BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is a main cause of the lack of intra-Mediterranean integration. The signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993 (i.e. the Oslo Accords)1 raised hopes for the political and economic development of the region and the spurring of democratization across the Arab world. The expected resolution of the conflict would have had positive effects on the rest of the region as well, in both political and economic terms. Palestine would have become the first truly democratic Arab state (Ibrahim, 1995). Sixteen years later, however, with the collapse of the Oslo process, those hopes have dissipated and the conflict remains the prime source of instability in the region. In the early years of the 21st century, the US strategy for the Greater Middle East and the spiralling of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict during the second intifada plunged the region to an all-time low. With the inception of the Obama administration, interest in conflict resolution regained relevance, revitalizing hopes for the Middle East among the international community. But the current stalemate in direct talks and the consequent ups and downs in the media and political discourse have brought back the mantle of impasse and inaction.
The significance of religion within ethnic and religious conflicts has risen steadily in recent decades, and especially so within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The results of the Six Day War (1967), particularly the conquest of Jerusalem and territories of Greater Israel, inspired a messianic and settlers’ movement among religious Zionist Jews in Israel. Following this, the first Intifada (1987) turned Hamas, which had represented a social Islamic trend, into a political movement. The settlement ideology of religious Zionism has been reinforced in recent years through the support of the Shas movement and various Ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic groups and individuals. On the Palestinian side, Hamas has achieved a status of influence: victory in the 2006 elections and control of the Gaza Strip. Being a religious movement, Hamas views the problem of Palestine as a religious problem and the conflict with Israel as a religious conflict in two senses: the sanctity of Jerusalem, which graces all of Palestine, and the image of the Jew as inherently evil. Nevertheless, Hamas is prepared, in principle, to accept a temporary ceasefire (Steinberg, 2002). Hamas recognized the power of Palestinian nationalism but found a way to combine it with its own worldview and bridge Islamic identity and national identity through the slogan “love for the homeland derives from [Islamic religious] faith.” Hamas understood the will of the Palestinian people to be liberated from the yoke of Israeli occupation rather than wait for the liberation of all of Palestine and, therefore, formulated a phased plan with interim goals identical to those of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Eventually, Hamas plans to take over the PLO through democratic means while taking advantage of its popularity throughout the Palestinian Diaspora and refugee camps. The political discourse on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is infused with religious symbols and values that incorporate the sanctity of the land, the religious commandment to control and settle it, the holy sites, and the war, terrorism, and sacrifice undertaken for the sake of these religious ideals. As long as the religious discourse was solely within the purview of a minority, religion did not pose a real barrier to resolution of the conflict. Since the Oslo process (1993) began, however, this discourse has expanded and taken hold even among secular leaders, as well as among members of the public that are not considered religious.
STATEMENT OF THE GENERAL PROBLEM
The conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine has been a perennial problem to world peace and general development especially in the Middle East. This has resulted to constant squabbles and military actions between these two nations. In the modern era of the 21st century, a lot has been done by world bodies like the United Nations to achieve lasting peace in this region but that has not yielded the desired result.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The major aim of the study is to examine the Isreali-Palestinian conflict in the 21st century and the emergence of a new state. Other specific objectives of the study include;
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study would be of immense importance towards achieving sustainable peace in the Middle East in the 21st century with Israel and Palestine the major focus. The study would also benefit students, researchers and scholars who are interested in developing further studies on the subject matter through the provision of latest relevant literature.
SCOPE OF THE RESEARCH
The study is restricted to the Israeli Palestinian conflict in the 21st century a prospect for emerging new state.
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