what is the beef with israel and palestine

Key areas of the conflict include the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the status of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, borders, security and water rights, as well as Palestinian freedom of movement and the Palestinian right of return.

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Editor’s note, November 9, 2023: This story has been updated to reflect details of the current Israel-Hamas war. For all of Vox’s latest coverage on Israel and Palestine, see our storystream.

Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, located just east of the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians, the Arab population that hails from the land Israel now controls, refer to the territory as Palestine, and want to establish a state by that name on all or part of the same land. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over who gets what land and how it’s controlled.

Though both Jews and Arab Muslims date their claims to the land back a couple thousand years, the current political conflict began in the early 20th century. Jews fleeing persecution in Europe wanted to establish a national homeland in what was then an Arab- and Muslim-majority territory in the Ottoman and later British Empire. The Arabs resisted, seeing the land as rightfully theirs. An early United Nations plan to give each group part of the land failed, and Israel and the surrounding Arab nations fought several wars over the territory. Today’s lines largely reflect the outcomes of two of these wars, one waged in 1948 and another in 1967.

The 1967 war is particularly important for today’s conflict, as it left Israel in control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, two territories home to large Palestinian populations:

Today, the West Bank is nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority and is under Israeli occupation. This comes in the form of Israeli troops, who enforce Israeli security restrictions on Palestinian movement and activities, and Israeli “settlers,” Jews who build ever-expanding communities in the West Bank that effectively deny the land to Palestinians. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, an Islamist militant group; it has been under an Israeli blockade since Hamas seized control in 2007, one so stringent that human rights groups liken the situation to an “open-air prison.”

Currently, Israel is at war with Hamas — a conflict following a horrific rampage on October 7, 2023, in which militants from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another extremist group, launched attacks that killed more than 1,400 Israelis and took more than 240 hostage. Israel has responded with widespread bombardment of the Gaza Strip and a ground incursion, killing and injuring tens of thousands of Palestinians.

The internationally supported political solution to the broader conflict, endorsed in the past by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, is a so-called “two-state solution.” That would establish Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and most of the West Bank, leaving the rest of the land to Israel. Though the two-state plan is clear in theory, the two sides are still deeply divided over how to make it work in practice. Moreover, influential factions on both sides outright oppose it.

The alternative to a two-state solution is a “one-state solution,” wherein all of the land becomes either one big Israel, one big Palestine, or some kind of shared state with a new name. Generally speaking, these outcomes seem even less likely at present than two states — making it hard to imagine any kind of formal resolution happening anytime soon.

Predicting the future of the conflict is even harder in the wake of the October 7 attack and subsequent war in Gaza. The war is such a major development, with such major implications for the region, that it could transform the nature of Israeli-Palestinian relations as we know them.

A 2023 effort by the United States to help broker a normalization accord between Israel and Saudi Arabia was thrown into chaos by the October conflict. Saudi Arabia has long advocated for the rights and safety of Palestinian Arab populations in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Especially in Gaza, those populations are now in the path of IDF operations, jeopardizing the progress the Israelis and Saudis made toward a common understanding. However, the United States says the Saudis have indicated they are still interested in the deal. Recent Developments

In the summer of 2014, clashes in the Palestinian territories precipitated a military confrontation between the Israeli military and Hamas in which Hamas fired nearly three thousand rockets at Israel, and Israel retaliated with a major offensive in Gaza. The skirmish ended in late August 2014 with a cease-fire deal brokered by Egypt, but only after 73 Israelis and 2,251 Palestinians were killed. After a wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in 2015, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah announced that Palestinians would no longer be bound by the territorial divisions created by the Oslo Accords.

In March of 2018, Israeli troops killed 183 Palestinians and wounded 6,000 others after some Palestinians stormed the perimeter fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel and threw rocks during an otherwise peaceful demonstration. Just months later, Hamas militants fired over one hundred rockets into Israel, and Israel responded with strikes on more than fifty targets in Gaza during a twenty-four-hour flare-up. The tense political atmosphere resulted in a return to disunity between Fatah and Hamas, with Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party controlling the Palestinian Authority from the West Bank and Hamas de facto ruling the Gaza Strip.

Even though the Camp David Accords improved relations between Israel and its neighbors, the question of Palestinian self-determination and self-governance remained unresolved. In 1987, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip rose up against the Israeli government in what is known as the first intifada. The 1993 Oslo I Accords mediated the conflict, setting up a framework for the Palestinians to govern themselves in the West Bank and Gaza, and enabled mutual recognition between the newly established Palestinian Authority and Israel’s government. In 1995, the Oslo II Accords expanded on the first agreement, adding provisions that mandated the complete withdrawal of Israel from 6 cities and 450 towns in the West Bank.

The displacement of millions more Palestinians presents a dilemma for Egypt and Jordan, which have absorbed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the past but have resisted accepting anyone during the current war. They fear that Gazans, many of whom were already displaced from elsewhere in Israel, will not be allowed to return once they leave. Egypt also fears that Hamas fighters could enter Egypt and trigger a new war in the Sinai by launching attacks on Israel or destabilizing the authoritarian regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. So far, negotiations have resulted in only 1,100 people exiting Gaza through the Rafah border crossing to Egypt. The other 1.5 million displaced Gazans—70 percent of the territory’s population—have nowhere to go and face increasingly dire living conditions and security risks.

Key areas of the conflict include the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the status of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, borders, security and water rights, as well as Palestinian freedom of movement and the Palestinian right of return.

FAQ

How did the Israel and Palestine conflict start?

A day after Israel was created in 1948, troops from five Arab states attacked. In the war that followed, some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes, ending up in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as well as in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

What is the issue between Palestine and Israel?

The map of Israel Israel still occupies the West Bank and claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a hoped-for future Palestinian state. The US is one of only a handful of countries to recognise the city as Israel’s capital.

What is happening with Palestine?

Throughout 2023, tensions also rose in the West Bank. Since October 7, violence between security forces, settlers and Palestinians has increased significantly, resulting in more than 250 Palestinians being killed, including 67 children, and a fivefold increase in displacements within the West Bank.

Why does the US support Israel?

Mark Mellman, president of the Democratic Majority for Israel, a U.S. organization that works to maintain and strengthen support for the U.S.-Israel alliance, said the friendship between the two countries was borne out of the United States’ effort to secure allies during the Cold War.

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