Crisis In Jerusalem

by Earl R. Dingman


Last September, in what some term as a highly controversial move, Israeli opposition party official Ariel Sharon led a delegation to what the Jewish people call Temple Mount (and what the Muslims call Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary). This area is the oldest and most holy area for Jewish people and it is also the third most holy area for the Muslims. One would think anyone would be allowed to visit this area for whatever reason. The outbreak of violence that occurred after this visit indicates there was more to this than meets the eye...

Sharon, you see, was heavily involved in the Israeli incursion into Lebanon, which resulted in the deaths of many Palestinians (of course, Israel would say it was defending itself from outside invasions and incursions by the hostile Palestinian forces -- a purely defensive matter). Some of those killed were innocent refugees, while others were "commandos" (or as some people like to term them, terrorists). On a scale of 1 to 10 Sharon probably ranks as an 11 on the Palestinian scale of Israeli's you dislike the most. His presence near the Muslim holy site was not well received and sporadic violence broke out.

Now, Sharon is the new leader of Israel, a person some would characterize as a "hawk" and probably the most 'hawkish' since Menachem Begin (who was a military leader in 1948 dealing with the first war between Israel and most of the Arab nations). And, violence is flaring higher and higher in the region after it looked like more progress was about to be made in the peace process a few months ago.

Conflict between the Palestinian Arabs and the Israeli's was inevitable. It's part religious, part nationalistic and part political. This particular hotspot was due for a raking over the coals. To better understand the situation we need to look at the region from several different perspectives, starting with religion. While you may or may not subscribe to these or any such religious beliefs, you have to realize that other people in the world hold these concepts to be self-evident truths and it plays at least a motivational factor in the situation....

PRE-HISTORY

The earliest human remains seem to date back as far as 600,000 B.C. from the region near the Lake of Tabariyya (which is in the general region). Tools and other artifacts dated around 5,000 B.C. were found near Jericho, Bi'r As-Sabi' and the Dead Sea. Canaan (the area we now call Palestine, takes up all or part of the region then known as Canaan) comes into existence as a formally populated area around 2,500 B.C.

JUDIASM

We can date the Jewish religion back very far in history from artifacts and religious writings such as the Dead Sea scrolls. These people occupied an area near what is now the Suez Canal, near the upper portion of the African continent (then known as the land of Canaan) which they ultimately conquered.

While the Jewish religion begins with Abraham, their lineage goes back to Adam and Eve, the original two humans in the theory of creation.

All Jewish people can trace their history back to the tribe of Abraham. According to both historical artifacts we uncover and biblical text, some of the Jewish people remained in the land of Canaan (now part of Palestine), which they conquered around 1,200 BC. Others left the area by choice or were taken as slaves when the Syrians conquered Israel in 720 B.C. (followed by the Babylonians in 550 B.C. and then Alexander the Great in 320 B.C. - this region has been conquered over and over again by many different cultures right up to recent times).

According to the bible, Moses was chosen by God ("Yahweh") to free the Jewish slaves in Egypt and they were told of a "Promised Land" they would eventually call home, but they were forced to wander about the lands for many years.

Many of the Jewish wanderers ended far up in the European continent. As a matter of historical record the Magna Carta (which gave birth to the concept of petition for rights and redress by the lower class of people from the ruling government, which was a monarchy in those days) has many statements dealing with loans and money issues between the "Jews" and the land barons. The general tone of this document is not exactly friendly and warm in referring to the Jewish moneylenders.

The Jewish people were shunned and ousted from many areas, particularly, in the most recent of times Russia. Although in all fairness, some of the Jewish settlements may have actually been squatters on private lands which, when discovered, were made to leave because of their trespass. Nonetheless, the Jewish people were rarely welcomed in foreign lands by the indigenous people. Part of this may have to do with the spread of Christianity and the belief that the Jewish people were largely responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus, the central figure in Christian beliefs.

In the preamble to Israel's Declaration of Independence, May 14, 1948, the following was stated:

"The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.

