Capital : Jerusalem. Area : 20 770 km². Officials languages : Hebrew and Arabic. Population : 7 150 000 inhabitants. Currency : New Israeli Sheqel. President : Shimon Peres.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an ongoing dispute between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is part of the wider Arab-Israeli conflict, which is essentially a dispute between two national identities with claims over the same area of land.
The roots of the conflict can be traced to the late 19th century, when Zionist Jews expressed their desire to create a modern state in the ancient land of the Israelites, which they considered to be their rightful homeland. To further that objective, the World Zionist Organization encouraged immigration and purchase of land, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire.
Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the region came under the control of the United Kingdom through the League of Nations. In 1947, the United Nations approved the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Arab League rejected the plan, but on May 14, 1948, after numerous attempts to partition the land and hostilities, Israel declared its independence. Five Arab League countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq) invaded Israel, sparking the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Israel captured territory that changed its borders, but left Jerusalem a divided city. In the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and East Jerusalem including the Old City and its holy sites, which Israel annexed and reunited with the Western neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The status of the city as Israel's capital and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has remained a source of bitter conflict.
For decades after 1948, Arab governments had refused to recognize Israel and in 1964 the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded with the central tenet that Palestine, with its original Mandate borders, is the indivisible homeland of the Arab Palestinian people. In turn Israel refused to recognise the PLO as a negotiating partner. In 1988, Yasser Arafat stated that he recognized Israel's right to exist, thus providing the first step needed to enable negotiations between Israel and the PLO.
An attempt to broker a 'two state solution', that is the creation of separate Jewish and Palestinian states, was seen in the Oslo peace process, where Israel and the PLO negotiated, unsuccessfully, to come to a mutual agreement. During the Oslo process, which began in 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization was permitted autonomy to run Palestinian affairs in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the form of the Palestinian National Authority with the understanding that it would uphold recognition of and mutual co-existence with Israel. However there was continual contention over whether actual events and conditions proved that there was greater acceptance of Israel's existence by Palestinian leaders or a commitment by Israel to stop settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, according to all major polls, agree that a two-state solution is the best way to end the conflict. Most Palestinians view the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of their future state. Most Israelis also accept this solution. A handful of academics advocate a one-state solution, whereby all of Israel, the Gaza Strip, and West Bank would become a bi-national state with equal rights for all.
Core issues in the conflict as seen by both sides are the future of the remaining Israeli settlements built in the Occupied Territories, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and the status of Jerusalem, along with the refusal of some Palestinian groups to recognize the right of Israel to exist and Israel's reluctance to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel asserts that one major condition of Palestinian sovereignty over any territory must be acceptance of mutual co-existence and elimination of terrorism by the Palestinians. Some Palestinian groups, notably Fatah, a political party founded by PLO leaders, claim they are willing to foster co-existence if Palestinians are steadily given more political rights and autonomy. In 2006, Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council, where it remains the majority party. While Hamas has openly stated in the past that it completely opposed Israel's right to exist, indeed its charter states this, the position has softened somewhat recently.
The most recent round of peace negotiations began at Annapolis, USA in November, 2007. These talks aim to have a final resolution by the end of 2008.