The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Barrier to Peace

Israel is the only Jewish state, whose location is found on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians, on the other hand, is Arab population that also claims ownership of the land Israelis currently occupy as they refer to it as Palestine. Their hope would be fulfilled when they establish a state of Palestine on the entire land or part of it. The conflict of the Palestinians and Israelis stems from the misunderstanding over how to share the land in dispute and how it will be controlled (Hameiri, Sharvit, Bar-Tal, Shahar, " Halperin, 2017).

Although both the Arab Muslims and the Jews trace their ancestral origin of the land a couple of thousand years ago, the ongoing political unrest started at the commencement of the 20th century. The Jews who were escaping persecution in the European territories wanted to establish and rebuild their homeland. However, the territory was by then under the control of the Arab-Muslim in the days of the Ottoman and British Empire. As expected, the Arabs resisted, because they knew the land rightfully belonged to them. After the failure by the UN’s plan to allocate each group a section of the land, a protracted war between the Israelis and the neighboring Arab nations erupted over the territory. The most memorable and impactful wars occurred in 1948 and 1967. The 1967 war had a lot of ramifications, because it gave Israel control of larger portion of the land and Gaza strip and the West Bank, despite the two territories being largely occupied by the Palestinian populations (Hameiri et al., 2017).

There have been attempts at solving the current stalemate, but all of them have received profound hostilities from the two warring sections. The most appropriate approach of ending the conflict was to be a two-state solution. It is premised on the need to establish an independent state of Palestine in the West bank and Gaza and leave the Israelis to control the rest of the land. However, the two sides cannot find a way of making the proposal practical. The two-state option has an alternative of a one state, where the entire land either becomes Israel’s or Palestine’s. Nonetheless, many observers see the solution as a source of even more problems; it seems unlikely the conflict is to be addressed (Alon " Bar-Tal, 2017).

Reasons for the Conflict

Justice as a Barrier to the Resolution of the Israeli-Palestine Conflict

The Israeli-Palestine Conflict has lacked a satisfactory solution because of the long-perceived problem of injustice. Palestine has begrudged the Israelis since the commencement of the conflict and more so in 1947-1949. Majority of Palestinians believe that the long-standing dispute cannot be resolved until Israel accepts full acknowledgement of its role in the expulsion of the Palestinians from their rightful land in 1947-1949. They also expect that the Israelis accept a just demand of reaching a solution for the problem of the refugees by implementing and facilitating the return of the Palestinians to their homes that are currently in the land occupied by the Israelis. It would mean that the Israelis would be rendered homeless or would have to relocate to other places. Therefore, finding a lasting solution with such demands from the Palestine even contributes to the prospects of harming the peace process negotiations that have been in existence (Bar-Siman-Tov, 2010).

Israel on its part has declined to accept the demands from the Palestinians that they have set as preconditions for the settlement of the conflict. The former also accuse the latter and the Arab nations of instigating the 1947-1949 war that led to the Palestinian refugee problem. The Jews argue that the refusal of the Arabs to recognize the Partition Plan of November 1947 and the instigation of the war was a wider scheme to use force to prevent the Israelis from establishing their state. The latter have for many years viewed it as an act of ill will from the Palestinians. Therefore, it strengthened their resolve to act tough on the Palestinians by perpetuating what many observers perceive as historical injustices. Moreover, the Palestinians know for a fact that their demand for the implementation of the right to go back to their perceived lands signifies an end of Israel as a Jewish state. Their insistence to have the right of return honored is thus a perpetual barrier to the settlement of the conflict (Bar-Siman-Tov, 2010).

The Issue of the Historical Narratives

The issue of denial of justice is deeply rooted in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Each side of the warring factions is certain that the opposing party committed injustice against it at the height of the conflict. Such deep-rooted anger has led to the development and cultivation of a collective narrative that has historical connotations and reflects its view of the dispute and the image of the other. The contradictions and gap evident in the narratives are too vast that they cannot be easily bridged at this stage by the two sides (Bar-Siman-Tov, 2010).

