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Middle East Conflict - Why?
R. Jerry Adams, Ph.D.
Evaluation and Development Institute

Parable of the Family with an Orphan
A Short History of Israeli and Palestinian Conflict
Palestinian View of the Conflict
Israeli View of the Conflict
A Road to Peace
Continued - Part II

Parable of the Family with an Orphan
A large family takes in an orphan. The house is already crowded so the orphan must share an attic room with a child too weak to protest the intrusion. The parents give each of the two children half of the room but ask each child to share a beautiful cabinet, treasured by both. The parents take a long trip, leaving their strongest son in charge.

When the parents leave, other children in the family attack the orphan and try to get him to leave. The weakest child, in particular, fights unfairly. He waits for the orphan to sleep and then attacks him. The orphan wakes up each time and hurts the weak child; he also takes over more of the room, including the beautiful cabinet.

As the orphan continues to take over more of the room, the weak child continues to take revenge. The strongest son tries to bring peace and sometimes succeeds for short periods. The basic problem, however, is that each child believes that he should have the entire attic room to himself.

Finally, the parents return. They realize that they made a mistake by leaving home while there was such a difficult situation in the attic. They don't just ask the two children to stop fighting, however. Instead, they take immediate action.

The parents decide that the boys need temporary separation, something constructive to keep them busy, and careful supervision. The parents work with the two boys to build shelves and cabinets down the middle of the room, with private storage space for each boy on each side. They install plumbing so each side of the room has plenty of fresh water. Finally, when the crisis is over, the parents set up a way for the boys to share the beautiful cabinet.

The parents do more than just provide better space, however. They provide the love, kindness, and supervision that each child needs to do well. They also make sure that the other children support the solution.

Each boy reverts to his old behavior a few times, but the parents remove his privileges each time and the old behaviors stop. Besides, each boy becomes too busy pursuing his own goals to be distracted by fighting.

They lived happily ever after...with a few disagreements here and there.

The "large family" is the United Nations. The "orphan" is Israel. The "other children" are the Arab states. The "weakest son" is the Palestinian people. Attacking the orphan unfairly means "terrorist attacks." The "attic room" is the territory of Palestine before the United Nations carved Israel into it. The "beautiful cabinet" is Jerusalem.

The "strongest son" is the United States. Alas, there are no wise parents to supervise the boys. The UN Security Council has not been able to perform this essential role.

The "strongest son," therefore, must work with the "other children" to implement peace. If the "strongest son" and the "other children" work together effectively, then peace will spread throughout the entire family.

Recently, this has not happened. Instead, extremist Palestinians have engaged in bombings when Israelis agreed to work on peace. Extremist Israelis have engaged in assassinations or other acts of aggression when Palestinians agreed to work on peace. Israelis are swiftly completing a wall between Israel and Palestinian territory, but the wall is not on the 1967 border. Rather, it snakes into Palestinian territory to unlawfully take land and water rights from 200,000 Palestinians. Extremists from both sides have destroyed the peace process.

The Palestinian people are allowing extremists to lead them. The Israeli people are allowing extremists to lead them. As the violence keeps increasing, wisdom from any quarter would be welcome.

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A Short History of Israeli and Palestinian Conflict
After World War II, the United Nations gave land to the Jewish people of the world so they could live together in peace.   This land, Israel, includes holy places for the Jewish religion and is surrounded by Muslim countries.   Palestinian Muslims lived on the land at the time that the United Nations gave it to the Jewish people. The Palestinians and neighboring Arabic nations did not accept the creation of Israel. "Hoping to annihilate the new Jewish state, the armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq invaded... thus starting the 1948 Arab-Israeli War."

Portions of the land given to the Jewish people, or taken over by them when they won wars when Arab states attacked, are also holy for Muslims.   Certain portions of Jerusalem controlled by Israel, called "East Jerusalem," are very important to Muslims.   For religious reasons, Palestinian Muslims believe that they must gain control of East Jerusalem as part of any lasting peace settlement.

Further, Palestinians view themselves as living in an occupied nation, where invaders (Israelis) have placed them under military rule. To fight back, Palestinians have built a terrorist network to attack innocent Israeli civilians. Israelis feel they must continue to control Palestinians with military force to protect themselves against more terrorist attacks.

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Palestinian View
Palestinians feel that they are not a free people because Israeli soldiers stop them at checkpoints between cities. Many Palestinians, therefore, must get Israeli approval each day to go to work, return home, go to the hospital, get groceries, or visit their own families. After a terrorist attack, soldiers sometimes refuse to let Palestinians through the checkpoints to get to work or other essential places, infuriating Palestinians even more. Further, Israelis
control much of the Palestinian water supply and give Palestinians less access to water than they need. Palestinians feel humiliated and abused by the Israelis.

