The Arab-Israeli conflict, in short, is a decades-long conflict between the Jewish and Arab people living on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Considered one of the most intractable conflicts of the world, the conflict is deeply rooted in many decades worth of history and will likely last well into the future. A highly controversial topic, the conflict has deep implications and importance in modern Middle Eastern and global politics. Don't start here on the rights and wrongs of it, as this will cause some internet drama.
During World War I, the Ottoman Empire sided with the Central Powers. The Ottomans were hated by almost everybody, but especially the local Arabs. A British-supported Arab Revolt drove the Ottomans out of the Levant, to much rejoice. Britain agreed to honor Arab nationalism in the McMahonHussein Correspondence, stating that they would support the creation of an Arab state if the Arabs agreed to fight with them.
In the aftermath of WWI, the failing Ottoman Empire collapsed. Instead of honoring the Arabs, Britain decided to follow the secret 1916 SykesPicot Agreement, which partitioned the former Ottoman territories between Britain and France. While Britain did fulfill the commitments of the McMahonHussein Correspondence somewhat by creating the state of Transjordan (now Jordan) ruled by Hashemite king Abdullah, Palestine became the British Mandate of Palestine (or Mandatory Palestine). Suffice to say, Mandatory Palestine was not received well, and the Arabs felt betrayed by Britain.
On the Jewish side of things, Britain had also expressed their support for Zionism and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine in the 1917 Balfour Declaration. The Balfour Declaration was a core component of Mandatory Palestine; Jews in Mandatory Palestine even celebrated Balfour Day as an annual national holiday on 2 November. Due to the growing anti-Semitism in Europe and the rising Zionism that reacted against it, Jewish immigration to Palestine (known as "Aliyah") increased drastically during the early 20th century, significant numbers of Jews into Palestine from Europe. Obviously, Jewish nationalism directly conflicts with Arab nationalism, and conflicts between Jewish and Arab nationalism spilt the first blood of the Arab-Israeli conflict in events such as the 1920 Nebi Musa riots, and 1921 Jaffa riots. Things are only going to get worse.
Anti-Semitism continued on the rise through Europe in the 1920s and 30s (most famously from Adolf Hitler), and the Zionist movement felt more motivated than ever to create a Jewish state. Conflict between Jewish and Arab nationalists rose more and more. The Jewish leadership in Palestine (Yishuv) were forced to face Arab anti-Semitism, and criticized Britain for not acting on the Balfour Declaration and not controlling the Arab violence. Some of the Jews broke off and formed the right-wing Irgun, which actively retaliated against Arab violence, eventually committing atrocities of their own.
So now within Mandatory Palestine are two rising groups conflicting with both the British rule and with each other; the Jewish Zionists who were promised a Jewish state in Palestine, and the Arab nationalists who were promised an Arab state in Palestine.
This resulted in Britain washing their hands of the affair and handing over the problem to the fledgling United Nations. The UN decided to partition Palestine along ethnic lines into separate Jewish and Arab states of roughly equal sizes, with the Arabs getting the Gaza Strip, West Bank, the city of Jaffa, and Galilee, the Jews everywhere else, and the City of Jerusalem placed under joint control.
Haj Amin al-Husseini led an Arab Uprising in opposition of the partition. Since the British were leaving, it was mostly directed at the Jews (with the Jews fighting back with the paramilitary Palmach, regular Haganah, irregular Irgun, and the terroristic and occasionally quasi-fascist Lehi), but once again, level-headed Arabs got caught in the crossfire. However, it was unsuccessful in preventing the founding of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948.
As many as 800,000 Arabs fled and were mostly not allowed to return. Many left before the fighting began at the behest of the Arab League itself promising it would allow the armies to have a freer hand in winning the inevitable victory, many others were forced out at gunpoint by Israeli military forces or militias, and far too many fell victim to one atrocity or another by the warring sides. These refugees and their descendants are still stuck in a stateless limbo even to this day. The event is generally known as Al-Nakba (the Disaster) by Arabs.
Meanwhile, whipped up by government rhetoric (and the odd Nazi who ended up stranded in the Middle East after WWII) against the Jews, many of the dumber or more bloodthirsty segments of Arab society began to conduct pogroms against the local Jewish populations, leading to an almost complete exodus of the (formerly substantial) Jewish communities of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq to Israel (in a moment of irony, the influx of nearly a million Middle Eastern Jews would create exactly the sort of large, disenfranchised, and bitter power base needed for the Israeli Right to eventually take power in the 1970s).
The actual reasons behind the Arab invasion were a bit more complicated; while there were plenty among the Islamist and/or Arab ultra-nationalist factions that wanted to wipe the Israelis from the face of the map, the Arab governments were almost all very unpopular at home most of them on the verge of revolution and so they stirred up resentment against the Jewish settlers in Palestine to get the people's attention off the home front. Many historians even Arab ones now regard this as a huge but inevitable mistake: this worked too well, and the Arab governments found themselves facing a war that they knew they were going to lose. At the end, the Arab governments' plans all failed utterly: within the next ten years, Egypt and Iraq both had revolutions/coups d'etat, Jordan's king was assassinated by a disgruntled Palestinian, Syria entered a ten-year period where coups happened not once but twice a year, and Lebanon had to call in the United States Marines and make a deal with the Israelis to avert a civil war.
While the unprepared Egyptians frankly got their asses kicked militarily, clever Cold War political maneuvering by Nasser (convincing both the Soviet Union and United States to oppose the venture) made up for that; France and Britain soon folded and evacuated their troops. Israel withstood combined Soviet and American pressure into 1957, obtaining a new cease-fire agreement with Egypt that ended the blockade of Israel's access to the Red Sea, demilitarized the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, and creating the UN peace-keeping force to place in those two territories as a means to keep them separate.note This was regarded as a humiliation by the Egyptians. Arabs often call this one Al-`Idwan al-Thalathi the Tripartite Aggression (i.e. Israel, Britain, and France; thanks to colonialism, the Arabs had plenty of reason to hate the last two).
