Throughout history, there have been countless struggles between many different nations.
As one of the most controversial conflicts in modern history, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict has multiple debated origins and just as many failed solutions.The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as a whole, can be simplified as a dispute over ancestral land, all the while, outsiders claiming to solve the issue with their policy decisions. Instead, these aids seem to encourage the braul, perhaps in hopes of receiving some sort of compensation or payment. Despite this perceived simplicity, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is much more than a mere dispute. It is a prime example of states’ exhibitions of power and the approaches they take in order to conserve or earn their sovereignty.
Despite the modern struggle having its beginnings at the end of the 19th century, this conflict has origins that date back thousands of years. In the ancient world, Palestine was part of the region known as Canaan. This became the region where the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah were located. A designation of land, Palestine, was occupied,in very small part, by the Philistines.
Under Roman rule, this province became “Palestine”. In the late 19th century, the Ottoman Empire ruled over what is now known as Palestine. According to Ottoman records, the population was composed mostly of Muslims with a small Christian minority and an even smaller population of Jewish people. At this time, nationalism in Europe was growing rampant and no place was more proud than the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in which every composing nation wanted its own state. Within this nationalist Empire, a Jewish journalist named Theodor Herzl who hoped that Jews could be accepted into European nations, soon became convinced that his Jewish people had no choice but to leave Europe and settle into their own Jewish state. The development of the concept of Jewish nationalism became known as Zionism. After World War I, the British were left to oversee the remaining parts of the Ottoman, Turkish Empire. England became the sole administrator of Palestine.
At the end of the war, the League of Nations gave the area to the U.K. as a British mandate. While promising the Arabs independence from their occupying Turks, The British had also made a promise to the Zionist Movement under the Balfour Declaration (Huffington Post). Jewish Immigration and other insurrections, lead to backlash from the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. The British then began to limit Jewish immigration to palestine as a result of Arab pressure. Because of the Jewish refugee crisis, during World War II, Zionists began to demand an independent Jewish State in Palestine.
Due to increased pressure from all sides, the British could no longer support Palestine and returned the mandate to the United Nations. The U.N. hoped to solve the conflict through a “partition plan for Palestine”, proposing the division of Palestinian land.
The plan was embraced by the Jews but rejected by the Arab Palestinians. Despite opposition from Palestine, the United Nations adopted the proposal, leading to escalating conflict. After the declaration of Israel as a state, heightened tensions between Muslims and jws as the Jews tried to create a more secure society for themselves by buying land from non Muslim landowners and then evicting Palestinian Muslims who were living on the land. “Arab countries refused to permanently house the Palestinian Arab refugees because believed that they had the right to return to Israel.
The issue regarding the Palestinian right of return is the first major obstacle for solving the Arab-Israeli conflict”.A state’s sovereignty is the supreme, absolute power by which said independent state is governed, and from which all individual political powers are derived. Sovereignty can also be defined as the intentional independence of a state combined with the right and the public given power of regulating its internal affairs without the interference of a foreign power. In its true essence, “sovereignty is the power of a state to do everything necessary to govern itself” (Textbook). These actions include making and executing laws, imposing and collecting taxes, making war and forming treaties, or engaging in commerce with foreign nations.
“Abstractedly, sovereignty resides in the body of the nation and belongs to the people. But these powers are generally exercised by delegation” (Textbook). Sovereignty can be divided into three great powers: the executive, legislative, and the judiciary. As the formation of these two countries can trace its history back to the European Colonial Era, their sovereignty had been in question since their construction.
Because the colonizing states retained “supreme legal authority”, many colonized nations were dependent on the governance these European states. The Arab-Israeli conflict, today, revolves largely around the question of Palestinian statehood. As no reasonable solutions to the conflict have been reached, the annexation of land from Palestine by Israel was left Palestine without the means to act on its own.
