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Palestine is a territory in the Middle East at the shores of the Mediterranean. It has a long and difficult history. The roots of the modern Middle East problem are in the territorial-ethnic conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Jews. For almost a century, the Arabs and the Jews are opposed each other. Their conflict is one of the most longstanding and complex in world history. “For the best part of a century, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been a complex problem with important ramifications for the international community”.
Its beginning refers to the 40th years of the XX century and is connected with the problem of the establishment of Jewish and Arab states in Palestine. There are a great number of academic researches on various aspects of the conflict. Thousands of works explore the preconditions of such confrontation. The Middle East conflict is the longest of all the unresolved conflicts in the world and the process of peaceful settlement remains the most important for the entire international community for more than one decade. The research paper is devoted to the study of the causes and consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The paper provides an overall assessment of the situation in the Middle East, examines the main components of the conflict, and considers possibilities and ways of its solving.
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Beginning of the Conflict
The beginning of the Middle East conflict is referred to as the 40th of the XX century. “Two people lie at the heart of the Middle East Problem, Israelis and Palestinians”. It is connected with the problem of the establishment of Jewish and Arab states in Palestine. Such a decision was adopted on November 29, 1947, when the UN General Assembly voted in favor of the creation of two states - Arab and Jewish - on the West Bank of Jordan, as well as the international zone of Jerusalem. 33 states voted for the partition of Palestine, against – 13.
However, as for the Arab world, such a decision was initially rejected by the neighboring Arab states and the Arab population of Palestine. Arabs unanimously refused to recognize the idea of the return of the Jews to Palestine. From that moment, an open clash between the Arab and Jewish armed groups began.
The Yom Kippur War
October 6, 1973, the fourth Arab-Israeli war started with a sudden attack of Syria and Egypt on Israel. It is known as the Yom Kippur War. The conflict that matured for many years between the two Middle Eastern states resulted in an open military confrontation. In the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, Egyptian armed forces together with the Syrian military suddenly attacked Israel. The encounter lasted eighteen days. It was the fourth large-scale Arab-Israeli conflict.
Two nations in the Middle East – Egypt and Syria – became the initiators of the military offensive on the territory of Israel. The diplomats of the countries had repeatedly tried to negotiate with the Israeli authorities on the return of the land captured in 1967.
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However, Israel categorically rejected the offer from the neighbors. Such a fact forced the Arabs to take extreme measures and sign the so-called rule of three without implying the rejection of negotiations, recognition, and peace with the Jewish state. It marked the beginning of a smoldering political conflict that is known in history under the title War of Attrition. As a result, the return of the taken land turned into a matter of principle for the Arabs.
One of the lessons learned from the Six-Day War became the massive rearmament of Syrian and Egyptian armies. The Soviet Union made a great contribution to their equipment. It supplied Egypt not only the tanks of various modifications but the experienced instructors, who trained soldiers to conduct the battle using armored vehicles. Arabs equipped their army with the 9M14 Malyutkas that we're able to destroy enemy equipment quickly and effectively.
Arabs came to the issue of choosing the day of the offensive very carefully. It became one of the major Jewish holidays Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. They knew that the Israelis spend that day in prayer. In such a way, institutions and public transport did not work.
It is not quite correct to call the attack of the Egyptians and Syrians sudden. It is known that already in the early morning, long before the invasion, in Israel, mobilization was declared. The reconnaissance regularly received information about the impending attack. Such a fact bothered all the ruling circles of the country. However, the uncertainty and indecision of Prime Minister Golda Meir, who was under pressure from the US Secretary of State, as well as skepticism of then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan were decisive in the end.
The power with which the enemy attacked the territory of Sinai was sudden for the Israeli military. It was one of the most massive tank battles in world history. At exactly 14:00, on the position of the Israelis, aviation attacks were made. However, five minutes later, Egyptian artillery performed a crushing attack, in which more than two thousand guns and mortars participated. Twenty minutes later, the Egyptians disabled the firing points of Israeli defense. Ten minutes later, they were at the top of the shaft moving the fire deeper into the defense. Also, their troops crossed the Suez Canal. At the same time, they prepared the passages for equipment of seventy areas designated in advance. By the end of the day, Egyptian 9M14 with the support of infantry managed to disable more than two hundred Israelis tanks. The glorious Israeli aircraft also suffered defeat. In just three days, it lost more than eighty planes.
