Palestinian-Israeli Conflict in Modern World Politics


The Middle East has been regarded as one of the hot spots on the world map. One of the primary points of discord is the establishment of the Jewish state on the territories that are characterized by a complex historical background (Bunton 2). The territories of the present-day Israel and Palestine were inhabited by Israeli and Arab people with several waves of certain groups expulsion and immigration (Robinson Divine 275). This demographic composition contributes to the long-lasting tension in the region. The conflict between Israel and Palestine has not been resolved, and the recent activities of the American President and his administration can complicate the negotiation process. President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the Jewish capital, and the American embassy has opened in this city this year (Hirschfeld Davis). The major issue associated with this spot of historical and religious significance is that it was declared an international area at the time of the establishment of Israel. The conflict is believed to enter a new phase. This paper explores the nature and major peculiarities of the conflict that has had a considerable effect on world history and modern politics.

Historical Background of the Conflict

Before the Rise of Nationalism

Many people believe that the establishment of Jerusalem was the starting point of the conflict that is still associated with considerable threats to world peace. Nevertheless, the roots of the problem date back to the times of the Roman Empire (Dumper 122). Jews tried to resist the rule of Rome, but eventually, Roman Emperors established their control over the territories, and thousands of Jews were subjected to exile. Palestine emerged on the world map, and the territory came under the rule of many forces throughout the second millennium. The change of rulers was complicated by the religious diversity of the population as Christians, Jews, and Muslims immigrated to this land.

The Rise of Nationalism

The 19th century is often regarded as one of the milestones within the history of the conflict. It was the period of the rise of European nationalism and Zionism (Shindler 16). Many European nations fought for their identity and liberation. For instance, Germany arose as a single nation that had its pride And longed for European dominance. People in Hungary and Poland, as well as other European countries that were under the rule of empires, raised their voices trying to defend their right to rule their own homeland.

Jewish people also stood for the establishment of their own state in their Promised Land. For instance, Adam Mickiewicz, the Polish poet, proposed the creation of “a Jewish Legion which would liberate Palestine” (Shindler 11). Life in Europe also forced many Jews to leave for their long-awaited homeland as these populations were subjected to oppression and discrimination in European countries, especially the Russian Empire. Regular pogroms that caused many injuries and even deaths, as well as the loss of property, could not be tolerated. Therefore, the Middle East and North Africa seemed the most appropriate alternative to thousands of Jews.

The rise of nationalism was instrumental in the activation of the Arab population as well. Arab people longed for the establishment of their rule in the Middle East. Various organizations and even militant groups were created in Palestine and different Arab states at that period. Some of these were quite radical and ready to fight for the land they considered to be their home. In the first part of the 20th century, Arab nationalists tried to prevent the growth of the Jewish population in Palestine and Jerusalem in particular. Various revolts and the participation of these radical groups in the World War I on the side of the Triple Alliance were the attempts of Arab people to ensure their dominance in the Middle East (Landau 165). During this period, it became clear that the Middle Eastern clash would play a significant role in world history as geopolitical interests of empires and smaller states were closely linked to this region.

After the First World War, the tension between Arab and Jewish nationalist groups steadily grew. Such leaders as Izz al-Din al-Qassam and Haj Muhammad Amin al-Husseini tried to ensure that the Arab population will remain dominant in Palestine (Landau 165). The groups led by these people, as well as many other organizations, formed alliances with each other and even European national movements in order to force Jews from the area. In the 1930-1940s the tension grew dramatically. It is noteworthy that the two confronting nations received support from different countries. Inevitably, Palestine became a certain kind of battlefield between the Allies and the Axis.

The Establishment of Israel in the Middle of the 20th Century

The establishment of the Jewish state is another important milestone in the history of the Palestine-Israeli conflict. Although during the Second World War the tension between Arabs and Jews in the region diminished, the casualties of the struggle between the two nations made it clear that a proper solution is needed. The primary regulatory force in this process was the newly created international organization, the United Nations (UN). According to Resolution 181 of the United Nations General Assembly, it was agreed to divide the disputed territories into the Arab State, the Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem (The United Nations 134). The representatives of the rivalry groups agreed to follow this plan as it promised to establish the peace that was crucial for the region.

It is necessary to remember that at the moment of the resolution signing the world still remembered the atrocities of the deadliest war in the history of humanity. People focused on rebuilding their homes and their lives after the devastation the Second World War brought. The aftermath of the war could be one of the factors that led to the acceptance of the proposed solution. People’s attitudes were also consistent with Resolution 181. In the 1930s, the most radical groups of Arab nationalists who fought for the complete exile of Jews from the area did not receive support from the larger Arab population of Palestine (Landau 165). The status of the City of Jerusalem as an international territory was also satisfactory for the stakeholders as this was a sacred city for many groups and a spot of considerable historical significance.

Military Conflicts After the Resolution

Irrespective of the focus on the peaceful resolution of the majority of people who lived in the area radical Arab and Jewish groups still used violence to achieve their goals. The lack of the United Nation’s enforcement of this resolution also contributed to the regular violent events in the newly created states. For instance, several days after Resolution 181 signing, Arab nationalists conducted a series of attacks that resulted in their almost complete defeat by the Jewish forces (Dumper 130). Remarkably, the two sides were supported by different countries. For instance, Palestinians were aided by Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan while the Jewish state received financial and military support from the USA, the UK, and other countries. These alliances have made the tension in the region a matter of geopolitical concern.