Nationalism has had such a large impact on Israeli-Palestinian relations. Not only has it been a source of pride for both sides of the conflict, it has also been the main instigator of this conflict. In short, nationalism is an ideology that gives a nation a sense of unity by imposing on them the same set of ideas and the same linguistic, historical, and cultural identities. Members of a nation usually feel a special sense of unity under their state that is many cases may even extend beyond socioeconomic borders and class inequalities. This can be the case when a nation has as common enemy, be it a colonizer or a minority group rising in power. In nationalist thought, the nation is usually seen or conceptualized as a unified brotherhood that somehow holds a privileged position in the world hierarchy. A “nation is an imagined community”, according to Benedict Anderson. This is because the exacerbated majority of the group is never allowed the chance to personally meet.
This community is envisioned, by its inhabitants, as both limited by its borders and sovereign. Here, immigrants are seen as “the Other” against which the said nation defines itself. Some nations claim unity through a particular lineage or ethnic heritage. Despite this, the claim, made by nationalist, to a common ethnic heritage is usually not consistent throughout history. It is too common to see a discontinuity in regards to the historical formation of a nation. Throughout history, many ethnic and linguistic groups have not formed nations within a government’s state structures. In conjunction with this, there have been many multi-ethnic states that have risen without the need for a common ethnic culture. In these states, national borders do not coincide with ethnic identities.
In nationalist thought, the foreigner becomes embodiment of all fears. Therefore, in theory, if the migrant population were to be eradicated, the society would have all its l problems be resolved. Of course nationalism isn’t as simple as one group blaming another for all its struggles, it is a complex social phenomenon that has led to many of the conflicts in modern International Relations.
In order for a population to reach the conclusion of a shared national identity, it requires the identification or creation of an “other” in order to define one’s identity in opposition to said “other”. This leads to the “better than thou” mentality that leads to international conflict as one nation-state views its national interests as more important than the global collective good, especially in relation to the “other”. Nationalism doesn’t only affect foreign policy; it can also have a serious impact on domestic policy choices and outcomes. The action of excluding and belittling other cultures within a state can lead to various social problems including the justification of abuse and alienation of that population. This can also lead to retaliation in the form of nationalism on the part of the “other” actor as it searches for an alternative identity to that of its aggressor.Nationalism, in the colonial sense, has many peculiarities. In short, a sovereign nation, in a colonial context forms by virtue of the collection of these facts: the colonial power exploiting the people, the reaction by the colonizing elite. Both Israeli and Palestinian nationalities formed relatively recently, only within the last century, at a time when globalization was beginning to change the the familiar ideas of nations and nationalism.
The declaration of israel being a Jewish states further pushed the conflict between the two nations who were both striving for self-determination within the confines of the same land. Israel has only a few decades of independence, mostly taking place under the shadow of war and terrorizing violence that threatens its survival. Having yet to find a country to call their own, the Palestinians who have been exiled or live under Israeli occupation, have been unable to form their own national identity with autonomous land.
Given that both nations are in early stages of forming their own identities, and still struggling for recognition, safety and survival within a painful conflict, it is not surprising that they generally express their nationalistic ideologies in rigid, dichotomous and even paranoid forms of “us against them” concepts and of self-interest at the expense of the other (Huffington Post). As one of the primary elements of a state, power defines a state’s need and ability to defend itself from both external and internal challenges or threats (Metaxas). According to (Textbook), power, in terms of influence, is most usually defined as “the ability to persuade another actor to commit an act that it otherwise would not have.” This can also be interpreted as the ability to get another actor to “not do what it would have done”. In short, according to these definitions, power is essentially influence. An actor can be seen as powerful if they are able to get their way much of the time, if not the majority of the time. As in all aspects of political science, things aren’t quite as simple as many International Relations scholars put forth. Power is extremely difficult to define.
One huge issue with the previous definitions of power, is that it can seldom be known what another actor would have done in the absence of the primary actor’s show of power. Power is not the epitome of influence, rather, it is the potential or the ability to influence others. In this way, power can also be defined in terms of capability. Power is defined as influence and influence measures power. Power can be estimated in two ways: relative to other actors and in absolute terms. Essential to realism, relative power is the ratio of the power two states can bring to bear against each other (Metaxas). Absolute power entails the total power capabilities of a country, not compared to another state. Many scholars believe that a state’s power potential is based on both tangible and intangible elements.
