Conflict and Governance in the Middle East Print
Międzynarodowe stosunki polityczne
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Three political projects designed at the Holy Land 1917-1939

mapaThese three actors, whose behaviour strongly influenced a conflict at the Holy Land during the particular period divisive both World Wars, were Great Britain, the Palestinians and the Jews. However the Holy Land was only one, these three participators had completely contradictory point of view on this matter during this such fundamental period of history. Factually, Jews presented Zionism (Jewish nationalism), Palestinians persisted in Palestinian nationalism and Great Britain presented the political project of balancing between promise made to Jews and demands of Palestinians.[1]

Each analysis of that particular period should start with such an important event for the Zionist movement namely the Balfour Declaration from November 1917. That document of Great Britain's Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour, considered an intension of the British authorities, meaning they are favored to the concept of a Jewish national home in Palestine.[2] On the basis of this document the Jews invoked later to create the state of Israel. At the meanwhile, the Arabs drew attention to the ambiguity of the term used by the British "national home". Minister Balfour Declaration was intended mainly to attract the support of the Jewish community during WWI.[3]

On April 1920 the Allied Supreme Councils met at San Remo (Italy). During the conference they have decided to admit to the Great Britain mandate over Palestine and Iraq. France obtained mandate over Syria and Lebanon. Although the idea of creation a united administration for the Arabs and Jews was refused by the Palestinians, in the text of the agreement they included the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which imprecise contained promise of a Jewish state in Palestine. However it was not acceptable by the Palestinians.[4]

It is worthy to say, that Palestinians in those period had two elites: the Husseinis and the Nashashibis, who were in conflict with each other. In 1921 the principal office of Arab Palestine, Mufti of Jerusalem, was given to Haj Amin al-Husseini (Husseinis), who had declared himself willing to work with the British.[5] For Great Britain it was very good sign, because they had to still pursue a policy of balancing between the demands of Jews and Palestinians. And thanks of it Palestine was largely quiet from 1922 to 1928, when violence returned again between Arabs and Jews at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This incident forced Great Britain to establish a limit of Jews coming to Palestine. But on the other hand, the Hope-Simpson's recommendation that the nature of the land would only allowed 20.000 Jewish immigrant, provoked Zionist rage.[6] However, migration of the Jews remained all the time after Hope-Simpson’s recommendation.

Another very important historical incident for Arab nationalism was Adolf Hitler’s becoming a chancellor of Germany in 1933. In 1935 the Nuremberg Laws came into force. It meant that the German Jews (and later the Austrian and Czech) became stateless refugees. Similar legislation was also introduced by the European allies of the Nazis. All in all, this moment, the German point of nationalism, indirectly affected Arab nationalism movement. The Arabs found in Germany a model of a strong national state as an powerful united nations, and they were keen on to spread the same movement spirit on their own ground. This caused increase of Arab immigration to Palestine which led to the revolt. It began on 15th April 1936 with the murder of a Jew near Nablus.[7] After another incident from the Palestinians, Great Britain decided to set up the Palestinian Royal Commission led by Lord Peel.[8] The Commission demanded to establish two states: Jewish and Arab, according to the changes in transfer of population. Firstly, they decided that migration to Palestine should be limited to 12000 per year during period of 5 years. Secondly, the interest of the Palestinians and Jews were inconsistent and therefore Palestine had to be partitioned.

And as we could expect from Palestinian nationalism, in August 1937 the Arab countries rejected the British proposal considering Palestine's division and announced to fight to achieve independence and the creation of an Arab government. The same year in autumn in Palestine, the number of murders of Jews carried out. The Arabs started the creation of armed forces, mainly in the vicinity of Nablus, Nazareth and Tiberias attacked Jewish settlements and British troops. Those incidents led to further concessions from Great Britain, and in the next year colonial secretary Malcolm MacDonald established another rules in case of Palestine - In the time of 10 years a Palestinian state would be created on which Arabs and Jews would share political power. And during 3 years 75000 Jews would be able to migrate to Palestine.