Exiled from the Land of Israel, the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all the countries of their dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and the restoration of their national freedom."

ISLAM

The Arabic people also have a long history and it is quite possible that Arabs and Jewish people are part of the same group of early descendents (although some, if not many, might dispute this). Some of these Arabs (often called Bedouins) wandered far and wide settling vast areas on both sides of the Nile River, making up the lands of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Oman and the Saudi region.

Some westerners characterize the Arabs as being "camel jockeys" or "rag-heads." Arabs actually founded some of our modern principals of science and math (giving us, for example, the number zero -- there was no zero in the Roman numbering system). They were good at astronomy (known then as the fortune telling astrology, but still their observations and charts were very accurate). We strongly believe that Egyptian doctors even practiced brain surgery way back in ancient times. They were master builders, civil engineers and architects. They created one of the earliest pictograph languages (hieroglyphics - writing based on pictures) that still decorate the walls of great structures and artifacts that remain largely intact after thousands of years.

Some of their early religions were based on gods representing the forces of nature (wind, water, fire, etc.) or objects in the heavens. Around the year 620 Mohammad received a calling from God (Allah) through the archangel Gabriel and this point probably dates the Islamic religion, which emanated with his work in the city of Medina, where he was opposed by both Jews and other Arabs. He prevailed and then went on to convert Mecca in 630. The Islamic religion has many elements akin to both the Jewish and Christian faiths, along with many traditional Arabic rituals. Islam, means to surrender to the will of God (Allah). The teachings and tenets of Islam is set down in the Koran (passages revealed to Muhammad from God) and the Sunna or Hadith which is a documentation on how Muhammad conducted himself in the politics of experience. There are two basic Islamic sects which arose out of the dispute over succession when Muhammad died in 632: The Shiites and the Sunnites.

The various Arab areas were conquered time and time again, through history. For a while, the Christians from Rome and Constantinople occupied much of the Arabic nations, resulting in many clusters of the Catholic religion in lands such as Lebanon (which is another source of all the disputes in this region).

Around the 6th century the followers of Islam (the Muslim religion) began driving out the foreign influences in Arabia. Different factions of Muslims controlled the lands at various points in time. The Christians also returned with the Crusades to "liberate" the city of Jerusalem and succeeded for only a short while before other Muslim forces prevailed.

Many Jewish inhabitants of the Palestinian region even supported some of the Muslim liberation forces in overcoming other Muslims. So we can see there is documentation that both Jewish and Muslim Arabs were present in what we know now as the Palestine region way back many centuries ago, working hand-in-hand to overcome what they considered to be a mutually oppressive outside force.

Technically, anthropologically and scientifically we designate both indigenous Jewish and Muslim peoples of the Arabic region as Semites. As one Arab Muslim said to me, "I can't call myself anti-Semitic (an anti-Semite is the term often given to people who hate Jews), because I am a Semite!" What he is, however, is an anti-Zionist.

ZIONISM

To put it bluntly, Zionism is the concept of a Jewish homeland. A "Jewish Nation". The local indigenous population in settlements of the European areas founded the concept around the 18th century in response to the overwhelming rejection of the Jewish people.

While many learned Jewish religious leaders have written about the concept of a "Jewish Nation" where they could live in peace and not be shunned or sent off by governments and people, the person who began doing practical work to make this possible was Theodor Herzl.

Herzl began enlisting the aid and support of the more affluent Jewish entrepreneurs and business people, plus he also lobbied the various Anglo-Christian governments of great influence (such as the British Empire) for a legal edict supporting the concept of a Jewish homeland.

The Palestinians date the first (of what they term "illegal") Zionist settlement at Petach Tiqva in 1878 with 25,000 additional ("illegal") immigrants moving into the region by 1903 (a sentiment many people in the United States feel today over the many South American immigrants who illegally cross the border between Mexico and California or Texas - as a further similarity it should be noted that some of the "illegal" Mexican immigrant's ancestors were the original inhabitants of both California and Texas long before the "gringo" set foot in the region).

