The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for decades and has a number of somewhat complicated causes, but the main issues at the heart of the strife are land and borders. Where one country ends and the other begins — and whether two independent countries should exist at all — is a big part of it. Both groups believe that they have a God-given right to the territory, and both claim rights based on the pact God made with Abraham in the Bible’s Old Testament. The opponents were once part of the same group of people who inhabited what was considered the Promised Land. Who controls Jerusalem, which is considered by many to be a holy city, also factors in; so do issues of water rights and control of a very limited supply of fresh water. Problems of force, violence, and terrorism have also fueled the conflict, particularly in the 21st century.
It can be difficult to identify a particular start date for the conflict since there have been disputes and battles over the land in the Israel-Palestine region for some time. The country of Israel was not formally created until 1948, so from a technical standpoint that would be the earliest beginning, but some scholars believe that the problems actually started quite a bit earlier. Many point to the Jewish exiles that happened ancient times when the land was conquered by the Romans. Later, it was taken over again by the Arabs, who can still be found there today.
In the late 19th century, the Jews created a movement in which they would relocate to the land they felt was given to them by God based on the accounts in the Bible. This occurred with little regard to the Palestinian population that was already residing there. Disputes over who had rights to the land followed. Great Britain had control over the Palestinian land during this period and granted the Jews permission to emigrate, but this was revoked as riots from the Arab people became increasingly violent and hostile.
Implications of the Holocaust
During the Holocaust, more than 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis in Germany, Poland, and other areas in Europe. Many who survived wanted to flee Europe, and large numbers wished to return to the land that they believed was their Biblical birthright. Leaders petitioned Great Britain to allow the Jewish people to begin migrating into Palestine, and the country acquiesced; in 1948, the formal State of Israel was formed. There was not at that time any official corresponding Palestinian country, which may have been one of the factors underwriting some of the conflict. The State of Palestine was formed in 1988.
Land ware broke out in the region in 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982. Since that time, there have been various terrorist attacks and battles over land within the region, especially the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been relocated as refugees in various locations in the Middle East in the years since Israeli independence, and many have fought and vehemently disputed the location of borders, land rights, and access points.
Control of Jerusalem
One of the most hotly-debated issues is who or what should have control over Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a religiously significant city for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. It is believed to have been originally founded by King David, and is also widely believed to be the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Both Israel and Palestine consider Jerusalem to be their capital.
Control over fresh water is also a pressing issue. The disputed land sits in a desert where drinking water is scarce. Well drilling, plumbing, and the ability to move this resource from place to place is a matter of intense debate and strife. There isn’t usually enough for both countries to have unlimited access, and the ability to control distribution is a major source of power.
Problems of Force
Violence has also been a persistent part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinians have frequently used violent force in an attempt to overtake the Jews, reclaim the territory, and allow their refugees to return to their former land; the Israelis, in turn, have trained up their own armies and have in most cases returned fire with fire. There have been a number of peace treaties that both sides have tried to implement, but none have withstood the test of time. This is due, in part, to repeated terrorist attacks and continued pushes for more land by both sides.