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What are Some Causes of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 23, 2024
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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for decades and has a number of somewhat complicated causes, but the main issues at the heart of the strife are land and borders. Where one country ends and the other begins — and whether two independent countries should exist at all — is a big part of it. Both groups believe that they have a God-given right to the territory, and both claim rights based on the pact God made with Abraham in the Bible’s Old Testament. The opponents were once part of the same group of people who inhabited what was considered the Promised Land. Who controls Jerusalem, which is considered by many to be a holy city, also factors in; so do issues of water rights and control of a very limited supply of fresh water. Problems of force, violence, and terrorism have also fueled the conflict, particularly in the 21st century.


It can be difficult to identify a particular start date for the conflict since there have been disputes and battles over the land in the Israel-Palestine region for some time. The country of Israel was not formally created until 1948, so from a technical standpoint that would be the earliest beginning, but some scholars believe that the problems actually started quite a bit earlier. Many point to the Jewish exiles that happened ancient times when the land was conquered by the Romans. Later, it was taken over again by the Arabs, who can still be found there today.

In the late 19th century, the Jews created a movement in which they would relocate to the land they felt was given to them by God based on the accounts in the Bible. This occurred with little regard to the Palestinian population that was already residing there. Disputes over who had rights to the land followed. Great Britain had control over the Palestinian land during this period and granted the Jews permission to emigrate, but this was revoked as riots from the Arab people became increasingly violent and hostile.

Implications of the Holocaust

During the Holocaust, more than 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis in Germany, Poland, and other areas in Europe. Many who survived wanted to flee Europe, and large numbers wished to return to the land that they believed was their Biblical birthright. Leaders petitioned Great Britain to allow the Jewish people to begin migrating into Palestine, and the country acquiesced; in 1948, the formal State of Israel was formed. There was not at that time any official corresponding Palestinian country, which may have been one of the factors underwriting some of the conflict. The State of Palestine was formed in 1988.

Border Questions

Land ware broke out in the region in 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982. Since that time, there have been various terrorist attacks and battles over land within the region, especially the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been relocated as refugees in various locations in the Middle East in the years since Israeli independence, and many have fought and vehemently disputed the location of borders, land rights, and access points.

Control of Jerusalem

One of the most hotly-debated issues is who or what should have control over Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a religiously significant city for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. It is believed to have been originally founded by King David, and is also widely believed to be the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Both Israel and Palestine consider Jerusalem to be their capital.

Water Rights

Control over fresh water is also a pressing issue. The disputed land sits in a desert where drinking water is scarce. Well drilling, plumbing, and the ability to move this resource from place to place is a matter of intense debate and strife. There isn’t usually enough for both countries to have unlimited access, and the ability to control distribution is a major source of power.

Problems of Force

Violence has also been a persistent part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinians have frequently used violent force in an attempt to overtake the Jews, reclaim the territory, and allow their refugees to return to their former land; the Israelis, in turn, have trained up their own armies and have in most cases returned fire with fire. There have been a number of peace treaties that both sides have tried to implement, but none have withstood the test of time. This is due, in part, to repeated terrorist attacks and continued pushes for more land by both sides.

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Discussion Comments
By anon970100 — On Sep 15, 2014

Read about Israeli peace activists. Miko Peled has a book about it: "The General's Son."

Dr. Ilan Papee (Israeli historian) described the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 .

You will then learn the real history. I am horrified by the lies in this article, and by the false comments.

By anon961494 — On Jul 17, 2014

As Turquoise says it has now, like many conflicts, become personal, one born of hatred since birth and as a result neither side will ever back down, ever.

I appreciate this is a holy place for many and a home for many, but both sides are guilty for the current form for what is going on at the moment. Neither side is innocent and neither can accuse the other of being the aggressor as both sides cause deaths to both sides. If people cannot live as adults, then they will be forever fighting like children.

By anon960571 — On Jul 11, 2014

I think this is a replay of the events that happened in heaven before Lucifer was expelled from Heaven. When God declared that Jesus was (is) His son and heir to the throne and that all angels should worship Him, Lucifer rebelled and a third of the heavenly angels with him. This started the conflict that has not up until now been resolved.

When God declared a territory (Israel including Palestine) his own, the Devil (Lucifer), who is presently the god of this world according to 2 Cor. 4:4 would mobilize all resources at his disposal to make sure that God's Word "is not true" just as he deceived our first parents. But Satan has been defeated through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and at the appointed time it would be manifested at the second coming of our lord Jesus Christ. It is then that this conflict would end. Praise the Lord.

By anon960522 — On Jul 10, 2014

The UN needs to intervene in this problem to avoid more civilians and innocent children killed by Israel every day. Why does Israel have this courage to kill? Are they still human? They should back where they belong. Has their 'god' ordered all of this killing?

By anon949114 — On May 03, 2014

It has become very complicated. In all rights the land is promised to Israel, but a peace agreement should be put in place and will be. The Bible prophesies this land produces wealth for the Jewish people because God gave that land to them through Abraham and his son Jacob.

Ishmael wasn't the true heir because he was Abraham's son from his servant, not Sara. God said Sara would bore a son and out of doubt she gave him Hagar. Even though Abraham and Sara lost faith, God didn't. It's not Ishmael's fault, but he's not the true heir.

By anon925567 — On Jan 12, 2014

In simple terms, why don't you put it like this: Nazis killed Jews. The Holocaust, or whatever you name it, the Palestinians extended sympathy towards them, gave them a place to live, food, etc., and Israel paid the Palestinians back by occupying their territory and killing them.

Now Palestine is fighting for its land and rights. and you call them terrorists. If Israel kills children in Palestine, nobody questions them. What would have been the reaction if someone gave me a place in their home to live for a time, and then after time passes, I throw them out of their home with their family and children and claim their house as my own?

By anon336691 — On May 30, 2013

I have to write a paper explaining how to fix these problems here. I have no idea. I believe there is no solution.

By anon309209 — On Dec 15, 2012

Israel conflicts with Hamas, but both sides damage the Palestinian public. Hamas is a terrorist group, but Palestinians are not terrorist.

Due to this conflict, innocent people and babies are harmed.

By discographer — On Oct 05, 2012

@burcidi-- I believe that's the issue of water rights. If I remember correctly, much of the water sources in the region are currently in Palestinian territory (West Bank and Gaza Strip) but most of the water is used by Israel.

Water is already a rare resource in the Middle East and this area in particular doesn't have much water. So basically, there is a fight over water sources and that's adding to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Does anyone else want to add to this?

By burcidi — On Oct 05, 2012

My teacher mentioned in class something about water being a cause of this conflict but she didn't talk much about it.

How is water a cause of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict?

By turquoise — On Oct 04, 2012

The Israeli and Palestinian conflict is about land but it has gotten so complicated now. It's not simply about who the land really belongs to, but also the methods both parties have been using to reclaim the land.

Palestinians have been resorting to violence and so have Israelis. Israel also continues to build settlements which some view as illegal since the area of Israel was already drawn out in the wars.

I personally think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has also become a conflict of identity now. Neither side wants to give up anything which doesn't make reaching an agreement possible.

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