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 The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

 History of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

The question of Israel and Palestine has a long and complex history, throughout which it maintained a crucial impact on not only the Middle East, but also the international community. The origin of these issues lies in events that occurred during the final years of World War I. One such issue was sparked by the Balfour Declaration, which was issued in 1917 and only contained 67 words, which helped create tensions and conflicts that would occur repetitively throughout the next century all while showing no signs of a permanent solution being possible.

In the period between 1922 and 1947, during the period of British administration, large scale Jewish immigrations took place, with the British strictly following the goals set by the Balfour Declaration. Palestine, the home of not only millions of Palestinians, but also many religious monuments and temples of Christians, Muslims and Jews, also became the home to millions of Jews. The Arab goal of having their own free state was threatened by the immigration, since they were progressively losing their land, consequently motivating them to rebel against the immigration, with the biggest conflict taking place in 1937, however without much success, since the rebellion was suppressed by the British with the help of the Israelis. The tensions between them continued to rise, since both sides strived and fought for the opportunity to finally form a free state, however these ideals unfortunately became mutually exclusive. The UK struggled to maintain control over the region, seeing many attempts to bring peace fail, and because of that they handed the problem over to the United Nations in 1947. Both sides first saw the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and then the end of WW2 as a chance to finally secure their freedom, while the former colonial powers and winners of WW2 wanted to maintain influence over the region. This issue was mentioned both in the League of Nations and the United Nations, however it became more important than ever after WW2.

In 1947, in an attempt to bring peace to the region, the UN proposed the termination of the British Mandate, the formation of 2 independent states, one of them being Palestinian and the other being Jewish and the internationalization of Jerusalem, which left both sides wanting more and sparking conflict between them. Israeli forces, using the experience of WW2 veterans and better equipment to their advantage, ended up occupying most of the Palestinian territories and made the Palestinians unable to resist Israel’s military strength. This conflict came to be known as the “1947-1949 Palestinian War”, and led to the “Nakba”. The “Nakba” refers to the displacement of more than 700 000 Palestinians from their homes, as the consequence of the war, which led to the depopulation and destruction of more than 500 Palestinian villages.  The conflict ended with the intervention of the Security Council, which ordered a ceasefire and an indefinite truce.

This was followed by conflicts in 1956, and then the Six-Day War in 1967, during which Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula and parts of the Gaza Strip that were under Egyptian control. Israel launched preemptive strikes against Egypt which made Egypt powerless against them, while the military actions made by Jordan and Syria – Egypt’s allies, were insufficient to stop Israel from advancing. This war, however, caused many issues in its aftermath, such as civilian displacements and the closure of the Suez Canal, which later caused oil and energy crises. This crises led to hostilities between Arabs and Israelis in 1973 and to the eventual renegotiation of the previously arranged conditions between the Arabs and the Israelis.

In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon with the intention to eliminate the Palestine Liberation Organization, which continued to pose a threat to Israel’s national security since it was formed in 1964. In the years that followed, the relations between Palestinians and Israelis continued to deteriorate, causing an uprising known as the First Intifada, which led to the creation of the Oslo Accords, agreements between Israel and the PLO. The negotiations started in 1993, however they were unable to provide a permanent solution which is why the accords ultimately failed in the year 2000, after the unsuccessful Camp David Summit and the Second Intifada which lasted until 2005.

In the years that followed, failed negotiations and military operations continued to occur and the international community sought to bring solutions to this everlasting dispute, however without any long-lasting success.

Hamas is the Palestinian military group formed back in 1958, but in power in Palestine since the 2006 Palestine legislative elections. At these elections, Hamas has made it clear that its political purpose is rebellion against the Israeli occupation and the complete destruction of the Jewish state. As a dominant political force over the Palestinian Territories, Hamas demands the establishment of a state “from the river to the sea” (from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea) and they have complete control over public opinion in Palestine. With de facto headquarters in Gaza City, Hamas rules over about 2 million Palestinians.

