Arab-Israeli Conflict and the Peace Process Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3314 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: History - Israel  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Arab-Israeli Conflict. Specifically it will discuss diplomacy regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict during the period December 1968 - September 1973. The Arab-Israeli Conflict has been an ongoing dispute regarding the creation of the Israeli state after World War II in 1948, but it really began much before that occurrence. In reality, the Arab-Israeli Conflict began with an upsurge of Jewish immigrants to Palestine in the early 20th century, and there have been tensions betweens Arabs and Israelis in the region since then. There were many attempts at diplomacy in the years between the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, but both sides had their own very strict agendas, and ultimately, even participation by the world's superpowers, Russia and the United States, could not bring the parties into agreement.

After the Six-Day War in June 1967, there were attempts at reconciliation and peace resolutions between many Middle Eastern countries. By December, the United Nations (UN) had created and served a resolution on activities in the area, but in December, while Egypt and Jordan accepted the resolution, Israel accepted it with many modifications, and Syria flat out rejected it. Thus, the stage was set for negations and diplomacy that would last for the next five years. One writer notes, "The interval between the two wars - 1967 and the Yom Kipper War - emphasized once again a central feature of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Israel's military victories and the Arabs' humiliating defeat could never be the prelude to peace" (Ben-Ami 116). However, that did not mean the world would not attempt to create peace in the area. In late November, the UN appointed a Swedish diplomat, Gunnar Jarring, to serve as a third-party negotiator in the Arab-Israeli Conflict. However, most all Arab nations decided not to negotiate with Israel, and they created an unofficial "no peace, no war" strategy in dealing with the country. Israel, on the other hand, refused anything but direct negations, and so, there was little movement toward peace on either side.

One of the reasons diplomacy was so necessary was because of the Israeli occupation of several territories during the Six-Day War. They took over eastern Jerusalem, the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights, and streams of refugees left these areas after Israeli occupation, creating widespread relocation and resentment throughout the Arab world. This was the main reason so many Arab nations refused to negotiate with Israel. Even the UN resolution cited the need for Israel to return at least some of the contested territories, but Israel refused without direct negotiations, and the other participants simply refused those direct negotiations. One historian notes, "All the subsequent arguments which developed centered on the question of whether the Israelis, in return for a definitive peace treaty, should have the right to retain parts of the Arab territories occupied during the war" (Cossali 40). In fact, Israel still holds on to some of these conquests today, and that is still one reason there is so much continued unrest between the Arab world and Israel.

Gunnar Jarring was one of the premier diplomats working toward Middle Eastern peace beginning in early 1968. He had a small staff, and most of his time was spent in traveling between the leaders of Israel, Jordan, and Egypt in an attempt to bring them together for talks and an eventual peace settlement. Most historians believe Jarring was ineffective at moderating a peace agreement because he was a weak mediator and unpopular with many of the leaders. Another historian notes, "Jarring has been referred to as merely a mailbox, because he spent the lion's share of his mission transmitting messages and proposals. He very rarely presented any documents that had not been approved by the parties in advance" (Mork 5). In addition, the resolution itself was vague, and really had no substance or true authority. It was deliberately vague to help appease both sides in the dispute, but it hobbled Jarring's negotiation abilities by being so vague that few of the parties would actually approve of it.

However, after a brief interlude where Jarring and his staff did not work in the Middle East, he returned after the election of American President Richard Nixon and the administration's more aggressive stance toward peace. A Norwegian graduate student notes, "In February 1971, Jarring put forward a peace proposal suggesting a solution to central issues of the conflict between Israel and Egypt. It is evident that Jarring's role changed in parallel with the changed degree of American involvement" (Mork 2). Even with the increased diplomacy, an agreement could not be reached, and Jarring left his role as peace negotiator in late 1971. Many feel his efforts were a total failure, but the Norwegian expert on the Jarring Mission maintains that the UN ambassador's mission was clear-cut, but that the UN was not a superpower, and so, it had little real effective influence in the region, and that helped undermine Jarring's results (Mork 2). The author continues, "The superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, may be more effective than the UN because they could, implicitly or explicitly, threaten with punishments or promise rewards to the parties to a conflict" (Mork 9). Thus, diplomacy was a key issue in the Middle East, and the two world superpowers were the two agents of diplomacy most capable of bringing about a peaceful, long lasting solution to the process.

Early diplomacy, however, did in a large part revolve around the UN's Resolution 242 that was released in late November 1967, and the Middle Eastern reaction to the resolution. Another historian notes, "When the UN General Assembly met in late 1968, Israel put forward a nine-point plan for a Middle East settlement which made no mention of withdrawal, but rather of 'a boundary settlement compatible with the security of Israel and the honor of the Arab states'" (Cossali 41). Of course, this was unacceptable to the Arab members, who did not respond. After the Israeli plan was announced, however, Richard Nixon came into office, and he stepped up American support to Israel, leading to a more pronounced American support of the country, and more American involvement in diplomacy efforts in the area.

Right before the election, President Lyndon Johnson agreed to sell 50 Phantom aircraft to the Israelis to beef up their internal security and defense. The deal closed in late December 1968, and the day after, Israel raided the Beirut airport and destroyed 13 planes. The attack was in retaliation for an earlier hijacking of an Israeli airliner, and it brought Lebanon directly into the conflict. Israel had a superior army to the countries surrounding it, and this placed Israel in a powerful position. The Soviet Union, the other influential superpower, hoped to bring about a peaceful solution in the region because their allies, Egypt and Syria, were suffering economically because of the occupied territories and the continued closing of the Suez Canal after Israel took over the eastern banks of the Canal. The Canal, and some ships stranded inside, lay fallow until 1975 as a result of the war, and it had a large effect on many economies of the world that relied on trade through the Canal, including Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and even Great Britain. The Soviets wanted Egypt and Israel to meet with representatives of Russia, the U.S., and Great Britain. At first, Egypt's president Nasser was open to the meetings, but the Israelis continued fighting in the Suez Canal area. Historian Cossali continues, "But, as the year wore on, sporadic fighting continued along both the Suez Canal and the Jordan fronts, until in July President Nasser publicly gave up hope of a peaceful settlement, forecasting that a long 'war of attrition' would be necessary to dislodge Israel from the Occupied Territories" (Cossali 41). Indeed, this War of Attrition continued throughout much of the period discussed here. The war only ended when Nasser died in 1970.

There were some key developments in small areas of diplomacy during the early negotiations, however. One development was the exchange of POWs held in both Egypt and Israel. Israel had 5,500 Egyptian prisoners-of-war, while Egypt had 19 Israeli military personnel, along with five Israelis captive in Egypt since the Suez Crisis in 1956. Again, Jarring was the liaison between the two countries, and he managed to get the sides to agree to a prisoner exchange. Five hundred of the Egyptians were exchanged for the Israelis, and the prisoner exchanged continued under the auspices of the International Red Cross.

Several key relationships developed in the region that created diplomatic and political liaisons. Syria, which had rejected the UN resolution, allied with Egypt, and also strengthened relationships with the Soviet Union, hoping for military arms support as they geared up to fight Israel (Rabil 22). In fact, Egypt broke off diplomatic relationships with the U.S. after the Six-Day War, indicating its displeasure at continued U.S. support of Israel, and the Soviet Union broke ties with Israel, as well. Arab… [END OF PREVIEW]

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