This power of capability includes material elements such as the population of a state, its natural resources, and GDP. It also includes Non-material capabilities including the power of diplomacy, legitimacy of the government, and the “power of ideas” (textbook). As the ability to influence others, power, uses military force and economic sanctions in order to persuade various states and non-state actors.
One huge immaterial power is the ability for a state to influence another actor’s ideologies. “If a state’s values become widely shared among the rest of the global sphere, it will then have the capability of easily influencing others (textbook). As illustrated by the concept of soft power, dominance is not the only option for a state to exert its influence on others. Soft power is also a strong form of influence that states may use in order to achieve their goals. The multiple states involved in this conflict have attempted almost double the amount of solutions in order to end the fight. Unfortunately, both the Israeli and Palestinian governments have attempted to exert their power over one another through dominance. Another major aspect of power can be seen in its use by an actor to solve conflict in said actor’s favor.
An agreement hopes to achieve peaceful relations between societies, seeking both coexistence and cooperation. It is important to realize that because of support from western nations, whether given purposefully or not, Israel has been in possession of the most relative power between the two. This support has allowed Israel to continue its harassment of the Palestinian people. Of course, as in common in many of these conflicts, the high power party tends to deny its involvement in “historic injustice in its role as a violator of human rights”. Israel has continuously imposed the negotiation framework that it prefers, unfortunately extending the fight towards peace. the Palestinians have been constantly forced to accept the Israeli position. An example of this would be the agreement at Oslo. This poses a great problem, as there is a power imbalance between Israel and Palestine, leading to the opinion, by Israel, that Palestine’s insistence on their demands for justice is a hindrance towards peace.
Statecraft is the use of the many instruments of national power, used for the purpose of defending a state’s national interests, lubricating international communication, “and ultimately for the cause of peace in the world.” Statecraft is composed of various individual instruments including, military strategy, the art of diplomacy, public diplomacy (involving relations with people and foreign influentials), as opposed to traditional diplomacy (which usually involves relations between governments). Other arts of statecraft include intelligence and counterintelligence.There are multiple levels of statecraft being practiced in attempt to reach a peaceful solution to this conflict.
As various countries are involved, there are also various foreign policy actions being taken by each. For each state, strategy is essential in order to make the most of its power. As Palestine, in anger, has continuously presented Israel with perceived threats, Israel continuously uses the strategy of military deterrence in order to punish Palestine, both on a political and social level. This, as many International Relations scholars have theorized, has lead to the escalation of this conflict into multiple wars. In the Prisoner’s Dilemma, each combination of moves, acted out by multiple unitary actors, results in a set of payoffs for each player. In Realism, a player is assumed to act rationally in order to maximize its payoff. People usually tend to think of war as a zero sum game, in which the fates of the player’s are inversely correlated. In truth, however, “war typically has a non-zero-sum dynamic”.
Despite what Realism assumes, there is irrationality in human nature. As in this conflict, people can be driven by fear, vengeance, and pride. This can lead to players acting against their self interest. There is also one other issue that seems to be overlooked. In politics, there is always the possibility of diverging interests between a government and its people, despite the assumption of the existence of unitary actors.
While compromise seems to be a rational choice, for both parties, short-term political incentives have encouraged leaders to continue their non-compromising stance. This feeds the conflict. Too often, players in a non-zero-sum game are unable to reach a favorable outcome due to “lack of trust”.
“Israelis feel that any concessions will be greeted by more bombings, and Palestinians feel all ‘interim arrangements’ are designed to allow the construction of more Israeli settlements in the West Bank” (Wright). As in most cases of foreign policy, the explanations for the actions taken by state to achieve its self interest are not as simple as it may seem. There are multiple variables influencing each actor in the decision making process. It seems that in order for Israel and Palestine to reach a peaceful solution, they must abandon nationalist thought and deconstruct their methodologies.
Hopefully then will they be able to reach just compromise.