THE BALFOUR DECLARATION

In the late 19th and early 20th century Britain had a major stake in the region with the Suez Canal. There were also problems between several hostel Muslim forces, primarily the Ottoman Empire (which also played a part in the great rift between the Armenian and Turkish peoples, having wide reaching blood feud effects extending across many nations to this day and age), and Sharif Husayn, who declared himself "King of the Arabs" (thus, claiming status as the guardian-family of the Muslim faith and territories). Husayn's son, Amir Abdullah, began talks with representatives of Great Britain. Husayn was prepared to go to war with the Ottoman Empire and wanted British support for a formal Arab Nation, which would include all the lands of the immediate region (including Palestine).

While this was going on, Britain was also in discussions with France and Russia (resulting in the "Asia Minor Agreement" enacted in February 1916) to partition Palestine under joint control (this keeps the Suez under close watch and foreign troop protection, much like the United States did with the Panama Canal later in history).

The British were also talking with the Zionist representatives, seriously giving thought to the idea of supporting a Jewish state in the region (which they felt could be an advantageous alliance to have people already "acclimated" to Europeans - these wandering Euro-Jewish people who would flock to this newly proposed state).

With the annexation of Palestine, the British thought that this would make a wonderful area to form the new Jewish nation. (And, as one could imagine, it would also take some of the heat off the foreign interventionists and put the focus on the new Jewish settlers.) Plus, the Jewish people were already starting to settle into Palestine on their own! The Zionist movement was doing physical, practical applications of their concept of a Jewish nation before they started to succeed politically. The Rothschild's, among others, were financing operations that bought land from the Palestinians in the region (which Palestinian's now claim was done under false pretenses). Then, to be over simplistic, the new Jewish settlers would slap down a few "condos" and there would arise a small Jewish enclave right in the heart of the Muslim Arab lands (The so-called "settlements of the First Aliyah"). Since the Arab attention was turned to the Ottomans, among other areas, and there really wasn't a strong central Arab political organization (and they would learn quickly from this, later establishing strong, well organized groups, such as the OPEC oil cartel in the latter part of the 20th century) the Jewish settlers moved into the region with little resistance or attention.

(In the United States our Pilgrim forefathers did the same thing with $25 and a bag of trinkets to obtain the Manhattan Island from the indigenous Native American population. We also bought a whole big parcel of land from Russia without even holding a conversation with the native Alaskans or their Canadian neighbors and we then turned it into the 49th state back around 1960.)

So, when the British put forth the Balfour Declaration, it came as a god send to the Zionists who not only got a legally sanctioned nation, but one located approximately where their biblical "Promised Land" was roughly described. Needless to say, Husayn and the Arab world was totally shocked and felt betrayed. While the British did support, to some degree, the concept of the Arab Nation, it was not exactly what Husyan had pictured with the McMahon discussions, which he felt included all lands in the region, especially Palestine.

The Balfour Declaration: November 2, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations, which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

His Majesty's Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Signed: Arthur James Balfour


THE RISE OF VIOLENCE IN JERUSALEM

In 1920 Hajj Amin al Husayni, a decidedly anti-Zionist Arab, was involved (to some degree) in various riots in Jerusalem (which at the turn of the 20th century was populated roughly 50/50 by Jews and Arabs). Eventually Britain would bestow Husayni, greater power by appointing him president of the newly constituted Supreme Muslim Council (SMC). This angered other Muslim Arab factions who were used to a less centralized and more localized power base under the old Ottoman Empire. It brought some infighting to the Arab world.

There was also confusion as to the private ownership of lands in Palestine, which allowed the Jewish settlers to make vast parcel land deals, which intensified during the great depression of 1930. Palestine Arab landowners sometimes became "distressed" and were forced to either sell their lands or have their lands taken out from under them. (Something people, in places like the Palmdale-Lancaster area of California, saw just a decade ago when the aerospace industry took a nosedive. Scientists and engineers who bought homes there quickly lost them to the banks after they got laid off from their high paying jobs. Then the value of their houses fell below the originally financed rate! People went into default and often squatters came in and took over these tracts of empty new homes. Banks eventually made quick deals with the squatters to help recover their financing amid a serious time in our economy when many banks or loan companies were failing left and right.)

