THE ISREALI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT IN THE 21ST CENTURY: A PROSPECT FOR AN EMERGING NEW STATE
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 erects 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 UltraOrthodox
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).