This article is about the ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century. For the conflict in 1920-1948 British Palestine, see Intercommunal conflict in Mandatory Palestine. For the wider regional conflict, primarily from 1948-73 but extending in more limited manner to 2006, see Arab–Israeli conflict.
Despite a long-term peace process and the general reconciliation of Israel with Egypt and Jordan, Israelis and Palestinians have failed to reach a final peace agreement. The key issues are: mutual recognition, borders, security, water rights, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements,Palestinian freedom of movement, and Palestinian right of return. The violence of the conflict, in a region rich in sites of historic, cultural and religious interest worldwide, has been the object of numerous international conferences dealing with historic rights, security issues and human rights, and has been a factor hampering tourism in and general access to areas that are hotly contested.
Many attempts have been made to broker a two-state solution, involving the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel (after Israel's establishment in 1948). In 2007, the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a number of polls, preferred the two-state solution over any other solution as a means of resolving the conflict. Moreover, a majority of Jews see the Palestinians' demand for an independent state as just, and thinks Israel can agree to the establishment of such a state. The majority of Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have expressed a preference for a two-state solution.[unreliable source?] Mutual distrust and significant disagreements are deep over basic issues, as is the reciprocal scepticism about the other side's commitment to upholding obligations in an eventual agreement.
Within Israeli and Palestinian society, the conflict generates a wide variety of views and opinions. This highlights the deep divisions which exist not only between Israelis and Palestinians, but also within each society. A hallmark of the conflict has been the level of violence witnessed for virtually its entire duration. Fighting has been conducted by regular armies, paramilitary groups, terror cells, and individuals. Casualties have not been restricted to the military, with a large number of fatalities in civilian population on both sides. There are prominent international actors involved in the conflict.
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict has its roots in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the birth of major nationalist movements among the Jews and among the Arabs, both geared towards attaining sovereignty for their people in the Middle East. The collision between those two forces in southern Levant and the emergence of Palestinian nationalism in the 1920s eventually escalated into the Israeli–Palestinian conflict in 1947, and expanded into the wider Arab–Israeli conflict later on.
The return of several hard-line Palestinian Arab nationalists, under the emerging leadership of Haj Amin al-Husseini, from Damascus to Mandatory Palestine marked the beginning of Palestinian Arab nationalist struggle towards establishment of a national home for Arabs of Palestine. Amin al-Husseini, the architect of the Palestinian Arab national movement, immediately marked Jewish national movement and Jewish immigration to Palestine as the sole enemy to his cause, initiating large-scale riots against the Jews as early as 1920 in Jerusalem and in 1921 in Jaffa. Among the results of the violence was the establishment of the Jewish paramilitary force Haganah. In 1929, a series of violent anti-Jewish riots was initiated by the Arab leadership. The riots resulted in massive Jewish casualties in Hebron and Safed, and the evacuation of Jews from Hebron and Gaza.
In the early 1930s, the Arab national struggle in Palestine had drawn many Arab nationalist militants from across the Middle East, most notably Sheikh Izaddin al-Qassam from Syria, who established the Black Hand militant group and had prepared the grounds for the 1936 Arab revolt. Following the death of al-Qassam at the hands of the British in late 1935, the tensions erupted in 1936 into the Arab general strike and general boycott. The strike soon deteriorated into violence and the bloodily repressed 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine against the British and the Jews. In the first wave of organized violence, lasting until early 1937, most of the Arab groups were defeated by the British and a forced expulsion of much of the Arab leadership was performed. The revolt led to the establishment of the Peel Commission towards partitioning of Palestine, though it was subsequently rejected by the Palestinian Arabs. The two main Jewish leaders, Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion, accepted the recommendations but some secondary Jewish leaders did not like it.
The renewed violence, which had sporadically lasted until the beginning of World War II, ended with around 5,000 casualties, mostly from the Arab side. With the eruption of World War II, the situation in Mandatory Palestine calmed down. It allowed a shift towards a more moderate stance among Palestinian Arabs, under the leadership of the Nashashibi clan and even the establishment of the Jewish–Arab Palestine Regiment under British command, fighting Germans in North Africa. The more radical exiled faction of al-Husseini however tended to cooperation with Nazi Germany, and participated in the establishment of a pro-Nazi propaganda machine throughout the Arab world. Defeat of Arab nationalists in Iraq and subsequent relocation of al-Husseini to Nazi-occupied Europe tied his hands regarding field operations in Palestine, though he regularly demanded that the Italians and the Germans bomb Tel Aviv. By the end of World War II, a crisis over the fate of the Holocaust survivors from Europe led to renewed tensions between the Yishuv and the Palestinian Arab leadership. Immigration quotas were established by the British, while on the other hand illegal immigration and Zionist insurgency against the British was increasing.
On 29 November 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Resolution 181(II) recommending the adoption and implementation of a plan to partition Palestine into an Arab state, a Jewish state and the City of Jerusalem. On the next day, Palestine was already swept by violence, with Arab and Jewish militias executing attacks. For four months, under continuous Arab provocation and attack, the Yishuv was usually on the defensive while occasionally retaliating. The Arab League supported the Arab struggle by forming the volunteer-based Arab Liberation Army, supporting the Palestinian Arab Army of the Holy War, under the leadership of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni and Hasan Salama. On the Jewish side, the civil war was managed by the major underground militias – the Haganah, Irgun and Lehi, strengthened by numerous Jewish veterans of World War II and foreign volunteers. By spring 1948, it was already clear that the Arab forces were nearing a total collapse, while Yishuv forces gained more and more territory, creating a large scale refugee problem of Palestinian Arabs. Popular support for the Palestinian Arabs throughout the Arab world led to sporadic violence against Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa, creating an opposite refugee wave.
1937 proposal: The first official proposal for partition, published in 1937 by the Peel Commission. An ongoing British Mandate was proposed to keep "the sanctity of Jerusalem and Bethlehem", in the form of an enclave from Jerusalem to Jaffa, including Lydda and Ramle.