After the Balfour Declaration the settlers in Palestine (largely headed by Ben-Gurion) established the World Zionist Organization (WZO) made up of both Zionist and Non-Zionist Jewish people. This was the first governmental and administrative organization. Jabotinsky, who led the Jewish defense in Jerusalem during the 1920 riots, believe that there was a deep rift between the Zionist objectives and the feeling of the Palestine Arabs, thus he helped establish a strong Jewish militia in the region.

THE RISE OF ORGANIZED MILITANT VIOLENCE IN PALESTINE

In the 1930s with the rise of fascism in Germany and the tightening of immigration laws in the United States (and elsewhere in the world) many Jewish people (over 80,000) began moving into Palestine and effectively doubled the population of this land. Shortly thereafter, the city of Tel Aviv was founded.

In 1929 a conflict between Arab and Jews over access to the holy "Wailing Wall" triggered a blood bath in both Hebron and Jerusalem (sound familiar?). As a result of this, a faction of the Zionist Jews formed a more militant underground defense organization. (Formally known as the Irgun Zvai Leumi -- or National Military Organization also called the Etzel).

The Palestinian Arabs were also growing more hostile and organized over the situation in Jerusalem and formed the Arab Higher Committee (AHC) in 1936, organized a strike and demanded that the Jewish immigration be halted, that all land sales to Jews be stopped and that an Arab government be formed. Concurrently in Great Britain the pro-Zionist officials were no longer in power and the new government was now favoring more appeasement to the Arabs in the region (and the Jewish people, reluctantly supported the British who were now firmly at odds with Hitler and the Nazis in Germany).

The Arabs were growing angry not at just the Zionists, but also at the Europeans who still exerted vast control over this region.

In 1937 the Peel Commission of Great Britain negotiated a truce with the AHC through neighboring Arab leaders and declared that there were irreconcilable differences between the Arab and Jewish factions. It was decided to partition off Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab areas, with Britain in continued control over Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem. There would also be a corridor from Jerusalem to the coast (deep water ports and the Suez Canal were still vital to this region and the world).

The Palestinian Arabs and Jews were finally put in a position to agree on something: Neither cared much for the Partitioning boundaries! The Jews just didn't like where the line was drawn in the sand, but they agreed to abide by this proposal. The Arabs didn't want a partition at all. When a Palestinian Arab revolt broke out, the British put it down hard and fast, deporting much of the AHC leadership (and from here we start to see the beginning of the PLO, an exile "government" of the Palestinian Arabs, and the involvement of outside Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, in the advocacy of the Palestinian Arab's plight).

THE UNITED STATES ENTERS THE PICTURE

Between 1939 (with the institution of a British "White Paper" or study, which proposed a resolution to the Palestinian problem) and 1945 the British became increasingly less pro-Zionist and more pro-Arab. They agreed to restrict the immigration of Jews into Palestine and even proposed a formal Palestinian state in which eventually the Arabs would dictate the Jewish immigration policies. As a result of this, the Jewish Zionists looked to make America an ally in their efforts and began enlisting the support of American Jews with the objective of creating a formal Jewish state in the now partitioned region.

The United States began applying pressure to Britain to favor the plight of the Jews. Britain's economy and Empire was crumbling day by day. And the holocaust victims released from Hitler's encampments were shouting for the right to immigrate to Palestine. By 1947 there were 100,000 British troops required to police Palestine and they were growing weary of the situation. They proposed taking the matter up with the newly formed United Nations. On November 29, 1947 the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine proposed establishing separate Palestinian Arab and Jewish states. The League of Arab States firmly opposed the measure and declared it would prevent the implementation of such a formal and permanent partition at any cost.