October 7, two armored, one mechanized, and five infantry divisions of Egypt hosted in the Sinai. The number of marines reached a hundred thousand people, tanks – more than eight hundred. Simultaneously, the second Egyptian army led an offensive towards the Mediterranean coast, and the third army attacked in the area of Suez. Military operations continued even during the night. In this respect, the Egyptians and Syrians had one important advantage. The fact is that the major share of the Arab tank park was Soviet T-55. They had night vision equipment. It made it possible to conduct a successful bombardment of armored vehicles of the enemy. Also, the small size of the T-55 and high maneuverability due to the relatively low weight made them less vulnerable in comparison with the heavy and larger Israelis tanks.
Despite all the successes of the Egyptian army, in a few days, the Jews started decisive combat actions. Losses on both sides grew incredibly. Both armies needed additional supplies of weapons and equipment. Some researchers affirm that if there was no assistance from the side of the US, the outcome of the war would not be so favorable to Israel. From the United States, Israel received one hundred twenty-eight combat aircraft, a hundred and fifty tanks M60, two thousand 9M14 of the latest sample, a great number of missiles, and cluster bombs. After receiving weapons, the Israeli army started an attack. A few days later, it captured the Suez. It was the last chord of the battle in the Sinai. The war was stopped. All participants of the war suffered notable losses. According to most historians, the fourth Arab-Israeli war ended in “a draw”.
The Politics of the Conflict
From the very beginning, the foreign policy of Israel has been directed at the persuasion of the international community that the Palestine problem does not exist. For a long time, in the West, especially the United States, the Palestinian issue was considered not as a problem of the existence and the future of the whole nation deprived by the Zionists of the legitimate national rights but only as a problem of the Palestinian refugees.
For such reason, until the early 70s, the international community did not allocate the Palestinian issue as an independent in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, before the adoption of relevant resolutions regarding Palestine in the 70-80ss, the rights of Palestinian people were recorded at the international level. They are connected primarily with the famous 14 points of Woodrow Wilson, where the rights to self-determination of peoples within the Ottoman Empire were affirmed.
The adoption of the resolution by the UN General Assembly on the establishment of the two states on the Palestinian territories also meant the recognition of the Palestinian people as a subject of international law, where the status of Jerusalem was identified, as well. By the beginning of the 80s, there were already many documents that constituted a solid international legal framework for the solution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects.
One of the most large-scale conferences to resolve the Middle East conflict was the Madrid Conference. The Soviet Union and the United States were the organizers of the conference. The aim of the conference was the adoption of decisions on the release of all the occupied territories by Israel, the right of all states in the region to independent existence within recognized borders, ensuring the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, and the achievement of peace and security for the Israelis. The conference lasted three days. Nevertheless, it was of great importance. For the first time, all the parties of the conflict met at the negotiating table.
The settlement of the Middle East conflict is one of the key international problems for more than sixty years. The conflict is an extremely complex and intricate issue characterized by numerous contradictions between Arab states and Israel. The geopolitical factor is of particular importance in the current issue, as well. The Middle East region with its considerable resources of energy is the crossroads of the strategic interests of the world and the leading regional powers. The presence of the influential Jewish lobby leads to a policy of strategic alliance of the US with Israel.
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Washington supports the position of Tel Aviv in the negotiations at the regional level, as well as within the UN. The European powers and Russia seek to restore their traditional influence in the region supporting the Arab countries. They are in favor of settlement of the Middle East problem through the creation of a Palestinian state and the return of the Israeli-occupied territories. To date, the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most difficult problem to solve not only by its direct participants but also by the entire world community. For more than sixty years, the existence of a permanent source of tension in the strategically important region worries Western countries that make efforts for its peaceful resolution.
The Yom Kippur War marked a new stage in the Arab-Israeli conflict. After the war, direct negotiations between the parties began. The negotiations raised issues about the separation of troops, the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the second bank of the Suez Canal captured during the war, and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the town of Quneitra on the Golan Heights. It was connected primarily with the fact that the two superpowers – the Soviet Union and the United States – feared that a further increase in tensions could lead to the war between the two countries.
