The international community is concerned about stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects, and the knock-on effects on regional stability, and international tranquility. 25 years of diplomatic initiatives have failed to bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians. In 1991, at the Madrid Peace Conference, the two sides met and negotiated in person for the first time. It was internationally agreed upon that with time and diplomatic efforts, Israel could peacefully coexist alongside a new Palestinian state comprised of Gaza and the West Bank.
Such hopes have gone unrealized. Recently, many have called for reconsidering alternatives to the two-state solution such as the creation of a binational, federated state — inhabited by Israelis and Palestinians with equal rights. Though the political future of Israel and Palestine remains uncertain, it is critical that constructive dialogue aimed at bringing consensus and progress must continue.
Since its start, there have been innumerable diplomatic initiatives aimed at resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There was the Camp David Summit in 1978, the Oslo Accords from 1993 – 1995, the Clinton Parameters in 2000, the Taba Summit in 2002, the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002, the Mitchel talks from 2010 – 2011, and the Kerry talks from 2013 – 2014.
Though all have contributed to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace, the collective progress is nonetheless negligible. Despite limited outcomes, efforts must continue. New efforts should focus on areas where previous talks fell short, and shift the focus from all-encompassing peace to smaller victories on an accumulation of social, economic, and political issues.
Though the prime challenge of establishing territorial boundaries remains, secondary obstacles have become more difficult to resolve. Such considerations require flexibility and respect for the historic and ethnic backgrounds of both parties. More delicately, steps need to be taken to reach a durable consensus regarding Jerusalem and its contested status.
This must be done in a way that is conscientious and forward-looking if it aims to mitigate recurring territorial disputes in years to come. Negotiations must also clearly lay out the future of Palestinian refugees, where they will be resettled, what programs will assist their resettlement, as well as how they will become self-sustaining. Further, parties must discuss Israeli settlements expansion during the last decade. A joint report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Baker Institute about a two or a one-state solution asks the perennial question: Do we need new ideas, or new determination and political will behind previous ones?
Understanding the conflict’s long and tangled history is vital to addressing it. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict began at the end of the Arab-Israeli War in 1948 when the land surrounding the Jordan River was divided into the Jewish state of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. Disputes over boundaries, contestation over resources, and ethnic tension brought continued strain between those governing the territories. The conditions created subsequent wars in the ensuing years which led to boundary amendments. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 broke out when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in response to Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. The conflict ended with a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel agreed upon at the 1979 Camp David Accords. But since then, violence and instability have continued due to the same social, political, and historical factors that drove the conflict decades ago.
Negotiations must clearly lay out the Palestinian refugees’ future: where will they be resettled? what programs will assist? How they will become self-sustaining?
An uprising of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1987 became known as the Intifada. The conflict dragged on for five years, ending with the 1993 Oslo Accords which established a process through which Palestinians could achieve self-governance. Formal relations were established between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Israeli government, but peace was short-lived. The second intifada in 2000 saw the conflict’s most unprecedented violence. It ended in 2005 with the construction of the Israeli West Bank Barrier amidst renewed calls for peace and dialogue from political exponents in Israel, Palestine, and the international community. Ever since smaller violent episodes have occurred regularly along the Palestinian territory and Israeli border.
In 2015, after sustained violence and a failure to progress toward Palestinian Statehood, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claimed Palestine no longer considered itself bound by the Oslo Accords. He stated Palestinians did not believe Israel had taken steps toward their objectives. This was an excruciating setback.
However, it was not fatal. It became a call for renewed commitment to Palestinian statehood, protection of Palestinian rights, and dialogue between the two governments. In August of 2014 fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas, the Sunni Islamist fundamentalist group deemed a terrorist organization by the US, killed 2,251 Palestinians and 73 Israelis. Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security officers resulted in Hamas launching 3,000 rockets at Israel. Israel launched a full-scale military operation against Gaza. When all was said and done it was the Egyptians who helped broker the ceasefire.
Gabriel M. Piccillo is Vice President for Conflict, Stabilization, and Reconstruction at the International Institute for Peace, Democracy, and Development (IIPDD). He is based between the Middle East and Washington, DC... To be Continued