2023 escalations and the Israel-Hamas War

On October 7 2023, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing, kidnapping and injuring thousands of people. Therefore, the United States immediately gave its unreserved support to Israel in Biden’s statement the very same day of the attack, emphasising Israel’s right to self-defence.

Not long after the attack, the prime minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu declared publicly: “Citizens of Israel, we are at war – not in an operation, not in rounds – at war”. Hence, the Israeli forces launched Operation “Iron Sword”, with strikes on the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea. The exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas has since been brutal, including the explosion of Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, along with many other hospitals, refugee centres and other civilian infrastructure suspected by Israeli intelligence to harbour Hamas fighters. The health ministry in Gaza said that the blast at the hospital was caused by an Israeli air raid, while Israel said a misfiring rocket from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group was to blame, with countries such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada corroborating their side of the story.

On October 9, the Israeli government ordered a complete siege on Palestinian territories, leaving the enclave without any fuel deliveries which has been devastating for Gaza since it cannot produce food or clean water without electricity or fuel. It must be added that by the Military Order 158 forbids Palestinians from constructing any new water installation without the approval of the Israeli army. As of the 30th of October, 118 aid trucks with food, water and medical supplies have entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Israel began allowing a limited number of trucks through on October 21 but has continued to refuse fuel, saying Hamas would use it to launch more weapons. 

Being concerned for the civilian population, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for all the diplomatic efforts to be made in order to avoid a wider conflict. In addition, the UN urges both Israel and Palestine to spare civilian lives and stresses that the collective punishment of an entire population is prohibited by the international law. UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, has sustained significant damage to sheltering facilities and schools as the result of the Israeli bombing campaign. 

As the Israel-Palestine conflict has reached an unprecedented level of violence, the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly are trying to come to an agreement and call for a humanitarian truce. On October 27, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the “protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations” in the ongoing Gaza crisis. The amendment, proposed by Canada and backed by over 35 Member States, sought an explicit condemnation of Hamas but it failed to reserve two-thirds of the votes and did not pass, resulting in voting against or abstentions on the UNGA resolution of most of the European Union countries, as well as the United States. The reason for the abstentions from United States and the European Union was because they have designated Hamas a terrorist organisation because of its armed resistance against Israel, which has included suicide bombings and rocket attacks.

The UNGA additionally called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of all civilians being illegally held captive, demanding their safety, well-being and humane treatment in compliance with international law.

Although this is ostensibly a conflict between Hamas and Israel, the Israeli forces have nonetheless engaged in raids and military incursions in the non-Hamas governed West Bank, with the Palestinian Health Ministry stating that around 120 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank since the start of the war. The West Bank as a territory is consisted of a dozen or more enclaves that are controlled and inhabited by Palestinians, with the surrounding area being heavily controlled by the Israeli Army.

As of the 1st of November, the number of Palestinians that have been killed has exceeded 8000, with more than a million and half being displaced from their homes. Israel has lost 1400 people during the war.

The Response of the International community

The entire history of Israeli-Palestinian conflicts was plagued by the unwillingness to negotiate, human rights violations and violations of international law on both sides and the frustration and anger that just kept developing between them throughout many decades. The international community did not always understand the seriousness of this issue, having recognized only a refugee crisis at some times. With pro-Palestinian demonstrations happening all over the World, the vocal support of Western Nations for the Israels right to self-defence all the while the majority of the muslim world siding with Palestine, this conflict is growing into an ever more polarising one. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas is proving to be an incredibly important one not only for international stability but for the future of the UN as well. With the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, refusing to accept the democratically-voted non-binding call for a ceasefire in Gaza, and the recent usage of veto by both the United States of America, People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation on resolutions calling for a ceasefire, the reputation of the UN to maintain and protect international security and peace is at stake. The path the international community takes will be the defining step for the future of the United Nations.


How do you see the position of the UNSC in all of this and how would you approach this delicate issue?

What can be learned from the past attempts at peace? What are the long term consequences of this conflict?

Is the two-state solution that has been proposed before still a viable option now or do you believe some other solution is needed?




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