Support for the Jewish state vacillated in the United States, until one of their advocates, Weizmann, finally managed to convince President Truman to take a firm, pro stance in the matter. In the meantime, Menachem Begin's Jewish militia was obtaining vast supplies of arms from countries like Czechoslovakia. Armed assaults occurred throughout the region scaring Palestinian Arabs out of cities with large Jewish populations.

WAR BREAKS OUT

Arab military forces (25,000 to 55,000 from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen) began an invasion of Israel on May 15, 1948 just after the UN declaration was finalized. They faced 35,000 men and women from combined Israeli forces (regulars from the Haganah, plus Irgun and other factions). Israel prevailed in this war (but at a cost of 6,000 dead out of 35,000 troops) and held the land now known as Israel, as originally partitioned by the UN and later expanded by the so-called Six Day War in 1967.

Arab Palestine territories became held by several factions, including the Egyptians (Gaza) and Jordan (the West Bank) -- of which Israel would eventually annex, control and open for Jewish settlement of these territories captured during the Six Day War of 1967.

Part of Jerusalem was controlled by Israel and another part was annexed by Jordan as part of an initial treaty between Israel and Jordan in 1950, however the assassination of Jordan's King Abdullah put a damper on the prospects for an ease of tensions between these two peoples.

There were now vast numbers of indigenous Palestinian Arabs (close to 800,000) who had a lineage that can be traced back to biblical Canaan, who now had no home. Driven out by the war. Some say that Israeli trickery drove them out (false radio reports from 'Arabs' telling them to vacate the war zone until victory over the Jews was achieved, which Israeli officials flatly deny, saying it was really Arab troops making those announcements, with Arabs flatly denying this explanation). Some say the violence drove them out. Some say the fear of being an Arab in a town largely made up of Jews was the reason.

In 1968 the Palestinian National Covenant was drafted and began with this extract:

"This covenant will be called The Palestinian National Covenant (al-mithaq al-watani al-filastini).

Article 1: Palestine is the homeland of the Palestinian Arab people and an integral part of the great Arab homeland, and the people of Palestine are a part of the Arab nation.

Article 2: Palestine with its boundaries that existed at the time of the British mandate is an integral regional unit.

Article 3: The Palestinian Arab people possesses the legal right to its homeland, and when the liberation of its homeland is completed it will exercise self-determination solely according to its own will and choice."

THE PEACE PROCESS

For years the spokesman of the Palestine refugees was Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO, founded in 1964) who Israel would have nothing to do with and vowed there would be no talks involving this man or that organization - ever!

"Terrorist" activities, often linked to the PLO (the PLO sometimes refers to these as "commando" actions or fights), along with airplane hijackings, were all over the Western news media in the 1960s and '70s (and more recently on U.S. soil the bombing at the World Trade Center in New York linked to "Islamic fundamentalists"). Egypt aligned itself with the USSR to obtain missiles to use against the now invading Israeli troops and tanks. On several occasions Egypt tried to make peace with Israel, whose leadership flatly rejected the overtures and instituted settlements in the captured Gaza strip lands. In 1973 Egypt and Syria launched an attack against Israel re-capturing some of the lands, but eventually facing even worse losses with the Israeli army marching into Syria and securing the Golan Heights.

The USSR began active support of Syria and the U.S. came to the aid of Israel. Both sides engaged in a war of escalation, spending money and buying arms. This also marked the start of the Arab oil price increases, which would generate anger in the general world opinion by driving up the price of gasoline and heating oil. It also served to fund their arsenal of weapons and technology. In 1974 at an Arab summit the members agreed to formally recognize the PLO as the representatives of the Palestinian people and interests, which Israel didn't like, as they viewed the PLO as being terrorists and anti-Zionists.

After the war came a break with Dr. Kissenger's "shuttle diplomacy" (part of the Nixon administration in the U.S.) that eventually brought representatives of Egypt and Israel to the bargaining table and eventually a formal peace declaration between the two states. This work was continued by the Carter administration, initially with little great success. Then in 1977 Egypt's President Sadat addressed the Israeli body of representatives (the Knesset). This marked the beginning of peaceful relations between the Arab state of Egypt and the state of Israel, with return of the Sinai a part of the deal worked out with the aide of President Carter and known as the "Camp David Accords."