This war and its build-up led to an alliance between France and Israel. Yes, France and Israel. The Fourth Republic was desperately trying to hang on to Algeria, making it a particular enemy of pretty much all the Arab states; by that logic, Israel was a natural ally. The fact that Israel was likely to get into a shooting war with its neighbors made it even more attractive; Israel's wars could and did serve as a proving ground for much French military equipment (particularly the various Dassault fighters, including the Ouragan and Mystère). France is also believed to have provided Israel with nuclear technology.
Nasser said "I Lied" and kicks out the UN Peacekeeping forces, starts making increasingly ugly noises about what should happen to the Israelis, starts cobbling together an alliance, and eventually shuts the Straits of Tiran Israel's main waterway marking the Rubicon at which war becomes inevitable if he does not pull back. He doesn't, and Israel makes a preemptive strike on the Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian Air Forces to prevent a war they could see a mile away; Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq had been massing troops for weeks (although King Hussein of Jordan had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing so).
Ironically, the reason that the Arabs had been massing troops was that the Soviet Union informed the Egyptian government that Israel was planning to invade Syria (it wasn't). By the time the Soviets had a chance to say "whoops, they weren't, our bad", the Israelis had already mobilized and the Arab populations, stirred up by nationalistic propaganda, were itching for war (both the Syrian and Egyptian leaders feared that they'd be overthrown if they backed down).
The war was an unqualified Israeli victory: in less than a week, the IDF had taken Jordanian-held Jerusalem, the West Bank which the Israelis never had any intention of taking and which they literally just stumbled into because they were pursuing the Jordanian defenders the Golan Heights which there was also no official plan to take starting off, but which Defense Minister Moshe Dayan reversed himself on the fourth day and decided it was worth taking after all in order to stop the bad habit Syrian artillerists had of shelling the Israeli territory below even in times of peace the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula. Due to this last seizure, the Suez Canal remained closed for the next eight years.
When Arabs don't just call it "the '67 War" or something similar, they call it An-Naksa: The Setback. In the aftermath of the war, the Arab League met at Khartoum in Sudan and drafted the Khartoum Declaration that largely serves as a benchmark for the League's stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict, even if not that of all its individual states. One of the more important and most quoted parts is the resolution that there be "No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it." Summed up as the "Three Nos", this would lead to yet another decade of more or less direct conflict, as well as major roadblocks to peace that remain today.
A side effect of this war was the beginning of the US-Israel alliance. In the lead-up to the war, the US reluctantly agreed to provide some material support for the Israelis, but regarded them with some suspicion; the Israelis were losing their alliance with the French (after the end of the Algerian War of Independence, De Gaulle began to pursue a conciliatory policy towards the Arab states in order to secure France's oil supply) and were desperate for a new protector. The USS Liberty incident did not help matters, turning US public opinion against the budding alliance. (No, really.)
In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, Egypt and Israel began what is known as the War of Attrition, lasting from 1967 to 1973. Perhaps the best way to put this would be a high-tech, high-gloss version of the tit-for-tat violence of the Intifadas. Egypt and Israel trade missiles, artillery bombardments, air raids, ground raids, etc. across the Suez Canal. This amounts to little but random destruction; its biggest impact besides confirming the bad blood between the countries is probably an Israeli artillery shell randomly killing one of Egypt's best generals while he happened to be visiting; his participation in the next hot war might have made a difference, given the impact of poor generalship on the Egyptian side.
Egyptian and Syrian forces crossed ceasefire lines to enter the Israeli-held Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights respectively, which had been captured and occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War. The conflict led to a near-confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, both of whom initiated massive resupply efforts to their allies during the war.
The war began with a massive and successful Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal during the first three days,note after which they dug in, settling into a stalemate. The Syrians coordinated their attack on the Golan Heights to coincide with the Egyptian offensive and initially made threatening gains against the greatly outnumbered Israeli forces.
Within a week, Israel recovered and launched a four-day counter-offensive, driving deep into Syria. To relieve this pressure, the Egyptians went back on the offensive, but were decisively defeated; the Israelis then counterattacked at the seam between two Egyptian armies, crossed the Suez Canal, and advanced southward and westward in over a week of heavy fighting.
An October 22 United Nations-brokered ceasefire quickly unraveled, with each side blaming the other for the breach. By 24 October, the Israelis had improved their positions considerably and completed their encirclement of Egypt's Third Army. This development led to tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union (in the middle of detente at the time). As a result, a second ceasefire was imposed cooperatively on October 25 to end the war.
Despite the fact that it was Israel and not the Arab states that achieved their initial war aims, the fact that the war really could have gone either way (if not for some rather foolish generalship on the Egyptian side and the failure of the promised Libyan and Algerian assistance to materialize) meant that Arabs finally felt that they could take pride in their military prowess (something shattered in the wake of '67) and thus gave the Arab peoples and governments confidence to deal with Israel on an equal footing; however, it also convinced the Arab leaders that Israel could not be gotten rid of by military might alone.
The war had far-reaching effects outside of the Middle East as well; it moved the United States to new efforts of mediation and peace-keeping, but it also solidified the US relationship with Israel (until this point, the US had maintained a cool and suspicious alliance with the Jewish state). Within Israel, the war had a tremendous psychological impact, shattering the sense of invincibility the Israelis had enjoyed since 1967. So much so that anger began to rise up at the Israeli government by its own people, asking for an inquiry into the first events of the war. Arabs are likely to refer to this war as the "October War" or the "Ramadan War" (understandably, the former is most common for secular Arab Nationalists and the latter is more common among Islamists).
To make a long story short, the results of the Yom Kippur War forced or perhaps allowed (it's possible that Sadat had planned the war as a win-win all along) a change in Egyptian policy; with American encouragement, Egypt came to a rapprochement with Israel, culminating in the Camp David Accords of 1978 and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979. As a result, Egypt recognized the State of Israel, becoming the first Arab country to do so; in return, it got Sinai back in stages over The '80s and abandoned the Soviet Union to became a major ally of the United States with all the cash and arms that come with that status. To this day, Egypt (as a "major non-NATO ally" of the United States a status it shares with Israel) receives annual shipments of (old and surplus) U.S. versions of most American military equipment (rather than the watered-down export versions available to most countries) and billions of dollars in U.S. aid (most of which, the Arab Spring discovered,note went straight into the pockets of the president and his friends). So... um... yeah.
