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Israel-Palestine tensions: A Brief History of the Middle East region

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In a major breakthrough, the Israeli opposition has made a coalition deal to overthrow PM Benjamin Netanyahu. The 11th-hour negotiations and hustlings led to the coming of parties and supporters from diverse backgrounds in Israel.

Israel’s this coalition ranges from the left to the far right. And surprisingly, there is an Arab bloc also joining in for a coalition government.

But it won’t be that easy to oust Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history. As Netanyahu will try every manoeuvre to turn the tide in his favour.

So, before that let us have a look at Israel’s unusually diverse coalition.

It is an alliance between eight political parties. All carrying a diverse array of ideologies, from the left to the far right.

Yet all eyes are on this small Arab party ‘Raam’. This would become the first Arab group to join a right-leaning coalition in the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

This unusual alliance would be led until 2023 by Naftali Bennett. He is a former ally of Mr Netanyahu who is himself more right-wing than Netanyahu.

But what led to this end-time alliance of such different ideologies? What is that one common thing that binds them together? Probably the domestic political turmoil and its after-effects that are afflicting Israel and its economy.

To know it in detail, let us go back to history. The past has all the records of what went wrong.

Let us have a look at where it all began!

A brief history of the Middle East conflict

The area called the Middle East has been one of the most troubled regions in the world. War and political turmoil are not new to this region, especially since 1945. But let us first know which areas fall under the Middle East.

The Middle East broadly consists of Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Yemen republics, the UAE, Oman and Israel. Most of these states are peopled by Arabs.

The creation and landmarking of each of these territories involve several empires, the history of their wars and downfalls. The small Jewish state of Israel for that matter was set up by the United Nations in 1948 in Palestine.

The creation of Israel though took place in an area belonging to the Palestinian Arabs. The common Arab sentiment was hurt. For Israel’s creation in 1948, the Arabs particularly blamed the USA and Britain. They saw these two countries (the US and Britain) as being more supportive of the idea of a Jewish state. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

The Arab state however refused to recognise Israel as a legal entity or state. Moreover, the other Arab states outside the Middle East are Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.

So, Israel’s creation had already seeded contempt. The Arab states vowed to destroy Israel. There went four wars between the Arab states and Israel. But the latter survived.

Creation of Israel

This goes back to almost 2000 years when in AD 71, Jews lived in Palestine, their homeland. But most of the Jews were driven out of their homeland by none other than the Romans. Although, smaller Jewish communities stayed behind in Palestine and after almost 1700 years there began a gradual homecoming of Jews returning from exile.

But by then, Arabs looked at Palestine as their homeland and not as a place for or belonging to Jews. Then came the World Zionist Organisation in 1897 in Basle, Switzerland. Moreover, Jews were being persecuted in Russia, France and Germany, hence this organisation then appeared as a promising prospect for Jews all over the world.

But the bone of contention remained intact. The homeland Palestine in reality could not be claimed in full either by Arabs or the Jews, who called it their rightful homeland.

When Palestine became a British mandate, things started becoming favourable for the Jews all over again. Jews began to return to Palestine in large numbers. With the Arabs protesting against their arrival, discontent and anxiety became apparent throughout this former Ottoman region.

British and French mandates at the end of the First World War (MAP FROM MODERN WORLD HISTORY BY NORMAN LOWE)

All attempts for a Jewish homeland of Israel

Then came the Balfour Declaration which announced the support for the establishment of a national home for Jews. Yet the deep religious gulf between the Arabs and Jews was there to stay.

The persecution of Jews by Nazis also led to a flood of refugees coming back to Palestine. So, by 1940, about half the population of Palestine was Jewish.

After much uproar, the British, in 1937, proposed to divide Palestine into two separate states. But the Arabs rejected the idea. Then came the Second World War. A weakened British could not interfere much now. It asked the United Nations to deal with the problem. Then in 1947, the UNO voted to divide Palestine.

This all was going on when Arabs and Jews were vying for the piece of land. Britain decided to come out altogether and the UN went ahead to carry out its plan. The British withdrew their troops.

In May 1948 Ben Gurion declared Independence for Israel. Then came the war, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon were quick to attack the newly-created state.

It could have been a hands-down victory for the Arab states. But against all overwhelming odds, Israel succeeded in defeating them. The newly declared state of Israel even captured more of Palestine than the UN had given them. What more could they ask for?

Furthermore, the most unfair outcome remained the innocent Palestinian Arabs. They had nowhere to go now. Some remained in Israel while others were living in the area called the ‘West Bank’. The West Bank area was occupied by Jordan. It was claimed from 1949 to 1988 as part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. But Israel occupied it later in 1967.

And the holy city of Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan. Yet the struggle to destroy this entity of Israel continues to this day too.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s last bid

What tomorrow holds for Israel is not clear yet. As Netanyahu’s Likud party will certainly pile pressure on wavering members. They will leave no stone unturned in order to persuade the scattered members to abandon the coalition.

On the other hand, Raam, the Arab Islamist party, that has recently joined the coalition cannot promise its loyalty to the fullest for obvious reasons.

It only agreed to join the coalition after receiving assurances about improvements to the Arab minority’s land and housing rights. But these very assurances are frowned upon by many of the hard-right Israelis who deem it unacceptable.

But how successful this coalition would prove to be and where will it lead Israel in future, only time will tell.

ALSO READ: Israel’s Opposition Leader Yair Lapid Declares Majority To Unseat Netanyahu

Hina Fatima Khan
Hina Fatima Khan
Multi-media Journalist based in India with an experience of 7 years in the industry, Hina Fatima Khan works as a Senior Sub-Editor at The Vocal News. Her areas of interest are Politics, Business, History and World Affairs. She is also a Space enthusiast and enjoys scrabble in the Newspapers. She has done Masters in Convergent Journalism from Mass communication Research Centre (MCRC), Jamia Millia Islamia University.

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