Explainer: Israeli/Palestinian conflict

In response to the escalating situation between Israelis and Palestinians, Dr Yaniv Voller, an expert in Middle East politics at the School of Politics and International relations, has provided an explainer.

What has escalated the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? 

‘The conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted after weeks of mounting tensions. In Jerusalem, Jews and Palestinians have been clashing since April. Palestinians have raised concerns over what they have described as a continuous land-grabbing and threat to the al-Aqsa Mosque. Jews, in turn, have complained about growing public attacks of Orthodox Jews by Palestinian youth. Police action, limiting the movement of Palestinians in Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan, intensified Palestinian resentment, leading to mass demonstrations and unrest.

On top of that, both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority are weak and have struggled to function. The incumbent Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has not been able to form a coalition and is now facing a trial on corruption allegations. The Palestinian Authority has unilaterally postponed the elections for the chairmanship and the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas, disenfranchised by this decision and also eager to demonstrate its support for Palestinians in East Jerusalem and inside Israel, used the tensions as a justification to launch a rocket attack against towns on the Israeli-Gazan border. These attacks entailed an Israeli air force retaliation, which led to the cycle of violence we have witnessed in the past few days.’

Concerning developments

‘Perhaps a more concerning development is the eruption of communal violence in mixed towns and cities inside Israel, between Jews and Palestinian Israelis. This violence, which has taken the form of mutual lynch attempts at members of the other communities, the burning down of businesses and in extreme cases improvised road blockades, has marked regression from what seemed to be a growing inclination on both sides toward co-existence, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.’

What could happen next?

‘The violence is likely to subside in the coming weeks, on both fronts, probably with the help of third-party mediation. Nevertheless, the sediments from this violence will put a strain on Palestinian-Israeli relations in the coming years.’

Dr Yaniv Voller’s research focuses on the geopolitics of the Middle East, the foreign policies of Middle Eastern states, separatism/liberation, insurgency and the role of ideas, ideology and practices in shaping international politics.

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