This war also had another very big effect on world politics. When it looked like the Israelis were losing, the US began to airlift arms and other supplies to them. Israel likely wouldn't have been able to turn the war around in their favor without these weapons. Unsurprisingly, this really pissed off the Arab countries. These countries, under OPEC, retaliated by raising the prices of oil by 400 percent for the countries allied with Israel in the war. While the Western world was already going through some shaky economic situations (namely, inflation was rising and the baby boomers entering the work force were causing higher-than-usual unemployment), there were signs that this was improving, but the oil embargo devastated the Western economies for the rest of The '70s.
America, which consumes loads of oil and gasoline, was especially hit very hard, with the notorious gas-line rationing of 73/74 being a hard memory for many older people. This was the moment where Americans realized that the countries which produced their resources were capable of seriously harming the American economy if they were not satisfied with American foreign policy/wanted to. Inflation skyrocketed for the rest of the decade it bottomed at just below 6%, and reached almost 14% in 1980. Even after the embargo ended in 1974, the runaway inflation continued. The United States began a quest to find alternative energy sources (a quest they are still continuing), and from now on the country always has to balance between the two to make sure the Arab countries were not too upset by aid to Israel and vice versa.
Intifada means "shaking-off" or "uprising" in Arabic. Sparked by an unusually violent Israeli security action at a funeral at a West Bank refugee camp, Palestinians conducted organized resistance against the Israeli forces and authorities; while much (if not most) of the resistance is nonviolent (protests and strikes Israeli industries had grown dependent on Palestinian labor since 1967 proved particularly effective), there was also a great deal of guerrilla warfare, primarily with rocks, which the Israelis responded to with full gunfire. The sad tactic of suicide bombing is perfectednote during this period, but it doesn't see quite as much use as in other conflicts or later on. The harsh Israeli response garnered the attention of the global press, and got the Palestinians the kind of attention and recognition that they had never had before. Several important Palestinian organizations were formed during this period. Most importantly, Hamas came into existence in 1987, forming from an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ironically, the Israelis had previously funded them because the Brothers historically focused on peacefully preaching to Palestinians, encouraging them to become better Muslims. Oops.
Hamas came into prominence in Palestinian politics during the First Intifada because the PLO (led by Yasser Arafat) had been exiled to Tunisia by the Israelis in 1982, and thus really only had nominal control over the Palestinian territories: a political, economic, and social hole very quickly filled by Hamas, which, as mentioned before, started out as more of a religious social welfare organization. Ordinary Palestinians began referring to Arafat and the PLO as "The Tunisians" and were less than thrilled when the PLO tried to assert its authority from Tunisia by acting as the face of the Intifada.
The First Intifada is generally deemed to have ended in 1991. Israel engaged in talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a loose organization headed by Yasser Arafat that had served as the face of the Intifada despite not actually being in control of most of it. In the end, the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, granting the Palestinians a measure of self-rule within the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the form of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Palestinian Authority was effectively a state within a state: while it could not engage in foreign relations, maintain an army, or collect its own taxes, it did have the power to set policy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (within certain bounds) and speak for the Palestinians on the international stage (as observers at the United Nations). This was seen as a sellout by many Palestinians, who objected to Arafat's deal as essentially buying political power for himself at the cost of furthering the Palestinian cause.
As a result of the Oslo Accords, Jordan (whose population is at least 50% Palestinian refugees) became the second Arab country to formally recognize Israel (in 1994). Before this time, Jordan had had good relations with Israel under the table (King Hussein, a military-trained helicopter pilot of considerable skill, would periodically fly his personal chopper under the radar to secret meetings in Israel); the agreements allowed these relations to become more open.
The '90s were a relatively quiet time in the conflict. The Palestinian Authority, although corrupt and fraught with a myriad of problems, functioned fairly well, and despite the occasional bombing, etc., things were as peaceful as anyone could hope for under the circumstances. Israeli-Palestinian trade in particular flourished, with Israeli firms setting up factories in the Palestinian territories, and many Palestinians finding work in Israel.
However, the failure to make progress by either side eventually led to turmoil, and in particular the hiccups in getting an independent Palestinian state led to frustration on the part of the Palestinians. Eventually, things came to a head, leading to:
The Second Intifada eventually petered out; exactly when is a question for the historians. What matters is that by 2006, some semblance of stability had returned: Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip helped calm some heads, and a controversial wall in the West Bank eventually frustrated attackers. However, the Palestinian Authority elections of 2006 returned a resounding majority for the Islamist party/militia Hamas in the Palestinian parliament, mostly because the (nominally-socialist, really just secular) Fatah had gotten itself a (not undeserved) reputation for cronyism and corruption (though foul play on Hamas's side is also suspected). This was unacceptable to Israel, considering Hamas's publicly stated policy refuses to allow for the Israelis to exist, which stopped sending the PA the tax revenues it collected on the PA's behalf; aid from the US and Europe was also reduced. Eventually, the Hamas Prime Minister found himself in an untenable situation, and tensions between Fatah and Hamas broke out into outright civil war in 2007. This war left Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip and Fatah in control of the West Bank, leading to...
After the dispute between Fatah and Hamas broke out into open violence, Hamas (as noted above) took control of Gaza, claiming to be the legitimate government of the Palestinian Authority. As a result, Israel imposed an economic blockade on the entire territory, to prevent Hamas from arming itself and launching rocket attacks into Israel, only allowing humanitarian equipment into the strip. However, because Hamas and other Palestinian guerilla movements are nothing if not creative, the list of items that the Israelis claim (often justifiably) have "military applications" is large, effectively devastating economic activity in Gaza. The overall result is that while Hamas is weakened militarily, even Israel's allies have gotten extremely frustrated.
In December 2008, Israel launched a large military offensive against the Gaza strip over rocket attacks. The attack, while proving successful, also involved the use of tactics and weapons that are at best controversial, and resulted in a large number of dead noncombatants (Israel claims it's due to a combination of Palestinian fighters utilizing human shields, and Gaza being so densely populated that you can't fire off a round without hitting anyone, while the Palestinians claim deliberate targeting of civilians), with Israel going through yet another round of criticism at the United Nations over them. Although rocket attacks have in fact died down, those which continue are generally conducted by tiny groups even more radical than Hamas (and which Hamas is actively trying to destroy for its own reasons). The IDF refers to this war as "Operation Cast Lead."
