 165,000 and comprised two-thirds of Jews and one-third of Arabs (Muslims and Christians) due to Jewish immigration, leading to the further social tension in 1920 and 1929 ultimately the first declared war between Jews and Arabs in 1947-1949.

In these intervening years, the United Nations Organisation (UNO), America and other Western powers tried to settle the issue but failed to provide any acceptable solution of the matter.

In line, Israeli Parliament passed a law on 5 July 1950 that strongly favoured citizenship for those who came here from different countries of the world and settled there.

These developments hatched by Western powers including Britain, America and host of others made the nation Israel on the territory of Palestine, and Palestinians a world class refugee.

1967: A major breakthrough: In the previous war fought between Arab-Israel in 1948 West Jerusalem was among the areas captured and later annexed by Israel while East Jerusalem, including the Old City, was captured and later annexed by Jordan.

In the war of 1967 between Israel and Jordan that lasted only six days, Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan and subsequently annexed it into Jerusalem together with entire West Bank and additional surrounding territory.

This development was in contradiction to the partition plan which envisioned a city separated from the Arab State and the Jewish State and on 27 June 1967, three weeks after the end of the war, Israel extended its law and jurisdiction to East Jerusalem and in some areas of West Bank territory which comprised 28 Palestinian villages incorporating it into the Jerusalem municipality.

Actions of the Israeli state were criticised on a number of occasions by most countries of the world as it also violated the resolution No 58 and 292 of 1947 and 6 May 2004 respectively along with many others.

In both resolutions Israel has been considered an occupying power and therefore said only performing duties and obligations under the Geneva Convention related to the civilian persons and the Hague Convention.

In addition to these, Israel had also concluded many contracts and agreements with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) but of no use till date.
Current status and way forward: Of all the attempts made so far, the most important was a two-state solution with the Oslo Accords of 1993-1995 but no progress was registered because of the military occupation of Gaza Strip and in 165 islands across the West Bank which involved key issues related to security, borders, water rights, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements Palestinian freedom movements and Palestinian rights of return.

As of today, creation of an independent Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel is considered a preferred solution according to a number of polls conducted in the area in 2007.

In this survey, the majority of both, Israelis and Palestinians opted the two-state solution over any other solution as a means of resolving the conflict.

Over the years matter has been more complicated as deep divisions exist not only between Israelis and Palestinians but also within each society and fighting has been conducted by regular armies, paramilitary groups, terror cells and individuals, causing deaths and injuries on sporadic and large scale in military and civilians as well on both sides.

Recently, in 2007 there emerged a split in Palestinian side dividing in two major factions — Fatah and Hamas in which while Fatah represents traditionally dominant party, Hamas operates as a militant organisation.

After its victory in 2006 elections and forming government, Hamas has rejected earlier agreements, non-violence and recognition of the concept of Israeli state, and seized the Gaza Strip in June 2007 with internal division — Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In a further development a Palestinian Unity Government, composed of Fatah and Hamas was formed in 2014.

Amidst rising tension, the Israel-Palestinian crisis erupted with protest that transformed into rocket attacks from Gaza and airstrikes by Israel and after 11 days of continuous violence, a ceasefire was declared on 21 May 2021, halting the struggle for the present.

— The writer is Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, B N Mandal University, Madhepura, Bihar, India.

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