The tension in the Middle East is a constant problem; originating from both historical and religious claims to the area. It is strengthened, as both parties have convinced themselves that they are right, and are victims of the other side. Furthermore, it has been fuelled by the involvement of the Western powers, as well as the stubbornness of the Middle Eastern powers, not wanting to go the peace talks with the political incentive to resolve the problems at hand.
As the Middle East is valuable for oil, and trading access (such as the Suez Canal), outside powers only seem to have their own interests at heart; since they are so dependant on these factors. A significant involvement, with the superpowers in 1948, is seen in the American recognition of the new state of Israel. This involvement, would have many motives, the US wanted to have an ally, in the area, in order to be able to have a source of oil, and trade route, with the Middle East.
The involvement will also lead to the area becoming an extension of the Cold war, where the outside powers help arm either side, pushing them towards peace from war, rather than peace from negotiations. The US decided to back Israel, due to the massive Jewish lobby in America; again showing their own self-interests, rather than trying to find an ideal solution. Once communism collapsed, and so the Russian influence in the Middle Easr faded, the US no longer had to support Israel to maintain its influence; in doing so the Arabs began a surge of attacks against the Israelis, pushing them further from the peace talks.
1948 saw some drastic changes in the Middle East, the UN tried to help, by drawing up the partition plan, this helped in dividing areas of disputed land, however seemed to favour the Jewish settlements, as they received the majority of land, even though they were a minority. This led the Arabs to bitterness, as seemingly fair UN, had favoured another side; this bitterness resulted into hostile attacks against the Jews, spurring on the conflict in the Middle East.
These fights were supported by Czechoslovakian help in armament for the Jews, and so hostility increased between the Israelis, and Arabs. During the war, the Jews gained Arab land, strengthening the Arabic resolve to keep fighting for what they thought of as theirs. Eventually, the land they took from the Arabs was more than was originally agreed in the Partition Plan. This made both sides more willing to fight, as the Jews were winning, due to the Czech’s help and the Arabs wanting to regain their land.
By 1949 the Jewish territory had grown to 77%, creating 700 000 refugees; who went to refugee camps set up by the UNRWA. However, these camps were crowded and bitter frustration, allowing the PLO to recruit most of its members here, again strengthening the conflict; becoming a breeding ground for later terrorist activity that would hinder peace. Conversely, it can be seen that wars have hindered the peace process. They may have been to help, but in the wrong way, as arming the countries, would strengthen their resolve to fight and thus hinder the peace process.
By 1956, tension in the Middle East, had grown to such an extent, that war broke out. The West obviously got involved during the Suez Crisis, in order to gain control of the seeming chaos; however Britain and France seemed to have only become involved to show the world their strength and support their superpower status. This, therefore became an unstable extension of the Cold War, as both the US and USSR, provide Israel and Arab states (respectively) arms and advice, on how to go about the fighting.
This clearly pushed the two countries even further away from resolving the conflict, as tension worsened. Due to this, the UN intervention was both unsupported and ignored, resolution 997 was abandoned. The Arabic bitterness grew in 1967 when they blamed their defeat in the 6 Day War on the US and other outside powers that had interfered. The Arabs believed that the outside powers had unfairly aided the Israelis; this growing resentment evidently resulted in the Arab reluctance to ceasefire under the command of the UN.
The Arabs were also armed by the USSR, providing military support, had they not done so, the Arabs may not have fought for as long, or even started initially. Thus, the USSR had hindered the peace process, in supporting the violence. By 1973, tension had further increased, resulting in the Egyptian attacks during Yom Kippur. Egypt was advised to ceasefire while they still held Sinai; an important area of land by the Suez Canal. However, it is suggested that the Russians wanted the ceasefire, so they had access to the Suez Canal and an ally in an oil-rich area.
