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US and EU Approaches Towards Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Info: 5542 words (22 pages) Dissertation
Published: 12th Dec 2019

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Tagged: International RelationsPolitics

The discipline of International Relations is both an academic as well a public policy arena, which emerges from political science. It is the subject and channel of International Relations, which adequately addresses a foreign policy of a state within the confines of an international system. International relations also take into account role of international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as multinational companies/corporations.

Since the primary objective of international relations is both an analysis as well as formulation of a foreign policy, it could either be ‘positive’, or ‘normative’. In order for a foreign policy tube either positive or normative, it has to inculcate such diverse areas and subjects as political science, economics, history, law, philosophy, area studies, sociology, cultural studies, and a number of other social sciences; hence its utility for both analysis as well as formulation of foreign policy.

In addition, it also includes and addresses such varied set of issues as economic development, foreign aid, environmental movement, nationalism, nuclear proliferation and human rights. However, for international relations to be practically applicable, effective, or at the least in the realm body of ideas, there are various theories, which ultimately lead us to the real world of policy. International relations theories thus provide a set of guidelines allowing us to agree to, as well as arrive at shaping better international outcomes. In addition, international relation theories allow for a better understanding of world events, and wherever necessary, provide for better solutions to the numerous issues and problems faced by the world community.

One may also note that any theory, including the various international theories may not provide for answers to all the problems and issues faced by the world community; yet they do provide and assist us in first thinking about and then finding probable and the most viable solutions to the horde of problems and issues faced by the world community. At the onset, international relation theories can and do provide us with alternatives, and possibly even anticipate the various courses of international events in the global spectrum of politics.

Some of the most common and practiced international theories include “Constructivism, Institutionalism, Marxism, and Neo-Gramscianism. Yet, the most dominant international theories, or rather the schools of thought which have been practiced in international politics include the international theories of “Realism” and “Liberalism” (Walt, 1998, p29.


Having briefly touched upon the subject of international relations and international relation theories, the following dissertation will strive to address the said two disciplines within the context of one of the past centuries most disputed international issue; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The dissertation will thus address this pressing international issue from the perspective of various international theories, with a particular focus on the different approaches taken by the United States of America, and that taken by the European Union.

For a better understanding of the different perspectives and approaches taken by the United States of America and the European Union respectively, it would only be imperative that an equal and in-depth study the various international relations theories be also made part of this dissertation. The study of the more dominant, if not all the international theories becomes all the more importance as both the United States of America and the European Union group of nations each follow a somewhat different set of strategies in their international relations.

The same is true for Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as both the United States of America as one international player, and the European Union group of nations as the second major player each address, view, and practice more than just a passing difference to one of the present days most pressing international conflict.

As the present dissertation addresses the primary subject of the recent different approaches of the United States of America and the European for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular, and the Middle East Peace Process in general, it would only be imperative to commence the paper with the respective international relation theories, and through the study of these theories, present how respective international relations theories have influenced the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The following dissertation will thus strive to address the various international relation theories in brief, namely the theories of ‘Realism, Liberalism, and Constructivism,’ Though all these international relation theories enjoy their distinct places in international relations and politics, the theories of Realism and Constructivism are the ones that are practiced more commonly. Since these two theories comprise and are considered standard policy, the same will comprise of majority of the discussion in the present dissertation.

The international relations theory of realism being the most widely practiced, and the fact that it is this vital theory that has been at the helm of most, if not all US foreign policies, the same has also been adopted by majority of nations friendly with the United States, or have been her allies at one time or another. This will be followed by a discussion of the second most vitally important international relations theory, that of ‘Constructivism’. It is this theory of constructivism that has largely been pursued by majority, if not all the European Union nations.

The primary distinction between the theory of realism and that of constructivism is that, the theory of realism premises on the realist approach, as the term so states. On the other hand, the theory of constructivism largely relies on softer modes of communication, negotiation, socialization, and pursuit of ends through peaceful measures. The dissertation will then proceed with discussions on both the United States and the European Union nations, and address the perspective and approach taken by each on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in light of the pertinent international relations theory.

Some of the Dominant International Relation Theories In Brief International Theory of Realism

One of the primary topics to be discussed in the present dissertation is the role or perspective of the United States of Americano the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and show whether the United States is influenced by ideas from the international relation theory of “Realism”. In this context, it would only be imperative to present brief on the international relations theory of “Realism”, some of its key assumptions, and then arrive at the US approach respectively.