That particular bout of nastiness pretty much concluded a few weeks before a new guy took power in Israel's chief weapons supplier.
Since then, episodes of the Gaza-Israel conflict have included:
- Operation Pillar of Defense, 2012: Suffering weeks of indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas throughout October 2012, the IDF launched an eight-day November military operation in the Gaza Strip, with the stated intention of killing Ahmed Jabari, a key leader of Hamas in the region. Destroying hundreds of known rocket launch positions and weapon stores was also a major objective. The attack was quite successful in achieving both, but brought the sobering revelation that Hamas possessed a great deal more rockets and weapon stores than the IDF believed, despite strict embargo efforts. The fighting spilled into neighboring nations and suffered repeated failure to achieve a ceasefire.
- Operation Protective Edge, 2014: After Operation Pillar of Defense concluded in 2012, Hamas' government in the Gaza Strip and the Fatah government in the West Bank approached one another to create a unified Palestinian government in June of 2014. While this was happening, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped within the West Bank, prompting Israel to accuse Hamas of orchestrating their disappearance. Hamas officials denied involvement, but congratulated whoever had kidnapped the teenagers. In response, Israel launched a massive crackdown on Palestinian neighborhoods within the West Bank. The three teens were later found dead, having been shot not long after they were taken. In response to this, Israeli citizens rioted and in the chaos seized and killed a Palestinian teenager. Israeli officials at first tried to paint the teenager as having been killed in a family dispute, suggesting he had been a homosexual and murdered for his orientation, but the murderers were discovered and put on trial. With the crackdown in the West Bank ongoing, Hamas began launching rockets into Israeli territory they would fire off nearly 5,000 in this campaign, but almost a fifth of them were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. Israel deployed multiple army divisions into the Gaza Strip for 7 weeks, searching for rocket and weapon stockpiles while also destroying 32 tunnel networks beneath Gaza before withdrawing. The operation ended with both Israel and Hamas declaring victory Israel claimed to have severely weakened Hamas, while Hamas claimed to have driven Israel out of the Gaza Strip.
Other Related Conflicts
In the fallout from the Suez War and Nasser's increasing ambitions of Pan-Arab unity, the Syrian government (which was now joined in a union with Egypt) sought to press its long-standing territorial claims to Lebanon internally. This led to a power struggle between the pro-Syrian faction (largely dominated by the Muslims) and the anti-Syrian/pro-Western/broadly pro-Israeli faction (largely dominated by the Christians). Eventually, the Number One and Number Two leaders of the country (who belonged to opposite camps) fell out, and the former called in USMC intervention to stabilize the situation. They did, putting down some pro-Syrian agitation and supervising a transfer of power, which helped cement Lebanon's course of detente with Israel and affiliation with the West.
By 1976-77, Palestinian guerrillas, having created a major military infrastructure in-country utilizing militarized refugee camps, launch attacks from Lebanon into Israel. In 1978, Israel invades Lebanon and fights against PLO fighters, and the various factions in Lebanon's civil war. A year later, Israel withdraws, but retains control over a 'Security Buffer' in southern Lebanon. They don't leave this "buffer" until 2000.
In 1982, the PLO practically invades downtown Beirut in violation of the ceasefire they and the Israelis signed the July before, causing an acceleration in a messy ethnic and religious balkanization. In response, Israel heavily bombs Beirut, also in violation of said ceasefire; and unsurprisingly, the ceasefire collapses and over 300 people are killed and a thousand wounded. A group known as the Abu Nidal Organization, headed by a man who had parted ways with the PLO a decade earlier and had since launched attacks on both Israeli and PLO officials, attempts to assassinate the Israeli ambassador to London; in response, Israel heavily bombs both the ANO and PLO in Lebanon. Rocket attacks are launched by the PLO as it steps up attempts to depose of the relatively Israeli-friendly Lebanese government and Israel invades Lebanon again, this time as part of a byzantine alliance with various Lebanese militias fighting against the PLO and other Lebanese militias aligned with it. Israeli troops and their allies besiege the PLO-held areas of Beirut for a month, inflicting heavy casualties on the PLO but leading to immense carnage among both both Palestinian refugees and Lebanese civilians caught in the crossfire.
During the conflict, the Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia massacred up to three thousand Palestinian refugees in Sabra and Shatila. The independent Israeli Kahan Commission finds that the IDF was indirectly responsible for the business because of their failure to figure out what the Phalangists were about to do and stop them, and that then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon had "personal responsibility" for the events as he was the CO who was caught with his pants down; Sharon was forced to resign.
In the end, the Israelis withdraw and the PLO leadership in Lebanon is exiled for nearly 20 years, but is quickly replaced by various Lebanese Shia militias. Hezbollah, a Shia organization whose name means "Party of God", comes to prominence in this period with shockingly effective attacks on Israeli and southern Lebanese Army bases, and effectively drives Israel out of Lebanon using the skills Iran taught it. In October 1983, Hezbollah suicide bombers bomb two buildings in Beirut holding Multinational peacekeeepers, killing 241 American servicemen and 58 French servicemen. This effectively caused the civil war to resume as the Multinational force began to strike Hezbollah and its allies, Syria and the Shiite militias, in the city. It looked like there might be a full military intervention by the United States, but President Ronald Reagan was pressured by Congress to order the withdrawal of the Marines in Beirut.
In the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War, Hezbollah rises to represent Shia interests. In 2006, Hezbollah successfully captures two Israeli soldiers, holding them up for ransom with a list of demands. Israel declares this to be an act of war and invades.
The conflict is ultimately inconclusive; Israel was unable to dislodge Hezbollah from southern Lebanon and Hebollah's military remained intact to assist in Syria, and suffers an even exchange ratio of 250 Hezbollah members killed (of whom only 80 were actually Hezbollah soldiers, the rest were civilian employees), which is less than Israel's usually far more one-sided ratios in previous Arab wars this is comparatively extraordinary for a militia force that Israel had previously underestimated and lost to in the Southern Lebanon War previously.