As a result of pressure from the Arabs Great Britain published the "White Paper" on May 1939, allowing for the entry of only 75,000 Jewish immigrants to Palestine in the next 5 years.[9] The Jews of Palestine and the rest of the Jewish world were outraged at this British betrayal. Despite the heavily pro-Arab nature of the White Paper, the Arabs rejected it on the grounds that it did not go far enough, and launched a widespread campaign of violence against the Yishuv.[10] "White Paper" practically closed the gates of Palestine for the Jews, which in turn meant a death sentence at the hands of the Nazis for a million Jews in Europe.[11] (874 words)

 The 1967 war and the death of Nasser as two extraordinary and important events at Holy Land

After Israeli victory in Six Days War [12], Israel started to control east Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Sinai Desert and the Golan Heights. The West Bank and Gaza Strip were previously annexed by Jordan and controlled by Egypt before the war. [13] The consequence of these incidents were strongly strained and unbalanced Arab – Israeli relations for many years. Defeated war meant a historical disaster for Arab's states and especially for Arab nationalism movement. After that war, the Arab nationalism, an ideology celebrating the glories of Arab civilization, started falling down which was almost inevitable and completely irreversible phenomenon. And the process of the weakening of Arab nationalism and strengthening of the state (territorial) nationalism already started.[14] All the leaders of Arab countries said, that they will never recognize the existence of Israel. Moreover, on 17th of June 1967 the Foreign Ministers of the thirteen Arab states proclaimed in Kuwait to create a common front of struggle against the Israeli aggression.[15] They also decided to start the War of Attrition[16] against Israel to recover the lost lands. And the war lasted till August 7, when in 1970 the American Foreign Secretary William Pierce Rogers was able to convince Israel and Egypt to declare a ceasefire, which was valid for 3 months. Rogers' plan to impose on both parties to conduct "military status quo within the zone of up to 50-km to the east and west of the ceasefire line."[17] The Egyptians immediately violated the cease fire districts by October 1970 to approximately 100 new anti-missile batteries in the area of the Suez Canal. The consequence of breaching the contract by Egypt was declaration committing America to military intervention in defense of Israel, in case of being attacked by Egypt or the USSR.[18]

After Six Days War and during War of Attrition the Palestinian revival lasted.[19] The Palestinians, who was growing in strength, have managed to take control of several strategic positions in Jordan, including Az Zarqa’s oil refinery.[20] Jordan, considering that it is a growing threat to its sovereignty and security, decided to disarm Palestinian militias. The result was a civil war called the black September. During that, Jordanian army attacked the Palestinians camps and massacred Palestinians. At 24th September 1970 the Jordanian army regained the upper hand, and the PLO agreed to a ceasefire.[21]

In the same year Nasser died and after his death an era in radical Arab nationalism ended definitely. Nasser’s successor began Anwar al-Satad, who didn’t have the same ambitions like his predecessor. He concentrated instead on the needs of Egypt, how to return of the Sinai and hence the Suez Canal.[22] He was also opened for proposition to sign peace treaty with Israel. Satad preferred to be in better relations with the West than with Soviet Union, but he already knew that to make a peace with Israel, Arabs need a war. All things considered, Sadat began with Syria and the Soviet Union planning another war against Israel. And the Jom Kippur War[23] began when the coalition surprisingly crossed ceasefire lines to enter the Israeli-held Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. When in 1973 Soviets unilaterally politics involved in the conflict in the Middle East., U.S. President Richard Nixon has decided to grant military aid to Israel. October 19, the Soviet Union invited to Moscow the United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to look for a way out of the conflict in the Middle East. The result of the talks was the signing on October 20th Soviet-American agreement to take joint action to end the Israeli-Arab war. The war ended, when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, under pressure from the Soviet Union, agreed to a ceasefire announcement with Israel. Then, 11th of November 1973, Israeli and Egyptian military commanders signed an agreement on the 101 kilometer on the Cairo-Suez road. This agreement provided for the movement of supplies to Suez and the Third Army, replacement of Israeli by United Nations checkpoints, the exchange of prisoners and discussions for the separation of forces.[24] The consequence of the agreement was the peace conference in Geneva in December 1973. It was the first time Egypt decided to cut off from Arab nationalism. It was a landmark event, which opened the way to begin the process of peaceful relations between Israel and Egypt. And on the 5th of September 1978, in the residence of U.S. presidents at Camp David, Egypt and Israel began secret peace negotiations. The negotiations lasted from 5th to 17th of September 1978.[25] The result of the meeting in Camp David was the signing two agreements: „A Framework For Peace In The Middle East” and “Framework For The Conclusion Of A Peace Treaty Between Egypt And Israel”, which based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.[26] And On 26th of March 1979 in Washington, was signed by Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat “Treaty of Peace between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel.[27] The normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel went into effect in January 1980, and ambassadors of both country were exchanged in February 1980. (845 words)