A brief on the international relations theory of “Realism” reveals that it has often been associated with German terms of “real” and “realitat”implying substantive or as the term so states real; and “politik”implying “politics” or “policy”. Both these terms were perhaps first coined by one of Germany’s leaders in the earlier part of the 20thcentury, Bismarck. In his attempts to bring about a suitable balance of power amongst the various European states, Bismarck sought peace as one of the most viable solutions in the then Europe of the earlier 20thcentury.

Bismarck was aided by a number of “realpolitik practitioners “who worked equally hard to avoid an arms race in Europe. Bismarck’s efforts however did not bear any fruit, as the early part of the 20thcentury witnessed arms race amongst the various nations of Europe, as well as formation of various alliances culminating in one of humanity’s first ever global tragedies, that of World War I.

Some of the principle theorist of the international theory of “Realism “includes Carr, Kenneth N. Waltz, and Hans J. Morgenthau. However, it was Morgenthau’s “Politics Among Nations”, which perhaps formally systemized classical ‘Realism’. According to Margenthau, there exist six principles, which he outlined in his famous book, “Politics Among Nations”. These six points are presented in the first chapter of his above said book. These vitally important facets of Morgenthau’s Theory of Realism are:

  1. International relations “…is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature”.
  2. The key consideration “…is the concept of interest defined in terms of power’.
  3. “…Interest defined as power is an objective category which is universally valid”, although its exact meaning may change with time and circumstance.
  4. While moral principles have a place, they cannot be defined identically at every time and place, and apply differently to individuals and the state.
  5. “The moral aspirations of a particular nation…” are not “moral laws that govern the universe”.
  6. Politics is an autonomous sphere that needs to be analysed as an entity, without being subordinated to outside values (Morgenthau, 1973,Chapter 1)

International Theory of Realism

In-depth studies on the international relations theory of “Realism “reveal that there exist a number of primary assumptions, which guide the followers, or practitioners of the “Realism” theory. One of the first assumptions of “Realism” theory is that the entire international system is anarchic implying that that is the state alone is the supreme authority, and no other state or states can or have the capacity to regulate the affairs of another state. The theory of “Realism” further assumes that any higher supreme authority cannot dictate a state, and that there is no existence of any world government.

This implies that each state must strive to create relations with other states on their own, instead of being dictated to do so. The theory of “Realism “further assumes that there is no role for any international organization, non-governmental organization, or multi-national corporation in the affairs of the state, and that the sovereignty of astute governs all the international affairs. Thus, following the assumptions of the theory of “Realism”, a state is a rational actor amongst the community of global nations, and will always strive toward sits self-interest, which in turn call for ensuring the state’s security.

Continuing with the theory of “Realism”, the same state will take all measures to secure its status as a sovereign nation including but not limited to amassing of resources, and relations with other states to be determined by the respective level of power enjoyed by the other state/s.

The level of power in turn is assessed from the respective state’s economic and military capability. Perhaps the most stringent assumption inherent in the international relations theory of “Realism” is its belief that states are “inherently” aggressive, and further that a state’s economic or military expansion can only be limited by the powers of the opposing state. (Waltz, 1964; Karl et al,1969; Mearsheimer, 1994)

A further insight into the international relation theory of “Realism” shows that it is divided into two sub-schools of thought, namely “maximal realism and minimal realism. The first sub-school of realism, the maximal realism asserts that a state enjoys the status of the most powerful entity in the world, and that all other states ‘align’ themselves with this powerful state, and that too in their own interest and out of political necessity.

The theory of maximal realism further assumes and somewhat asserts that, if there are two equally powerful entities in the world, it presents an unstable international political scenario. A prime example to this respect is that of period of Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States of America. According the maximal theory of “Realism”, such a situation will eventually lead to a stable international situation where one entity or state becomes more powerful, while the other into a less powerful entity respectively. (Waltz, 1964; Karl et al, 1969; Mearsheimer, 1994)

The second sub-school of “Realism”, that of ‘minimal realism ‘assumes that the smaller and less powerful entities or states will align themselves with the most powerful entity in the world, and this would be brought about to protect the interests of the smaller and less powerful states from the interests of the larger and single most powerful entity or state. The theory of minimal realism also assumes middle policy where two equally powerful states exist, and where the smaller and less powerful states may align themselves with either of the larger powerful state.

