Jan 12, 2018 in Political

Conflict: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The conflict between Israel and Palestinian is one of the most long-standing conflicts in the Middle East, considering that the conflict has been in existence since late nineteenth century. It is unfortunate that the conflicting parties are yet to reach an amicable solution despite their ancient differences. The conflict between Israel and Palestine is deeply rooted in the scramble for the scarce resources, particularly land, and struggle for sovereignty. The scramble for the Palestinian land, which has currently narrowed down to three major cities of East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza, began at the beginning of the twentieth century when a large number of Israelites began trooping in Arab Palestinian land under the Zionist movement. Gelvin (2007) asserts that Zionist movement was a nationalist movement under Jews, whose main objective was to find a permanent home for the Jewish nation in Africa or Middle East. The Arab Palestinians were never happy with the Zionists who bought large tracks of their land from Ottoman Empire and the Britain, and for this reason, the two conflicting parties (Israel and Palestine) have been fighting for this land. Both Palestine and Israel has failed to recognize existence of one another, and this is another major reason for having these irreconcilable differences, as each party struggle for self-determination, even though Israel declared its independence in 1948.  

Despite the longstanding struggle between Palestine and the Israelites, these antagonists have expressed their strong belief for their rightful existence on the land. For instance, Palestinians have a strong conviction that their ancestral land has been conquered by their neighbors, and as such, the Israelites have no right to stay in that land. Israelites, on the other hand, have been justifying their rightful ownership of Palestinian land on the basis of the biblical prophecy about them being sole heir to the land that was endowed to them by their ancestors and God. Palestine has always had a feeling of oppression from their neighbors, while the Israeli, on the other side, have a feeling of insecurity, which is characterized by unending violence and perpetrated acts of terrorism of their neighbors. This enduring conflict between Israel and Palestine has been becoming highly complex with the passage of time, as new grievances arise from parties (Gelvin, 2007). Initially, land and sovereignty were the major cause of conflict, but issues such as Israel continued occupation of West Bank and East of Jerusalem, gross human rights abuse, blockades, and continued military intrusion by Israeli defense forces continue to divide Israel and Palestine. Imprisonment of Palestinians under unclear circumstances, increased violence from Gaza, and continued struggle for independence and international recognition of Palestine are other reason why the wrangling neighbors continue to grow far much apart.

Intractable conflict is often interplay of a number of factors and not only on material positions and interests, as it has been approached by a number of people including mediators and negotiators. According to Zartman (2007), most negotiators often focus on how to receive a maximum from the situation in terms of material gains such as land, water, food, shelter, physical safety and perhaps forget another important factor in a conflict, which are the psychological needs. The key psychological need that plays a significant role in conflict escalation of resolution include but is not limited to positive identity, self esteem, pride, autonomy, a sense of justice, and need for recognition. Needs are renowned to be an individual level concept, but in the case of intractable conflicts as in the case of Palestine and Israel, these needs are the driving force for conflict, considering that they are individual needs that are expressed through significant identity groups (Zartman, 2007). For instance, a psychological need for positive identity and self-determination by a Palestinian may not end at an individual level but will certainly advance to an intergroup issue, as these groups of individuals are bound by certain beliefs, culture, and views.  

Failure to fulfill the renowned intergroup needs, particularly psychological ones, make the affected parties often feel a sense of distrust,  fear, exhaustion, hostility, stress, anger,  pain, shame, anxiety, humiliation, and wounded pride against one another (Maiese, 2005). There is no doubt that the Palestine feel a great sense of hostility, pain, shame, humiliation, and rage towards their neighbors, owing to the perceived threat to their self-determination and identity which are  orchestrated by their neighbors. Israelites, on the other hand, find themselves in a protracted conflict with their neighbors owing to the fear of perceived threat to their security, recognition, pride as well as self-esteem, which is propagated by their neighbors. Palestinians often feel angered and abhorrence for Israeli owing to the constant humiliation of civilians by the Israeli defense forces, imprisonment of their people, existing blockades, road barriers and settlement of Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Israeli, on the other hand, feel resentment and hatred against their neighbors owing to regular threat of violence and terrorism by Palestine. These scenarios demonstrate how threat to fulfillment of psychological needs can build strong barriers between two close nations.

Emotions, especially negative ones, can be very devastating to the affected parties if not properly managed. Negative emotions and feelings of self-esteem, anger, anxiety, fear, distrust, humiliation, and pride must always be taken into consideration when trying to resolve intractable differences. This is because these emotions and feelings stand a sigh chance of interfering with how people deal with conflicts as well as their logical reasoning (Maiese, 2005). Emotions can cause and at the same time escalate besides being an important component to conflict resolution, and as such, they require detailed attention. As in the case of intractable Israel and Palestine conflict, these affected parties have been influenced largely by emotional makeup that arises from their irreconcilable differences. The negative emotions that are currently witnessed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict date back to the twentieth century, as more Jewish Israelites continued to buy land and settle in the Palestinian land, while the Palestinians did not welcome these settlements by Jews. Palestine has always been aggressive towards Jewish Israelites since twentieth century, as they were angered by the settlement of Zionists in their ancestral land besides their perceived fear of loss of identity (Gelvin, 2007). The fact that the Palestinians have always felt lack of respect and threat to their sense of self by the neighbors has resulted to the  strong response from Palestine in form of violence and terror attacks, as they wanted to regain their self esteem and positive identity, which define how people understands them. Israeli negative emotions and feelings are evident in their wounded pride, negative identity, threat of violence, and insecurity, and this has made them very hostile, fearful, angered, and controlling of their neighbors since the period of Zionist movement. These mixed emotions between Palestine and Israelites have done much more harm than good by escalating the tension and distrust between them.  

In every conflicting situation, the main involved parties often perceive, understand, and interpret the situation at hand in diverse ways. Frames stands for the diverse way in which differing individual parties makes their position understood by the way in which they perceive and interpret the situation (Kaufman, Elliott, & Shmueli, 2003). As in the case of Israel-Palestine conflict, both parties frame the situation in their own different ways. This is a clear indication that frames can largely interfere with the intractability of a conflict, considering that it triggers incompatible interpretation and understanding of situations. The Palestinians present themselves as victims of their neighbors’ activities. Palestinians perceive their neighbors as oppressors who continue to occupy their land, control, humiliate them and cause massive humanitarian crisis by blocking all air, land, and water access points to their towns. Israel, on the other hand, understands and portrays their neighbors as non-cooperative, stubborn, and violent. The Palestinians are using an identity frames when describing the situation, while the Israelites are using the power frames. For instance, the Israelites believe that Palestinians lacks credible leaders who can strike peace deals, manage the violence as well as terrorism, while the Palestinians, on the other hand, feel an undermine identity by their neighbors. This means that both conflicting parties are viewing their competitor from a different angle and interpret the situation differently. These framing differences have interfered with the parties’ ability to resolve their disputes in the sense that they are passed from one generation to another and draw them wide apart.  

It is possible for a mediator to reframe the situation to assist in resolving the deep-rooted dispute. The most important thing is the goodwill of the stakeholders in agreeing to work with the mediator. Once the mediator can understand the conflict dynamics, it becomes very easy for him/her to work out a consensus-building framework (Kaufman, Elliott, & Shmueli, 2003).

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