 The way to the Oslo Process

The end of the 80's and the beginning of 90's was a particular time of changes, not only between Arab-Israeli relations, but also in the common history perceived as a one entirety. Analyzing innumerable coincidences, it could be assumed that so many of them can be examples of occurrences indirectly affecting very recent Middle East history. It is a period when have changed a lot of factors affecting on Arab – Israeli conflict.     It was obvious that the end of the Cold War would become soon, which meant the ending of support the Arab by Soviets.[28] Additionally, U.S. got a better influence in creation a peace process between Arabs and Israelis in this time. These changes have affected the position of Israel and Arabs countries in area of Middle East. It was a very important change in the international context of Arab – Israeli conflict.

The Palestinian factor of changes during this period was definitely the Intifada. In December 1987, the first Palestinian uprising started, when the Palestinians were protesting against brutal Israeli acts. The Palestinians traditionally have been granted by Arab states, recognizing creation independent state of Palestine as part of the Israeli-Arab wars. On 15th of November 1988, Palestinian National Council adopted the Algiers Declaration of Independence of Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Declaration of independence did not create a Palestinian state, but it focused on the political structure in statu nascendi.[29] The declaration made reference to UN resolutions without explicitly mentioning Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.[30] A month later, Arafat declared in Geneva that the PLO would support a solution of the conflict based on these Resolutions. Effectively, the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist within pre-1967 borders, with the understanding that the Palestinians would be allowed to set up their own state in the West Bank and Gaza. The United States accepted this clarification by Arafat and began to allow diplomatic contacts with PLO officials.

Another important step for this period was Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. This occurrence created a real threat to Saudi Arabia, and led to the creation of large international coalition headed by the USA, that gathered its troops in the Persian Gulf. On 17th of January 1991, allied forces began operation "Desert Storm" lasted to 28th of February. In this time they destroyed most of the Iraqi army. And it is worthy to say, that Yasser Arafat advocated for losing – Iraq side before invasion. This political problem of PLO led to loss of political support from the Arab countries. This situation forced the Palestinians to start peace negotiations with Israel.

The United States after the war in the Persian Gulf “remained” in the Middle East. On 6th March 1991, President Bush had speech to Congress and he said about the New world order, what meant the U.S. announced the planned activity in the Middle East. What is another change in the policy pursued by the USA which has changed the situation in the Middle East.[31]

At the end of the Gulf War, a peace conference in Madrid in 1991 dealt with the Palestine question.[32] It was the first-ever public bilateral talks between Israel and its neighbors (except Egypt) were aimed at achieving peace treaties between the three Arab states[33] and Israel, while the talks with the Palestinians were based on a 2-stage formula, the first consisting of negotiating interim self-government arrangements, to be followed by permanent status negotiations.[34]{jcomments on}

However, one of the most important change which led to the real start of the peace process was winning in the parliamentary elections the Labour Party in June 1992. Israeli new Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin placed at the top of the national agenda the pursuit of peace with the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world.[35] In January 1993, took place secret negotiations with representatives of the PLO in Oslo. The result was the signing by Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat “Joint Declaration of Principles on Palestinian self-government in the occupied territories.” in Washington D.C.[36] A key assumption of the declaration was the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in those areas.

