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updated January 2009
Crisis Group reporting focuses on many different aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including both internal and external developments involving key regional actors – Israel, the Occupied Territories, Lebanon and Syria – and also Hizbollah. For our most recent report analysing broader aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict, see Hizbollah and the Lebanese Crisis, 10 October 2007.
This page concentrates on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, also giving information about two major advocacy initiatives launched by the International Crisis Group since 2002.
Latest reporting: Crisis Group's latest briefing, The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Annapolis and After, 20 November 2007, focuses on the development and possible outcomes of the Annapolis peace conference called for late November 2007. For the briefing, click here, or see below for a short summary.
Latest advocacy: Letter to U.S. President President George W. Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the November 2007 Middle East peace conference. This letter on the Middle East peace conference scheduled for Annapolis, Maryland in late November, was addressed by its signatories to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The statement is a joint initiative of the U.S./Middle East Project, Inc., the International Crisis Group, and the New America Foundation/American Strategy Program, October 2007.
On 22 September 2006, the International Crisis Group launched a new global advocacy initiative designed to generate new political momentum for a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Major funding support for the project — to cost around US$400,000 in its first year — was announced at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York.
Crisis Group's Initiative was designed to help fill the present policy vacuum, stem the slide toward greater instability, and provide a viable alternative for moderates in the region on both the Israeli and Arab sides. The goal, or political horizon, must be unambiguously stated as security and full recognition to the state of Israel within internationally recognised borders — along with an end to the occupation for the Palestinian people in an independent, sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital, recovery of lost land to Syria, and a fully sovereign and secure Lebanese state.
Further details of Crisis Group's Middle East Initiative, including the full text of the document and list of signatories, can be found on our Middle East Initiative page.
In July 2002, the International Crisis Group issued a series of three reports making the case for a more comprehensive international approach directed at resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict on all its tracks. The reports argued that a U.S.-led international coalition made up of the Quartet plus Arab countries should put on the table clear, detailed, and comprehensive blueprints for a permanent Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Lebanese and Israeli-Syrian peace treaties and press for their acceptance.
The goal was to put forward with great clarity and in substantial detail the international community's strong, consensual view of what the final outcomes should ultimately look like as well as the important steps the international community would be prepared to take (economic assistance, military security presence, and full Arab normalisation with Israel) should such agreements be reached.
Significant developments have occurred since Crisis Group made its proposal, and these inevitably entail modifications to it. But we believe the proposal constitutes a useful and still relevant starting point for a much-needed reappraisal of the international community’s approach toward the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Links to the full text of Crisis Group's 2002 reporting series are offered here:
Crisis Group’s reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ruling Palestine I: Gaza Under Hamas (13 March 2008) and Ruling Palestine II: The West Bank Model? (17 July 2008), examined the situation since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007 and the subsequent formation of a new government in the West Bank. Crisis Group’s most recent briefing, Palestine Divided (17 December 2008), underlines the widening gap between the two territories and looks at prospects for restoring Palestinian unity.
The current reconciliation process between the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) is a continuation of their struggle through other means. The goals pursued by the two movements are domestic and regional legitimacy, together with consolidation of territorial control – not national unity. At this stage, both parties see greater cost than reward in a compromise that would entail loss of Gaza for one and an uncomfortable partnership coupled with an Islamist foothold in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for the other.
Fatah’s stance has been hardened by its humiliating defeat in Gaza and Hamas’s bloody tactics; moreover, despite slower than hoped for progress in the West Bank and inconclusive political negotiations with Israel, president Abbas and his colleagues believe their situation is improving. The newly trained and better equipped security forces are establishing order and waging a wholesale crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, Israel has loosened some restrictions, and there are signs of economic growth, while Abbas enjoys strong regional and international backing. Reconciliation, on the other hand, could mean the end of Fatah’s administrative and security monopoly in the West Bank and de facto hegemony over the PLO, while partnership with Hamas might jeopardise negotiations with Israel, international backing and financial support to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
For now, Hamas, too, sees time as its ally, and reconciliation as a trap that would deprive it of control over Gaza without commensurate gain. Islamist leaders who had wagered on the political process and sought integration into the PA are losing influence. Gazans are suffering from an acute economic and social crisis, but the Islamic movement is internally secure, new elites more dependent on the movement are emerging, and basic government functions appear sustainable. Hamas leaders are sceptical of chances for a diplomatic breakthrough in Abbas’s negotiations with Israel, and are persuaded that cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces is viewed by a growing number of Palestinians as tantamount to collaboration with the occupier. Finally, as they see it, Abbas’s domestic legitimacy will be crucially undermined when his presidential term expires on 9 January 2009.
As a growing number of international actors acknowledge, without Palestinian unity a genuine peace process, let alone a genuine peace, is unattainable. Changing the dynamics that have convinced both Fatah and Hamas that time is on their side and compromise against their interests will be daunting. At a minimum, it will require both a change in the regional landscape (through U.S. engagement with Syria and Iran) and a clear signal from the U.S. and European Union (EU) that, this time around, they would judge a Palestinian unity arrangement on its conduct rather than automatically torpedo it. Ultimately, the responsibility to put their affairs in order must fall on Palestinian shoulders. But the division of the national movement, which came about at least in part because of what outsiders did, will not be undone without outsiders’ help.
Crisis Group's most recent reports and op-eds are listed below:
Articles and opinion pieces by Crisis Group analysts:
For further reports on the region, please visit our Arab-Israeli project page.
For a month-by-month summary of events in the region, visit our CrisisWatch database.
The following are proposals and commitments laid down in both UN Security Council resolutions and recent initiatives: