Judgement Day: The Middle East Essay, Research Paper
Judgment Day : The Middle East
‘ It must be peace without victory. Only a peace between equals can last: only a
peace, the very principle of which is equality, and a common participation in a common
benefit. ‘ ( Tiger, 1990, 418)
The Holy land of Israel has witnessed the birth of Judaism and Islam. Israel has also
suffered the wrath of a long and bloody history of conflict between the followers of these
religions. The hostility has spanned from the early ages to modern day. The bloodshed was due
mainly to religious disputes and land. For many Jews, Israel was the realization of a promise
made to them by God; that after centuries of suffering at the hands of anti-semetists, they would
return to this ‘ promise land ‘. The Palestinian Arabs were outraged, as they felt threatened by the
Jewish immigration to what they thought was their own land which they have occupied for
centuries. Palestinians countered the Jews claim to the land of Israel with one of their own. The
United Nations granted the displaced Jews Israel, this ignited the bloody conflict between the
two. Jews and Palestinians have continually fought over the land of Israel, in order to stake a
claim to it and call it their home. The religious differences between both are marginal. There
ancestors once lived together as one, and now this forgotten era has returned and is now at hand.
The past is now disputed in the present, and the present will no doubt dictate the future.
Palestine and Israel have similar paths, though 50 years apart. In order to avoid further
bloodshed, Israel must grant the displaced Palestinians land for settlement, just as the UN
granted land for the displaced Jews after World War II.
‘ History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of
mankind ‘ ( Webster, 1987, 128). If this quote describes the history of Arab – Israeli relations
well, then peace can be achieved. If on the other hand, history is declined to repeat itself as it is
often quoted, peace between the peoples will never be achieved. Or if history is seen as only the
past and cannot affect the future, then anything is possible. The history of Israeli – Arab conflict
stems from the UN proposal in 1948 to create separate states for the Jewish and Arabs. Israel was
born through this proclamation. This re-birth of a Jewish state prompted outrage from the Arab
world and fighting ensued. From wars with the Arabs in 1948-49, 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982,
Israel emerged with about 50 percent more land than had been originally allotted under the UN
plan ( see figure 1.1 and 1.2). This ‘new’ land included the Sinai Peninsula formally Egypt, Golan
Heights formally Syria, all of the Galilee, the coast, a reduced Gaza Strip formally Egypt, all of
Negev, and Northwestern Jerusalem. This ‘ acquired’ land forced an exodus of Palestinian Arabs
to neighboring Arab countries approximately 726,000 (Omran, 1993, 24).
The Palestinians are defined as the people who lived in the territory of Palestine before
the creation of Israel. Palestine was placed under British colonial rule by the League of Nations
after W.W.I, this lasted from 1922 to 1948. Palestinians consist mainly of Muslims and speak
Arabic. It’s population increased rapidly following W.W.II to roughly 6 million today. About 2.5
million Palestinians live within the boundaries of the former state of Palestine, which is now
Israel and the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza. Some have Israeli citizenship if
they were in Israel at the time it was proclaimed. Over 1.5 million of Palestinians reside in
Jordan and represent half its population with full citizenship (Omran, 1993, 28). Many others
live in nearby Syria and Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East. The plight of the Palestinians
since W.W.II is a story of continued dispersion and displacement. This displacement was due to
the establishment of Israel and Arab-Israel conflicts. This dispersion was caused by the lack of a
unified voice for the Palestinians, until the Arab League in 1974 recognized the Palestine
Liberation Organization ( PLO ) as the sole spokesman for the Palestinians.
The PLO is the umbrella political organization which represents the world’s estimated
4.5 million Palestinians. It was formed in 1964 to centralize the leadership of various
Palestinian groups that previously operated as clan resistance groups. It came into prominence
after the Six Day War in 1967. The movement is dedicated to the creation of ‘democratic and
secular’ Palestinian state, and its charter at the time included specifically for the elimination of
In 1969, Yassir Arafat leader of the largest Palestinian group al – Fatah was named as chairman
of the PLO. The PLO was accepted as the sole representative of the Palestinians in 1974. The
PLO the was to be the voice of the Palestinians. The PLO wanted the world to hear that the
Palestinians have been oppressed, ridiculed and abruptly forced off the land they called home
for centuries by the Jews. They expressed their anger and hostility in the form of terrorism,
because according to the PLO it was the only way to get the world’s attention ( Globe&Mail,
1993, 1). Years later the world finally did and pressured Israel into negotiating peace with the
PLO to stop the terrorism and grant the displaced Palestinians land for settlement.
‘ If we are to live together in peace, we must come to know each other better ‘ (Webster,
1987, 183). On September 13, 1993 the ‘unthinkable’ happened, according to Former Secretary
of State Henry Kissinger. PLO leader Yassir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
shook hands and agreed to peace. The Israeli – PLO accord as it is called was to exchange land
for peace. In the accord it outlined a five-year, interim period of autonomy for Palestinians in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip. It also states an accelerated timetable for full Israeli military
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town on Jericho. This acceleration is called
the ‘ Gaza and Jericho first ‘ label (see figure 2.1). Within the nine months of the deal being signed
there would be an election of the Palestinian self-government Authority. This authority known
as the Council will conduct affairs for a five-year period until a permanent settlement is reached.
The election was ultimately won handily by Yassir Arafat. The Council’s jurisdiction would
cover all the territory captured by Israel in the 1967 War, except Jewish settlements, military
locations and international borders. Israel promised to pull their troops out of the Palestinian
area, where the new Palestinian police would then provide security. Within the 1993 accord,
about 800,000 refugees who were displaced since 1948 would be allowed to return ( Facts on
File, 1995, 2-3). The accord did not put to rest all the disagreements with Palestine and Israel.
Still unresolved is the declaration of Palestine as a state and the question of who calls Jerusalem
their capital. Palestine demands Jerusalem be the capital of their state. In 1995, the PLO and
Israel reached an agreement on the second stage of Palestinian self-rule and Military withdrawal
from Palestinian villages and towns ( see figure 2.2 ). This second stage of the process further
established Palestine as a state, though not yet fully recognized. This accord also recognized
both Rabin and Arafats as heroes, though many would disagree.
In 1995 when the second stage was negotiated Clinton hailed the progress on Palestinian
self-rule and reminded the world that much difficult work still lay ahead. Rabin noting that the
last 2 years of the peace process has been unimaginable and that now terrorism and extremism
are the common enemies of both Palestinians and Israelis. Arafat reiterated this statements that
the killing of innocent people must end, but warned that Jerusalem would be a ‘fundamental
issue’ in future talks. Not all reactions were positive, some regarded the peace process as wrong
and unjustified. Many Arabs and Palestinians believe consorting with the Jews and negotiating
for land which was rightfully ours is traitorous. Many Jews believe even talking to the once
terrorist group PLO is spelling the doom for Israel, after all it was in the charter. At the time,
Opposition Likud leader Benji Netanyahu pleaded that the accord is irresponsible and timid and
was hurried in order to please the international public. He went almost as far to say he would
scrap the entire accord if elected. Binyamin Begin son of former PM Menachem Begin
condemned the accord as a ‘tragedy’. Former PM Yitzhak Shamir said that the Rabin led
Government ‘mistakenly envisioned peace as the handing over of land to foreigners and forcing
Jews into the ghetto’. Not only politicians have voiced their opposition publicly, Matti Coen a
right wing army reservist said that ‘ settlers have already formed vigilant groups to provide
protection if the soldiers leave . They will take matters into their own hands to protect Jewish
interest’. ( Facts on File, Sept.1995, 709-710). The accord and its reactions foreshadowed what
was to come and deeply alter the process of peace indefinitely.
On November 4th, 1995 a shot rang out that has altered the path for peace ever since. A
lone assassin Yigel Amir a Jewish extremist shot Rabin dead moments after Rabin had sang a
song about peace. Many thought the death of Rabin meant the death of peace between Israel and
The elections in May of 1996 was the Judgment Day for the peace process. At odds
were Likud leader Benji Netanyahu who ran under the slogan ” Making a Secure Peace ” and
PM Labour leader Shimon Peres. In the end Israel chose Netanyahu ” secure peace “.
Netanyahu during and after his election vowed to re-establish Israel’s security centered stance in
relations with its Arab nations. This vow threatened to derail the peace process. Shimon Peres
loss in the election was attributed to what Rabin called the common enemy, terrorism. Numerous
suicide bombings frightened Jews from carrying out peace. Arafat launched crackdowns on
terrorism and put added pressure on terrorist groups like Hamas, but to no avail the electorate
still chose the ” secure peace “. Arafat appeared glum and disillusioned days after the election,
but exclaimed that the peace process must go through. This reaction was replayed by numerous
international leaders such as PM Chretien and President Clinton.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu weeks after the election began to soften his stance on the
peace process. During the election Netanyahu promised the continuation of Israeli sovereignty
over the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The PLO and left wing
Israelis were scared that with this attitude the peace process would sputter and die. Netanyahu
recognizing that he had only won by less than 1% noted the Israel has deep rifts within its
society on this issue. He said that ‘ the most important peace that must be made must be the
peace made within Israel ‘. Netanyahu pleaded for National Unity above all else. According to
the peace accord Netanyahu is under obligation to withdraw Israeli military from Hebron, the
only Palestinian state still under control of Israeli army. During the election Netanyahu
adamantly ruled out a Hebron withdrawal as of today because of pressure he is ‘ studying the
issue’ before he makes up his mind (Facts on File, June 1996, 389-390). The world who had
once imagined there would finally be peace in the Middle East were dismayed at the attitude of
the new Israeli PM. His attitude was a throwback from the days when the animosities between
Jews and Palestinians were at their peak. During Netanyahu’s visit with Clinton in mid-July,
Clinton admitted that the once promising peace process is under a ‘ period of adjustment’.
Clinton pledged to stand by the new Right-wing Government and help seek their own way to
find peace. Clinton was visibly disappointed. The PM repeated his hard line stance insisting
Israel would not negotiate peace until the Palestinians and other Arab countries abandon the use
of terrorism. Clinton first pleaded that the PM would sit down with Arafat to discuss further
plans, the PM merely stated he ‘ may seem him at one point ‘. The second wish of Clinton was
that if Israel would relax on economic blockades on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Netanyahu
replied he would until ‘ security considerations would allow it’. The third wish was the proposed
withdraw of troops from Hebron, Netanyahu said his obligation was ‘ to ensure safety of its
Jewish inhabitants ‘. The fourth was the most sensitive. Clinton urged Netanyahu to trade land
captured in wars for peace in that region. Netanyahu adamantly replied ‘ Does fairness require
that I yield 100 per cent and the Arab side yield zero? ‘ ( Tor.Star, July 1996, A1,A4 ). With
the peace process stalled as of today the future is not clear, the path not chosen and the outcome
unknown. The future of Israel and the statehood of Palestine are at crossroads where together if
they can find common ground they will be able to survive peacefully, if not the future is bleak.
The future of the peace process and for that sake the future of Israel and Palestine itself
hinders on the continuation of the peace process. The autonomy of Palestine and the withdrawal
of troops was the beginning even though their were violent protests, but opposition always comes
with change. To fully achieve peace the process must continue and definitely go beyond. Israel
must continue to withdraw troops from Palestine states and allow peacefully the reintegration of
the Palestinian people into existing Jewish settlements. The new PM Netanyahu wishes to halt
the process and protect Jewish interest and people, then carefully proceed with the peace talks.
With this stance on the issue if throws away everything that has been gained peace wise between
the Arabs and Jews. PM Benji Netanyahu must realize that the land occupied, forced many
Palestinians displaced. He must remember that his ancestors were once displaced and almost
annihilated and his ancestors knew the importance of having their own home to inhabit. The PM
must use what history has taught not only him but the rest of the world and assist heartily in
re-establishing a Palestinian State. Israel must be willing to negotiate a compromise that
Jerusalem can be the capital of both Israel and Palestine since it is the holy sites of both religions
and peoples. Both sides under the agreement hopefully to be reached should trade political
prisoners to be either released or incarcerated on their own side. This would ensure the personal
safety of the prisoners and by exchanging prisoners this would be a sign of ‘good will’ towards
everlasting peace. If Benjamin Netanyahu is serious about protecting the Jewish people he must
be willing to let go to the paranoia feeling that if Israel gives a little, the foreigner will take a lot.
