A Never-Ending War:
Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict and How it Impacts American Foreign Policy in the Middle East
The current conflict between the Arab and Israeli people is one that dates back to the late 19th century and is one of the most complex and ongoing controversies in the Middle East today. The goal of this paper is to not only offer an introspective look into the history of this bloody feud and how it has transpired into the seemingly implacable problem it is today but to also highlight why it is critical to our government’s foreign policy. Also, to determine the circumstances of the US committing military force to this area. Israel first became an independent state on 14 May 1948. While this landmark was the catalyst for the 1948 War of Independence, contention existed between the Arabs and Israelis long before this day. In 1917 the Balfour Declaration was issued by the British Mandate. This proclamation stated that the British Empire believed the Jewish people were entitled to a national home in Palestine although any civil rights of existing non-Jewish settlements would not be violated. This is believed to be the start of the Arab-Israeli conflict: Arab nationalists and some historians now regard the Balfour Declaration as the root-cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and it is certainly true that without it there could not have been Zionist settlement in Palestine on a large scale. (Barker 9) Tensions grew as more Jewish immigrants relocated to Palestine. The Arabs became increasingly uneasy of their new neighbors and violence soon erupted between the two communities. The situation steadily became worse and soon escalated out of British control. Unable to deal with this growing dilemma and their current involvement in World War Two, they relinquished authority of the issue to the United Nations. On 29 November 1947 the issue was put to vote with the outcome resulting in the Jewish people owning 55% of Palestine and the Arabs owning 45%. This decision infuriated Arab leaders and they made it clear this was not the end of the matter. The Arabs refusal to accept a Jewish state in the Middle East eventually led to war when Israel became independent on 14 May 1948. Arab forces from Egypt, Syria, Transjordan (now Jordan), Lebanon, and Iraq invaded Israel. Territory was lost to Egyptian and Lebanese forces while the other three were held off. Although truces were established by the UN throughout the war sporadic battles raged on. The Israeli army eventually regained the lost territory and advanced on their Arab attackers. A cease fire was finally implemented on 7 Jan 1949 and eventually armistice agreements were made between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. A tragic by-product was the many Palestinian Arabs who fled Israel during the war and were placed in refugee camps along the border. This issue would have substantial ramifications on Arab-Israeli relations in years to come. The War of Independence was only the first of many altercations Israel would have with its Arab neighbors. In 1956 Israel attacked the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, capturing several key objectives including the Gaza strip which allowed access to the Gulf of Aqaba. In the 1967 War, also known as the Six-Day War, Egypt mobilized units to the Sinai Peninsula and closed it off. In retaliation, Israel launched a massive air assault that neutralized Arab air support allowing their ground forces to take over the peninsula. The Israeli’s then focused on Jordanian territory and captured Jerusalem and the strategic Golan Heights. The war ended on 10 June 1967 and lasted only six days, hence the name. It is important to note that the Suez Canal was closed because of the war and that Israel refused to give up the captured territories until Arab-Israeli relations improved. Diplomatic ties between the United States, Egypt, and Syria suffered as well. The Yom Kippur War of 1973-74 was the first in terms of Israel taking heavy casualties, to both...
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