The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been an extremely lengthy and exhausting one. It has been going on for many decades. Solutions to it are complicated because the conflict is based on a variety of aspects and factors that are tightly intertwined. Sometimes, this conflict is called a battle for history because the aspects of culture, national heritage, and religion play a very significant role in the confrontation. Over the years, Israel managed to find peace with several countries of the Arab World (such as Jordan and Egypt); however, the conflict with Palestine persists regardless of the lengthy and numerous peace processes and versatile treaties.
Currently, several issues remain unsolved in the relationship between Israel and Palestine. Even though the solutions to them may not be visible today, there are still ways to continue the interactions between the two sides to find a compromise and establish balance. Both sides agree that the military conflict is a harmful approach that has caused a lot of damage to Israel and Palestine, took lives, and destroyed properties. However, both parties see it as a possible way of the future development of their relationship if there is aggression from the opposing side.
This briefing paper outlines the current situation in the relationship between Israel and Palestine, explains the objectives and preferences of Israel in particular, and explores the interests of the state in such spheres as the economy, security, domestic popularity, and the international relations. Besides, the paper proposes three different strategies for the future development of the relationship and interactions between Israel and Palestine in terms of state security, the global image of Israel, and the domestic popularity. These aspects were chosen because they are deemed the most influential in terms of peace and civil rights.
In 2015, the situation on the clashing territories of Israel and Palestine continued to be aggravated. To be more precise, Israel continued to expand its settlements and build new ones transferring the Israeli civilian population to the lands of West Bank that are currently under Israel.1 The Palestinian civilians responded with mass actions such as demonstrations and protests that were restricted; some activists were detained due to the suspicions of being dangerous to the Israeli state.
Moreover, the middle of autumn can be characterised by the increase in the violence and hostilities rates between the two sides; namely, Human Rights Watch reports that “Overall, Palestinians killed at least 17 Israeli civilians and 3 Israeli soldiers, and injured 87 Israeli civilians and 80 security officers in the West Bank and Israel as of November 27”; the rate of injuries and deaths is higher on the Palestinian side due to the effect the conflict had on multiple civilians and bystanders.2 Besides, as reported by Amnesty International, the armed response of the Palestinian side resulted in random firing of rockets that hit the South of Israel; fortunately, there were no deaths; Israel responded with organised airstrikes on Gaza.3
Currently, the primary criticisms of the actions of the Israeli side are directed at the detentions and restriction of protests and demonstrations, the limitation of the freedom of expression and association; the use of force by the Israeli side is recognised as excessive and uneven compared to that of the Palestinian side; besides, the creation of settlements in the occupied territories such as West Bank is perceived as problematic actions that cause the expansion of the conflict and the aggravation of the aggressive behaviours on both sides. Namely, the civilian settlers clash frequently; such conflicts often result in arsons, riots, and the destruction of properties with multiple victims. The Israeli authorities attempt to monitor the actions of the local civilians; however, their response to the acts of violence among the settlers is described as insufficient and inadequate.
Objectives and Preferences
In the conflict with Palestine, Israel is majorly viewed as the aggressor while the opposing side is perceived as the oppressed party. It is one of the goals of Israel to stop being viewed as the aggressive side and implement a plan of actions that would enforce more transparency and fairness in the choices and decisions. In turn, this change is likely to attract the attention to the other participants (such as the states of Europe and the USA attempting to assist with the negotiations and peace processes) and win more trust for Israel in the global arena.
However, the policies and resolutions aimed at the establishment of peace are useless when there are aggression and a daily threat of armed attacks from the side of Palestine. Practically, the perfect and quick solution to the conflict would be for Hamas (the Palestinian leading political party that is also recognised as a terrorist organisation in Israel, as well as many other countries) to withdraw forces and disarm and then for Israel to stop the blockade of the Palestinian territory; however, this resolution would only be possible in an ideal world, the contemporary reality makes it an unrealistic dream.4
Besides, when it comes to the specific aspects of the relationship between Israel and Palestine, one of the most significant concerns for Israel is the current ruling party in Palestine known as Hamas. This organisation that is in control of the Palestinian domestic and foreign policy is the main threat to Israel. As a result, Israeli authorities are interested in dealing with Hamas. Potentially, this strategy would help resolve the situation in Gaza and stabilise the overall conditions; however, the issue is that attempting to handle this organisation from the outside without the approval of the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is deemed unacceptable in Palestine and will only serve to aggravate the armed conflict between the two sides.5
Ultimately, the conflict between Israel and Palestine is focused on the problem of the land; however, it is important to remember that the land ownership rationale of both sides dwells upon their interpretations of the cultural and historical events of both ancient and modern times.6
The historical narrative of the Israeli side is based on the belief that the land on which the ancient Jews lived, culturally belong to the modern generations of the nation; as a result, the actions that are currently seen by Palestine and some of the other world’s countries as land grabbing and colonialism is interpreted by the Israeli side as the reclamation of what initially belongs to the people of Israel.7 Apart from the cultural, religious, and historical rationales, the Israeli side’s pursuit of the Palestinian land is based on several other benefits, reasons, and conditions.