Politically and militarily, it is a major victory for Hezbollah, allowing it to dominate the political sphere of Lebanon and discredit its opponents, then gain the political capital to intervene in the Syrian Civil War and drag Lebanon with them politically. However, most of Beirut and several other Lebanese cities suffer extreme damage from both sides, more or less undoing most of the progress and economic development since the end of the civil war in 1990.
The two kidnapped soldiers are returned to Israel in a prisoner deal which sparks massive controversy in Israel. Not only were both soldiers Dead All Along, the IDF's medical analysts examining the wreckage of the soldiers' now ruined transport had known so and reported so from the very beginning, and it involved letting several convicted Hezbollah terrorists have a "Get out of Jail Free" Card; the politicians just didn't care.
One particular Big-Lipped Alligator Moment that probably doesn't classify as part of this (since it was Arab-Arab rather than Arab-Israeli) but which is worth mentioning anyway was the Black September War in Jordan. It was a result of the aforementioned hostility between the established Arab governments and the PLO-ruled expat populations, made worse because the Kingdom of Jordan has a largely (possibly majority) Palestinian population and was part of the old British Mandate, meaning that technically the PLO might lay claim to it. Eventually, the PLO's policy of autonomous rule over the refugee camps and their use to influence and dominate the surrounding area ran headfirst into the Hashemite monarchy's policy of centralizing power on them. In the years after the Six Day War, both sides started headbutting each other in a game of a little give, a little take until eventually the situation boiled over. The result was an unholy, nearly-year-long borderline civil war (with Syrian invasion to mix it up) with no quarter given or taken. By the time the dust cleared and the PLO, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria hashed out a deal, thousands had been killed, including at least 3,000+ Palestinians (and most likely far more). For the scale of this war and its traditional lethality, this is shocking, and it led the PLO to more or less make an exodus out of Jordan for years to come.
Internal conflicts on both sides are a problem for peace deals: between Hamas, refusing to recognize Israel, and Fatah, which is open to the peace process, on the Palestinian side, and between those Israelis favoring withdrawal from the West Bank in order to achieve peace, and those insisting Israel must continue expanding settlements and moving more of its population into the occupied territories. In many cases, internal politics frustrates both sides' attempts to get or keep the peace ball rolling: in Israel, religious parties like Shas keep making ridiculous demands on things like Jerusalem not out of any particular position on peace, but because they want more money and entitlements for their poor, large-familied voter base; among the Palestinians... well, let's just say that Hamas taking over Gaza in 2007 is merely the most extreme example of Palestinian We ARE Struggling Together. Extremist rhetoric and undisguised bigotry also comes from the elected leadership of both, with a rise in power of the extremist nationalistic parties in Israel, and Hamas continuing to call for the destruction of Israel and ethnic cleansing of Jews (the latter of which is uncomfortably similar to the activities of Those Wacky Nazis). While a lot of this is just rhetoric (both Hamas leader Ismail Haniya and Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman have proven far more level-headed in practice than their speeches might lead you to believe), a lot of it isn't, and optimism about peace tends to be regarded as at least a touch naive.
On the other hand, 2011 brought a development out of nowhere: the protest movement/revolutionary wave that swept across the Arab world. Though it didn't get that much press, the Palestinians did that as well, chiefly directed at Hamas and Fatah, asking them to give up their petty differences and get done with the independence thing already. Under pressure, the parties have already signed a national unity pact, which sent the Israelis into hysterics, not the least of which because it involves the "legal" Palestinian Government making a major alliance with what most of the developed world brands a terrorist organization. This comes ahead of the culmination of Mahmoud Abbas' big Plan B, launched upon the failure of the most recent round of talks (on account of the aforementioned settlement thing): try to get the United Nations to admit Palestine as a member in its upcoming meeting in September 2011, though this failed. As for the rest of the world, it appears that at least some countries would like Palestine to have a government at least theoretically capable of running its territory in one piece (rather than divided against itself) before considering voting in favor of the motion, which is where the unity pact comes in. Unfortunately, yet another complication arises....
2012 saw the United Nations accept Palestine as a non-member observer state, a sovereign nation free to submit a petition to join as a full member at their discretion. It basically means that Palestine can now be considered an "ally" of the United Nations. For reference, the Vatican is also a non-member observer state, as was Switzerland until 2002 (when it became a full member).
Things seemed to settle down for a while, insofar as anything can be considered 'settled' in the region, but 2016 saw yet another change in the status quo as Donald Trump unexpectedly won the American presidency. One pledge made by both Trump and his opponent Hillary Clinton, as well as previous US Presidents Obama, W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, was to move America's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel supported this idea, seeing it as an acknowledgement of Jerusalem being the capital of Israel (since embassies are usually located in capital cities). However, the Palestinian Authority was vehemently opposed to the embassy moving, seeing it as supporting the idea that all of Jerusalem including the eastern neighborhoods which Israel possesses but which Palestinians want for a future capital for their own state belongs to Israel in an indivisible block and is an integral part of Israeli territory that Israel can't be expected to give up to a future Palestinian state. Clinton, the second Bush, and Obama thus reneged on their pledge, choosing not to move the embassy in order to maintain America's role as a neutral broker in the peace process. Trump, though, made good on his pledge and announced that the embassy would be moved to Jerusalem and the US would officially recognize Jerusalem as the de jure capital in December of 2017. The reaction was immediate; Israel praised the decision, but the Palestinian leadership and other major Arab nations denounced the move and said that America can no longer be trusted to oversee the peace process. Other countries mainly in Africa who are dependent on foreign aid and enjoy moderately good relations with the US and/or Israel have announced to follow suit in the US's action and wish to move their embassies, too (or open one in the first place). Hamas and affiliated groups also called for yet another intifida. Sure enough, when the new American embassy in Jerusalem was officially opened in May of 2018 (the day before the anniversary of Nakba, no less), it sparked another round of violence which left dozens dead.
