GUEST COLUMN: There never was a Palestine
Understanding the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians can be complex, but it begins with realizing there are several common misconceptions.
First, many believe Israel was established as a state for the Jewish people due to the Holocaust. Actually, throughout much of the 1800s and early 1900s, Jewish nationalism rose and tens of thousands of people immigrated to their ancient homeland, Eretz Yisrael. By 1945, over 550,000 Jews and 1.1 million Palestinians lived there.
A second misconception is Israel simply took over Palestinian land. Contrary to popular belief, there has never been a state of Palestine; it has only been a territory governed by various empires.
Most recently, the Ottomans controlled it, until the British conquered them during World War I.
Much of the land settled by Jewish immigrants was legally purchased from the governing entity.
In 1947, due to growing tensions and the end of British rule, the United Nations set forth a partition plan, Resolution 181, for two states: Israel and Palestine.
The Jewish leadership accepted the plan, while the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee rejected it. Current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said denouncing the U.N. proposal was a mistake.
Following the Palestinian rejection, several Arab states invaded Israel and attempted to claim the entire territory as their own. Instead, the Israeli forces defended themselves and when the 1949 armistice lines were drawn, Israel had expanded from 55 percent of the territory to 78 percent.
In the end, the Palestinians still had no sovereignty over any land, as Jordan and Egypt took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, respectively.
Much has happened in the 64 years since independence was declared for a democratic state of Israel.
The two sides were closest to achieving peace in 2000 at Camp David when President Clinton brought together Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, and their negotiators.
President Clinton presented a balanced plan, which the Israeli leadership and Palestinian negotiators found acceptable. Arafat gave no counter-offer or any of his own ideas and simply walked away.
More relevant to recent violence is Israel’s unilateral withdrawal of all citizens and military forces from Gaza in 2005. This disengagement was enacted to promote peace and give the Palestinians more social and economic freedom.
However, fighting broke out between two Palestinian factions: Fatah and Hamas. Hamas took control of Gaza, while Fatah maintained control of the West Bank.
Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, is listed as a terrorist organization by numerous countries. Since Israel’s withdrawal in Gaza, Palestinian terrorist factions have fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities. One can only imagine what might have been if Hamas did not take control.
No country on this planet would tolerate such violence against its citizens. While peace is optimal, Israel has taken necessary measures to defend itself against terrorist aggression.
Peace cannot exist until these Palestinian factions denounce violence and stop demanding pre-conditions before negotiating. The only way a two-state solution can work is if the two sides sit down together, set aside politics, and discuss realistic ideas.
The recent conflict in southern Israel and Gaza is unsustainable for the security of both entities. The Israeli and Palestinian people deserve peace, and they cannot afford to live in fear any longer.
Sam Peyton is president of Sooners for Israel and a political science senior.