In the 1950 and 1960s, regular attacks from both sides unveiled the weaknesses of the resolution developed in the international arena. The culminating point of these military conflicts was the so-called Six-Day War when the Jewish state established its control over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (Portugali 69). The United Nations had to bring the parties together in order to ensure effective dialogue between them.

The result of lasting negotiations was United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 that was signed in November 1967. According to this document, the states had to respect each other’s right to develop peacefully within the boundaries established by the United Nations (“United Nations Security Council Resolution 242”). It was also decided to demilitarize certain zones and designate a Special Representative to the region. This representative would report about the major changes in the region and ensure the parties’ adherence to the provisions of the resolution.

Such international effort contributed to the establishment of a certain status quo, but regular military attacks have not stopped since then. Moreover, the conflict was not confined to the boundaries of the two states (Israel and Palestine). As mentioned above, Palestinians have been supported by Arab states, so the military conflicts between Israel and some of these countries were just a matter of time (Newman 135). Israel has had military operations against the forces of Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, and some other countries.

In 1979, for example, Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty where the parties agreed to establish peaceful relationships and address the issues related to Sinai (“Peace Treaty Between the State of Israel and the Arab Republic of Egypt” 133). It is noteworthy that the conflicts between these two states still occur irrespective of the treaties and resolutions that were signed in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Significance to the World History and Modern-Day Politics

The 2010s are characterized by a considerable aggravation of the situation. The rising military power of ISIS, as well as the war in Syria, contributes to the growing tension in the region. The recent decision of the American President to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is rather provocative and dangerous (Landler). It is believed that this decision targets the American population as it was one of Trump’s pre-election promises.

Nevertheless, it has led to certain transformations and shifts in the Middle East. The establishment of the American embassy in the city that has to be an international zone has already resulted in various upheavals and even casualties (Hirschfeld Davis). Combined with the war in Syria, terrorist attacks, and Arab nationalists’ efforts to weaken the Jewish control over certain territories, the new status of Jerusalem can encourage different stakeholders to initiate more violent acts.

If a large-scale war commences in the Middle East, the allies of the states involved in the conflict may have to take part in the military campaign. Although such events seem unlikely, the two World Wars started in a similar way. Therefore, it is essential to ensure the peaceful resolution of the conflict. It is also necessary to add that religion still plays an important role in the development of the region and often contributes to its improvements. The status of Jerusalem can make various religious radicals committed to liberating the city from other groups.

The historical significance of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict cannot be overestimated. The establishment of the Jewish state that was believed to resolve the issue made the region a hot spot where military conflicts became common. Throughout the 20th century, the two states caused unrest in the Middle East as Arab countries did not accept the solutions proposed by the major international organizations. The conflict was used as a reason for numerous military operations that were often mainly associated with conquest.


On balance, it is necessary to stress that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been one of the reasons for the unrest in the Middle East. The Jewish State and the Arab State seem to remain dissatisfied with the compromise that was achieved in the distant 1948. This dissatisfaction translates into numerous military attacks, mutual blames and attempts to establish control over some areas. The conflict unveils major flaws and weaknesses of the influence of international organizations such as the United Nations.

It is clear that such international institutions should be reformed substantially and find ways to properly enforce their decisions in order to avoid the escalation of the situation. Otherwise, a large-scale war can seem quite likely or even inevitable. The mistakes that led to numerous wars in the Middle East should be analyzed and used for the development of effective strategies to satisfy the needs of the opposing parties.

Works Cited

Bunton, Martin. The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford, 2013.

Dumper, Michael. “Jerusalem.” The Routledge Handbook on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, edited by Joel Peters and David Newman, Routledge, 2015, pp. 121-134.

Hirschfeld Davis, Julie. “Jerusalem Embassy Is a Victory for Trump, and a Complication for Middle East Peace.” The New York Times, 2018, Web.

Landau, Yehezkel. “Religion.” The Routledge Handbook on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, edited by Joel Peters and David Newman, Routledge, 2015, pp. 162-172.

Landler, Mark. “Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital and Orders U.S. Embassy to Move.” The New York Time. 2017, Web.

Newman, David. “Territory and Borders.” The Routledge Handbook on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, edited by Joel Peters and David Newman, Routledge, 2015, pp. 135-144.

“Peace Treaty Between the State of Israel and the Arab Republic of Egypt”. 1979, Web.

Portugali, Juval. Implicate Relations: Society and Space in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Springer Science & Business Media, 2013.

Robinson Divine, Donna. “Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Contest in Word and Deed.” The Routledge Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations, edited by Josef Meri, Routledge, 2016, pp. 271-294.

Shindler, Colin. “The Origins of Zionism.” The Routledge Handbook on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, edited by Joel Peters and David Newman, Routledge, 2015, pp. 11-19.

The United Nations. “Resolution Adopted on the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee Palestinian Question.” n.d., Web.

“United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.” The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, 1996, Web.

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