Technically, Palestine is at war with Israel


Jan Busse

To person

is a research associate at the Chair of International Politics and Conflict Research at the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich Together with Muriel Asseburg, he recently wrote the book "The Middle East Conflict. History, Positions, Perspectives" (2016). [email protected]

Stephan Stetter

To person

is Professor of International Politics and Conflict Research at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich and editor of the "Journal for International Relations". [email protected]

1967 marked a turning point for the Middle East. This has above all to do with the armed conflict between Israel and several Arab states this year, known as the "June War" in the Arab states and the "Six Day War" in Israel and the West. The effects of this war on Israel and Palestine are the focus of this article. Israel gained control of Sinai, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. At the same time, with the conquest of these areas, the Israeli settlement project began in areas mainly inhabited by Palestinians. The Palestinians from then on faced the Israeli occupation. In addition, the 1967 war caused significant power shifts in the Middle East. The Arab armies were defeated and Israel was able to consolidate its role as a regional power. Finally, the war also led to global geopolitical changes. The origin of the close partnership between the USA and Israel is closely linked to the developments of 1967.

In the run-up to the war, particularly since 1964, there were both rhetorical and limited military confrontations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. From the beginning of the 1960s, Palestinian armed groups, the fedayeen, many of whom were members of Fatah, founded in 1959, carried out guerrilla attacks on Israel from Jordan, Syria and Egypt, to which Israel responded with counterattacks. In this way the fedayeen tried to provoke a war through which they hoped for a "liberation of Palestine". [1] The situation was exacerbated by the dispute over access to the Jordan water, which had been going on since the early 1950s. In 1964, Israel began to divert water from the Sea of ​​Galilee into the Negev Desert through the so-called National Water Carrier, a system of canals and pipes. In response, the Arab League decided to divert water from the source rivers of the Jordan River in Lebanon and Syria, respectively, in order to restrict Israel's access to the Jordan River. As a result, there were armed conflicts in the border area between Israel and Syria or Lebanon, which ultimately led to the diversion project being discontinued on the Arab side. In addition, the Arab League decided to found the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to curb the activities of the Palestinian fedayeen. In addition, the destruction of Israel was formulated as the primary goal for the first time in an official document. [2] Israel, for its part, contributed to the escalation by provoking military confrontations with Syria through agricultural activities in the demilitarized Israeli-Syrian border area. [3] The situation worsened when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser transferred troops to Sinai and demanded the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping forces stationed there since the Suez War in 1956. Nasser's decision in May 1967 to close the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping and thus block Israel's only access to the Red Sea was serious. This represented a reason for war for Israel, as well as the fear of a collective attack by Arab states, which was fed, among other things, from the relocation of troops in Egypt.

Against this background, the war began on June 5, 1967 with an Israeli surprise attack on Egypt - interpreted in Israel as a preventive war, in Arab states as a war of aggression. Israel secured air superiority on the first day. The Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian air forces were incapacitated. In the days that followed, Israel succeeded in conquering the Gaza Strip, advancing into Sinai and reaching the Suez Canal. Israel also conquered the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. [4]

Effects in Israel

In Israel, the twofold unexpected outcome of the war - on the one hand in view of the widespread fear of an existential defeat for the young state, on the other hand in view of the brevity of the war and its clear outcome - nurtured a myth of its own invincibility. This myth, as the following decades would show, had a profoundly transformative force in Israel's politics and society. Immediately attempted the then state-supporting Labor Party and its charismatic military leaders such as Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin to make political capital out of the victory. Decades later, in 1992, shortly before the start of the Oslo peace process, Rabin, as Israeli Prime Minister, was able to achieve a historic election victory for the Labor Party, referring to the myth of invincibility, which was the basis for the 1993 peace agreement between Israel and the PLO.

