How We Can Understand the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Fredi Winkler

Palestinians could have had peace and their own state some time ago. Why this isn’t the case.

To understand the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, we need to go back to its historical roots. There is clearly a great deal of ignorance about its background, since the conflict is at least 76 years old. And many side unilaterally with the Palestinians, whose land the Jews allegedly stole. Below is a brief account of the most important facts.

The expired mandate
For 400 years, the territory of Israel was under Turkish rule and known as Palestine. This lasted until the end of World War I, when the entire region from Egypt to the Persian Gulf was conquered by the British. Great Britain then ruled the region for 30 years, under mandate of the League of Nations.

When the mandate came to an end in 1948, a decision had to be made: What would happen to the area of historic Palestine? Should the mandate be renewed, or should the country become independent?

A United Nations commission was established to clarify the issue. It recommended that the mandate not be extended: The differences between Arabs and Jews were too great, and thus it was best to divide the land into an Arab and a Jewish state.

The Arab refusal
The Palestinian Arabs opposed the division of land from the beginning. The Jews also reacted cautiously at first. The decisive person on the Israeli side was David Ben-Gurion. He saw the partition as the only opportunity for a Jewish state. He managed to win a majority among the Jews responsible for dividing the land at the time. Now they would have to overcome the biggest hurdle to forming a Jewish state: obtaining the two-thirds majority in the UN required to found a new state.

The UN partition plan for Palestine
According to the UN’s partition plan, the Arabs would have received the majority of Palestine’s land, because there were so many more of them. So, they could have had their state from the beginning. But they were dissatisfied with the plan because they wanted to own everything, and would not tolerate an adjacent Jewish state. They declined.

This one-sided attitude meant war, which was clear to the Jews from the beginning.

War over Palestine
Palestinian Arab leadership was unable to wage war on its own. It allied itself with four neighboring states—Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon—as well as Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

From a human point of view, it’s fair to say that the Jews had no chance of winning this war against such an overwhelming majority. But we can say that God willed it!

Palestinian leadership was convinced that the specter of a Jewish state would vanish within two weeks at most. They told their people that it would be best to flee cities like Jaffa and Haifa with mixed populations, since it would be impossible to distinguish between Jews and Arabs in war conditions. Many Arab Palestinians believed this propaganda; they packed their bags with essentials and locked their doors behind them. They fled across the borders to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, or the Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip. They were told that they’d be escorted back in by the conquering armies within two weeks’ time. But nothing ever came of it. These Arab Palestinians were betrayed by their own leadership.

Who is responsible for the Palestinian tragedy?
Do the Jews bear any responsibility for this? Not at all! The Palestinians have only themselves and their own leadership to blame, for refusing to agree to a peaceful partition of Palestine.

To some degree, some of the guilt also falls on the neighboring states and others who took their side in the fighting. Some Palestinians blame the UN for consenting to the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. It’s not for nothing that the UN has been concerned with the Palestinian problem since the State of Israel was founded. And the Palestinians blame the Jews for taking their land. But ultimately, they can only blame themselves. They were unwilling to compromise, wanting all or nothing. Extremists still hold this position to this day.

Thank God that the Jews not only won the war (which lasted an entire year), but even managed to turn the position decisively to their advantage. Again, all we can say is God willed it, and God’s time had come.
Israel only permitted the return of Palestinians who had fled in exceptional cases. Anything else would have been national suicide.

The founding of the Jewish State of Israel
In 1949, when a ceasefire was reached with neighboring states following the Israeli War of Independence, the State of Israel was established, within its borders as defined in the armistice agreement. Its capital was Jerusalem. This begs the question, what would have happened had the Arabs won the war? Would a Palestinian state have emerged? Most likely not. The neighboring states that entered the war had no intention of founding a Palestinian state; each of them hoped to conquer as large a piece of the land as possible for themselves. If they had won, war would probably have broken out among them over how to distribute the spoils.

The Palestinians could have founded their own state on the land that remained to them in 1949. But they were unable to do so, preferring to live under Jordanian rule in the West Bank and under Egyptian rule in the Gaza Strip.

The rejection of Israel continues.
To the Arab world that surrounded Israel, the Jewish State was a foreign body, a cancer that needed to be removed. The rejection of Israel grew more and more aggressive. In 1967, Israel could see that massive preparations for war were underway among the Arabs. Knowing that the best defense is a good offense, Israel initiated the famous Six-Day War. Israel won a nearly unbelievable victory over Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The small nation conquered the entire Sinai Peninsula, the Jordanian-controlled West Bank, and the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights. This overwhelming victory was an immense embarrassment for the neighboring Arab states, and Egypt in particular. Egypt would not accept defeat, and secretly planned to take revenge.

The Yom Kippur War
Revenge came just six years later. Although Israel had received warnings from various parties that war was coming, these warnings weren’t taken seriously enough. Israel’s superlative victory against the Arabs in the Six-Day War had gone to the heads of the leadership; they simply couldn’t believe that the Arabs were capable of it. The Mossad, Israel’s famous intelligence agency, failed on a massive scale. Jordan wisely withdrew from participation in the war against Israel.