According to US President Jimmy Carter, the Yom Kippur War led the world to nuclear confrontation. After the signing of the agreements after the 1973 war, negotiations were conducted on other issues, as well. While all of the efforts, as well as the Geneva Conference, did not result in any progress, a new path was still scheduled.
The need for negotiations was evident from the very beginning of the conflict. Nevertheless, the real beginning of a dialog between the Palestinians and Israelis was laid only recently – in 1991. After several decades of wars, the main parties of the Arab-Israeli conflict were involved in a complex and controversial peace process. One of the major reasons contributing to it was the end of the bipolar world, the weakening of the role of the Soviet Union, and its subsequent decay.
The United States of America was an undisputed leader in the peace process. After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and especially as a result of the Gulf War, European countries took very passive participation in the conflict. As a result, at the beginning of the 1990s, the United States was the only power that actively participated in the process.
From the second half of the 1990s, the European Union led by France and Germany carefully took an increasingly independent position in the Middle East peace process. Since 1994, in the European Union, many countries expressed dissatisfaction with the role of a passive observer and sponsor of the Middle East. There were statements about the need to change attitudes and desire to influence the course of the peace process. The mediating role of the European Union is limited primarily by the fact that within it, there is no consensus on the issue, which is necessary for more efficient intermediation.
Some experts believe that the Israeli-Palestinian issues have outgrown the framework of the political opposition and reached the level of mental and intellectual contradictions. The feud that lasts several decades has become part of the consciousness of both peoples. If the Israeli or the Palestinian government is ready to make fundamental concessions, it will inevitably face resignation.
Between Palestine and Israel, there is a range of insoluble contradictions. There are three issues between the warring parties – the status of Jerusalem, the return of Palestinian refugees, and Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The three questions are the key moments of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement. If they are resolved, the issue of the settlement of the conflict will disappear. Any negotiations that start with the establishment of a Palestinian state will rest on such unsolvable problems. However, according to some scholars, the problems are unsolvable, especially due to the status of Jerusalem.
Now, the problems have outgrown the political level and reached the intellectual one. In particular, the situation of Jerusalem is a mental problem. Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are ready to renounce Jerusalem. Both parties believe that the city is sacred and, as a result, they will not stop fighting for it. In such a way, the conflict has come to a deadlock.
The Middle East
The Middle East is a region that combines different countries on the territory of the former Ottoman Empire. On a modern map of the Middle East, Asia Minor, North Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula states are located. The population of the region is approximately 170 million people. The main nationalities of the Middle East are Arabs, Turks, Jews, and Persians. “Although most are Muslims, many millions, notably in Lebanon, are Christians”. In Israel, the main religion is Judaism. Different religions and cultures have created internal contradictions between the Arab countries and Israel.
For a very long time, the Middle East is considered one of the most disturbing areas of the world. “Military coups and revolutions have been significant features of the Middle East and military-based regimes characteristic of states such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Egypt”. The tense situation, sharpened relations between Arab countries and Israel combined with a complex internal political situation in the individual countries of the area, as well as the continuing acts of intervention of the imperialist powers in the internal affairs of Arab states create an extremely diverse and constantly changing political situation that attracts attention to the Middle East. “The conflict involves issues relating to ethnic and religious differences, disputes over territorial claims and national integrity, claims and counter-claims of injustice suffered at the hands of enemies”. The strategic and political importance of the Middle East situation is determined by several reasons for political, military-strategic, and economic order. The Middle East is the most contentious region of the world. Throughout the second half of the XX century, short and long-term wars took part there periodically. In one form or another, great powers, and especially the Soviet Union and the United States were involved in them.
Despite the ongoing tensions in the region, the Middle East has a unique culture and developed economy. In the modern world, the Middle East plays an increasingly prominent role. Although such a role is primarily felt in the field of economics and politics, modern research has paid much attention to the study of the internal structure of the East, its national and cultural traditions, and specifics of social development. Most countries of the region have huge oil reserves. As a result, it makes them successful trading partners with a great number of countries worldwide.