The choice of selecting one of the larger and powerful states depends on the smaller state’s policies of the moment. This also implies that the smaller state may remain aligned with both the powerful states at the same time, yet pursue and align with one state keeping in view the interests and policies on a given area of politics, issue, or social problem. (Waltz, 1964; Karl et al,1969; Mearsheimer, 1994)

International Relations Theory of Neo-Realism

There exist yet another school of thought, one that is termed sane-realism”. This was first coined by Kenneth N. Waltz in 1979, and was in fact an attempt at reformulating the original theory of ‘Realism’ in a modern and scientific perspective. One of the most works of Waltz was “The Theory of International Politics”, which aimed to rid the original theory of ‘Realism’ of its defects. The ‘Neo-Realism ‘school of thought, with Waltz as one of its first proponents assumes and addresses the international relations in terms of the various ‘structural properties of the international system’ which focuses on the distribution of power.

The ‘Neo-Realism’ theory in international relations somewhat rejects the variable of human nature in both times of war as well as peace. The ‘neo-realism’ theory also neglects domestic politics of a given state, which is perhaps the darkest element of this theory. Neglecting domestic policies of states in turn paves the path for conflict and move towards war, both of which are primarily detrimental to the respective state as well as its populations. In addition, ‘neo-realism’ theory’s primary assumption that the international system is anarchic, as also reiterated in the opening lines of theory of realism, further confirms the theory’s own assumptions that conflict and war cannot be avoided.

In times of anarchy, as are the assumptions of the neo-realism theory, states pursue goals of security, either through self-help such as amassment of economic and military resources, or through the formation of alliances with those who enjoy the status the most powerful states in the world. However, the pursuit of security goals for a particular states through the neo-realism theory, whether through self-help, or through the alliances with other organizations both is somewhat practical for a short period only.

As this theory does not provide a permanent solution to the security needs of that respective nation simply due to the ‘security dilemma’ where each state is witnessed to ever vigorously pursue attempts to improve its security, in turn ‘provoking other states to do the same. The result of such conflicting approaches is none other than an insecure state, a condition that originally prompted the state to take or adopt policies according to the theory one-realism respectively. (Waltz, Theory of International Politics)

Yet another equally negative element of the neo-realism theory is its rejection of international institutions, which normally serve as regulators of state behaviour as well as promotion pdf peace. According to the theorists of ‘neo-realism’, the international institutions are entities of self-interested great powers. The role of international institutions as per the theorists of neo-realism is limited to reflection of, instead of providing a concrete shape to the existing distribution of power in a given state.

Furthermore, it is the balance of power and its pursuit, which holds true for followers of neo-realism theory. For the governance of, and pursuit of accomplishing a balance of power, the greater and more powerful entities or states acquire both the economic means as well as military strength/power. When both the said tools too are presumably insufficient, the strategy of forming alliances with stronger and more powerful powers is then pursued(Waltz, 1964; Karl et al, 1969; Mearsheimer, 1994)

International Relations Theory of Constructivism

The theory of “Constructivism” is also an important theory practiced in the arena of international relations with places particular emphasis on ” identities, norms, and culture in world politics”. The theory of “Constructivism” thus allows for identities and interests of states to be used as tools for interactions, as are institutions, norms, and cultures utilized. The importance is therefore given to the different processes, rather than the structure of different actors and institutions not only for interaction, but also for arriving at peaceful means and resolutions of equally varied issues and conflicts in the realm of international relations, (Wendt, 1992).

Constructivism as an international theory also explains the role of human consciousness in addressing the various problems and conflicts in the international arena of politics. Thus, one may note that the human action including the human capacity as well as the will of the respective people are duly utilized in order to nurture a deliberate attitude and highlight the significance of a given issue, such as our subject conflict of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is the combination of the said human capacity and the will which in turn are responsible for the creation of social facts, or aspects which are dependent on the consensus of a given human agreements including but not limited to money, sovereignty and property rights respectively. The international relations theory of constructivism also explains the importance of identities and interests of the different parties to an issue or a conflict, and the fact that these parties or actors music-exist and share common factors as cultural beings.

The said different parties also includes the state as one of the social actors, which in turn is bound to follow both international and domestic rules. The state in turn has to follow certain set or rules, norms, institutions, and identities, and thus allow the international relations theory of constructivism to offer new concepts for addressing and perhaps even resolving given issues and conflicts within and amongst states or parties.

Thus, one may observe that the role of the human actors as parties to an issue or a given conflict, their identities and the role of institutions perhaps also act as theory’s limitation, and it is this reasoning due to which there is yet to emerge a general theory of social constructivism of reality. Thus it could be assumed that the theory of constructivism is merely confined as a philosophy or a perspective based on theory, rather than an approach to and for the study or practice of international relations.

