A Conflict Hailing Back Decades: What Is at Stake in the Israeli-Palestinian Standoff?

The current spiral of violence in the Middle East followed a month of brewing tensions in Jerusalem, when unrest was triggered by an Israeli court’s decision to evict several Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of the Old City. It was also fueled by the Israeli decision to restrict access to the Temple Mount. The latter is a holy site for Jews and Muslims alike, and is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Large-scale clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli police on 6 May, prompting Hamas militants, who maintain de facto control over Gaza, to launch rocket attacks at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in retaliation; this is just the latest chapter in a conflict which itself has, in fact, gone on for decades.

Dispute Over Land

Essentially, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over who gets control of what land, as both Jews and Arab Muslims date their claims to the area in question back over a thousand years.

Control over the land known as ‘Palestine’, populated by a Jewish minority and Arab majority, was assumed by Britain after the Ottoman Empire, which had ruled over that part of the Middle East for nearly 400 years, was defeated in WW1.

Tensions started to grow between the two peoples when the British government issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, during the First World War, a public statement announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. It also added that “nothing should be done to prejudice the civil…

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