NOTE: THIS IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF POSTS PROVIDING A COMPREHENSIVE PALESTINE-ISRAEL TIMELINE.
The Palestine-Israel Conflict has been in the news again and there’s plenty of blame to go around. Peace negotiations have been at an impasse since 2008.
Today (November 29, 2012), the Palestinians, frustrated by slow or no progress toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, are taking their case to the United Nations General Assembly. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, is determined to seek recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state would accord it the same status as the Vatican. This would be a largely symbolic step, but Israel and the US oppose the idea, saying it’s an attempt to bypass negotiations.
According to The Washington Post, passage of the resolution is a move
that will strengthen Palestinians’ legal basis for pursuing possible war-crimes prosecutions against Israeli troops and set up a showdown with the United States and Israel.
Although the vote would not confer the status of a full-fledged member, it could pave the way for admission in other international organizations, including the International Criminal Court, that do not require parties to be full-fledged members of the United Nations.
Still, the resolution wouldn’t get the Palestinians any closer to statehood. US officials say a negotiated settlement with Israel is the only way to establish a Palestinian state. Also, a country’s vote in favor of the status change doesn’t automatically imply its recognition of a Palestinian state. This is something that must be done bilaterally.
Israeli and Palestinian leaders are at odds over the ramifications of the vote. Earlier this month, Israel warned that, if the resolution passed, it could cancel the 1993 Oslo accords and dismantle the Palestinian Authority. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said
the recognition of an independent state of Palestine in the UN General Assembly will not advance the Palestinians’ quest for a homeland. . . Palestinians will not win a state until they recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, declare an end to their conflict with the Jewish state and agree to security arrangements that protect Israel.
Palestinian leaders, on the other hand, say
we need U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem, the lands Israel captured in 1967, to be able to resume negotiations with Israel. . . global recognition of the 1967 lines as the borders of Palestine is meant to salvage a peace deal, not sabotage it, as Israel claims.
We will have to listen to what President Abbas says at the UN to know for sure, but the Huffington Post is reporting that
the recognition request presented to the world body in fact calls for a quick resumption of negotiations on all core issues of the conflict, including borders.
It goes on to say that
Netanyahu’s predecessors accepted the 1967 lines as a basis for border talks. Netanyahu has rejected the idea, while pressing ahead with Jewish settlement building on war-won land, giving Abbas little incentive to negotiate.
The vote has been timed to occur on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and also coincides with the 65th anniversary of the General Assembly resolution that called for the division of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.
Most impartial observers believe that it’s long past time to make progress toward a negotiated two-state solution. Skeptics note, however, that a two-state solution seems farther away than ever.
How did things get to the place they are today, and can either side claim the moral high ground?
I’m not going to even attempt to answer this question, but I do want to do the best I can to provide you with an objective timeline. Today we’ll start with the emergence of Political Zionism and continue through the Balfour Declaration
TIMELINE: POLITICAL ZIONISM AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION
65 BC: Jews are dispersed from Palestine by the Roman Conquest.
Last decades of 19th century: In Russia and Poland, active persecution of Jewish Communities intensifies.
Millions of East European Jews migrate to the United States.
Modern political Zionism – Jewish nationalism focusing on Palestine– originates in Russia. Jewish groups form to expedite Jewish settlement in Palestine.
1882: Leo Pinsker writes Autoemancipation calling for the establishment of an independent Jewish state. National identity is more important to Pinsker than religion, and he doesn’t insist that the Jewish state be in Palestine.
1884: Scattered Jewish Groups, organized under a central coordinating agency, take the name the Lovers of Zion.
1880s and 1890s: The Lovers of Zion sponsor small, relatively unsuccessful, agricultural settlements in Palestine.
1890s: A variety of Zionist organizations emerge, each with its own solution to the problems of Jewish identity and persecution. Still, Zionism remains an uncoordinated movement without direction.
1896: Theodore Herzl forges Zionism into a coherent international movement. He writes The Jewish State—as much a treatise on nationalism as religion. This provides the ideological basis for political Zionism; Herzl (like Pinsker) does not specify Palestine as the location of the future Jewish state.
1897: The first Zionist Congress convenes in Basel, attracting over 200 delegates. The Congress resolves that the objective of Zionism is to secure a legally recognized home in Palestine for the Jewish people. It also agrees to establish the World Zionist Organization as the central administrative organ of the Zionist movement. The Zionist Congress meets yearly after 1897.
1904: Theodore Herzl dies without obtaining external Great Power support for a legally recognized home for the Jewish people in Palestine.
1904: Russian born Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist spokesman in London, keeps the question of Zionism before the British cabinet and cultivates ties with well-placed officials and public figures. The British cabinet recognizes that British support for Zionism has the potential to serve British imperial interests.
November 2, 1917: The British issue the Balfour Declaration, declaring their support for Zionist objectives in Palestine. The Declaration states:
His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by the Jews in any other country.