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Middle East Conflict - Part II
East Conflict - Part II
R. Jerry Adams,
Evaluation and Development
Role of the
Palestinians Fight This Way?
Why Do Israelis Fight
The Palestinian people, led by Yasser
Arafat until his death in 2004, are outraged by Israeli occupation of Palestinian
territories. The Israeli leadership is continuing to use
military force against protesters. Israel has one of the
most advanced military forces in the world and the Palestinians
have a very limited military capability. Most of those dying
in the conflict have been Palestinians.
The method of fighting for each side is quite different.
The Palestinians have no army and have used bombs against civilian
men, women, and children to try to make the Israelis afraid for
their personal safety. They expect the Iraelis to respond to the
bombings by attacking the Palestinian people. When Israel does
this, Palestinians hope that other countries will then help the
Palestinian people and protect them from the Israelis.
Human Rights Watch declared in November 2000 that "suicide bombing attacks are crimes against humanity and that the people responsible for planning and carrying out suicide bombings that deliberately target civilians should be brought to justice. The report went on to state that well-established principles of international law require those in authority be held accountable when people under their control commit war crimes or crimes against humanity. Leaders who order such crimes, fail to take reasonable preventive action, or fail to punish the perpetrators are also responsible for such crimes. In March of 2002, Amnesty International issued a report with similar conclusions."
The Palestinian bombers almost always die in the attacks, so the
Israeli military then kills Palestinians suspected of planning the
attacks. The Israeli military has killed or seriously injured many
Palestinian civilians while pursuing terrorists. In addition,
Israelis have damaged a great deal of Palestinian property during
In short, each side is responding to the other by killing
civilians--men, women, and children who are not part of the
military. Each side is killing for revenge, as well as to meet its
own goals. Each side is trying to convince the rest of the world
that it is acting with high morality. Each side is creating a
climate of violence and terror for their own children and
This is not a matter of two nations at war, however, since the
Palestinians do not yet have a separate state. Israelis have the
ability to kill or drive away most of the Palestinians, while the
Palestinians do not have that power against the Israelis. This
unequal contest may turn out badly for all of us unless the USA and
others intervene effectively. If Palestinians continue to use
terrorism to try to achieve their goals, and if Israel continues to
use military force against the Palestinian people to combat
terrorism, many other nations may find themselves involved against
each other regarding the conflict.
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The Water Issue
A concern of the Israelis, Palestinians, and Arab nations in the
region is the water issue. Mikhail Gorbachev (former Premier
of the Soviet Union) and Shimon Peres (former Prime Minister of
Israel)noted that "More than anywhere else, the Middle East exemplifies the perils
and possibilities created by the water crisis."
"In the past 10 years the various states in the Middle East have
spent billions to acquire arms instead of building water pipelines
or finding ways to conserve, clean and use water more efficiently
on a shared, regional basis."
"We all know that deserts create poverty, and that poverty often
leads to war -- especially when everyone is armed to the teeth. But
missiles in an armed desert can't carry water any more than
minefields can stop pollution from crossing borders."
"The alternative to another round of conflict, this time over
water instead of land, is cooperation. Desalinization or joint
management is cheaper than launching wars for rivers."
A recommendation by Jad Isaac of the Applied Research Institute, Jerusalem,
includes a confidence building measure by the Israelis. He
emphasizes that Gaza and West Bank Palestinians do not have
sufficient access to water now and suggests that negotiations for
peace include Israel making sufficient water available to the two
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Role of the USA
What is the role of the USA in this? Palestinians claim that the
fighting has expanded partly because the USA has not influenced the
Israeli government to use more restraint. The Israelis claim that
the conflict has expanded because Palestinian leadership has not
stopped the terrorism.
A plan was developed by a group of experts, led by former U.S.
Senator George Mitchell, to find a path to peace. The leaders of
the Israelis, Palestinians, and the United States accepted the
plan. The plan requires for each side to stop attacking the other
side and for each side to try to help the other side achieve what
it wants most, one step at a time. However, both the Palestinians
and Israelis have continued the fighting instead of actually
following the plan.
Crown Prince Abdullah of
Saudi Arabia then proposed a plan in April (2002) that
has the support of neighboring Arab states and is consistent with
the Mitchell plan. It has the interest of the United States,
Israel, and the Palestinians. It includes full normalization of
relationships with Israel by all Arab states and recognition of
Israel as a state by all Arab states. In return, Israel must pull
out of Palestinian territories, back to 1967 borders. It allows for
compromise and negotiation on return of Palestinian refugees to
Both Israelis and Palestinians have asked the USA to help broker a
peace process. Intervention by the USA did seem essential to gain a
lasting peace, but now that the conflict has escalated, much more
than the USA may be needed for an effective intervention.
The Bush administration is focused on combating terrorism, a
method of fighting associated with Arafat. Arafat has not been very
convincing in trying to stop terrorism. Evidence suggests that
instead trying to stop it, he may have supported terrorism.
To complicate the situation even more, Israel has been accused of
committing war crimes against Palestinians and will not let the
United Nations investigate to see if the accusations are true.
Allegations against Israel are being made by international
humanitarian agencies who tried to render aid to wounded
Consensus seems to be growing that a slow, step by step process,
such as recommended by the Mitchell plan, will no longer work.
Trust between the Israelis and Palestinians has been destroyed and
the Mitchell plan requires trust by both sides. Something quite
different may be needed. See "A Road to Peace" above.
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Why Do Palestinians Fight This
Why are Palestinians killing civilian Israeli men, women, and
children when the Qur'an specifically prohibits killing
noncombatants? Why are they doing this when they know that such
deaths harden the hearts of the Israeli people and will make it
unlikely for Palestinian children or grandchildren to ever have
peace? Why are Palestinians planting the seeds of suffering for
their own children and grandchildren?
The short answer is that the Palestinians are exhausted,
desperate, and very angry because of the Israeli occupation of
their land. They also lack a leader who is focused on long-term
Why Do Israelis Fight This Way?
Why are Israelis supporting military actions against civilians and
occupying land that is not theirs? Why are Israelis allowing their
armies to do this when they know that such actions harden the
hearts of the Palestinian people and will make it unlikely for
Israeli children or grandchildren to ever have peace?
The short answer is that the Israelis are exhausted, desperate,
and very angry because of the terrorist attacks. They also lack a
leader who is focused on long-term peace.
Middle East for more information on this topic or
Terrorism for information related to the attack on the
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