Middle East History – Jerusalem Essay, Research Paper
Middle East History
The conflict in Jerusalem is rooted in religious, political, and historical aspects. As a center for the worlds three major religions, with a history of political divisions and borders, as well as historical claims to the territory, it calls for a peaceful coexistence and sensitive diplomacy which will enable an accepted agreement. Jerusalem is a prize which, for thousands of years, has been fought over. Israeli?s and Palestinians live side-by-side in the Old City, each claiming that Jerusalem belongs to them. There is no judgment that can be given, there is no right or wrong answer to the problem. For this issue to be solved, both sides must give concessions to each other, and truly feel the need for peace and friendly diplomacy in Jerusalem.
The Torah, the most sacred Jewish text, claims that Jerusalem is the ancestral home of the Jewish people. The Torah says that the land was given to Abraham, the Jews patriarch, and his descendent as a birthright for his faithfulness to God. In 1000 BC, David, the Jewish king, established Jerusalem as his capital, and his son, Solomon, built a temple in the city for the Jewish people. Four centuries later, the Jews were conquered and forced into exile. They would not return to Jerusalem until the founding of modern Israel in 1948.
During the Roman occupation of Palestine, Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem. For Christians, Jesus is the Son of God, and the Messiah. Because of his religious beliefs, he as crucified near Jerusalem, and three days later, was resurrected. Tradition holds that the tomb was where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is today. The Holy Land gave birth to the faith of Christianity.
Shortly after the death of Mohammed, the man who established Islam and whom Muslims believe to be the prophet of Allah, the Muslims conquered Jerusalem. Muslims, too, claimed a rightful ownership of the land. They believe that they have an inheritance connection to the patriarch, Abraham, through a different lineage. Jerusalem holds incredible religious significance for the Muslims. Ten years before his death, Mohammed traveled to Jerusalem, where he then rose to heaven to speak with Allah directly. The Muslim people built the Dome of the Rock on top of the Temple Mount in honor of Mohammed?s journey to the heavens. The Dome of the Rock is considered the third-holiest sight in Islam. At the base of the Temple Mount is the Western Wall, the holiest sight in Judaism. And less than a mile away is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site of Christ?s burial and resurrection.
The struggle for ownership of the city intensified many years later at the end of the war, when Britain had total control of Palestine. The Balfour Declaration issued in 1917, included in the British mandate of Palestine, called for the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. However, the Arabs believed that Palestine would be created an independent state by helping the British in the campaign against the Ottoman empire. Unfortunately, the British did not include this in their plans. They did set up a separate Arab state in 1921, which is now Jordan. However, the remainder of the Palestinian territory wished for independence.
After World War II, Holocaust survivors flooded into Palestine and Jerusalem, and a partition by the United Nations was established.In November 1947, the British mandate ended, and Palestine was partitioned into Jewish and Arab states with Jerusalem as an international city. The Arabs did not agree to this plan, as they were intent on preventing any Jewish control in the area. However, Israel defended itself, and by 1949, it had joined the United Nations, and been recognized by more than 50 governments around the world.
In a series of ?battles? in 1949 with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, Israel established borders like those of Palestine during the British mandate. In 1967, the Six-Day War, Israel launched an attack against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel defeated all three, taking the Sinai and Gaza from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank from Jordan. In 1979, the Sinai was returned to Egypt, and a peace agreement between the two nations was reached.
In 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and Yasser Arafat began talks. Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a recognition and limited self-rule for Palestinians in Jericho and Gaza. They also agreed to arrive at a permanent treaty that would resolve the status of Gaza and the West Bank. Negotiations between Israel and Palestinians today are based on the principles established in the 1993 accords.
During these different stages in Israel?s development, different leaders were in control of the political arena. Yitzhak Rabin served as Prime Minister from 1974-1977 and 1992-1995 initiated the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from southern Lebanon, signed a treaty with Jordan, and showed a willingness to begin talks with Arafat?s Palestine Liberation Organization. Netanyahu, however, was quite the opposite. He served as prime minister from 1996 until 1999, when he was voted out of office. His unyielding nature did little to encourage the peace process and even caused the late Syrian president to halt peace talks with Israel. Barak seems to be ready to make peace with Palestine, but his fellow leaders such as Ariel Sharon (a known Arab-hater) cause the Palestinians to be cautious in the steps they take toward peace.
Despite the large leaps in peace made by Rabin and Shimon Peres, the Palestinians today wish for complete control of Jerusalem as well as recognized sovereignty. Today, clashes between the two sides continue to heighten and the tension grows steadily. The Palestinian people wish for a nation, and the Israeli?s do not want to give up their control of Jerusalem. Both sides claim religious and historical ties to the sacred city, and thus an agreement of ?sharing? seems improbable. Political sides from all over the world must intercede in this problem as violence and hatred increases. Israel?s use of excessive force against the Palestinians, and the violent attacks against Israeli?s by the Palestinians is only making matters worse. UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has convinced Arafat and Barak to meet and come to some sort of peace agreement.
The conflict centers mainly around religious claims and political issues. Both sides feel that Jerusalem is rightfully theirs because of its historical religious connections to their religions. The political action taken for the control of the city has had strong moments, but has also faltered. It is as if the process takes one step forward and two steps backward with each time a small conflict arises. Both sides must give in something in order to achieve peace. The Palestinian people have nothing, and their only hope for a future of some sort is to create a Palestinian state. Israel, however, does not want to give up their ?capital? and will do anything in their power to maintain their control over it. The United Nations must intervene, as it is the ?voice of the world,? and will be able to help Arafat and Barak reach a consensus on the status of Jerusalem.