The Jewish-Zionist narratives. The basic fundamental historical narratives place emphasis on the right of the Jews to attaining political independence and having a free hand in establishing their state in the fulfillment of their dream of self-determination. In view of the narrative, the Jewish people dislodged from their homeland and country and persecuted throughout the course of history. Further, the perspective goes ahead to state that they have come back to their native and ancestral place of residence even if the land has been occupied by other people. The Zionist did not see the aforementioned aspect of other people dwelling at the territory as a deterrent to their return, because they knew that was their original place of residence (Mitchell " Sachar, 2016).

The inability to find a satisfactory solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict also lies in the historical perspective of the Jewish people of having close ties and a greater longing to return to the place where their national and religious identity was forged. Such desire to rebuild their state is justifiable and supported by the principles of compensatory and restorative justice. Furthermore, it would be difficult for the Zionist crusaders to reach a solution with the Palestinians that would lead to part of their land being given to the Palestine people because of the oppression and persecution they suffered in Europe under the rule of Hitler that reached its peak during the Holocaust. Such aspect towards the Jewish people necessitated the UN to remedy the injustice by facilitating their coming back to their homeland and the establishment of an independent Jewish state. Therefore, with such tight connections to their historical backgrounds and claims to their ancestral land which also has religious attachments, it makes it very difficult for the Israelis to engage in any sincere and meaningful peace process that would lead to a lasting solution for the conflict (Mitchell " Sachar, 2016).

The Palestinian narratives. The Palestine narratives in relation to the Israeli-Palestine conflict are also making the prospects of reaching a lasting peace deal very difficult. The fundamental and basic narratives of the Palestinians is founded on the principles of restorative, distributive, and compensatory justice that grants them right of self-determination. The leaders have collective had the following arguments in regard to the elusive Israeli-Palestine peace deal. They hold unbreakable conviction that the Palestinians are people of ancient times whose historical attachments to the land in dispute goes far beyond the emergence of the Zionist movement. They further claim that it is original and exclusive native land of the Palestine Arab country whose borders were set by the British Mandate (Mitchell " Sachar, 2016).

Moreover, the Palestine people believe that it is the Zionist enterprise that stalled their growth as a nation. Under the British Mandate, Palestine would have developed into the state. Additionally, its people still hold the view that if the Jews truly had the right to become an independent state under self-determination initiative that was spearheaded by the Zionists after the Holocaust, they should have realized that outside the territories of Palestine, because the land belonged to the Palestinians.

Up to today, the Palestine authorities still hold on to the narrative that in the 1947-1949 war, the major powers such as Britain perpetuated injustice against them by facilitating the establishment of the Jewish state at the very core of the Arab world. There is no moral excuse for the foundation of the state of the Israelis at the detriment of the Palestine residents. They further opine that all Palestine is for the Palestinians, and they should not share even an inch with the Jews.

Further historical narratives that have proved to be a barrier for a peaceful end to the ever-present conflicts between the Palestinians and the Israelis stretch back to the presence of the Jews in what the Palestine people call their land. They claim that even during the First and Second Temple, the presence of the Jews was negligible and marginal, and it ended 2000 years ago. Moreover, the Palestinians still view Judaism as just a religion and not a nationality, and thus, the Jews do not qualify as a nation that merits a state (Mitchell " Sachar, 2016). Additionally, the Arabs are making peace prospects seem very difficult, because they have vowed never to recognize Israel as a Jewish nation even when the conflict has been resolved and the state of Palestine established. Their grievances run so deeply, since they believe that there can never be legitimacy to establishing a Jewish state in the homeland of the Palestinians. They will hence never accept the demand by the Israelis for the conclusion of the conflict, because once they reach that agreement, they will not be in position to bring up the issue of justice again, and it will be detrimental for their quest for justice. Therefore, it implies that the conflict will continue for an unknown time to come.

