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Chapter 5: Israel, the Palestinians and the Peace Process (Introduction to Middle East Politics)

This chapter discusses the main obstacles of the peace process that developed between Israel and Palestine since 1991.

Both sides claim to fight for their identity and for their rights. The Israelis have been fighting for their self-defence, while the Palestinians have been fighting for their right to self-determination.

The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

The peace process started in 1991 in Madrid and has continued with no success. The process began after the 1987 Palestinian Intifada (Arafat could no longer control them), and PLO’s support for Iraq during the Gulf war. Further, Cold War tensions accelerated the need for the peace talks.

In Oslo in 1993, there was progress, when Arafat and Israel’s Shimon Perez received the Nobel Peace Prize. Arafat consented to a give year transfer of governance to PA (Palestinian Authority), which would culminate in a peace treaty. This eventually broke down.

Israel’s focus since then and since it signed a peace treaty with Egypt and Jordan, has been its internal security, despite occasional clashes on its border with Lebanon against Hezbollah. Their biggest internal security threat has been Hamas, a group formed in 1987 by the Muslim Brotherhood, who’s aim is to establish an Islamic state in the Mandate of Palestine.

Hamas rose to power during the first intifada, and through the 1990s with a series of violent attacks. The Gaza withdrawal occurred in 2005, when Israeli settlers withdrew from the strip but maintained control over its border. This meant that Gaza – a 365 km squared city of 1.8 million people – was in a state of mass imprisonment.

The growth of the Arab-Israeli population outpaces that of the Jewish Israeli population 0.5% per year and is now over 20% of the population. The shift is gradual but important. Israel has parliamentary system, and there have been concerns over the growth of Arab voting power.

The Peace Process had many problems, including lack of agreement about settlements, refugees, and territory. It is difficult to see how the two sides can find consensus in future negotiations. The role of the US is vital here, as a power that commands the attention of both sides.

An Introduction to Middle East PoliticsChapter 5: Israel, the Palestinians and the Peace Process (Introduction to Middle East Politics) 1

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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