Region
Impact on U.S. Interests
 
Conflict Status
 
Type of Conflict

3,166

New units in West Bank settlements announced in 2017

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44 PERCENT

Unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip

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2,324

Estimated number of deaths during the fifty-day war of June/July 2014

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Recent Developments

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip conducted weekly demonstrations between March 30 and May 15, 2018, at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The final protest coincided with the seventieth anniversary of the Nakba, the Palestinian exodus that accompanied Israeli independence, as well as the relocation of the U.S. embassy to the contested city of Jerusalem. While most of the protesters were peaceful, some stormed the perimeter fence and threw rocks and other objects. According to the United Nations, 183 demonstrators were killed and over 6,000 wounded by live ammunition.

Also in May, fighting broke out between Hamas and the Israeli military in what became the worst period of violence since 2014. Before both sides reached a cease-fire, militants in Gaza fired over one hundred rockets into Israel and Israel responded with strikes on more than fifty targets in Gaza during the twenty-four–hour flare-up.

Background

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict dates back to the end of the nineteenth century, primarily as a conflict over territory. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the Holy Land was divided into three parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River), and the Gaza Strip. Successive wars resulted in minor shifts of territory until the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel because of Israel’s occupation of the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. The conflict was calmed by the Camp David Accords in 1979, which bound Egypt and Israel in a peace treaty.

Yet once the wars over territory were over, a surge in violence and uprisings among the Palestinians began. The first intifada, in 1987, was an uprising comprising hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The 1993 Oslo Accords mediated the conflict, setting up a framework for the Palestinians to govern themselves and establishing relations between the newly established Palestinian Authority and Israel’s government. In 2000, inspired by continuing Palestinian grievances, the second intifada began and was much bloodier than the first. After a wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in 2015, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that Palestinians would no longer be bound by the Oslo Accords

In 2013, the United States attempted to revive the peace process between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. However, peace talks were disrupted when the Fatah—the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party—formed a unity government with its rival faction, Hamas, in 2014. The rivals’ reconciliation process has proceeded haltingly since, with the two signing an additional agreement in October 2017.

Since taking office, the Donald J. Trump administration has made achieving an Israeli-Palestinian deal a priority, but has yet to release its long-awaited proposal for a peace process. Trump’s decision to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, reversing longstanding U.S. policy, was met with applause among the Israeli leadership but condemned by Palestinian leaders and others in the Middle East and Europe. Israel considers the “complete and united Jerusalem” its capital, but Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of their future state.

Prior to the most recent wave of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians, there had been many outbreaks of violence and instability. In the summer of 2014, clashes in the Palestinian territories precipitated a military confrontation between the Israeli military and Hamas in which Hamas fired nearly three thousand rockets at Israel and Israel retaliated with a major offensive in Gaza. The skirmish ended in late August 2014 with a cease-fire deal brokered by Egypt, but only after 73 Israelis and 2,251 Palestinians were killed.

Concerns

There is concern that a third intifada could break out and that renewed tensions will escalate into large-scale violence. The United States has an interest in protecting the security of its long-term ally Israel and achieving a lasting deal between Israel and the Palestinian territories, which would improve regional security.

A Visual Exploration of the Conflict

Slideshow

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict