Israel – Palestine Dispute

News: Tensions in East Jerusalem have triggered the heaviest Israel-Palestine fighting in years. Israel faced an escalating conflict on two fronts trying to quell riots between Arabs and Jews.

About the dispute:

  • Tensions have been building up since April 2021 when the Israeli police set up barricades at the Damascus Gate outside the occupied Old City, preventing Palestinians from gathering there.
  • The threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah escalated the crisis further.
  • Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced out of their homes when the State of Israel was created in historic Palestine in 1948 (the Palestinians call the events ‘Nakba’, or catastrophe).
  • Twenty-eight of those Palestinian families moved to Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem to settle there.
  • In 1956, when East Jerusalem was ruled by Jordan, the Jordanian Ministry of Construction and Development and the UN Relief and Works Agency facilitated the construction of houses for these families in Sheikh Jarrah. But Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967.
  • By the early 1970s, Jewish agencies started demanding the families leave the land.
  • Jewish committees claimed that the houses sat on land they purchased in 1885 (when Jews, facing persecution in Europe, were migrating to historic Palestine that was part of the Ottoman Empire).
  • In 2021, the Central Court in East Jerusalem upheld a decision to evict four Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in favour of Jewish settlers. The Israeli Supreme Court is yet to hear the case. The issue remains unresolved.

Why Jerusalem?

  • Jerusalem has been at the centre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • According to the original 1947 UN Partition Plan, Jerusalem was proposed to be an international city.
  • But in the first Arab Israel war of 1948, the Israelis captured the western half of the city, and Jordan took the eastern part, including the Old City that houses Haram esh-Sharif. Al-Aqsa Mosque (Islam’s third holiest site) and the Dome of the Rock are situated within Haram esh-Sharif.
  • One side of the compound, called Temple Mount by the Jews, is the Wailing Wall (Western Wall), which is believed to be the remains of the Second Jewish Temple, the holiest site in Judaism.
  • Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it later.
  • Since its annexation, Israel has expanded settlements in East Jerusalem. It is now home to some 220,000 Jews. Jews born in East Jerusalem are Israeli citizens. Palestinians in the city are given conditional residency permits.
  • Palestinians in East Jerusalem, unlike other parts of the occupied West Bank, can apply for Israeli citizenship. Very few Palestinians have done so. Israel sees the whole city as its “unified, eternal capital”.
  • This claim was endorsed by Donald Trump when he was U.S. President but not recognised by most other countries. Palestinian leaders across the political spectrum have maintained that they would not accept any compromise formula for a future Palestinian state unless East Jerusalem is its capital.