The Conflict over Jerusalem

The conflict over East Jerusalem has spanned for decades between the Jews and the Muslim Arabs. The conflict has been escalated by the announcement of the president of the United States Donald Trump of his plans to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In doing so, they will recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisibles capital of the Jewish people (Cherkaoui, 2017). The move has attracted vicious criticism and protests from the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab countries. The Palestinians and the entire Arab community living in the East Jerusalem see the old town of Jerusalem as their future capital of the state of Palestine. Therefore, anything that seeks to dispose them of the east side of Jerusalem is unwelcome (Cherkaoui, 2017).

The Israelis also do not want to cede the east side of Jerusalem to Palestine. After the capture of the old town in the 1967 war from the Muslim Arabs, the Jews have remained in control of the city up to now. Despite allowing regulated occupancy of the east side of Jerusalem by the Palestinians, the Israelis have continued to advance their settlement scheme right inside the town. Some have even displaced the Palestine from the regions they had occupied. Furthermore, the Arabs have continued to raise alarm over the continuous encroachment of the east Jerusalem by the Israeli settlers to a point that it has led to their residency of permits being revoked by the Jewish authorities. Therefore, such state of affairs creates suspicions between the two groups, and it makes the conflict to endure (De Vries, Kligler-Vilenchik, Alyan, Ma’oz, " Maoz, 2017).

The presence of the religious and holy sites in the east side of Jerusalem that are extremely significant to the religious lives of the Jews and the Muslims also makes it very difficult to easily end the conflict. The Western Wall is prominent to the Israelis because of the attachments it has to the Temple Mount and the religious history of Judaism. Apart from being the holiest site in the Jewish history, it is also the only remaining religious monument that reminds them of their ancestors of old such as Solomon and David whose history shaped the current story of the Israeli people. The old town is also sacred to the Palestinians, because it has the Noble Sanctuary where the Al Aqsa Mosque sits and the Dome of the Rock. These are holy places to the Muslims. The presence of the sacred sites to both groups has proved to be a constant source of conflict. No side will ever let go of the east Jerusalem because of the religious significance it holds for them (De Vries et al., 2017).

The Conflict over Water Resources

The Palestinians put claims to all the water that is found within the territory of the West Bank. Such ownership statement, according to the Arabs, is informed by the principle of full sovereignty over what they possess under the ground or on the ground. The Palestinians reside in the West Bank ownership of 500-560 million m3 of water as well as in the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, they also claim to have rights to the Jordan River that amounts to 150-200 million m3. The Palestinians support their statement in view of the Johnston Plan. The Johnston Plan came into being in 1955 when the Muslim Arabs living on both sides of the Jordan River were under the rule of the Jordanian Kingdom (Zeitoun " Mirumachi, 2008).

In contrast to the adverse position taken by the Palestinians over the water resources in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the experts from the Israeli territories have discounted their claims while arguing that the historical rights of the water found in West Bank cannot be detached from the Jews. The Israelis argue that water found in the aquifers in West Bank was first developed and used by them. The coastal cities of Israel derive their aquatic supplies from the sources emanating from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The water serves two million people in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv Metropolitan areas and other places. The specialists from Israel also argue that even if these resources are found in the Palestine territories, the water will be prone to pollution, and all the rivers that enter the land of Israel will be contaminated (Zeitoun " Mirumachi, 2008).

In view of the fact that the aquifers that give rise to the water cannot be divided, the authorities from both sides saw the need to arrive at a compromise over the joint management of the resources, although it has been plagued with unending suspicions and mistrusts from both parties. The first alternative would be for the Israelis to assume full control of all the three aquifers. It would, therefore, have tremendous advantage for the water regime of Israel, but it also comes with a heavy political and demographic price. The second solution is to cede the Nablus-Jenin aquifer, above which a huge population of the Palestine people lives, and retain the eastern and western aquifers in the hands of the Jews. The advantage of this approach to Israel is that the water used by the inhabitants of the Coastal Plain would remain at the hands of the control of the Israel authority. Moreover, the water consumed by the Jewish settlers in the Jordan valley would still be under the control of Israel. The demographic price that comes with the implementation of this approach would be tolerable. With this alternative, the control of water at their disposal would remain at the hands of the Palestine authority (Zeitoun " Mirumachi, 2008). The Nablus-Jenin aquifer would provide 120 million m3, and a total of 250 million m3 of water will be available for their use, which would be sufficient. The third alternative entails the transfer of the other two aquifers to the Palestine authority, and Israel only remains in control of the western aquifer. In such perspective, it will have to forfeit 360 million m3