But in the medium term, Israel's victory in 1967 meant a domestic political strengthening of alternative political forces, above all the national religious and right-wing conservative camp. The conquests of the war and in particular the capture of East Jerusalem - Jerusalem had been divided into an Israeli and a Jordanian part since 1948 - were mythologically charged in Israeli political discourse. Naomi Schemer's famous song about the golden Jerusalem - Yerushalayim shel zahav - has deeply anchored the religious-national mood that resulted from the capture of Jerusalem in Israel's social consciousness. It was considered a miracle that after a good 2000 years - that is, since the expulsion by the Romans - for the first time Jews were able to rule over the central cultic places of Jerusalem and pray at these places, which was not possible during the Jordanian rule.

The conquests also had practical consequences, in particular the beginning of the construction of settlements in the occupied territories (including Sinai, whose settlements were evacuated after the peace agreement with Egypt in 1979. The settlements in the Gaza Strip, which is still under the Israeli blockade, were evacuated in 2005) . In the 1967 Allon Plan, named after the Deputy Foreign Minister at the time, the settlement of the occupied territories, especially the West Bank, was designed primarily for strategic reasons. The idea was on the one hand to establish military bases east of the Israeli population centers in order to give Israel "strategic depth" against military threats from Arab states. On the other hand, these military bases were to be supplemented by a network of Jewish settlements that were smaller at the time and primarily agriculturally oriented. By 1977 the number of settlers was 5,000.

The religiously impregnated nationalism, which found legitimacy as a result of the war, had massive party-political effects. Together with the traumatic experience of the 1973 Yom Kippur War - whose ambivalent outcome for Israel was primarily blamed on the Labor Party - he laid the foundations for the electoral victory of the right-wing nationalist, up to then oppositional, and with a view to border issues in a revisionist tradition of a major Israel's standing Likud bloc in 1977. The Sharon Plan, named after the then Minister of Agriculture and later Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, envisaged a massive expansion of the settlement project - away from small agricultural settlements towards urban settlement blocs. The number of settlers subsequently increased - also under left-wing governments - and rose to 55,000 by 1987 and to 550,000 today. [5]

A central element here was the increase in importance of a nationally religiously inspired messianism to which important parts of the settler movement feel they belong and its range from terrorist groups such as the Kach movement and Gush Emunim to political parties such as the national religious ideologically strengthened by the victory of 1967 Party that is close to the settler movement as well as the revisionist wing of the Likud extends The settler movement is one of the most important social groups in Israel, which occupies a strategic position in the political landscape and thus significantly influences legislation and coalition compositions. [6] The failure of the Oslo peace process can not only be explained by the resistance of national religious actors in Israel, whose range of actions from civil resistance against the abandonment of the West Bank, increasingly referred to in the Israeli debate as "Judea and Samaria", to acts of violence such as the murder of Rabin 1995 by a national religious activist is enough.

However, despite existing domestic political debates about this, Israel has renounced an annexation of the West Bank (but not East Jerusalem and the Golan). Proponents of the settlement project have often been reluctant to do so because of foreign policy considerations. Politically, the occupation, which has lasted for 50 years, has led to the establishment of an unequal legal regime in the area controlled by Israel. Israeli settlers live under Israeli law, while Israeli military law applies to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The permanence of the occupation is thus not only fed by the significant ideological support that exists in parts of Israeli society for the settlement, but also by the ambivalent legal status of the occupied territories. However, since Oslo, Israeli governments have formally committed to a two-state solution, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who politically accepted this in a speech in 2009, albeit with reservations.

While there was support for a far-reaching peace with the Palestinians in large parts of Israeli society at the beginning of the peace process, the failure of the peace process and the experience of massive violence by Palestinian terrorists since the mid-1990s as well as those compared to the first Intifada ( from 1987) the much bloodier second Intifada from 2000 onwards led to an increase in deeply anchored friend-foe thinking in Israel. [7] This trend has intensified since the consolidation of right-wing nationalist government majorities since 2009 and currently makes it seem unlikely that a new peace dynamic could emerge from the party-political spectrum in Israel. Addressing the negative consequences of the occupation is not a majority in the current political discourse and is also hardly legitimized - there is neither a broad social debate with a view to the human rights violations that have been comprehensively documented by the UN and NGOs, which result for Palestinians from the everyday occupation, nor about the negative security and economic consequences of the occupation, such as the economic redistribution between Israelis in the heartland and the highly subsidized settlements.