To achieve full peace Israel must accept Palestine as a state or nation and be willing to
peacefully try to succeed in co-existence with the once felt enemy. There will be bombs and
terrorist attacks on both sides if these two interact, but they are a small minority and if the Jews
and Arabs become scared and outraged at these foolish attacks and disrupt the healthy
co-existence, then the terrorists would have won. Jews and Palestinians must continue to work
together and live to be with one another and continue to do so in spite of the violent opposition,
then eventually full peace will be achieved and Rabin’s death would not be in vain.
All the Palestinians ask for is as a land to call home. They were displaced after the
creation of Israel and the ensuing wars, that were fought to establish a Palestinian State within
the land of Israel. For decades, the Palestinians have searched for an identity and new land to
secure a healthy future, but have failed. Their failure is not due to the PLO or terrorist attacks, it
is because their history and culture is deeply rooted in Israel. The Palestinians recognize this
and have attempted to integrate themselves in the occupied lands of Israel as noted in the 1993
peace accord, but were faced with harsh prejudice. The Jewish settlers were outraged as they felt
threatened by the re – immigration of the Palestinians to what they thought was their own land.
This attitude was reminiscent of the 1940’s when the Jewish immigrated into the now occupied
territories. In this case, the roles are reversed but the issue is still the same, who calls the land of
Israel home? It would be logical to conclude that both could call Israel home, but extremist on
both sides condemn that action and now that an extremist is in power in Israel, peace seems to be
a distant memory.
If PM Netanyahu continues on his hard line stance as many outside observers believe
will happen, he will be the cause of a major holy war. The new PM has insisted that the highest
priority must be to protect the Jewish people, but is not peace the most absolute security? He has
the backing of ultra-orthodox, right winged Jews, the same group who assassinated Rabin. The
PM stance has outraged not only Palestinians but other Jews, who are bent on securing peace.
These Jews who are sympathetic to the Palestinians, recognize that they have been oppressed and
displaced as they were at the hands of the Nazis. This feeling is growing among Jews in Israel
and in the rest of the world. The conflict now in the Middle East has turned away from Jews
against Palestinians, to those who want peace against those who do not.
Douglas McArthur once wrote:
‘ Last but by no means least – moral courage, the courage of one’s convictions, the courage to see
things through. The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It’s the age-old struggle
– the roar of the crowd on one side and the voice of your conscience on the other’ ( Webster,
1987, 59 ).
Courage that is what is needed to achieve peace in the Middle East. The courage to follow
through with peace in spite of danger, in spite of religious principle, in spite of electorate
platforms. Peace must be achieved in order for Israel and Palestine to survive. Israel must grant
the displaced Palestinians its own land for settlement, just as the UN granted the displaced
Israelis land for settlement after W.W.II. Once Palestine has achieved it own state and Jews and
Arabs co-exist peacefully. Peace because of courage, courage because of insistence, insistence
because of two men’s dream as they shook hands on the White House lawn. One chief Palestinian
negotiator was once quoted as saying ‘ Unless a miracle happens, the agreement between us will
collapse ‘ (Globe&Mail, 1993, 1). A miracle must happen, it should happen and will happen
because the two have gone too far already to abruptly stop. Peace at all costs.
- ” Paper Pact Makes For Cold Reality “. Christian Science Monitor, Wednesday September
15th 1993: page 3.
- ” Five Years Later, Uneasy Stability in Middle East “. Chronicle – Herald, Thursday May 5th,
1994: page 1
- ” History Signing Brings Down Wall “. Globe & Mail, Tuesday September 14 1993: front page
- ” Clinton Fails to Sway Israeli PM “. Toronto Star, Wednesday July 10, 1996: page 1 and 4
- ” Jericho Test of Palestine Self-Rule “. Toronto Star, September 5, 1993 : pages 1 and 2
-Facts on File, Volume 55, No. 2861, September 28, 1995
-Facts on File, Volume 55, No. 2863, October 12, 1995
-Facts on File, Volume 56, No. 2895, May 30, 1996
-Facts on File, Volume 56, No. 2896, June 6, 1996
- Omran, Abdel R. The Middle East Population Puzzle. Washington: Population Reference
Bureau Inc., 1993.
- Tiger Books Concise Dictionary of Quotations. Slovenia: Geddes & Grosset Ltd., 1993.
- Webster Library of Practical Information. New York: Career Institute., 1987.