from the total 670 million m3 they derive from the Judean Mountains. The Palestinians, on the other hand, would receive 300 million m3 of water.

Another approach exists, but it also has both adherents and people who oppose in equal measure from both the Palestinians and the Israel. There has been a proposal for a joint administration of the water regime on the region of the West Bank. Collective management necessitates both parties to come up with the initial agreements on the formula of sharing the resources between the two populations. The Palestine government representatives hold the view that the water can be allocated only to be used for domestic purposes and not for agriculture. Such a method of aqua allocation is known as Minimum Water Requirement (MWR). The method is based on the assumption that the water that serves the needs of the people will not be sufficient for all the needs; thus, there is the need to prioritize the domestic and other pertinent water uses (Zeitoun et al., 2017).

The adoption of the alternative of joint water management would necessitate the Israeli government to resort to drastic curtailment and regulation of its agriculture. Therefore, such a move would have costly effects on the thriving state of the country apart from the crops whose irrigation water comes from the recycled resources. In light of this context, the Israeli state would have to provide the Palestine residents with good quality drinking water and have to foot the expenses with the drastic changes to its economy. With the assurance of continuous aquatic supplies, the Palestine authorities may see the need to return their refugees, and it would put a strain on the water used for domestic purposes. With massive withdrawal from the natural water, its supply may be exhausted, and it would necessitate Israel to expand its supply of desalinated water to the Palestine. It would be too costly for the Jewish government. Therefore, the delicate state of balancing on the management of the existing water aquifers would still prove to be a source of conflict between the two groups if not managed well. Thus, finding a sustainable end to the disputes between the Jewish people and the Palestinians is not going to be realized soon, considering the complexity of the issues that cause the problems (Zeitoun et al., 2017).

The Issue of Political Prisoners

The conflict of the Israelis and Palestinians never ends partly because of the constant issue of political prisoners. The latter authorities have placed a raft of demands that they want satisfied before realizing any meaningful peace. Among their priorities is the emancipation of political prisoners held hostage by the Israeli authorities. A fascinating evening that was held by the physicians for Human Rights in Tel Aviv underscored the role that the liberation of political detainees can have the peace process. The message was delivered by the Prisoner Affairs Minister of Palestine who spent 21 years in the jail walls of the Israelis. Therefore, message from such a person is loaded with vital undertones of hindsight that are crucial in the realization of peace through the release of political prisoners. Unfortunately, the message may not be well received by the Israeli government because of their considered opinion that freeing the political detainees allied to the Palestinians would lead to the perpetuations of the problems for which they were arrested for. It further complicates the peace prospects (Deets, 2017).

Other issues that the Palestine people see as an impediment to peace are the settlement freeze, especially in the West Bank and the East Jerusalem. Another issue of primary concern is an end to the targeted killings from both sides and the suspension of travel restrictions imposed on the Palestinians by the Israeli authorities by the proliferation of check points in the territories that have been occupied by the Arabs. Moreover, complete cessation of violence would depend on the public perception of the Palestine people that there has been a significant improvement in their lives. Otherwise, the sporadic attacks from the Palestine’s against the Israelis may still continue to take place (Deets, 2017).