Israel was attacked from the north and the south on Yom Kippur, 1973. As the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, nearly every soldier was on leave. The major tank battles of modern times were fought against Egypt on the Suez Canal and against Syria on the Golan Heights.

This time, Israel didn’t achieve a true victory. Rather, it ended in more of a stalemate. If America hadn’t helped Israel with weapons and ammunition, the outcome of the war would have been very hard on Israel. Egypt had restored its honor, a significant result for them.

Israel’s dependence on the United States began with the Yom Kippur War. And as a result, Egypt (and later, Jordan) made peace with Israel, under the mediation of the US. This meant that they recognized the State of Israel—something impossible for extremists. Egypt’s president Sadat was later assassinated by an extremist, for having dared to make peace with Israel. However, for the sake of objectivity, it’s important to point out that extremists of this kind also exist among the Jews. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist, for pursuing peace with the Palestinians.

The peace process with the Palestinians, mediated by the US
The peace process with the Palestinians began in 1978, with the so-called Camp David Accords, between US President Carter, Egyptian President Sadat of Egypt, and Israeli Prime Minister Begin. The so-called Oslo Accords followed later in the 1990s, under Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The planned peace process stalled, however, mainly because the Palestinians failed to do their part to ensure that the process continued.

The resistance and rejection front emerges.
For extremists on the Palestinian side, true peace with Israel was the equivalent of treason, because it entailed recognition of Israel. This is also the reason that Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority, did not sign the agreement negotiated under US President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, when it mattered most. In the eyes of the extremists, if Arafat had done so, he would no longer have been a Palestinian national hero, but a traitor to the Palestinian cause. With Khomeini’s rise to power in Iran, extreme Palestinians gained a powerful advocate. From that point until now, Iranian leaders have proclaimed that Israel has no right to exist. Iran’s former Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has said twice at the United Nations podium that Israel has no right to exist and that the Jewish State must be destroyed. The world listened to his brazen words and continued with business as usual, not taking any real action against it.

Iran became the leader of the anti-Israel front and the main supporter of Hamas in Gaza. Today, Israel is fighting against national terrorism that is openly promoted by Iran, and motivated by Islam.

The Palestinian refugee problem
Entire UN organizations were founded to solve the problem of Palestinian refugees. However, you can’t help but notice that they exist more to perpetuate this problem than to solve it.

There have been many refugee crises in the world that were solved. Take Germany as an example. World War II led to a wave of refugees—up to 15 million people!—from the former German territories to the east. But nobody in present-day Germany promotes the idea of reclaiming those eastern territories, because it’s clear how this loss came about. Germany started the war, and Germany lost it. Everyone knows that the consequences must also be borne.

So, what about the Palestinians? They also started a war and lost it. But many of them are still unwilling to accept the consequences.

The Islamic religious component to the Palestine conflict
Jerusalem is Islam’s third-holiest site. Today, the Palestine conflict is no longer just a dispute between the Palestinians and Israel. Palestinians have understood how to turn the conflict into a problem that spans the  entire Islamic world.

It isn’t just Israel that is threatened by Iran’s radical anti-Israel stance. All moderate Islamic states are increasingly in Iran’s line of fire—especially Egypt and Jordan, which have made peace with Israel. To radical and extremist Muslims, those nations are traitors to the pan-Islamic cause of liberating Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem from Jewish occupation.

The Islamic world is splitting.
Today, even Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States feel threatened by Iran. This concern gave rise to the Abraham Accords between Israel and a number of Arab nations. Many of today’s more moderate Arab states have recognized that Israel is doing the right thing by confronting the threat that Iran poses. Not long ago, this would have been considered impossible. And yet, it’s actually happening: Israel is allying with Islamic countries against the threat posed by Iran.

Why is the US investing so much in Israel?
The United States knows that Israel is its only reliable Middle East ally. How many billions of dollars did the US invest in Iraq and Afghanistan? And what did it achieve in the end? Essentially nothing. In fact, the opposite has happened: US intervention actually strengthened the opposition front. Today, there is a visible rift running through the Islamic world, separating moderate and radical Muslims. This rift extends to Europe and the US, and everywhere immigrant Muslims are living. The specter of a worldwide cataclysm is becoming more and more visible on the horizon of global events. The US is trying to prevent it, but the question remains: How long will its efforts be effective?

Why aren’t Muslims emigrating to Islamic countries?
There are 22 Islamic Arab nations, and at least that many non-Arab Muslim nations. Why aren’t Muslim refugees being welcomed into these states? Why aren’t Muslims moving there? Because they’re generally not welcome in other Muslim countries. They actually prefer the liberal West. But when the rubber meets the road, they remain stuck in their extremist and radical mindset. This is becoming an increasing problem in the Western world.

What will become of Gaza?
After the terrible crimes that were committed in Jewish villages bordering the Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023, Israel has fully realized that the unconscionable group which calls itself Hamas must be dealt with.

We hope and pray that Israel will succeed. But even if it does, we need to remember that Israel is still under threat from the rest of the radical and extremist Islamic world, and the threat is becoming more and more global. Our only consolation is in the fact that nothing happens that God has not permitted. He is the final judge.

News from Israel - 02/2024

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