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Middle East Conflict - Part II
R. Jerry Adams, Ph.D.
Evaluation and Development Institute

Methods of Fighting
The Water Issue
Role of the USA
Why Do Palestinians Fight This Way?
Why Do Israelis Fight This Way?

Methods of Fighting
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 chases.

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 grandchildren.

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 areas.

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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 their homeland.

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 Palestinians.

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 Way?
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 peace.

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.

See the
Middle East for more information on this topic or Terrorism for information related to the attack on the USA.

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Related Topics
Middle East

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