The conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is technically 69 years old and counting, but it has its roots in over 2,000 years of history. With so much time and history, the Middle East peace process has become laden with unique, politically sensitive concepts like the right of return, contiguous borders, secure borders, demilitarized zones, and security requirements, with players like the Quartet, Palestinian Authority, Fatah, Hamas, the Arab League and Israel. Over time, it has become exceedingly difficult for even sophisticated political pundits and followers to keep track of it all.
Nearly a century before the state of Israel was founded in 1948, Palestine was under the control of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, consisting mostly of Arabs. During the 1850s, Jews began settling in small villages across the lands that once comprised Judea and Samaria, which the Jews considered their ancient Biblical homeland. These efforts to buy property were driven by the motivation of some Jews to help reestablish the land as the Jewish homeland. These Jews became known as Zionists, in reference to Zion, which is often thought of as a reference to all of Israel but is in fact a reference to part of Jerusalem. The Zionists attempted to establish a Jewish National Fund that would assist Jews in buying land in Palestine for Jewish settlement.
In the middle of World War I, the British pledged their support to the Zionist cause and the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine through the Balfour Declaration of November 1917. At the time, the British realized the strategic importance of Palestine because it was near the Suez Canal, and they saw the Zionists as potentially helpful allies in the region following the war. British foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour sent a letter to Lord Rothschild on November 2, 1917, declaring the government’s “sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations,” and favoring “the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People,” with an intent to assist the Jews in achieving it.
In 1947, the British delegated the issue of partitioning the British Mandate to the United Nations, and the UN General Assembly set up the Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). UNSCOP eventually came up with what is now known as the UN Partition Plan of 1947.
©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors