The issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict is highly complicated and it is true to assert that the core of the problem comes from both sides pursuing their own conflicting interests, often with little room for compromise. However, I would define 'legitimate interests' as something valid and reasonable, such as economic well-being, civil rights, peace and territorial integrity, apart from factors like religious fanaticism and greed.Furthermore, a major determinant of the Arab-Israeli dispute is the way in which both sides pursued their own interests, in which aggression often supersedes negotiation, especially after the involvement of many radical terrorist groups. In pursuing their often legitimate though diametrically opposed interests, the conflict gets worsened especially when either side employs radical means to achieve their ends.
The roots of the conflict stem from the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, in which Palestinian land is forcefully taken to accommodate the Jews.The proclamation of the State of Israel in 1948 led to the first Arab-Israeli War as the Arabs denied Israel's right to exist. The Jews wanted to settle in their homeland dating back to biblical times to ensure their rights and safety. This was in the light of Jewish persecution especially during the Holocaust, whereby an unprecedented attempt to exterminate an entire race of people occurred.
The Palestinians also had valid reasons to resist Jewish seizure of their land which they had inhabited for centuries, as they were made to pay for the crimes that the Europeans (Nazi Germany) had committed.This is made worse by the disproportionate division of land, including the fact that the more fertile land was given to the Jews. Thus, it can be argued that the beginnings of the conflict were indeed a case of both sides pursuing their legitimate interests, and the start of a mounting tragedy. The Arabs would remain committed to antagonizing Israel and Israel will often be forced into retaliation against such provocative actions.The escalation of the conflict in the 1956 war was another example of both sides pursuing their legitimate interests if critically examined.
The rise of Nasser in 1952 led to attempts to strengthen the Egyptian economy which served as a precursor to the nationalization of the Suez Canal as America changed their mind about funding the Aswan Dam project. Nonetheless, Nasser did it legally and issued adequate compensation. On the other hand, Israel colluded with Britain and France in an opportunistic attempt to regain access to Arab ports and sea-routes.Even though Israel was the aggressor and many might point out that Israel was at fault, it must be emphasized that Israel's economy was near collapse due to Arab economic pressure and the invasion was made due to concerns of economic survival. This war can be seen as an extension of the roots of the conflict, as Arab refusal to Israel's establishment in Palestine manifested in the form of economic sanctions which in turn forced Israeli retaliation to sustain her survival.
The exacerbation of the conflict in the June War of 1967 was again one of both sides pursuing their own legitimate interests, spiraling from the proclamation of the state of Israel in 1948. The involvement of the superpowers made the dispute more complicated and the Soviet backing of the Arab states gave impetus to Arab plans of eliminating Israel. Egypt's signs of aggression such as the withdrawal of UNEF, the closing of the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping and Nasser's demand for the liberation of Palestine forced Israel into the pre-emptive strike of 1967.Israel sensed the looming danger and launched the assault due to concerns of national security. The expansion of Israeli borders after the territorial gains served to heighten Israeli security by granting them a buffer zone that would give Israel strategic depth and defensible borders.
Ironically, this only served to heighten the Arab-Israeli conflict by creating further resentment among the Arabs and also worsening the problem of Arab refugees. Thus, the results of this war would have heavy ramifications on the Arab-Israeli dispute as both sides would see greater potential for conflict over the occupied regions.The ensuing Yom Kippur War of 1973 was another product of the escalating conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis. It can again be viewed as legitimate if we consider the Arabs desire to eradicate Israel as reasonable in the first instance, and this is complicated by Israeli seizure of Arab territory after the 1967 war. Both sides being committed to enhance warfare capabilities saw them drawing closer into the Cold War orbit by seeking a superpower patron.The Soviet military aid received by the Egyptians and Syrians granted them to the opportunity to besiege Israel which eventually led to a legitimate Israeli reprisal.
