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Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in an Overview

posted on: Feb 11, 2021

By: Sophia Segal/Arab America Contributing Writer 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been an issue for many decades. Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. Palestinians are the Arabs that hail from the land that Israel now controls, although some refer to the land as Palestine. The Palestinians want to establish the state of Palestine on the same land, thus the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over who the land belongs to. 

Why are they fighting?

The land of what is now Israel has been divided but the Arabs and Jews have had claims on the land for thousands of years. During the political climate at the beginning of the 20th century, Jews fleeing persecution in Europe wanted to establish a national homeland in what was the Arab, Muslim territory of the former Ottoman Empire and called the British Mandate of Palestine. Arabs then resisted, seeing how the land was rightfully theirs.

An early United Nations resolution wanted to give each group part of the land, but the resolution failed. The Jews and surrounding Arabs went through many wars over it. Today’s borders reflect the outcome of the wars between 1948 and 1967. The War of 1967 left Israel with the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which houses the largest population of Arabs in this area.

In today’s world, the West Bank is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, yet is under Israeli occupation. With that, the Israeli troops come in and enforce Israeli security restrictions. There are Israeli “settlers” coming into the West Bank and building expanding communities, denying the land to the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Gaza is controlled by Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist party.

What can be done?

One of the primary approaches to end the conflict is a two-state solution. It would establish Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and Most of the West Bank, leaving everything else to Israel. Israel would retain a Jewish majority while Palestine would have a Muslim Arab majority. However, both sides are still deeply divided that the two-state solution is better in theory.

Another possibility is a one-state solution, which would create one democratic state where the Israelis and Palestinians will be able to live as citizens with equal rights. The idea is that separating Israel into two states would be very hard due to how intertwined they are, in addition to the agreement on the borders, Jerusalem, and the situation with Palestinian refugees making it very complicated.

What would the borders be?

If the two-state solution was worked out, what exactly would the borders of it entail?

Below are images of borders before and after:

The after pictures show what Israel was able to control after the six-day war.

While discussing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process the Greenline or 67 borders are mentioned a lot. The Green Line is the armistice lines that were drawn at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The problem with using the 67 borderlines is that thousands of Israelis who live in the West Bank settlements would wind up in Palestine. How would the situation be dealt with? Would they become citizens of Palestine? Or would they be forced to move back on the Israeli side?


During the 1948 Israeli-Palestinian war, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced in order to establish Israel. Today, these families and their descendants live stateless in refugee camps all over the region. Palestinians call for the “right to return” which would permit them and their descendants to return home to their villages and homes that they once fled.

In 1948, the United Nations (UN) adopted Resolution 194. This stated that if Palestinian refugees wished to return to their home they were allowed to do so. However, that changed in 1967 during the Six-Day War where the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242. The language that was used changed the premise of the resolution calling it a “just resolution”.

Israel has said that Palestinians can return to Palestinian territory if a two-state solution is achieved. They have also criticized the UN and Arab nations for not integrating these refugees, thus prolonging the issue in order to keep the pressure on Israel.

What about Jerusalem?

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim that Jerusalem is their capital. The city is holy to not only Jews and Muslims, but also Christians.

For the Israelis, it is considered the holiest city in the world. It’s where the first and second Temples of Antiquity stood. The Temple Mount and the Western Wall stand on the remnant of the Second Temple.

As for Muslims, Jerusalem is the third holiest city because it’s where Muhammad ascended to heaven. It is also the site of the gilded Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.

In 1947, the UN called for Jerusalem to be an international city, but during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the city was left divided where Israel controlled the western section and Jordan controlled the rest. In 1967, that changed when Israel captured the whole city of Jerusalem along with Gaza, the West Bank, and Golan Heights. Israel has still allowed access to Muslim and Christian holy sites.

Although the two-state solution would mean the division of Jerusalem, many Israelis oppose it.

What is Trump doing?

The Trump administration has recently started peace talks. As of January 2020, Trump proposed an independent Palestinian state and the recognition of Israeli sovereignty of the West Bank settlements. More than 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, which are considered illegal under International law. However, as Trump puts it, the U.S. will recognize Israeli sovereignty over territories.

As of September 15th, President Trump held a signing ceremony at the White House to establish the foundation of the peace agreement between the UAE and Israel. Bahrain attended the ceremony as well. This does not give hope to the Palestinians.

If you would like to see the full timeline of Israeli Palestinian history then click here!

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