The Israeli – Palestine Conflict

International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES)[1] from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses developments in the Middle East, the Balkans and around the world. Dr J Scott Younger is a President Commissioner at Glendale Partners and member of IFIMES Advisory Board. In his text entitled “The Israeli – Palestine Conflict“, he continues analysing the course of the war in Gaza.

 Dr J Scott Younger, International Chancellor of the President University in Indonesia,Honorary Senior Research Fellow of the Glasgow University and member of IFIMES Advisory Board

The Israeli – Palestine Conflict


After the Houthis started to attack shipping in the Red Sea, pundits saw an escalation that many people feared. Some said it was like we were heading for WWIII and one’s attention refocused on the conflict in Gaza with no end in sight, despite different maneuverings going on in the background. The older among us thought back to the appeasement days of the late 1930s with economies struggling and people not happy, sometimes making their displeasure felt by striking.

A key issue of last month was the South Africans taking the Israelis to the International Court of Justice in the Hague for the claim that what Israel was doing was genocide, which naturally Israel rejected. The judges did not find in favor of the Israelis but nor did the Court find them guilty of genocide, rather it left the issue as unproven. It will take some time to garner sufficient evidence and decide that the Israelis were genocidal in some of their actions. Evidence is being gathered now.

We should go back to what is called the Lord Balfour declaration of 1917, concerning a homeland for the Jewish people. In a letter to Lord Rothschild of the Zionist Federation we can read an important phrase in the text. In this it says ‘’it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,’’ That clearly has not happened. 

After WWI was over, the British exercised a 25-year mandate which was one of the outputs of the final treaty of WWI in 1923, the mandate thus ending in 1948. This acknowledged the end of the Ottoman Empire, and Palestine therefore coming under the jurisdiction of the British. In 1923, when the Allies had finished arguing with the terms of the treaty, not satisfactory to all by any means, none foresaw that WWII would take place in another 16 years. The war finished in 1945, or in 1946 in the Far East with Japan. That is another story!

The mandate was about to run out, and people were coming to terms with the dreadful, shocking results of the Holocaust, 6 million Jewish people killed, murdered. Surely, it was the right time to exercise the 1917 Balfour/Rothschild agreement. At the end of the war, 1946, the British were otherwise also occupied in many places, the end of Empire for instance. In the end, they did not insist on a satisfactory and fair solution as per the 1917 agreement, albeit there surely was great Jewish pressure to find a solution and quickly to house 700,000 people who had been affected by the Holocaust. The result was a disaster, naqba – catastrophe, as the indigenous Palestinians found. The Jewish state of Israel was founded in some 56% of the mostly better land with water supply and electricity. The remainder was left to the Palestinians, who were mostly old-fashioned farming people, not highly educated. They were often treated poorly, high-handedly, having to vacate land at short notice with no recompense, land which had been with them for many decades, even centuries. 

Ever since, there has been periodic strife, for instance the 6-days war of 1973, and the efforts to find a peaceful solution under the banner of two US presidents, first Carter in 1978 and then about 14 years later, Clinton and the empathetic Israeli leader, Yitzhak Rabin. In 1995 he was very unfortunately assassinated by a far-right religious zealot when he was speaking in favor of the Oslo accords- 1993 in Washington and 1995 at Taba, Egypt - which were the basis of a peace deal. Following this, the years around the turn of the century saw the Palestinians trying to improve their ‘democracy’ without making much progress. By 2005, no agreement had been reached between the parties, and it was not at all looking very likely with Hamas taking over the government in Gaza and with Benjamin Netanyahu well ensconced as PM in Israel. The Israeli PM was well-known for his hatred of Arabs, Palestinians and one wonders if that dislike fueled Hamas.

In the past few years, Israel has quietly been taking land illegally from the Palestinian West Bank, bit by bit, and using armed settlers to do this. So far, they have advanced about 1.5 km, and very little, somewhat surprisingly, has been said about this incursion over the past few months, assuming we did not know about it years earlier. Little warning is given at the time of an Israeli raid. The water and electricity, which the Israeli’s control, is turned off and the next day the Palestinians are given 24 hours to get off their property, often held by generations, or they would be roughly dealt with. The residents are faced by armed settlers and a hovering helicopter gunship. No help in the offing.

