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About this book

T. G. Fraser provides a balanced and thoughtful analysis of one of the most tragic conflicts in modern history. From the creation of Israel to the situation today, this text follows the key events and issues arising from the partition of Palestine. The major regional wars and Palestinian Intifadas are examined, with a particular focus on the series of crises over Gaza.
This thoroughly updated edition features a new final chapter, covering events since 2007. It takes into account attempts by the USA to work towards a peace settlement, including John Kerry's initiative of 2013-14. These much-needed additions ensure that The Arab-Israeli Conflict remains an invaluable guide for students of the Middle East.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

With the end of the war came the ‘Jewish Revolt’, which drove the British out of Palestine and prepared the way for Jewish statehood. Despite the intense feeling of betrayal over the 1939 White Paper and continuing tensions between the Yishuv and the mandatory authorities during the war, the leaders of the Jewish Agency did not initially have the sense that conflict was inevitable, for in July 1945 Britain elected a new Labour government which was believed to be sympathetic to their aims. The British Labour Party had long professed a fellow-feeling with Zionism, which shared its social democratic ethos, and at its Blackpool conference in 1944 overwhelmingly endorsed the principle of a Jewish Palestine

Fraser Thomas

2. The Partition of Palestine and the Creation of Israel

With the end of the war came the ‘Jewish Revolt’, which drove the British out of Palestine and prepared the way for Jewish statehood. Despite the intense feeling of betrayal over the 1939 White Paper and continuing tensions between the Yishuv and the mandatory authorities during the war, the leaders of the Jewish Agency did not initially have the sense that conflict was inevitable, for in July 1945 Britain elected a new Labour government which was believed to be sympathetic to their aims. The British Labour Party had long professed a fellow-feeling with Zionism, which shared its social democratic ethos, and at its Blackpool conference in 1944 overwhelmingly endorsed the principle of a Jewish Palestine

Fraser Thomas

3. The Problem Consolidated

Israel came out of the 1948–49 war, if not yet self-confident, then at least assuming that her worst trials were over. The armistice agreements expanded her boundaries considerably beyond those set out in the 1947 partition resolution, reflecting the successes of the armed forces. The most substantial gains were Galilee and the western parts of Jerusalem with a land corridor to the coast. The Israel of 1949 was a more coherent state than could ever have come out of the partition plan. Even so, there were problems which cut into the Israelis’ sense of security. Perhaps the most obvious was that these borders were still only provisional; indeed, the armistice agreements had gone out of their way to emphasise this. This reinforced the sense that Israel was still technically at war with most of her neighbours, for no peace agreement was in sight. Israel had to exist in an uneasy state of continual tension, her major settlements on the coastal plain perilously close to Jordanian territory, nine miles at the narrowest point; indeed, the main route from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem passed within yards of the border. It was a situation no general would have wanted and one that demanded a permanent state of military preparedness, which was to prove no small burden for the young country.

Fraser Thomas

4. From War to War

The war of 1967 was to prove as decisive in its consequences as that of 1948–49. It left Israel firmly in control of all the land of mandatory Palestine, as well as extensive Egyptian and Syrian territory, and tilted the balance of Middle East power firmly in an Israeli direction. As tensions between Israel and the Syrian–Fatah alliance grew in the winter of 1966–67, the Middle East edged towards war. Two events in November 1966 stand out as marking the new levels of tension. The first was the signing of a defensive pact between Nasser and the Syrians. While this gave Syria the confidence of powerful support, it was bound to involve Nasser more closely in the increasingly tense confrontation between Damascus and Israel, even though he was careful to give private assurances to the Americans that he would not allow the agreement to drag him into war.

Fraser Thomas

5. The Search for a Settlement

While Kissinger’s diplomacy had been vigorous and imaginative, critics complained that he had neglected or ignored the central issue of the Arab–Israeli conflict: the future of the Palestinians – in short, that he had succeeded in stabilising Israel’s fronts with Egypt and Syria without addressing the future of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Curiously, the period when Kissinger was at his most active coincided with a rise and fall in the PLO’s fortunes. The end of the 1973 war produced a general expectation that there would be some progress for the Palestinians. The war had succeeded in restoring Arab pride and the oil weapon, which seemingly gave the Gulf States such leverage over Western economies, had ostensibly been mounted on the Palestinians’ behalf.

Fraser Thomas

6. An Uncertain Path

It was clear that the fate of the peace process would be determined by the ability of Arafat and Rabin to convince a majority of Palestinians and Israelis that their plan held out the prospect of substantial progress on the political, security and economic fronts. Security continued to present the most acute and immediate danger. 1995 had barely begun when suicide bombers detonated two car bombs at Nardiya, killing 20 people, mostly young soldiers. Realising the effect of this on a grieving Israeli public, Rabin went on television to vow that such attacks would not deflect him from his negotiations with the Palestinians, but it was an open question how long his credibility could be sustained in the face of such tragedies. In April, a further suicide attack in the Gaza Strip killed seven Israeli soldiers and an American female student.

Fraser Thomas

7. Stubborn Realities

On 11 September 2001, Israeli operations in the West Bank seemed to move into a dramatic new phase when a major armoured force deployed around the city of Jenin and its adjoining refugee camp. Seven Palestinians were killed in serious fighting, but these events were completely overshadowed by barely imaginable events elsewhere. On the same day, America and the world were rocked when suicide attacks damaged the Pentagon in Washington and demolished the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, with horrific loss of life. Bush and his advisers identified the perpetrators as an Islamic terrorist group, al-Qa’ida, largely Arab in composition but based in Afghanistan. Declaring a ‘war on terror’, the United States prepared for an assault on al-Qa’ida’s Afghan bases.

Fraser Thomas
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