Different periods of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have shown to be correlated with various economic factors such as employment and labour market reaction, financial costs of the support of the conflicts, the resolution attempts, and the investment for different military and security purposes. To be more precise, the trading relations between Israel and Palestine were affected significantly during the periods of violence; logically, they resulted in the downfall in the rates of employment; besides, the exports of goods from Palestine to Israel were stopped as soon as the armed conflict aggravated and this tendency caused even more hostility in the Israeli regions that were particularly dependent on the goods imported from Palestine.8
Since the trading relationships were disrupted by the confrontation, many workplaces were forced to make necessary cuts in the size of their staff, and due to that, the number of unemployed individuals grew, and the quality of life in some parts of Israel fell. At the same time, qualitative research shows that the employment of the Palestinian population in Israel helped diffuse some of the tension between them and the Israeli citizens; in other words, the provision of jobs and opportunities to earn money to the Palestinian settlers in Israel is correlated with the decrease in the outbursts of violence from their side.9
Overall, the conflict with Palestine has been extremely costly for Israel over the decades. However, the estimations show that the most beneficial resolution would be that undertaken by both sides at the same time; namely, this solution will result in the approximate gain of over 120 billion dollars for Israel and about 50 billion for Palestine over the next decade.10 Even though the general amount is much larger for Israel, Palestine is likely to benefit more proportionally. At the same time, the continuation of the armed conflict will result in massive financial losses for both sides; in particular, the predictions are that the main territory of Israel is likely to suffer 10% decrease in GDP while such regions as Gaza and West Bank are going to lose 46%.11
Israel must maintain security, which is not an easy task knowing its geographical location – the territory of Israel before 1967 was about eight thousand square miles; Tel Aviv is located only eleven miles away from West Bank border which puts it, along with Jerusalem and several other significant cities, very close to the Palestinian territories; practically, within the range of the artillery placed on the Palestinian territory.12
That way, any peaceful relationship with Palestine requires the demilitarisation of Hamas and the state. The control of West Bank is crucial for Israel because if taken over by any of its neighbours – it creates a perfect gateway for the invasion. Israeli military bases need to remain on the territory of West Bank; moreover, it is desired that Palestine does not cooperate with any other hostile states allowing them to enter its territory for the attack on Israel.
The Palestinian settlements on the territories taken by Israel present a powerful source of domestic unrest. To be more precise, the Israeli settlers who come to live in the territories previously populated by the Palestinian people inevitably begin to clash with the Palestinian residents. Such clashes often turn very violent and result in multiple victims due to fights, riots, arsons, and other types of aggressive behaviours.
In turn, the atmosphere of unrest and hostility aggravates the Palestinian residents and causes radicalisation and extremist tendencies that lead to the domestic dissatisfaction among both groups of the population – Israelis and Palestinians.13 Feeling depowered and neglected socially, the Palestinian settlers begin to seek justice in their ways turning to violence. Israel is interested in the reduction of the domestic unrest and thus needs policies equalising the settlers of different origins and bringing more satisfaction; in particular, to the areas where the two groups interact with each other.
In the international arena, the conflict between Israel and Palestine has been discussed for many decades. The dominating perspective is the one that views Israel as the aggressor and Palestine as the victim. To strengthen its international reputation, Israel is to popularise its point of view and also emphasise the fairness and equity measures when it comes to the territories such as West Bank, Gaza, and the other territories that incorporate the Palestinian population. Namely, it is important to review the treatment of the Palestinian people and attitudes toward them in Israel, sticking to the civil rights and respect of the diverse groups of the population.
To be more precise, research has indicated that the radicalisation and hostile behaviours of the Palestinian settlers correlate with the freedoms and opportunities they are provided on the territory of Israel.14 That way, diffusing the tension through the provision of a higher level of comfort to the Palestinian settlers, the Israeli authorities would prevent violent and radical behaviours among the Jewish residents as well and ensure a higher level of balance and stability in the domestic arena.
Differently put, the domestic popularity needs to be achieved not only among the Israeli population but also among the Palestinian settlers because the aggression has a cyclic nature – as soon as one of the sides becomes hostile, the other party responds and in that way, the violent outbursts may go on for quite a long time destabilising the regional and local economies and reducing the quality of life of both groups of the population.
Strategies for Future Relations
The strategies towards the resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestine have been discussed for a very long time. Several stages of peace processes were developed over the years for a purpose to stop the clashing sides, end the violence, and stabilise the environment in the region. However, the differences in views, rationales, and narratives of the two sides are very deep and complex.