All in all, I can assume that changes from the late 80's and 90's that I mentioned were uncountable factors paving in a high degree the way to Oslo Process. First of all, changes of an international character was the growing importance of United States and USSR disintegration in the face of the approaching end of the Cold War. Which in turn resulted in a lack of support of the Arab countries by the USSR. We can also observe the change of the policy pursued by Yasser Arafat. Firstly, after the first intifada PLO recognized Israel right to exist within pre-1967 borders. Secondly, after the Persian Gulf War it began secret peace negotiations, which soon led to the Oslo Process. Another important change in this period was that U.S. started to concern in the area of the Middle East. And European countries were also engaged in settlement of the conflict in the Middle East through the involvement in the Conference in Madrid or help in the secret meetings in Oslo.[37] (865 words)



A. D. Korn, US-Soviet Negotiations of 1969 and the Rogers Plan, The Middle East Journal; Winter 1990; 44, 1; Research Library;

A. Dawisha, Requiem for Arab Nationalism, Middle East Quarterly Winter 2003,

I.Pappe, A History of Modern Palestine, Cambridge University Press, 2006;

T. G. Fraser, The Arab – Israeli Conflict, MACMILLAN PRESS, 1995;


J. Slater, The Jewish State Controversy: Can Zionism Be Reconciled With Justice to the Palestinians?, 24.03.2011;

Jewish National Library, San Remo Conference

S. Katz, Black September, The PLO's attempt to take over Jordan in 1970, 1985;

W. B. Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1967, The Brookings Institution;

Websites:; - the official United Nations website; - The Camp David Accords texts;; - Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; The War Of Attrition And The Cease Fire – Introduction, 13.08.2000; - Prime’s Minister Office;;, Black September in Jordan 1970-1971.

[1] J. Slaler, The Jewish State Controversy: Can Zionism Be Reconciled With Justice to the Palestinians?, 24.03.2011;

[2] I. Pappe, A History of Modern Palestine, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 67;

[3] T. G. Fraser, The Arab – Israeli Conflict, MACMILLAN PRESS, 1995, p. 8;

[4] Jewish National Library, San Remo Conference;

[5] T. G. Fraser, The Arab – Israeli Conflict, MACMILLAN PRESS, 1995, p. 10-11;

[6] Ibidem, p. 11;

[7] Ibidem, p. 12;


[9]10, 000 per year and 25, 000 refugees;

[10]Yishuv - the body of Jewish residents in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel. –;

[11] I. Pappe, A History…, p. 107-8;

[12]also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War;

[13] T. G. Fraser, The Ara…, p. 86;

[14] A. Dawisha, Requiem for Arab Nationalism, Middle East Quarterly Winter 2003, p. 25-41;


[16] was a limited war fought between Israel and Egypt from 1967 to 1970;

[17] - Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; The War Of Attrition And The Cease Fire – Introduction, 13.08.2000;

[18] D. A. Korn, US-Soviet Negotiations of 1969 and the Rogers Plan, The Middle East Journal; Winter 1990, Research Library p. 37;

[19] T. G. Fraser, The Arab…, p. 90;

[20], Black September in Jordan 1970-1971;

[21] S. Katz, Black September, The PLO's attempt to take over Jordan in 1970, 1985;

[22] T. G. Fraser, The Arab…, p. 95;

[23] also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War;

[24] T. G. Fraser, The Arab…, p.105;

[25] W. B. Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1967, The Brookings Institution, p. 1;

[26] - the official United Nations website;

[27] - The Camp David Accords texts;

[28] T. G. Fraser, The Arab…, p. 136



[31], President Bush's speech to Congress, 1991;

[32] I. Pappe, A History…, p. – 239;

[33] SyriaLebanon, and Jordan;

[36] known as the Oslo Agreement ;

[37] - Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, official website.