Both sides acting in their own varying legitimate interests made the search for permanent peace a gargantuan task in the Arab-Israeli dispute. The search for peace was complicated by several factors, involving hard-line personalities, mutual distrust, forceful reprisals, non-state actors which included radical militant groups, disagreements over extent of compromise and the disunity of the Arabs.Herein lies the paradox between how there can be no peace without security and how there can be no security without peace. Though it can be pointed out that the religious fervour exhibited by certain Islamic terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and their declaration of Holy War against Israel might not actually be considered legitimate, since it is not entirely driven by practical considerations but religious fanaticism.
The Camp David Talks in 1978 fostered some kind of peace between Egypt and Israel.Both sides made concessions such as Israeli returning the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and Sadat agreeing to a separate peace with Israel without regard for the other Arab states or the Palestinians. However, this unilateral peace agreement between Egypt and Israel only served to radicalize Arab opinion from the other states, and hardened their attitude towards the Israelis, as their interests of removing Israel though arguably legitimate, did not coincide with that of the Egyptians.The Intifada movement in the late 1980s is an example of how there was another clash of legitimate interests.
A new Palestinian generation who had grown up under fragile circumstances with no civil rights sought to resort to violence to shake off Israeli control. This was worsened by the fact that the Arabs including the Palestine Liberation Organisation) PLO had not done much for them. This struggle to break away from the Israelis can be perceived as being legitimate and so is the Israeli reprisal necessary to maintain law and order.The Intifada also brought about a change in the PLO's stance in which Arafat began to employ more diplomatic means, even to the extent of condemning terrorism, to achieve a peace settlement. However, due to Israeli distrust of the PLO and hard-line policies, acting Prime Minister Shamir of Israel rejected negotiating directly with the PLO and even went to establish more Jewish settlements in their territory.
This could be due to the many terrorist attacks on Israeli soil the PLO was involved in, in the late 1960s, 70s and 80s which created a rift between both sides.Furthermore, the hard-line Likud party had attempted to eradicate the PLO leading to the 1982 Lebanon War, an oppressive attempt that even though brutal, was in Israel's legitimate interest of preserving peace and security. This clearly illustrates Israel's stand. Also, the road to peace in the 1990s was hampered by several factors such as the involvement of non-state actors, disunity of the Arabs and disagreements over the extent of compromise.
Again this is due to the disparity in both parties' legitimate interests. The Madrid talks were symbolic of peace progress but in reality did not achieve much due to major divergence in views.Also, even when Rabin's more moderate Labour party came into power in 1992, the acts of non-state figures such as the Intifada and terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah worsened the situation. This forced Israel into 'Operation Accountability' in 1993 where rockets were fired to attack Hezbollah strongholds. In addition, the Declaration of Principles in Washington also served to improve relations between the Arabs and the Israelis considerably.
This was due to the thawing of relations between Rabin and the PLO as Rabin was agreeable to allowing some compromise, that of granting Palestinian autonomy or self-rule.However, failure on a comprehensive peace harvested the conditions for yet further disruptions to peace. For example, the PLO was disunited and certain terrorist groups remain committed to hostility towards the Israelis, the issue of Jerusalem was avoided and the deadlock between Israel and her Arabs neighbours such as Syria was not resolved. The situation worsened in 1995 when non-state actors such as Islamic militants and Hezbollah antagonised Israel resulting in the operation 'Grapes of Wrath' directed at Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Furthermore, when Netanyahu obtained power after the Peres debacle, there was another step back from peace as the hard-line politician hardened Israeli attitudes towards Palestine, resulting in Arab alarm. These illustrates the dynamics between Arab-Israeli relations even though the basic premise, that of both sides pursuing their own legitimate interests (perhaps excluding Islamic radicalism) remain mostly unchanged. In conclusion, it is true to a large extent that both sides were merely pursuing their own legitimate interests, and this forms the crux of the entire conflict.However, the way in which they proceed to do so, with the resoluteness of their stand and readiness to adopt violence to achieve their objectives, the conflict between them is made far more intractable. Certain conditions such as Cold War geopolitics also arguably worsened the situation. The improbability of both sides in reaching a full compromise due to different beliefs, pride and sustenance issues is why this entire situation is aptly termed a tragedy.
"Both sides were merely pursuing their legitimate interests. This was the crux-and the tragedy-of the Arab-Israeli dispute. " Discuss with reference to the period 1948-2000.