At this time Begin (who was military commander in the 1948 war fighting the Arabs) was now the leader of Israel and would shock the world with his smiles, handshakes and embraces of Egypt's President Sadat. The assassination of Sadat years later put a damper on the ongoing relations, but there still remains a strong, peaceful relationship between these two countries.

One of the things still to be worked out from the Camp David Accords was the concept of Palestinian "autonomy" and it would eventually be seen that Begin, Sadat and Carter each had different concepts of what this meant.

From the north new problems were brewing in Lebanon, a largely Muslim Arab state that was under minority Christian control (Maronite Phalange Party) backed by France and Israel. In 1970 when the PLO was ousted from Jordan they found a new home in Lebanon and many incursions into nearby Israel were mounted from this region. In the mid-1970s civil war broke out between the Muslim and Christian factions inside Lebanon, with the Israelis favoring the traditional (and to what many in the Arab world, could term a "puppet") government. In 1981 Syria entered into the entanglement when the Israeli backed, Maronite Bashir Jumayyil seemed to be emerging as the primary person in control of Lebanon. Missile bases were moved in and it seemed like a major Israel-Lebanon-Syria conflict was about to arise.

In 1982 Israel moved into southern Lebanon in an effort to halt the PLO and Syrian missile attacks (which were killing innocent civilians -- some who were refugees or descendants of refugees). Eventually a treaty was created with Lebanon and a buffer zone established to keep the attackers away from the border with Israel.

UNITED NATIONS RESOLUTIONS

In 1967 the Security Council in resolution 242 stated that "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,... "

And additionally: "For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;..."

Then, in December of 1981 the UN General Assembly condemned the occupation of Palestine, along with other territories by Israel, ordering an immediate withdrawal from these territories, further declaring that the annexation of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel was void.

These documents help set the stage for some mutual recognition, for one of the key parts is the phrase: "...territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area..." Which can be said to include both Israel and Palestine. It also attempts a return to the status quo (the area prior to the 1967 war).

Until recent times, however, these UN declarations or resolutions were not accepted uniformly by all the parties and many aspects are still being ignored, largely by Israel, which the PLO and other Arab states shout about all the time in the rhetoric of the world press.

In 1988 the PLO declared Palestine to be independent with Jerusalem as the capital city (Israel has also declared that Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel). King Hussein of Jordan turned over rights to all West Bank Territories to the PLO and Palestine. And the United States began direct talks with the PLO.

FIRST STEPS TOWARDS PEACE

Between 1977 and 1993 the different presidents of the United States (Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan) made a continual effort to get Israel and one or more of the Arab communities together for talks, which would possibly lead to agreements in principle and maybe even treaties and peace.

We succeeded with Egypt and Israel, although relations are now chilled after the assassination of Anwar Sadat, his successor has nonetheless, generally honored the tenets of the peace accords. Israel returned lands to Egypt. This was a major step for both sides.

Finally in 1993 the government of Israel, under the far more moderate and receptive Yitzhak Rabin, and the representatives of Palestine including Arafat and the PLO had come to some general agreements on some issues. Some lands and area was turned over to Palestine control. A Palestinian government was established to control the Arab regions. The government of Israel would control the Jewish regions. This was a significant first step in the process and we must remember that in 1967 Israel said it would never enter any talks that involved the PLO and here they were working with the U.S. and the PLO to reach some type of solution. Then in 1994 further peace was made with Jordan, in which they were given control over the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. But then Rabin was assassinated and less moderate government took control in Israel. The peace process has made little progress since 1995, especially with Syria, which could have possibly reached an accord with Israel, but is now out in the cold under the new policies.

In the time since the 1993 accords there have been skirmishes and complaints by both sides and a general cooling. There have also been shifts of power in the government of Israel as different voting factions exercise their complaints on issues by electing parties who will take their side in these issues.

A lot of the issues have to do with the settlements instituted by the government of Israel after the war, in the new disputed territories. Some of those territories have now been given back to Arab elements and that does not sit well with the Israeli's who feel they are being treated like yo-yos.