On one hand, the theory of constructivism provides for a fruitful insight otherwise ignored by traditional theorists of international relations. At the same time the theory of constructivism also allows for an alternative framework, even though the same is theoretical in both perspective and practice in the arena of international relations.(Reggie, 1998)

The international relations theory of constructivism could well be summed up to include the states as being the primary units of analysis in international political theory. Furthermore, the theory of constructivism gives importance to the relationships of the various actors, including institutions within a given state, rather than focus on the material aspect, as is the case in theory of realism as one example. Another vitally importance aspect of the theory of constructivism is that it gives importance to identities and interests of a state, as also stated in the preceding lines, and somewhat overrides the role of, or system of human nature, or for that matter domestic politics in the realm of international relations. (Wendt,1994, pg.385)

The theory of constructivism also offers a combination of social theory of knowledge where the involvement of all the relevant actors/players to an issue or conflict are a requisite, as well as somewhat rejects an individualist approach and theory of action, as is the case in, for example the theory of realism. Then there is the analysis of power in explaining the theory of constructivism, where theorists of constructivism argue that the distinction of the levels of observation and that of action, followed by a reflexive link between the two levels is central for a better understanding of the said theory. (European Journal of International Relations, 2000, pp.147-182)

International Relation Theory of Liberalism

Unlike the above-discussed theory of ‘Realism’, the international relations theory of ‘Liberalism’ placed emphatically value and importance to international organizations, multinational corporations, Institutions as well as political parties of a given state. Thus, the role of such international organizations as ‘the United Nations Organization’, ‘The International Monetary Fund’, Transnational corporations to the likes of Shell, institutions such as ‘The Papacy”, and to a certain extent political parties in a state are acknowledged as active players in the wider arena of international relations.

In addition, the international relation theory of “Liberalism’ also places broad perspective to such age-old ideas as ‘Wilson Ian Idealism’ and contemporary neo-liberal and democratic peace thesis. It could also be implied that ‘Liberalism’ places the value of a state as one actor amongst the different actors, as also stated in the preceding lines. Thus, allowing a state to fully cooperate with and through institutional mechanisms and use bargaining as one of the means to peacefully arrive at solving solutions and protecting interests of the respective state. (Wendt, 1992)

Brief Historical Background

The above sections of the dissertation briefly discuss some of the dominant theories in international relations the world over, as well as provide an insight on the international relation theory of “Realisms “as a case study. The theory of “Realism” was chosen since it has become somewhat of a standard theory policy for majority of the western governments, with particular reference to the United States of America. In our present dissertation of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and forthcoming discussions on the different approaches by both the United States of America as well as the European Union group of countries, it is only imperative that the said conflict be briefed in its entirety.

Researchers and analysts the world over have described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the “War of Two Rights”, and rightly so, as it is the precise description which best affirms as well as defines the basic set of principles of humanity on which the conflict continues to date. Both the major partners to the conflict, the Jews and the Palestinians follow their own perspectives, ideals, and common history which has led them to become partners to one of the most volatile and complex of all present day conflicts on the globe.

A glimpse on the region’s history reveals that there exists a number of causes, issues, and factors which have fuelled, marred, as well as served to escalate this volatile and complex of conflicts over a period of more than 5 decades; the first vote to partition Palestine was casting 1947 marketing the beginning of the present day conflict. Though the singular event of creating a homeland for the Jews in areas that each party claims as their right was primarily between two distinct religions, Zionism and Islam, the conflict today has widened to include people of the same region/land (Palestine), same religions, and similar culture.

Thus, one may observe that there are distinct branches of Muslims (Lebanese Shiite and Lebanese Sunnis) and Christians (Jews and Lebanese Christians), all of who follow their own ideals, set of principles and characteristics within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today divides not only the major religions, it also includes and is more than influenced by countries as far off as the United States of America, European Union group of nations and the Soviet Union. This is not to mention the alliances, support and sympathies from equally diverse cultures and regions of a number of countries around the world for both the major parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jews and the Palestinians.(Shapiro, 2005; Lynn, 1993)

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Historical Dateline in Brief

A brief historical background to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reveals that it can well be dated back to the 1800s, a period when the Jewish populations across Europe were facing severe persecutions. The answer to these persecutions led the Jews to a political movement, namely Zionism, in turn allowing them to move towards their biblical Promised Land. This was perhaps the beginning and establishment of a Jewish homeland within Palestine.

The period prior to 1920 shows that the present day lands of Israel, all of the Occupied Territories of Gaza, and the West Bank were within Palestine. Yet the influx of Jews from across Europe commenced tensions within the entire Palestine, which later on turned and escalated into one of history’s longest ever conflicts.