Another issue causing Palestinians great anger is that Israelis have continued to build
settlements in Palestinian territory, illegally converting even more Palestinian territory into Israeli territory. Palestinians see the settlements as a sign that Israelis do not want peace.

In March and April of 2002, Israeli soldiers attempted to destroy Palestinian terrorist networks and attacked several of the largest Palestinian cities. In addition to attacking the terrorists, the Israeli soldiers destroyed much of the Palestinian government, including records, equipment, buildings, electricity supplies, water supplies, roads, and more. Palestinians see the attack as an Israeli attempt to keep them from ever having an independent state. In addition, representatives of international relief agencies, as well as Palestinians, accuse Israel of committing war crimes during this attack.

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Palestinian Demands
Palestinians want Israel to comply with international law and retreat to the borders that existed in 1967.

Palestinians express this demand as four key conditions for peace, including:
  1. A separate Palestinian state (with the same borders as were in 1967),
  2. Palestinian control of East Jerusalem,
  3. Ending Israeli occupation of Palestinian terroritory, and
  4. Freedom of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.
Isralis have occasionally discussed supporting a separate Palestinian state, but insist that it must be in the distant future. In addition, Israelis may not be willing to give up actual control of Palestinian territory for security reasons, even if Palestinian territory is eventually called an "independent state." Meanwhile, Israelis have continued to place Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, expanding Israeli territory at Palestinian expense. Palestinians no longer regard Israel as sincere in its negotiations for a separate state.

Regarding control of East Jerusalem,
Ehud Barak, former leader of Israel, offered to negotiate the control of East Jerusalem. This is something no other Israeli leader had offered and something the Israeli people did not want offered.   In fact, Barak was removed from power partly because of the offer and was replaced by Ariel Sharon.   Although Barak had offered to negotiate control of East Jerusalem and make other concessions, Palestinians were angry that all of the key conditions they considered essential for lasting peace had not been offered. Israelis were angry because they were told that most of the key conditions for peace had been offered and that Arafat had refused to negotiate.

Regarding the third Palestinian condition for peace, ending occupation of Palestinian territory, Israelis seem willing to do this--as long as Palestinian borders are redefined so that Israel can continue to control Palestinian movements through checkpoints between cities and other means. In other words, Israelis are willing to end the appearance of occupation but they are not willing to reduce their control over the Palestinians.

Barak may have offered real independence to Palestinians, but Israelis and Palestinians disagree about what Barak actually offered. The specific offer of restoration of Palestinian land has remained secret, so it is difficult to determine which side is correct. Palestinians claim that Barak's offer to return Palestinian land was not sincere and would have continued Israeli control of land between major Palestinian cities. Israelis claim that the Barak offer did not break up the Palestinian land and that Arafat's refusal to negotiate the offer means that he will never accept peace. Much of the current conflict rests with the different views of what was offered. Additional information on the offer and disagreements is provided here.

At about the same time as Barak's offer, Sharon deliberately provoked Palestinians by an act viewed by Muslims as extreme disrespect to their religion. Terrorist attacks by the Palestinians started in large measure in response to Sharon's actions. Israelis were then angered by Arafat's refusal to negotiate in good faith and by the resumption of terrorist attacks on innocent Jewish men, women, and children.

In short, Israelis believe that Barak offered Palestinians their land back and that Palestinians then responded with extreme violence. Palestinians believe that Barak offered no real freedom and that Israelis deliberately insulted their religion (Sharon's visit) and killed Palestinian protesters during negotiations.

The fourth demand of the Palestinians, for Palestinian refugees to have their land back, has not been solvable. If all of the Palestinians who lost their homes to the Israelis were allowed to return, then Israel would have almost as many Palestinians as Israelis--ending Israel as a Jewish state. Israelis have not been willing to consider this as an option. Some Palestinians, however, vow to continue fighting until all Palestinian refugees can return to their former homeland. Negotiators have proposed that Israel allow Palestinian refugees to return to the West Bank and Gaza, but not to Israel. According to international law, the West Bank and Gaza are Palestinian territories and should be under the control of the Palestinians, not the Israelis.

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Palestinian Compromise
If Israel retreats to 1967 borders and provides Palestinians with complete independence, will Palestinians stop terrorist attacks? As of October of 2010, the answer is "definitely not." Although many Palestinians simply want an independent nation, others, such as the powerful Hamas organization now controlling the government, consider all of the territory called "Israel" to be part of Palestine. Hamas leaders have vowed to continue their terrorist campaign until their demands are met, including the destruction of Israel. Further, when Arafat failed to accept Barak's offer of a separate Palestinian state, many Israelis concluded that Arafat did not want peace. Arafat did not make a serious effort to stop Palestinian terrorism against Israelis.

