Explaining the origins of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is difficult and there are strong opinions on all sides. Sky News looks at some of the key events of the last 100 years that have shaped the region.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine is one of the bloodiest and longest-running in the world. There are intense feelings on both sides after decades of tragedy and numerous failed bids for lasting peace.
Explaining the origins of the bitter conflict is difficult.
In this story, Sky News seeks to examine some of the key events of the last 100 years in shaping that part of the Middle East – and why peace remains so elusive.
Deep roots and a secret Britain-France treaty
“It’s such a deeply rooted conflict,” Professor Eugene Rogan, an expert on modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Oxford, says.
He told Sky News that in a classroom he would begin by telling students about the 1880s and the beginning of Jewish immigration to the region inspired by the idea of a Jewish state.
“They establish townships and colonies and settlements… try and create a new Jewish community in Palestine to add to the established Jewish communities of Sephardic Jews who have been living in Palestine for centuries and centuries.”
Professor Rogan says the key point here is that in 1917 the British government itself endorsed the idea of a Jewish national home – not a state – in Palestine with the Balfour Declaration.
It followed a secret treaty signed between Britain and France during the First World War defining their agreed spheres of influence in a post-war partition of the Ottoman Empire.
The British are relevant because, in the aftermath of the First World War, control of Palestine was handed over to Britain in the form of a ‘mandate’.
“They set in motion demographic change,” Professor Rogan says.
Amid rivalry over who would claim statehood over Palestine, an Arab revolt between 1936 and 1939 broke out and was violently suppressed by the British.
After the Jewish community also revolted against British rule, the mandate for Palestine was handed over to the newly formed United Nations after the Second World War.
Creation of the state of Israel and 1948 war
In 1947 – two years after the end of the Second World War and the horror of the Holocaust – the UN General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state, against significant opposition.
“That set in motion a civil war in Palestine between the Arab and Jewish communities,” Professor Rogan said.
In the run-up to the British withdrawal from the area, Jewish and Arab militias clashed – resulting in the loss of Arab Palestinian towns to the Jewish community.
In May 1948, Britain withdrew and the armies of various Arab states responded by invading.
When hostilities in the first Arab-Israeli war ended in January 1949 the new state of Israel was in possession of 78% of the territory.
The West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip remained in Arab hands.