The Threat of the Hamas

Another issue that is derailing the prospect of peace is the threat of the Hamas. It has seized control of the strip of Gaza. Therefore, there is no doubt that provided the territories of Palestine will remain politically divided, reaching peace solution will still remain elusive. Perhaps, the assistance of the Arab governments could help in creating a significant mediation partner that can lead to the resolution of the issue. They could consider imposing sanctions on the Palestine territories, so that they pile pressure on the Hamas and force them to submit to the authorities. Once they cooperate, it would be easier to engage the Israeli government for meaningful talks of peace process. Unfortunately, the peace process efforts could still remain a mirage because of the violent take that the Hamas executed in the Gaza Strip by violently overthrowing the Palestine Authority in Gaza Strip.

Although the Hamas terrorist organization was partly formed to respond to the grievances that the Palestinians had about the lopsided civilian attacks and killings from the Israeli forces, it must be acknowledged that two or multiple wrongdoings do not make a right. The Hamas for instance have made the possibility of attaining peace seem difficult by aggravating the differences between the Arabs and Jews by the coordinated violence they have been unleashing against the Israeli civilian since its inception. The Hamas had been launching rockets towards occupied territories and instigating indiscriminate firing towards the Israeli citizens. For it to be a significant step towards peace, indiscriminate firing must stop unconditionally.

Throughout the course of history of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, the Palestinian terror groups and the Hamas have worked hard in slowing down and derailing the possibility of having a promising peace process between Palestinians and Israelis. During the Oslo process, the Hamas blew up buses in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They did it by sending suicide bombers to execute the attacks by exploding among the Israeli civilians. Such a painful and provocative act sent the late prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, to declare that his priorities had changed, and the first thing would be to fight terrorism to its extinction before embarking on peace process negotiations again. Seeking peace in an environment laden with terrorism sounded like an exercise in futility.

United States’ Role in the Derailment of Peace

America holds the veto power of the United Nations. There is a growing perception among the Muslim world and the Palestinians that the U.S. is being dishonest in its efforts to mediate peace between Israel and Palestine. The general feeling among the Palestine is that the U.S. is using its veto powers at the UN to forcefully enforce its will that oftentimes goes against the interests of the Palestine people and at the same time side with Israel even when they are wrong. With the strong military the U.S. has, it can assist in resolving the Palestine-Israel crisis if it chose to navigate the path of justice and equity. Such skewed support of one side of the conflicting sides could be some of the reason that push the Palestinians to form radical groups such as the Hamas to protest what they perceive as schemes to fight and decimate the Palestinians (Agena " Eze, 2017).

The Threat of Iran

Iran supplies the arms used by the Hamas by smuggling the dangerous weapons through the birders of Gaza and the West Bank. Therefore, ending the crisis between Israel and Palestine may not be realized until the smuggling from Iran to the Palestine territories stops. Both Israel and Palestine authorities need to find a way of ending the illegal entry of weapons that empower the terrorist groups like Hamas to continue causing mayhem and derail the peace process. Fars news agency in Iran also reports that the Iranian government is determined in arming the Hamas group and the Jihadists in the Palestine territories with deadly weapons with the sole aim of destabilizing Israel. Such a threat from another country is not something to be taken lightly, as it has the potential of stalling any of the avenues left to pursue the peace talks and find a lasting solution (Bandeira " Alberto, 2017).

Disregard of the UN Resolutions

Since establishment of Israel as nation, the UN has passed 42 resolutions against it for going against international law. If both the Israelis and Palestinians abide by the resolutions of the U.N that seek to foster peace between the two groups by preventing actions that provoke violence and disagreements, then the possibility of achieving peace could become a reality.


It is thus evident that the conflict between Israel and Palestine has persisted for a long time now. There are various reasons that contribute to the inability of ending the crisis. As such, disputes over justice, Jerusalem, water resources, and political prisoners, terrorism as well as threats and lack of support from other countries hinder the establishment of satisfactory peace solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is likely the strife will remain unsolved.


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Zeitoun, M., Cascão, A. E., Warner, J., Mirumachi, N., Matthews, N., Menga, F., " Farnum, R. (2017). Transboundary water interaction III: Contest and compliance. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 17(2), 271-294.

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