In Gaza, the residents have been surrounded for the past few years by a fence built by the Israelis. It is symptomatic of being imprisoned. The water supply and electricity are under Israel control. One has a certain sympathy for wanting to break out, but certainly not in the way Hamas did it. No! Israel had been warned that something big was planned, but for once their normally very good security intelligence failed and they were caught napping.

Recent days and looking ahead

Soon after the 7th October attack the US President, Joe Biden, went to Israel and gave assurances that the US stood by Israel and it had every right to defend itself. PM Benjamin Netanyahu took that as ‘open season’, and went ahead with a full military attack on Gaza. When it was observed, what Israel was doing to the Gaza enclave, the US and others became more and more concerned. President Biden has made several calls in the past 3 months getting more frustrated with each one but still stopping short of calling for a ceasefire. These calls have been ignored in terms of Israel’s activities, and they have continued their bombing campaign. Israel insists that they are going for Hamas targets and not deliberately aiming at civilians. It does not feel like that.

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken this year raised the idea of a 2-state solution but PM Netanyahu and the right-wing members of his cabinet were having nothing to do with that.

Over 30,000 Palestinians killed to date, the remaining population starving and kept deliberately short of food, medical supplies run out, critical water shortages and so on, the conditions in the strip are worse than dire. About 55% of all buildings are bombed into rubble, shades of Hamburg, Dresden towards the end of WWII – again who is going to pay for the rebuilding? Israel?!! There is a definite need for a ceasefire now. The Palestinians have surely been punished enough for Hamas’ action. 

Netanyahu doesn’t agree; he wants to continue the war ‘until Hamas are annihilated’ and is planning to take the war to Rafah, the border with Egypt, where the Palestinians have been pushed to find refuge, the last place left. Despite Rafah being a so-called ‘place of refuge’, it hasn’t stopped it being subject to daily Israeli bombing and Palestinian families being killed.

The EU has lost patience and are withdrawing support, some even no longer sending of arms to Israel; better late than never! There is growing pressure From the US president to wait, a pause for six weeks while hostages are released. However, much more will be required than that. A more forceful response which was required earlier. 

Much work has been going on in the background, with the Qataris and Egyptians, towards a ceasefire. Blinken has reiterated the call for a 2-state solution. A pause of two months has now been talked about as a ceasefire. No solutions are acceptable to PM Netanyahu. Lord Cameron, the British Foreign Secretary, having met the Israeli PM and visited the West Bank to speak to the Palestinian leader, Abbas, all the surrounding countries, especially those involved in trying to bring the conflict to an end, has drawn up a deep impression of the situation. He voiced his concerns at a speech in London and went further in saying a 2-state solution was imperative, following a ceasefire, and then the Palestinian people had to be recognized as having a country in their own right, which Britain would do and provide help. These latter points are not official policy, which still is following the very cautious US line, despite a good many people on both sides of the Atlantic feeling like Lord Cameron.

A bi-weekly newspaper in Britain recently revealed that the news we were getting did not cover all the atrocities committed by the Israelis in the war, for instance the incidents of extra judicial killings, which were denied, of course. If one wanted to receive the full extent of the warring then Al Jazeera press was providing this. Not pleasant reading.

To finish on a pleasant note. There is a mixed community of about 500 people, Israels and Palestinians, living in perfect harmony, in a location half way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It is called the Oasis of Peace. PEACE! What most people want, if given a chance.

About the author: 

Dr J Scott Younger, OBE, is a professional civil engineer; he spent 42 years in the Far East undertaking assignments in 10 countries for WB, ADB, UNDP.  He published many papers; he was a columnist for Forbes Indonesia and Globe Asia. He served on British & European Chamber boards and was a Vice Chair of Int’l Business Chamber for 17 years. His expertise is infrastructure and sustainable development and he takes an interest in international affairs. He is an International Chancellor of the President University, Indonesia and Honorary Senior Research Fellow of the Glasgow University. He is a member of IFIMES Advisory Board. Lived and worked in Thailand from 1978 to 1983 and visited Burma, Bangladesh and Nepal for projects.

 The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect IFIMES official position.

Ljubljana/Glasgow, 23 February 2024

[1] IFIMES – International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has Special Consultative status at ECOSOC/UN since 2018 and is the publisher of the international scientific journal “European Perspectives”.