Ariel Center for Policy Research (ACPR)

ACPR Research Summary


A Regional Perspective on
the Arab-Israel Conflict

Jay Shapiro

Policy Paper No. 153,  2004

The purpose of this article is to provide a realistic framework for understanding the reality of the Middle East and, in particular, the Arab-Israel conflict. No attempt is made to suggest solutions. Rather, the goal is to present an accurate picture of the true nature of the conflict and the politics and passions of the region. The author has found that the vast majority of people outside the Middle East who concern themselves with the region media persons who report, pundits who comment, politicians and statesmen who initiate actions are abysmally ignorant of the true character of the stage upon which the drama is being played.

It must be understood that the so-called Palestinian issue is not the root cause of the Arab-Israel conflict and Middle East violence.

To understand the real nature of the conflict, it is not necessary to reach back into the minute details of history. There is enough information available in broad outline to paint an accurate picture of the Middle East today.

Since the seventh century and the establishment of Islam, long before the creation of the State of Israel, the Middle East has been the scene of inter-Arab and inter-Moslem conflicts. In particular, since the beginning of the 19th century and the active entry of the European powers onto the Middle East stage, the endemic violence has taken on new and international dimensions.

No realistic proposal for resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict or for creating a more democratic and peaceful Middle East can ignore the manner in which the present situation came about. Today's harsh reality can only be understood against the background of more than a millennium of history, and 200 years of political and military interference by the European powers and, more recently, the United States.

Only when certain basic facts are clearly understood can practical solutions be proposed. The exposition is not exhaustive; it does not completely describe the phenomena discussed. The purpose is to present 13 basic facts as briefly and broadly as possible to provide background. A limited number of sources are quoted to provide a basis for the reader to delve further while, at the same time, not converting this article into a purely academic dissertation.

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