With all that said, Israel has also been thawing its relations with its Arab neighbors. In 2018 the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia gave an eye-raising interview, when he as the (would-be) leader of a country officially at war with and not recognizing the existence of Israel said that "the Jews have a right to their state". He couched the statement so much that he essentially said nothing new, but it was widely seen as a sign of a thaw between the Sunni Muslim states led by Saudi Arabia and Israel, and even the beginnings of a possible alliance against the Shiaite Muslim state of Iran. Israel has also been working with Egypt to try to keep protests in Gaza manageable, or at least less bloody than they have been in the past. Whether or not these new relationships as well as the Trump administration's efforts to press Iran will change much in the region will be for the future to see.
- The two-state solution, largely favored by the Israeli public, the United States, the European Union, and at least nominally the current governments of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, would end the Israeli presence in most of the West Bank (certain large settlement blocks close to the Green Line would probably be retained) and allow the PA to establish a capital in East Jerusalem and to rule over the Palestinians of the West Bank (and, assuming Hamas could be persuaded to join in, Gaza). Additionally, a certain amount of Palestinians who had been pushed out of their homes during the 1948/49 war would be allowed to move back to Israel, and most of the settlers whose settlement blocks haven't been absorbed into Israel would be moved (forcefully if necessary) back into Israel proper (although there have been occasional proposals to allow those Jewish settlersnote who wish to do so to become Palestinian citizens).
- The one-state solution, favored by a significant portion of the Palestinians, some Palestinian Israelis, and various left-wing pro-Palestinian groups, would essentially integrate the West Bank (and, again assuming it could be persuaded to join in, Gaza) into Israel with equal rights for everybody, possibly with Jewish and Arabic areas given some measure of self-rule.
Both solutions are rather obviously imperfect, and many issues were raised:
- The issues with the two-state solution are that Israel and Palestine are largely entwined in a way that makes it hard for them to be separated, that the Palestinian state may not be viable, and also that both sides have extremist factions whose "one state solution" is to push the other side out of the land entirely (who may not stop their efforts even if a peace deal is struck).
- The problems with the one-state solution is dependent upon two different groups who've been fighting off and on for 70 years, who both have very different ideas of nationhood, and who have significant members with a history of going back on their agreements and otherwise tearing up treaties to come together and try to become one unified nation, and that any unified state might have a Palestinian majority either already or in some future soon to comenote with any and all the problems that might entail (something that supporters of Israel both in and outside it are concerned about).
As noted before, largely the international community (and therefore reluctantly the governments of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority) supports the two-state solution and the history books are full of many more binational states that split up than ones who came together, but commentators on both sides will often postulate about whether or not the one-state solution is inevitable.
On top of everything else, for a patch of land the size of New Jersey and without a single drop of oil or gas, the conflict has become a massive fodder for international diplomatic machinations and shady dealings. For whatever else it was, Israel was a secure democratic foothold into the rest of the Middle East at a time when the closest other thing to it was Lebanon, and the rest was divided between pro-Soviet revolutionary dictatorships and dubiously reliable (from a Western POV) reactionary autocratic dictatorships, and that made it valuable for Washington. Thanks to the Gambit Pileup involving both regional and international politics, this meant it was yet another battleground at the height of the Cold War. In that time, Israel served as a NATO surrogate against Soviet-backed allies in Egypt under Nasser or Sadat and Syria under Assad. Nowadays, Israel currently works as an enemy of Iran, a business partner of both China and Russia (both remain neutral in this conflict), an ally of America, and a grudging de facto one of Saudi Arabia, despite Saudi Arabia not maintaining official diplomatic relations with Israel their common enmity towards the Iranian regime is greater than any issues they might have with one another.
One of the more interesting side effects of the war is how often it is used for domestic chest-thumping and PR work. Supporting pro-Israeli causes helps Western politicians to curry favor with the local Jewish constituency (especially in the US which for a long time had a higher Jewish population than Israel, though ironically the increasingly secular nature of the American Jewish community has made it divisive). Likewise, the countries of the Arab and Muslim worlds have politicians and firebrands of their own who are all too happy to jump on their own anti-Israeli bandwagon for more or less the same but opposite reasons; though as we will see, this has often bitten them in the rear. More religious officials like to curry favor with a common deity/co-religionists while not being so supportive that it pisses off the nearby Palestinian-sympathizing nations who do have the oil/the Israelis, pro-Israeli Lebanese, and the rest of the West who they need to do business with frequently (pick depending on the slant of said officials). The many Islamic countries and terrorist organizations treat the real and imagined oppression of Palestinians as a unifying rallying point, or use it as a convenient excuse to justify acts of terrorism, which then exacerbates the same pressures that causes the Palestinians such grief in the first place.
On top of the rampant We ARE Struggling Together that both sides deal with, another complicating factor also is the ironic regional hostility between the Palestinians and their other Arab (or at least Arab-identifying) neighbors. While the Arab League governments are by and large very supportive of the PLO and Palestinian nationalism, they tend to view them or the Palestinians themselves as The Friend Nobody Likes. All of the neighboring nations have received Palestinian refugees to one degree or another, and all of them to one degree or another made the decision to exclude them from integrating into society as a whole (ironically often to avoid rocking the boat and as a bloody toga). The results typically have had destabilizing effects on the politics/society/economics/you name it of the host country. This has led to the Palestinian people getting something of a stigma in the neighboring countries as The Scapegoat, not helped by the PLO's prior policy of militarizing Palestinian camps and other infrastructure across the borders as forward bases.
This is one of the reasons why Right of Return is so emphasized; in addition to one of the original reasons (and one still used by hardliners) being to more or less "flood out" the Israelis and force them demographically back, one of the main reasons now is that Egypt/Lebanon/Syria/Jordan want to get rid of what a lot of them view as The Load. This issue is further complicated by some people who are classified as Palestinian refugees being born in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria or the likes and raises the very legitimate question whether they actually want to return to a country they've never set foot in yet they are still treated as "foreigners" by the governments of their country of residence who want to get rid of them ASAP, making them stuck between a rock and a hard place.
It should also be noted that despite its length (well over 60 years) and the attention it gets on the international media, the Arab-Israeli Conflict is actually one of the least bloody of the ongoing conflicts in the world today, with the combined death toll not even reaching the 60,000 mark. On the other hand, literally everyone in the area, Israelis and Palestinians, knows someone who was killed or injured by the other side... so perhaps the stubbornness involved is a little more understandable, no?