There are also security issues. The Palestinians say the Israeli's don't act on their complaints. The Israeli's say the same thing about the Palestinian authorities. There seems to be a mutual distrust of their respective abilities to maintain control of the regions they had since decided to respectively control... Finally there is Jerusalem. A city coveted by Jews, Christians and Arabs. To Jews and Christians it is the birth place and holiest of sites for their respective religions. This is not quite as true for the Arab Muslims (Mecca is their holiest city, although for Palestinians Jerusalem is very holy), although there are religious areas that will fall under the direct protection of the leaders of Islam under the principles of how their beliefs work. There is also the political claim from both Israel and Palestine for Jerusalem to be their national capital - considering these are two different states or countries that is going to make it hard to work out this disputed area, after all we saw what happened in Germany with Berlin.

Don't expect easy or quick solutions. It's going to take a long time for Israel to feel comfortable with what they have already given up to the Arabs.

It has already taken a long time for the Arabs to even deal with Israel (in fact most Arabic nations do not allow trade or goods imported from Israel). To manage to get Egypt and Palestine to even acknowledge and talk to Israel has been a miracle.

The Arab world, by and large, still feels that Israel and the Jewish (Zionist) immigrants are illegal and brought in under false pretenses. That they were supported by foreign doctrines made without consultation, advise or consent from any Arab leader. That the Zionists then went too far by declaring an independent state and now have annexing other territories that are not covered by any of the ("illegal") foreign declarations or resolutions.

Israel feels that they negotiated in good faith with powerful "empires" in the world that, at the time, controlled and policed the area. Obtaining a parcel of desert land largely uninhabited. Then they turned this land into a garden paradise by bringing in settlers who cultivated and farmed it into the green pastures of today. They have, generally, allowed the indigenous Arabs and Christians to enjoy their holdings and religious beliefs. In return, the Arab Nations on many occasions, instigated terrorist (commando) acts on their people and property, including all out warfare (although Israel has also launched war, such as the one in 1956). Each and every time Israel prevailed and took the spoils of war as any nation has done historically in the past.

To get Israel and Palestine to peacefully coexist will take a long, long time. The issue of Jerusalem is far, far off from resolution. To get Israel and the rest of the Arab world together in peace, may not be totally possible.

Now with Sharon, who, like Begin in the 1960s, was a military hawk having direct battle action during the Arab-Israeli conflicts, now in-charge of the Israeli government, the Palestinian and Arab factions are going to face a very untrusting and less receptive leader. So we can expect the peace process and final resolution to be slower and slower over the next few years, although we must also remember that Begin made the first peace treaty with Egypt, so we cannot totally dismiss the process of a hard-liner bringing peace to the region. It just means the process will require a wait and see cooling period, having a leaner olive branch extended for the here and now.

Currently the accords of 1993 are somewhat on hold with the new hard-line Israeli government as final peace negotiations were supposed to be reached only a few weeks before the fateful visit by Sharon to Temple Mount and it now seems that this deadline is unreachable. With Sharon's standing in the eyes of most Palestinians, it is going to be a long hard road to negotiate any new territory in the peace process (they seemed to be more inclined to express themselves by armed assaults instead of discussing issues). With a more hard-line approach in Israel they are going to be reluctant to give back lands to people associated with violent actions. If and when it is finally reached, it will probably have more acceptance by the Israeli hard-line right extremists.

Between the extremists on both sides, we can expect to see the spark of violence in Jerusalem and Palestine continue to glow for quite some time.... But we must also remember that they both have a vast arsenal of weapons, including missiles, and at the current time the conflicts are using very strong restraints, keeping the major hardware, for the most part, out of the conflicts (but this could also change at any time).

-- Contributing to this story was A. Kurdi

References:

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/iltoc.html

http://www.arab.net/palestine/palestine_contents.html

http://www.palestine-net.com/history/bhist.html

Also included was background gathered from Reuters and CNN sources.



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