That is why quick solutions are not possible. Besides, finding compromise is a serious challenge for both sides due to the length of the conflict and the number of affected people. The terms of the peace agreement are currently unfulfillable, and the only ways of resolution are to be directed at the optimisation of the situation in the region. To be more precise, expecting that peace between Israel and Palestine would be established in the nearest decades is unrealistic. However, the two states can attempt and find agreement and ease the tense relationships; and thus, approach a more peaceful interaction.
Below, there are the three strategies proposed as the ways towards the stabilisation of the situation in Israel regarding the conflict with Palestine. The chosen strategies aim at the stabilisation and improvement of the state security of Israel, its global image, and the domestic popularity of the Israeli government. These aspects are deemed essential for the future optimisation of the state economy and the establishment of successful and profitable trade and business agreements of an international character.
State Security of Israel
To solve the issues of security on both international and domestic levels, the Israeli government is recommended to establish the relation between the non-violent behaviours and the stabilisation and improvement of the quality of life and opportunities for the future development.15 In other words, it is critical to learn about the peaceful ways towards improvement and the achievement of desired goals instead of the military practices widely used earlier.
Today, the global society lives in the time when the military power of the states is extremely dangerous not only regionally but also worldwide. Differently put, the armed conflict expands quickly engaging more and more stakeholders and thus risk to turn into a massive war with the participants who have extreme power. That way, the pursuit of smart power strategies based on the determinants of influence other than fear is extremely relevant in the contemporary world.16
The strategic meaning of the West Bank for Israel is crucial, that is why this territory should continue to be under the state’s control. The placement of military bases there is in the military and security interests of the country. However, it is critical to solving the internal conflicts on the territory of West Bank. The problem is that this strategy is likely to aggravate Hamas. Besides, Israel is interested in the expansion of the settlements on the newly obtained territories, that is why the world’s leaders shouldn’t participate in the negotiations and speed up or change the resolution strategies.
The smart power security strategy of Israel is to be founded on the cooperation with the other global state agents with significant power. However, this cooperation needs not to be a military alliance but a business-type relationship. Israel has a strong trade potential being a powerful export economy and manufacturing the good of high demand such as petroleum products, medication, electronics, and diamonds.17 Israel should strengthen its trading relationships with the world’s most powerful states as well as with the neighbouring countries and through these connections improve its global image and ensure better security conditions for the future.
The issue is that the leaders of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and the Russian Federation attempt to influence the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories. That way, while Israel is perceived as an aggressive state, the opportunities to establish partnerships with any of these large states are limited.
As it was mentioned previously, the domestic popularity of the Israeli government is tightly connected with its ability to resolve the internal clashes and confrontations in the form of riots and arsons in the settlements. When the Palestinian and Israeli resident communities are placed near each other, they inevitably begin to clash due to the cultural, social, and political differences. As a result, the Palestinian population ends up being victimised on the territory of Israel. Feeling depowered and unable to find fair and respectful treatment, the Palestinians become radicalised.
In response to their hostility, the Israeli population also becomes violent and radical. As a result, the two sides require an authority to establish fair attitudes and equitable treatment of both sides. The proposed strategy is based on the development and implementation of a set of policies designed to eliminate hostile behaviours of the Israeli and Palestinian citizens toward one another. To be more precise, the violent outbursts need to be punished by the criminal justice response, the cases of attacks need to be fairly and objectively investigated from the perspective of human rights regardless of the nationalities of the victims and the offenders.18
The conflict between Israeli and Palestinian territories has been going on for many decades. Over the years, it managed to engage a large number of participants and stakeholders. Besides, the issue and the rationale behind the conflict are very complex and involve a multitude of determinants and factors that are intertwined. The quick solutions are impossible because both sides feel extremely insecure in the situation.
The current objectives of Israel include the strengthening of its global image, the increase of the state security, and the establishment of domestic balance via the integration of the Palestinian settlers and the preservation of the human rights on the territory of West Bank for the sake of the inner security and the satisfaction of the population. All in all, it is possible to work out the strategies that would help establish peaceful relations and interactions between Israel and Palestine. However, Israel is interested in the lengthy negations allowing the father expansion of the Jewish settlements.
- Human Rights Watch, Israel/Palestine Events of 2015.
- P Scham, ‘Israeli Historical Narratives’, in J Peters & D Newman (eds.), The Routledge Handbook on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Routledge, London, 2013, p. 36.
- M Caali & S Miaari, Economics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- AC Ross, D Egel, CP Ries, C Bond, A Liepman, J Martini, S Simon, S Efron, BD Stein, L Ayer & ME Vaiana, The Costs of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, 2015, n.p.
- M Tessler, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2009, 332.
- M Caali & S Miaari.
- MF Salinas & HA Rabi, Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Perspectives on the Peace Process, Cambria Press, New York, 2009, p. 13.
- RL Armitage & JS Nye, CSIS Commission on Smart Power, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, New York, 2007, p. 6.
- OEC, Israel.
- M Galchinsky, ‘The Jewish Settlements in the West Bank: International Law and Israeli Jurisprudence’, Israel studies, vol. 9, no. 3, 2004, p. 120.