Another wild card is the disconnect between Arab populations and their leaders. For decades, demonstrations against Israel were pretty much the only tolerated expressions of political opinion in many Arab countries and leaders who were otherwise unpopular could always get their people riled up against supposed or real evils of Israel. However, both Fatah and Hamas seem to have used up their credit. There have been no elections in the West Bank or Gaza Strip since 2005 so support is hard to gauge, but given that Hamas' rise to power was mostly precipitated by the unpopularity of Fatah, there might be trouble on the horizon for the latter, no matter when elections are called again. Hamas, on the other hand, has not found many friends in Gaza with their hard-handed rule and in early 2017, there were protests in Gaza against the current Hamas government. If and when either of those two players is removed from their current power-base, the situation might totally change and anything from negotiations to a renewed round of violence might immediately follow, with even less predictable consequences in the long run.
Media in this setting:
- Waltz with Bashir - specifically focused on the 1982 war in Lebanon.
- Unlike the above mentioned Waltz with Bashir, the R-rated CGI animated film Sausage Party definitely plays the Arab-Israeli Conflict for shits and giggles. A sub-plot involves a Jewish bagel and an Arab lavash arguing over who should get both sides of the aisle they're sharing. But when the main character suggests that they should make room for each other and share the aisle, the lavash and the bagel start laughing. But by the end, when the bagel and lavash find out they're both friends with hummus, they find common ground and even become a couple.
- The infamous Batman story arc A Death in the Family takes place during one of these conflicts. Unfortunate Implications abounded, especially since half the plot revolved around the Joker selling a nuke to
- The graphic novel Palestine by Joe Sacco talks about daily life in the Palestinian territories. Footnotes In Gaza is a "Rashomon"-Style account on a single "footnote in history", the killing of 100 Palestinian men in the town of Rafah in 1956.
- The last few chapters (and, as we later learn, the prologue) of Osamu Tezuka's Adolf take place during this conflict and it claims the lives of two of the three title characters (though the other had died three years before the founding of Israel).
- Jerusalem by Guy Delisle is based on his trip to the divided city, and serves as a microcosm of the conflict. He comments on this at length, and the book has a Downer Ending regarding it a Jewish settler taking the house of a Palestinian in Hebron.
- Rising Stars takes a detour into the Arab-Israeli Conflict when the Poet tracks down a Special, Laurel Darkhaven, who has spent years working for the Israeli government, and who has become so disillusioned with the endless conflict that she's about to use her powers to level Jerusalem.
- The Last King of Scotland also touches on the Entebbe Incident; Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy's character) uses it as his cover to leave a Uganda he finds increasingly to be a hellhole.
- Sword of Gideon, and the Spielberg remake Munich.
- The movie "Cast A Giant Shadow."
- West Bank Story, the 2006 Academy Award winner for Best Live-Action short film, a musical (based on another musical; which one should be obvious to anyone not living under a rock) about a pair of Star-Crossed Lovers and their families' feuding falafel huts keeping them apart. At the Oscars when the delighted filmmaker collected his statuette, he thanked the Academy and meant it, for once, adding that "Hope is not hopeless."
- Paradise Now, a 2005 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film (from "the Palestinian Territories"), told the story of two suicide bombers who are sent on a mission to attack in Israel.
- The Israeli film Beaufort is about Israeli soldiers about to pull out of a base in Lebanon after the 1982 invasion.
- The 2009 film Lebanon follows a tank crew during the 1982 invasion in Lebanon.
- American and Russian pilots team up to defend Israel in Iron Eagle II from an unnamed Middle Eastern aggressor (probably Iran, though No Middle East Dictatorships We Don't Like Were Harmed).
- The Adam Sandler comedy You Don't Mess with the Zohan was based around this and had plenty of political points made besides playing it for laughs.
- All of Eytan Fox's films; most notably The Bubble and Yossi And Jagger.
- O Jerusalem is set during the 1947-1948 conflict, through the point of view of two American friends (one being Jewish, the other being of Palestinian Arab descent), who fight on opposite sides in the war.
- Omar: Omar is a young member of a Palestinian resistance group, who gets arrested for the murder of an Israeli border guard, and is strong-armed into being an informant.
- Three films and several novels are based around the Entebbe Incident (known to Israelis and the IDF as "Operation Thunderbolt" or occasionally as "Operation Yonatan" after its commander, Col. Yonatan Netanyahunote , KIA), the Israeli commando rescue of over 100 hostages held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP the Palestinian communists) and the Revolutionary Cells (of Germany, also communists) at Entebbe Airport in Uganda.
- The novels The Hope and The Glory by Herman Wouk cover the conflict from the 1948 to the 1980s.
- The John le Carré novel The Little Drummer Girl.
- The Chosen alludes to the 1948 war as seen by Jews in New York. One of Reuven Malter's schoolmates dies there.
- The conflict in general looms large in the Tom Clancy novel The Sum of All Fears (the film version substituted Nazis for Arabs), with the primary Plot Device having been lost during the Six Days War only to be discovered decades later, and a peace agreement is reached to end the conflict.
- The novel (and film based on it) Exodus, by Leon Uris, deals with the events surrounding the 1948 creation of the state of Israel and the invasion by Arab states that immediately followed.
- The novel Cyborg, which was adapted as The Six Million Dollar Man, has Steve Austin (the astronaut, not the wrestler) stealing a Soviet fighter from Egypt during the War of Attrition.
- The Left Behind series posits an end to the conflict (based on Israel's amazing advances in agriculture that lead it to become a breadbasket several times more productive per acre than the best farmland and crops today) and leading to the Arab countries (or rather what's left of them, with the Biblical "Nile-to-Euphrates" prophecy requiring Israel to absorb all of Syria and Jordan and good chunks of Egypt and Iraq) becoming Israeli puppets. All this is in preparation for Israel to miraculously survive an out-of-the-blue nuclear attack by Russia and Ethiopia.
- The Barrett Tillman novel Warriors involves a group of Saudi pilots in an Arab-Israeli war using F-20 Tigersharks and trained by a pair of Americans, with the prologue set during the Yom Kippur War.
- The Odessa File, set in 1963, involves a group of ex-Nazis trying to provide Egypt with rocket guidance technology to deliver bio-weapons against Israel.