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The Arab-Israeli conflict is a confrontation between several Arab countries and Arab radical groups supported by a part of the indigenous Arab population of the occupied Palestinian territories by Israel, on the one hand, and the Zionist movement the State of Israel – on the other. “The conflict is essentially a struggle between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews about the future of the area of the Middle East that in the years before the establishment of Israel in 1948 was known throughout the world as Palestine”. Within the framework of such a large-scale phenomenon, there is a regional Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to a clash of interests of Israel and the Palestinian Arabs worsened by religious, cultural, and ethnic hatred. One of the main contentious issues regards the belongings of Palestine and Jerusalem, where each party considers its historic homeland and religious shrine. The situation is complicated by the conflict of interests of the leading world powers in the Middle East region that became an arena for their political and sometimes military confrontation.
There are several disagreements between Palestine and Israel. “In day-to-day terms, the key issues for Israel and Palestine are largely the same – the security of the state and its people, where their respective borders should be drawn, the implications of the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the future of Jerusalem”. The division of Jerusalem is a basic contradiction, in which countries cannot find a common compromise. For the Jewish population, Jerusalem is a holy land with temples and the Wailing Wall. “In ancient times, they inhabited the Biblical land of Israel”. Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state. None of the Jewish leaders can transfer it to another country. However, for the Arabs, the city is also sacred. As a result, Arab leaders cannot refuse Jerusalem, as well. In 2001, the Israeli Prime Minister has agreed on the division of Jerusalem and Palestinian sovereignty over most parts of the Old City. However, it was expected that the capital of the Arab state would be in the suburbs. The Arabs refused such a proposal.
Another disagreement in the conflict is the problem of refugees. Before the outbreak of hostilities in 1948 in Palestine, there were approximately 1 million 230 thousand Arabs both Christians and Muslims. 400 thousand Arabs lived in the territory intended for the Jewish state. In 1948, more than half of the Arab population left the region. The number of Arab refugees who left Israel is estimated at 630,000. They left the territory escaping from military activities, under pressure on the Israeli army, and partly at the call of their leaders.
Despite the vast Arab territories, Arab refugees were not admitted to the Arab countries. Out of 100 million refugees of the Second World War, it is the only refugee group in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated into countries with their peoples. Arab refugees moved to the not captured territories intended for the Arab state. Approximately 200 thousand refugees settled in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), which was controlled by Jordan. Approximately 190 thousand moved to the Gaza Strip occupied by Egypt. “Around three million Palestinian Arabs live in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the East Jerusalem, generally called the Occupied Territories”.
There are two extreme opposites in terms of the reason for the outcome of the Arab refugees. According to traditional Israeli historiography, more than 75% of refugees voluntarily left the residence at the call of Arab leaders not to interfere with the actions of the Arab armies. According to the Israeli version, only 25% of the refugees left their homes under duress by the Israeli army. However, according to the Palestinian and Arab historiography, the majority of refugees forcibly left their homes by the Israeli army. Such a process had a purposeful character. Its goal was the ethnic cleansing of the territory. Modern historians believe that there both processes took place.
The United Nations adopted a partition plan for Palestine. The plan suggested the partition of Palestine into two states – Arab and Jewish. Jerusalem was declared an international city of the United Nations to prevent conflict on its status. The Jews living in Israel accepted the plan. However, the Arab states rejected it. It was the beginning of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During the conflict, there were many wars and military actions. The Yom Kippur War was of great importance. After it, there was the beginning of the negotiations between the conflict parties. Nevertheless, they did not lead to any solution.
The Israeli-Palestinian relations are a key factor determining the state of the Middle East. Today, peace negotiations reached an impasse due to many reasons. Among them, there is the inability of the parties to agree on the status of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. To finish the conflict the recognition of a Palestinian state is necessary, as well as the return of refugees to the territories of Israel, from which they were expelled by force, and the signing of international agreements.
Fewer outbreaks of violence are only possible dealing with not just issues of Israel and the occupied territories, in which refugees are allowed to live, but also with the two states that have equal status before the international community. To a large extent, the international community plays a positive role in conflict solving.
In the Arab-Israeli conflict, such countries as the United States, the Russian Federation, and the European Union take part. They strongly support the conflicting parties and promote the resumption of peace in the region.