The period of World War I, in particular the year 1916 witnessed the British Empire collaborating, and somewhat convincing various Arab leaders to revolt against the Ottoman Empire in return for support of, and the establishment of an independent Arab state which included Palestine. The British Empire, however did not keep its promise, and only a year later in 1917, announced its support for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. This historic turn of events was done by Lord Arthur Balfour, the then British Foreign Minister, as also naming the event as ‘The Balfour Declaration of 1917’.

The Balfour Declaration of 1917, in turn opened up a new era of tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinian people, somewhat forcing the British Empire to enforce a mandate over the entire Palestine. This mandate spanned from 1920 to 1947. This was also period during which World War II was coming to an end, and the formation of the United Nations was on the anvil of the globe.

One of the most severe implications and in-human acts perhaps never witnessed in all of previous human history were the atrocities committed against the Jews at the hands of German leadership, a series of events that forced majority of the western countries to support and bring the Jews to areas that today comprise of the state of Israel, and the occupied territories. Also termed as the “Holocaust”, the atrocities against the Jews at the hands of the Germans, virtually confirmed their place in the present days regions of Israel. Thus, it would not be wrong to deduce that the ‘Holocaust’ was one of the primary factors for the formation of the state of Israel.

The end of World War II, and the newly formed United Nations then witnessed a move to bring about peace in the Middle East. This was done through the formation of two states, and the internationalization of state of Israel. Palestine was thus partitioned and Israel formed on May 14, 1948.

The establishment of a separate state for the Jews also witnessed majority of the Arab states rising in opposition. Among the states in Middle East who rose to oppose the establishment of Israel included Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Egypt. Yet, all these states were defeated at the hands of Israeli army. The Israelis were thus successful in securing a homeland, while the Palestinians were left without a state.

An important event in the historical perspective of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. The war of 1967 was a pre-emptive strike by the Israelis against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Though it was presumably an pre-emptive strike, yet the objective was perhaps to take over the territories of Golan Heights bordering and under the control of Syria, the West Bank bordering and under control of Jordan, and the Gaza strip from Egypt. History is evidence to the fact that Israel more than doubled its territories in this Arab-Israeli War of 1967. It is also one of the crucial issues, which have served to prolong the said issue from being resolved, or for peace to become permanent in the said issue.

Later attempts by a number of countries of the Middle East including the United States, such as the joint attacks on Israel by Egypt and Syria in 1973, and the Camp David Accord of 1978 duly sponsored by the United States, and which involved top leaders from both Israeli and Palestine, failed miserably. The 1978 Camp David Accord however did accomplish an ally in Egypt, while the Arab world in general felt loss, as vast areas of disputed Palestine still remained unresolved and disputed.

The entire decade of 1980s, the 1990s, and well to the end of the20th century witnessed the emergence of the Palestine uprising, also known as the ‘Intifada’, and continued violence in the regions of occupied territories, where the young Palestinians in particular came out on the streets, at times with nothing more than sling shots and stones. At other times, with suicide bombings which left scores of Israelis killed and injured.

In response, the Israeli too responded with a result that both sides suffered numerous casualties. The Oslo Peace Accord of 1993, though was an attempt to strike a peace deal forth Palestinians, yet this event, similar to earlier attempts to prove to be a one sided affair. As critics have continuously termed the Oslo Peace Accord to have largely benefited the Israelis more than it did for the Palestinians, as the accord has allowed the Israelis control over land, water, roads, and other necessary resources.

As of the present day scenario, Israel today has some of the most advanced and superior military in the region, including both high techmilitary equipment, arms industries, and to top it all, nuclear capability matched only with the largest powers in the world. All this has been possible with economic and military assistance from the United States of America.

Aside from the unilateral role of United States of America for the state of Israel, the role of the United Nations too has been critical, as two UN Resolutions, namely UN Resolution 242 and 181both have called for return of all lands captured in the 1967Arab-Israeli War, both of which are yet to be implemented, leaving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unresolved as ever. (Shah, 2001)

The US Involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

A brief on the involvement of the United States of America in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reveals that the US first collaboration was witnessed when the United States supported the United Nations in the establishment of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948. With the United States of America taking over as the principle ally for the Jews, the British mandate (1920-1947) came to an end.

Ever since the establishment of the State of Israel was declared, the United States has continued to support Israel in practically all areas of Israeli economy. According to various studies, the state of Israel has been one of the largest beneficiaries of US aid ever since its establishment in1948, which according to estimates has today reached some 3 billion dollars annually.

One of the most significant aspects of US involvement, in the historical perspective, has been the unilateral support provided to Israelis during the 1956 debacle of Suez Canal. In the said debacle, Israel

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