- South Of Jericho details the exploits of a Mossad operative.
- According to an offhand comment in Warday, the Israelis and Arabs fought another war some time after the Americans and Russians took each other out in World War III. It seems to have been a Curb-Stomp Battle in Israel's favor, with the Arab nations ending up as Israeli puppet states.
- The conflict was settled by the zombie invasion in World War Z, by virtue of many involved parties being dead or infected (Iran and Pakistan destroyed each other in nuclear warfare, Palestine and Egypt became completely overrun, and hard-line, ultraconservative Jews who didn't want to share space with non-Jews rebelled, and were quickly crushed), and Israel making peace by inviting in Palestinians previously in Israeli territory, with strict but fair conditions. Even that didn't stop people from trying to carry out the war, and Israel suffered daily mortar attacks, but those decreased as the zombies began swarming in.
- An argument over the conflict triggers the fight that forces Greg to flee from Columbia in A Wolf in the Soul.
- The Gabriel Allon novel series centers around the titular Mossad agent in his various exploits involving the conflict, and increasingly becomes an Author Tract over time regarding it.
- Manages to appear in the Hyperion Cantos, in which Mars has become home to the Palestinians after this conflict turns into a big Shoot the Shaggy Dog story: the Palestinians manage to win their independence, only for an unrelated Middle Eastern nuclear war to render Palestine uninhabitable within weeks of the establishment of the new state. The remaining Palestinians decamp to the Red Planet as a result; among their descendants are Col. Fedmahn Kassad. (The Israelis/Jews, for their part, appear to have responded to the same disaster by settling a planet in another system that they named Hebron, which consists of the metropolis New Jerusalem and a surrounding desert containing a number of kibbutzim one of which is eventually home to Sol Weintraub and his family, which includes Rachael Weintraub, AKA Moneta, AKA Col. Kassad's lover.)
- The Kamal and Barnea series is set primarily in the Middle East. The lead characters team up in an attempt to prevent peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians from falling apart.
- The West Wing episode "The Birnam Wood".
- The Israeli drama series Prisoners of War depicts two IDF soldiers' attempts to readjust to their old lives after spending 17 years in captivity. It served (loosely) as the inspiration for HBO's Homeland.
- The controversial 2008 Channel 4 mini-series The Promise (2011), directed by the equally controversial British director Peter Kosminsky (who himself is of Polish Jewish descent). It focuses on British paratroopers fighting the Irgun (real-life Zionist freedom fighters/terrorists) post-1945, as well as contemporary Israel fighting Palestinian militants in Gaza in very much the same way. Arguably has a pro-Palestinian slant,note but blames the British mandate more than anyone else.note
- The Onion had a piece taking place about a hundred and fifty years in the future, where while the rest of the world has gone crapsack and seems to collectively want to die, Palestine and Israel are down to single-digit populations still physically tussling (or occasionally shouting at each other) in the "Gaza Scrap". The last we hear on the matter is both rejecting a chance at Egypt-headed peace talks, for fear of it being a trap by "the Egyptian spider-king".
- Messiah: It forms a significant portion of the series' plot. Al-Masih leads his first collection of followers in Syria to the Israeli border and demands they be let into the country as they are of Palestinian descent. The Israelis refuse to let them and arrest Al-Masih, though he later escapes and performs an apparent miracle when he saves the life of a boy shot by the Israeli police on the steps of the Temple Mount. The fact the Israeli police (apparently) shot a child at one of Islam's holiest sites provokes a Fourth Intifada in Palestine that continues for the remainder of the series.
- The Crown (2016): The last few episodes of Season 1 and first few of Season 2 focus on the leadup to the 1956 Suez Crisis and its shambolic execution and fallout. The focus is particularly on why Anthony Eden would go through with such a harebrained scheme, and the immense blow to British prestige that came when the scheme failed. The show refers to Suez repeatedly thereafter as the point at which The British Empire died (a pretty defensible position, historically speaking).
- David Bowie's "Loving the Alien" references the conflict in its second verse, comparing it to the crusades from centuries prior (which are detailed in the song's first verse).
- The Clash's "Rock the Casbah" has been interpreted to be about this, although it was really about censorship of popular music by Ayatollah Khomeini after seizing power in Iran in 1979. Subverted in the music video, where a Haredi Jew and an Arab sheikh are seen skank-dancing together all the way to a Clash concert.
- Sabaton's "Counterstrike" is about the Six-Day War from the Israeli perspective. Understandably it's a crowd-pleaser when the band plays Israel.
- Flames of War released a version of their miniature wargaming system that took place during the Six Day War.
- Project Reality features HAMAS and the IDF as playable factions.
- Conflict: Middle East Political Simulator allows you to play as the Israelis, and you have the main goal of destroying Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. The good news for doves, though, is that you can choose to please the Americans and the International community by establishing a Palestinian homeland. Don't expect to win the Nobel Peace Prize, though.
- The Steel Panthers games feature many scenarios from the various wars, usually (but not always) intended to be played from the Israeli side.
- One of the eBooks scattered in the world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution mentions the formation of a United Arab Front sometime before 2027, followed by a joint Pan-Arab invasion and occupation of Israel. The prequel novel implies that Jaron Namir, one of the enemies in the game, sustained injuries in said conflict and thus became augmented.
- In the backstory for Rise of the Reds, the Arab-Israeli Conflict got subsumed by the GLA War. The conflict is essentially over now, as Israel has become an isolationist police state while the Arab nations effectively no longer exist, their territories devastated by the use of weapons of mass destruction (GLA bioweapons and Chinese nukes).
- The webcomic series Joseph & Yusra talk about the topic while putting supernatural powers into the lot.
- "Cunningham Muffins" is a parodic advertisement advertising various, increasingly absurd sorts of muffins for sale, eventually including "Israeli-Palestinian Conflict muffins!" where the holder holds up two muffins and then makes then "fight" each other.
- In the Captain Planet episode "If It's Doomsday, This Must Be Belfast," Verminous Skumm plants a nuclear bomb in Jerusalem, then gives detonators to an Arab woman and a Jewish settler of the West Bank, in an attempt to show that the human race will self-destruct.