In recent times, the Israel-India diplomatic relationship is growing exponentially. With this in mind, many feel that there may be a change in India’s policy towards Israel-Palestine issue.
Historically, India has openly supported the Palestinian cause. However, under the present government, India’s open support to Palestine has diminished as it was mentioned only a very few times.
About Israel and Palestine
- Israel is a nation-state located at the east of the Mediterranean Sea. It shares borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan and West Bank on the east and Gaza Strip in the west.
- Palestinians are the Arab population who lives in the territory controlled by Israel. They want to establish an independent government that is ruled by Palestinians, the one that controls a part or all of the same land.
- The Israel-Palestine Issue is about who controls what part of the land which is currently under the sovereign authority of Israel.
How did Israel become a state?
- Jews initially did not have their own independent state.
- Historically, they faced large scale genocide, anti-Semitic persecution, and the holocaust.
- Europe housed nearly 90% of the Jews at that time.
- They faced constant oppression and persecution across Europe for a very long time. This paved the way for the Zionism – the ideology that advocated for the establishment of a Jewish state called Israel.
- The Jews traced their origin back to the biblical kingdom of David and Solomon in circa 950 BC.
- This land, during the emergence of the Zionist movement as previously under the control of Muslim majority Ottoman Empire and later the British Empire.
- Between 1896 and 1948, many Jews fled Europe and settled in British controlled Palestine.
- The Palestinians under the British were against the massive inflow of the Jewish population.
- Thus, both Jews and the Arabs in that region fought against each other to claim control over the land.
- In 1947, the United Nations voted to split the land into two countries.
- While the Jews accepted this plan, the Palestinians felt that it was a long-term plan to push them away from their homeland.
- The Arab states of Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt declared war on Israel.
- By the end of the war, Israel emerged victorious by defeating both the Palestinian militias and the Arab states.
- Nearly 77% of the land was controlled by Israel except for West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem which was under the control of Jordan and Gaza Strip which was under the control of Egypt.
What are the settlements and why is it an issue?
- As the result of the 1967 war, Israel took control over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – areas that have large Palestinian population.
- Soon after the war, the Jewish population began settling in the West Bank.
- The reasons for these settlements include religion, territorial claims, and cheap housing.
- These settlements are viewed by the world to be a major impediment to the peace of the region.
- About 500,000 Israelis live in these settlements. 75% of this population lives in or near the West Bank.
- Because of these settlements, the Palestinians are scattered and unconnected.
- The Jews on the other hand, by settling in and near the West Bank, have created a root in the land that was meant for the Palestinians.
- This, in short, blurs the boundaries for any future independent Palestinian state.
What is PLO?
- The Palestinian Liberation Organisation is the representative of the Palestinian people.
- It was found in 1964.
- It runs the semi-autonomous government, Palestinian National Authority (PA).
- PLO and PA are controlled by Fatah – a secular, national political party.
- During the initial decade of its creation, PLO wanted to destroy Israel using military force.
- However, in 1993, PLO’s stance changed as it recognized Israel’s right to exist in exchange for Israel’s recognition of PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians.
- This was the initial stage of the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
What is the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?
- It is an on-going American mediated peace process that was initiated in the 1993 Oslo Accords.
- Its ultimate aim is to establish an independent Palestinian state in the Gaza and West Bank in exchange for Palestinians ceasing to attack Israeli citizens.
- Many believed that the peace talks were over in 2001 due to the disagreement between Israel government and Palestinian representatives and increased attacks on Israeli citizens.
- However, under the Obama administration, the US pushed for new and updated Oslo called the “Road Map”.
- The Trump Administration though did not formally abandon this plan has not made any move to advocate this plan.
- However, whatever the strategy may be to resolve this issue, to assure permanent peace in these regions all parties involved must address the following core issues:
- West Bank’s borders and settlements
- Israel’s security
- Palestinian refugee crisis
What is the current status?
- Israel continues to increase the de facto settlement in the West Bank.
- This campaign aims to erase the Palestinian settlements in the West Bank.
- The Palestinian representatives remain divided as there is a political conflict between Fatah and Hamas (an Islamic militant group that is supported by Iran and Syria). There has been no progress made by them to undertake joint talks.
- Israel has shown zero inclination towards peace talks with both the Hamas and Fatah.
- Currently, Israel is represented by a right-wing political alliance that shows little tolerance towards Palestinians.
- Palestinians, due to these setbacks have launched into an international campaign to force Israel for a peaceful settlement in various international organisations.
- This may create a negative outcome as the Israel government may lose confidence in the US-led peace talks.
- Also, the US’ recognition of Jerusalem and Golan Heights as a sovereign part of Israel does little to help initiate the peace talks as many accuse it of being biased and one-sided.
What are the “one-state” and “two-state” solutions?
- There are two approaches to solve the Israel-Palestine issue.
- “Two-state” solution:
- This is supported by the majority of the international community.
- It involves the establishment of independent states of Israel and Palestine.
- “One-state” solution:
- It involves the merger of Israel, West Bank and the Gaza Strip into one big nation that consists of both the Israeli and the Palestinian population.
- There are two versions of this solution.
- One is the creation of a single democratic nation. This would mean that the Muslims would outnumber the Jews.
- The other version is that annexation of the West Bank and pushing out the Palestinians or not allowing them the right to vote.
- Current polling shows that both Israelis and the Palestinians support the “two-state” solution.
- However, the current inability to negotiate for the establishment of the independent states of Israel and Palestine has led to a massive surge of support for the One-state solution.
What is the world’s view on the Israel-Palestine issue?
- Non-Muslim countries recognize Israel as a sovereign state. Nearly 83% of the non-Muslim or majority of Muslim countries have officially recognized Israel and maintain a diplomatic relationship with it.
- However, currently many are sympathetic toward the Palestinian cause.
- Israel has become unpopular mainly due to its citizens’ illegal settlement in the West Bank.
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Why do the US and Israel have a close alliance?
- It is widely known that Israel gets assistance from the US both economically and militarily.
- However, it was not always the case. Under President Eisenhower, the US did not support Israel.
- Their relationship was especially tense during the 1956 Suez War in which Israel, France and the UK fought against Egypt.
- However, their relationship flourished during the Cold War when the US viewed Israel as a buffer to the Soviet’s dominance in the Middle East.
- The countries maintained the relationship even after the Cold War.
- This was mainly due to the fact that the US has a large number of the Jewish population and its public opinion sympathetic towards Israel.
- However, the US-Israel relationship was not always smooth.
- Israel was especially critical towards the Obama administration’s approach to Iran.
- Under the Trump administration, the US-Israel relationship improved as President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem and Golan Heights as a part of Israel.
- However, there has been a stark difference between Trump and Obama administration in their approach to Israel.
- This may create a divide between the Republicans and the Democrats with regards to US-Israel relationship in the future.
What is India’s stand on Israel-Palestine issue?
- India has long been sympathetic towards the Palestinian cause.
- In 1938, Mahatma Gandhi has openly supported the Palestinian cause.
- India in 1947, voted against the partition of Palestine at the UN General Assembly. This made India the only non-Arab country to do so.
- India was the first non-Arab country to recognize PLO as the official representative of the Palestinian people in the year 1974.
- When the Palestine Authority was created as the result of the Oslo Accord, India opened the Indian Representative Office in Gaza. In 2003, it was shifted to Ramallah.
- On the same year, India voted against Israel’s construction of a wall in the West Bank in the UN.
- In 2011, India voted for Palestine as the full member of the UNESCO.
- India also favoured Palestine as a Non-Member state of UN in 2012.
- In the year 2014, India favoured UNHRC’s resolution to probe Israel’s human rights violation in Gaza.
- In 2015, the same UNHRC resolution released a report that stated that Israeli forces and Hamas have committed war crimes during the Gaza conflict in 2014.
- However, despite favouring the probe, India has abstained from voting against Israel in UNHRC.
- The Indian government denied the policy shift by stating the UNHRC resolution has included a reference for taking Israel to the International Criminal Court.
- It should be noted that India has always abstained whenever ICC came to play during the Human Rights Council Resolutions. India has abstained from resolutions on Syria and North Korea as well as it involved taking them to the ICC.
- Nevertheless, with the increasing ties between Israel and India, it is highly likely that India may further its support to Israel in the future.
- The world at large needs to come together for a peaceful resolution to ensure a viable and long-lasting solution to solve this issue.
- However, with the reluctance of the Israeli government and the other parties involved in this issue, it may not be possible in the foreseeable future.
- Therefore it is vital for India to undertake a balanced approach towards the Israel-Palestine issue.
- This is because ties with both the Arab countries and Israel are essential for India as we are dependent on both of them for both the economic and military needs.
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