As the Arabs still had oil, it could be used against the US, and so they intervened with self-interest; ordering a ceasefire. The UN were persuaded to support this, however they did so, but not with political will, but force. Thus thrusting them further from peace as both sides would feel resentful. Subsequently; outside powers started to realise that wars do not help in peace processes, but terrorist attacks grew. This caused the outside powers to intervene, again, using political pressure to help. The Oil War was a large factor, as the outside powers were so dependant upon it.
However, they still had their own interests in the forefront of their minds. Therefore, they did not deal with the main issue, of the land dispute, again hindering the peace process. The US, led Camp David, due to the withholding of oil, thus enabled the US to avoid the real problems in the ME. Neither side seemed happy with the agreement, as it did not guarantee total withdrawal from Palestinian areas, not did it establish a Palestine state. Even with their concerns, the Palestinians were so weak they had to sign, blaming the US for their position.
The Israelis never fully implemented it, as they thought they won territory fairly, through war, and were unwilling to give it up. Terrorism seems to be at its height in 1987; so the US had secret talks with the PLO, with the discontentment of the Israelis; however they seemed to help the peace process, in persuading Arafat to state he rejected terrorism. This enabled them to put pressure on the Israelis to negotiate with them. However, this again seems to have hindered the process, as they had to force both sides to talk, with the lack of political will.
Arab discontentment grew in 1991, due to the pushing out of Iraqi troops in Kuwait; this was seen as ‘double standards’ as they had not received the land that they were promised. The US was seen to have their own interests at heart, as they put more pressure on Israel financially, to hold peace talks with them, only because of the ending of the Cold War. The financial help of the US towards the Israelis was used as leverage, thus the Israelis did not really want to accept, however felt forced to do so; creating only a temporary solution.
As the PLO were against the attack on Iraq in 1991, they became diplomatically isolated; so the US wanted to stabilise the area, and felt obliged to the Arabs, due to the previous hostility towards them. The Oslo Records, although seemed to be progress, did not seal with the underlying problems, only those of war. The outcome was not initially specified, and so neither power was willing, causing peace to be even harder to find. Though the Palestinians agreed to the two state positions, they were politically weak, due to the isolation after the Gulf War, because of this; they didn’t have the will to keep the peace.
The process generally was delayed, leading to more violence, pushing both sides away from peace, as both take on casualties. The Arab states had started to recognise Israel as a state, however, immediately after the signing of the peace accord between Israel and the PLO, the Israeli PM, Rabin, was assassinated; showing that the peace process would not work due to the strength of the splinter groups. Camp David 2, again hadn’t worked, as Israel did not want to return to 1967 borders, as they had won territory that they felt they deserved, since then.
The US had consistently backed the Israelis, seen in Bush providing them with $8b to them. However, this only resulted in the growth of the PLO, as it was seen as unfair. This caused increasing tension and Arab suspicion, making it less likely for them to come to peace. This proved that the Israelis were never really interested with making peace, once they had seemingly won through war; they were unwilling to give that up through talks. Even if they did, neither side would be able to control their extremist groups, so there always be continuous friction between the two states.
Meanwhile ,the US zigzag policy form trying to be an ‘honest broker,’ left both sides weary of them, and suspicions arose when they seemed to either to be fair or to take a side. The UN refugee camps were of such poor conditions, discontentment grew widely amongst the Palestinians in them, resulting in the rise of terrorism, showing how easily it is to start off violence, even though both sides are seen to have come to a political end. Due to the initial involvement of the outside powers, peace through negotiation I feel is now impossible.
The Israelis believe that they can win through fighting, so they do not have the political will, during the peace talks. Similarly with the Arabs, as no one seemed to be consistently backing them, no peace talks were seen to represent them fairly. Also, by trying to stick to the so-called ‘Road Map to peace’ the outside powers have only arose suspicion from the Arab side, again making it near impossible to create a solution. Peace talks were impossible as they constantly avoided the initial problem of land; until this is done so, and supported by an unbiased power, peace will never be achieved.