International law is on the side of those who advocate for two independent states sharing the land that was called "Palestine" before 1948. However, recent violence against each side has been so vicious that the majority of people may be more interested in revenge than negotiations.

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Israeli View
Israelis view Palestinian militants as terrorists who will not compromise to gain peace. Palestinian extremists have, in fact, engaged in terrorist acts against Israeli civilians when peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians seemed (to the Israelis) to be moving forward fairly. Because Palestinian terrorists attacked at key times, moderate Israeli leaders have been replaced by more extreme Israeli leaders who do not want to compromise. Israeli leaders do not trust Palestinian leaders to negotiate peace. Israelis do not feel safe enough to reduce their control of Palestinian territories.

In more recent years, the Palestinians elected a Hamas government. Hamas is a "terrorist organization" according to the U.S. government, Israel, and many other nations. Hamas is on record that it wants to destroy Israel. The Israeli government does not consider Israel safe with Hamas ruling the Palestinians.

Israel does not see itself fighting just the Palestinians. Israel views the covert support of the Palestinians by Arabic nations to be a core part of its problem.

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Israeli Demands
Israelis want the Palestinians to stop the terrorist attacks.

Israelis have four key conditions for peace, including:
  1. Palestinian borders that ensure continuing Israeli security from Palestinian attacks, not the 1967 borders,
  2. Israeli control of all of Jerusalem,
  3. Enough Israeli control within Palestinian territories to allow Israel to destroy terrorist networks, and
  4. Prevention of Palestinian refugees from returning to their homelands
By comparing the Israeli demands with the Palestinian demands, one can see that the two sides are unlikely to find peace--the demands are completely contradictory. In addition, many Israelis believe that Israel is entitled to all of the Palestinian territories. Every time a compromise is reached, Israeli and Palestinian extremists work against it--often with violence.

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Israeli Compromise
If Palestinians stop their terrorist attacks on Israelis, will Israelis retreat to 1967 borders and allow Palestinians complete independence? As of October of 2010, the answer is "definitely not." Although a majority of Israelis are willing to have their military leave the Palestinian territories, a powerful minority consider all of the territory currently called "Palestinian" to be part of Israel. They do not want to compromise or pull back. Instead, they want to keep expanding Israeli settlements into Palestinian territories.

Sharon, before entering a coma, began reducing the settlements. However, when Sharon talked about an independent state of Palestine, he meant a Palestinian state that is still under the control of Israel. Past proposals have, in fact, allowed Israel to maintain control over a new Palestinian state. Palestinians have not found such Israeli offers of "independence" acceptable. Now that Hamas won the last Palestinian election, Palestinians may be even less likely to compromise.

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A Road to Peace
With hate so intense on both sides, and demands of each side so completely incompatible, peace will require very powerful outside intervention. The United States and Arab Nations, especially Saudi Arabia, need to join forces. Perhaps an international group, with the United States and Saudi Arabia as leaders, needs to negotiate where to put borders to ensure Israeli security and also Palestinian land integrity. Left to themselves, neither Israelis nor Palestinians can make a lasting agreement on borders. If an international group negotiates the borders, it will also need to determine how to separate the two sides. International forces will probably need to stand between Palestinians and Israelis for a long, long time. Israelis and Palestinians may even need a physical wall to separate them.

Israelis have
destroyed much of the government and infrastructure of the Palestinians. The Palestinians will need a great deal of outside support to rebuild themselves into a separate nation. Without such support, the world will be facing "another Afghanistan" where anarchy will again breed terrorism.

Muslim nations will need to play a strong role in helping to build a new Palestine without terrorism. Muslim nations will need to help mentor new Palestinian leaders who do not support terrorism. Palestinians will need another type of leadership, other than Hamas, to build a new strategy for long-term peace.

The United States will need to use its influence to help Israel shape a new strategy also. Israel has had to mobilize for war, justifiably, since its beginning. If an international group insures Israel's security, Israel will need a different kind of leadership than it currently has, as well as a new strategy for long-term peace.

An outside group will also have to determine how to allocate water rights fairly between the Palestinians and Israelis. Without outside intervention, water wars are likely to erupt, even if the land borders are settled peacefully.

What ideas do you have to move us toward a lasting peace? It is very important to realize that the Muslim religion teaches peace and tolerance, not terrorism and war. In fact, the Muslim religion does not allow a person to commit suicide or hurt innocent people,
even during war.

Continued - Part II

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Middle East

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