Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

"Transformation of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in the 30 Years Since the Persian Gulf Crisis"
HIRAYAMA Kentaro / Journalist

November 24, 2020
30 years have passed since the Iraqis under Saddam Hussein ignited the Persian Gulf crisis by invading Kuwait. In the war that followed, the U.S.-led multinational coalition routed Iraqi forces and created a new order in the Middle East. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a central concern of this new order and the international community had high hopes for a resolution that would lead to peace in the Middle East. For a time, people thought that the peace was within reach. However, Arab countries are now putting the resolution of the conflict to the side and beginning to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. I can't help but be concerned by the transformation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Gulf crisis brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into sharp relief. While besieged by the international community, President Hussein suggested, in order to win favor with the Arab people, that "the occupation of Kuwait by our forces and the occupation of Palestine by Israel should be discussed simultaneously at the same table". This Palestinian "linkage" proposal was applauded by some Palestinians.

The United States rejected the proposal, but in October 1991, after the end of the Gulf War, U.S. President George W. Bush, Sr., in collaboration with Soviet President Gorbachev, invited the leaders of both Arab and Israeli countries to Madrid for their first Middle East peace conference. The recognition shared by the international community was that there would be no real peace in the Middle East until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was resolved and the guiding principle laid down by the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union at the conference was "land for peace", or more precisely, "Withdrawal of Israeli forces (Giving Up Land), and Termination of all claims or states of belligerency (Making Peace)."

Having come into power in the 1992 Israeli general election, the Rabin administration signed the Oslo Accords with President Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization in September, 1993. Israel and the PLO mutually agreed to negotiate with each other and decided to grant Palestinians in the occupied territories a five-year interim autonomy with their final status being negotiated after the third year. The "Independence of Palestine" was not explicitly stated, but the international public opinion was that it would be the natural result.

Even after the conclusion of the Oslo Accords, suicide bombings by Islamic extremists continued in the occupied Palestinian territories. In spite of this, the gradual implementation of the Oslo Accords proceeded relatively smoothly under the Rabin administration as they separated anti-terrorism measures from negotiations. Prime Minister Rabin's famous quote was, "We must fight terrorism as if there's no peace process, and work to achieve peace as if there's no terror."
However, the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by an Israeli right-wing extremist in October 1995 and the birth of the Netanyahu administration the following year changed this trend.

The several short administrations that quickly followed Netanyahu offered several concessions but these failed when Netanyahu was reelected. Another milestone came in the year 2000. U.S. President Bill Clinton mediated a discussion on the final solution of issues including the status of Jerusalem and the refugee problem. Both the United States and Israel presented a compromise plan which included the subdivision of Jerusalem, but it was not finalized. After the discussion, the momentum to solve the issues declined rapidly. The situation among the Palestinians has complicated the problem. With the anti-mainstream faction consistently opposing peace and the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas gaining power in 21st century, the division among the Palestinians has become irreparable.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 contributed somewhat to the transformation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The U.S. government, which had been focused on achieving peace in the Middle East, shifted to the fight against terrorism. The United States, which overthrew the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for concealing the suspected terrorist mastermind Bin Laden, subsequently defeated Saddam Hussein's administration in the Iraq War. However, ironically, these two wars enabled Iran to become a regional power. Iran has infiltrated and gained influence in Iraq's Shia factions and strengthened the region known as the "Shia belt" which consists of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

In response, thGulf States such as Saudi Arabia, which are hostile to Iran, have drawn closer to Israel, and both the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have just established diplomatic relations with Israel in September of this year. These two were the first among the wealthy Gulf countries with Sudan following in October. The UAE and Bahrain are aiming for mutual economic, trade, and national security benefits but have incidentally exposed the decreased interest among Arab countries concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Internal conflict among the Palestinians together with Hamas strengthening its relationship with Iran by accepting financial and arms support has rendered cooperation among the Arab countries towards the Palestinian cause ineffective. Nevertheless, we must be aware that the movement toward establishing diplomatic relations without considering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict tramples the principle of "land for peace" which was at the heart of the issue and nullifies the international order created by the UN Security Council resolution based on the co-existence of Israel and Palestine.

Kentaro Hirayama is a former NHK executive commentator
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

湾岸危機30年 パレスチナ問題の変質
平山 健太郎 / ジャーナリスト

2020年 11月 24日








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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > "Transformation of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in the 30 Years Since the Persian Gulf Crisis"