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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Palestinians in Israel

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Israel Facts
Area:    20,770 sq. km.
Capital:    Jerusalem
Total Population:    5,644,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

With the new intifada ongoing since September 2000, the near-term situation for Palestinians in Israel (West Bank and Gaza) is very bleak. Since 2001, the death toll has soared as Sharon has intensified existing policies such as assassinating Palestinian militants, air strikes and incursions into Palestinian self-rule areas. Palestinian militants, meanwhile, have stepped up suicide bomb attacks in Israeli cities. The continual spiral of suicide bombings followed by Israeli reprisal attacks shows no signs of slowing. Violence significantly worsened in 2001 and 2002, and continued at a somewhat abated pace in 2003. Several international attempts to bring about peace have so far failed (such as the Mitchell commission, the Saudi Peace Proposal, and the US “Road map”), and it is unlikely that violence will cease in the near-future.


Analytic Summary

Palestinians in Israel, or more properly, the Palestinian Authority (PA) of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (GROUPCON = 3), have been a people without a sovereign state for centuries. Nearly 90 percent of Palestinians are Sunni Muslims (BELIEF = 3; CULDIFX4 = 2) and all speak Arabic (with a majority also knowing Hebrew) (LANG = 3; CULDIFX2 = 2). Largely descendants from the earliest recorded inhabitants of the area or people forced to abandon their homes in Israel following wars in 1948 and 1967, the Palestinians in the PA live in relatively poor circumstances, suffer high and rising unemployment, rising birth rates, and deteriorating public health conditions (DMBIRTH00-03 = 2; DMSICK00-03 = 3). In 1992, for the first time in almost 2 decades, Israel's left wing Labor party won the election and took over the Knesset. This had an immediate impact on how Israel dealt with the peace process already underway. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin ordered a freeze on new settlements in the territories and began secret negotiations with the PLO in an effort to produce a Palestinian self-rule agreement. In September 1993, Israel and the PLO recognized each other and signed a basic plan outlining the steps toward Palestinian self-rule. In May 1994 an agreement on Palestinian self-rule by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was reached. The peace did not last long, as violence resumed in 2000.

As non-Israeli citizens, Palestinians experience complete exclusion from the Israeli political process (POLDIS00-03 = 4, although note that free and fair elections do occur within the PA), and since the rise of the new intifada in 2000 they have additionally suffered economic exclusion as the border with Israel proper has been closed (ECDIS00-03 = 4). The uprising from 2000 to the present has utilized hundreds of suicide bombings and also more conventional armed attacks (REB03 = 4) – and mass rallies denouncing the Israeli government’s refusal for full Palestinian statehood (PROT03 = 3). A major grievance of the Palestinians has been against the building of the Israeli “security wall” since 2002. Instead of being built on the green line demarcating Israel from the West Bank, the barrier cuts several kilometers into West Bank land; since Palestinians (and most of the international community) see the green line as the eventual border between Israeli and a Palestinian state, the Israeli barrier threatens to redraw the border and take land away from the Palestinians. In February 2004, the International Court of Justice at The Hague held a hearing into the legality of the barrier. In response to Palestinian protests (both violent and peaceful), the Sharon government has used unrestrained force against protesters (REP1903 = 3), confiscated property (REP1003 = 3), assassinated Palestinian leaders (REP0701-03 = 1), and sought the arrest (REP0201–03 = 3) or death of those deemed to be terrorist members of militant Palestinian organizations such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Whether a Palestinian preaches non-violence or is willing to die for his cause, however, all Palestinians have the ultimate wish for full independence (AUTGR296-03 = 1).



Congressional Quarterly Inc, 1990, "The Middle East, Seventh

Edition"Congressional Quarterly, Washington D.C.

Degenhardt, Henry W. (ed), 1987, Revolutionary and Dissident Movements:

An International Guide, A Keesing's Reference Publication (London: Longman)

Hooglund, Eric. (ed), Middle East Journal, 1990 - Winter 1995,

Chronologies of Middle Eastern Events.

Keesing's Contemporary Archive, 1990-1993, Keesing Record of World

Events: Record of National and International Current Affairs with

Continually Updated Indexes, Keesing's Publication, (London: Longman)

Lexis/Nexis: 1995-2003. Various news wires.

Israeline: Oct 11 to Dec 1, 1995.


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Information current as of December 31, 2006