By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
The neighboring countries of Israel and Palestine have been battling over the Gaza region in recent weeks, as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) go after the Islamic extremist group Hamas. Gaza is a region of Palestine that is often used by Hamas to launch rockets into Israel, which then prompts the Israelis to aggressively defend themselves by activating the Iron Dome air defense system and hunting down Hamas strongholds. After intense diplomatic efforts from Egypt, a truce between Israel and Palestine was reached, with IDF pulling out of Gaza. However, Hamas fired rockets on Friday, prompting Israel to respond, and the cycle began anew.
See, the Israelis and Palestinians have frequently fought for decades, especially since 1948 when the UN recommended using part of Palestine to form the Jewish state of Israel. Even before then, the Arabs and the Jews quarreled for centuries over who had the rightful claim to certain territories in the region, many of which have historical and religious significance for their respective cultures.
The main drama that the two countries currently have with each other stems from the Israel-occupied lands in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights, which are claimed by Israel but not internationally recognized as belonging to them. That’s because Israel seized these contested areas after defeating Egypt, Jordan, and Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967. As a result, Israel’s military presence is not approved by the UN in these areas, and they’re considered Occupied Palestinian Territory.
There have been many attempts to settle things between the two groups in a peaceful way, trying to find a middle ground between Israel’s occupation and Hamas’ acts of terrorism. Diplomatic peace efforts have occasionally made some progress, like in 1993 when former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to the Oslo Accords, and in 2000 when USA President Bill Clinton held the Camp David Summit between Arafat and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. These talks generally have their ups and downs as far as lasting peace, but usually end with no meaningful agreement reached… or a short-lived halting of hostilities, like the “72-hour” ceasefire last week that barely lasted 90 minutes… or this week’s resumption of fighting as soon as the 3-day truce ended.
Kerry has tried holding talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators this year, in an effort to reach an agreement that would allow for an independent Palestinian state. What the Palestinians want is a state based on the territory lines that existed before the 1967 war, while Israel wants Palestine to stop bombing them and recognize that they are, and will remain a Jewish state. Basically, Israel believes that even if they give up these territories completely, the Palestinians will just continue to harass them with violence. Even Pope Francis tried a more spiritual solution this past June, by having Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas come to the Catholic headquarters at the Vatican for mutual prayers.
The USA and European Union applauded Egypt’s recent efforts in helping IDF and Hamas forces reach a truce. Unfortunately, it did not last beyond the 3-day agreement.
Featured image courtesy of Israel Defense Forces on Flickr.