Israel History in the 21st Century

By | December 22, 2021

In the first months of 2006 a very delicate phase began for Israel, symbolically marked by the disappearance of Ariel Sharon from the political scene and the victory of Ḥamās in the Palestinian elections. The new prime minister Ehud Olmert, in continuity with his predecessor’s policy, confirmed the construction of new Jewish settlements in the occupied territories (fig. 1), according to a plan that aimed to prevent the birth of a geographically unitary Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital (see Jerusalem). At the end of June 2006, a Palestinian commando attacked an Israeli outpost near the Rafah crossing, between the Strip and Egypt, killing two soldiers and capturing a third. Israel’s reaction in Gaza was immediate, with the launch of a military air and ground campaign (Operation Rains in Summer), the first since the 2005 evacuation. A few weeks later, in response to serious provocations by the Lebanese militias of Ḥezbollāh, Israel began a massive air offensive both in southern Lebanon and on Beirut: the Israeli and Ḥezbollāh bombings ended on August 14 with a joint ceasefire. The end of hostilities, in spite of the Israeli triumphalist statements on the eve that envisaged the military destruction of Ḥezbollāh, he recorded a strong criticism of Olmert’s actions for a warfare considered by many to be unsuccessful; Moreover, the political force of Ḥezbollāh appeared anything but weakened, whose arsenal in the space of a few months was even implemented with the decisive contribution of Syria and Irān. Meanwhile, the Israeli operations to build the defensive barrier to enclose the West Bank from North to South were proceeding and by the end of 2007 about 60% of the wall had been built. The year ended in November with the Annapolis conference (Maryland, United States); status final: the coexistence of the two states as the only hope of peace in the region. The Israeli insistence on planning and building new settlements led to increasingly recurrent frictions with the US administration: it was in fact increasingly evident that the presence of the settlements constituted the greatest obstacle to the birth of a unitary Palestinian state, as also recalled by the president George W. Bush during his visit to the region (Jan. 2008), and a continuous violence against the Palestinian people whose sufferings Israel continued to ignore. Nonetheless, between March and June 2008, new housing units were planned in the Bethlehem area, in Jerusalem and around Kalkilya. Meanwhile, the tension around Gaza, where in January 2008 the army of Israel. For Israel history, please check historyaah.com.

Olmert resigned in September 2008, it was up to Tizpi Livni, an exponent of Kadima, to lead the country in a moment of serious crisis. After stepping up military operations in Gaza, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on 27 December 2008 with the stated aim of dismantling the Qassam missile launch pads once and for all. The air offensive on Gaza was followed a few days later (3 January 2009) by the invasion of the ground troops. But despite the tragic toll, with Gaza reduced to a field of ruins and about 1400 Palestinian victims (13 Israelis killed), the missiles continued to fall on Israel (fig. 2).

On 10 February, a few weeks after the ceasefire (18 January) and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Strip, the political elections took place which registered the substantial parity between Likud and Kadima (ahead of only one seat), the collapse of the Labor and the worrying success of the far-right party Yisrael Beytenu, the third party in the country, opposed to any negotiations with the Palestinians.

Livni’s attempt to form the government failed, the new executive was born under the aegis of the agreement between Likud secretary Benjamin Netanyahu, appointed prime minister, and Yisrael Beytenu’s leader, Avigdor Lieberman, an alliance determined to dominate the political scene by giving the country a right turn, relegating the Palestinian question to the background and increasing colonization plans in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Tested in the early elections of January 2013, the coalition of the two parties had to pay a decisive retreat (31 seats), tailed to second and third place by two center-left parties (respectively Yesh Atid, with 19 seats, and the Labor Party, with 15). The four years of Netanyahu rule before the 2013 election saw a significant change of scenery: The decline of the strength of the United States in the region and a certain coldness of Europe had to be considered in this context. On the other hand, there was a convergence of interests with those countries such as Saudi Arabia concerned with maintaining the status quo in the Arab world. Israeli society also appeared changed, the nationalist vocation grew and a religious drift took root more and more: extremist settlers, Russian Jews and ultra-Orthodox religious, to whom the right-wing rulers had left ever greater room for maneuver, joined forces to challenge the secular and democratic principles of the state. On this scenario loomed the unsolved problem of the Palestinians: Netanyahu’s delaying tactics, who saw in the preservation of the status quo, based on colonization and occupation, an opportunity to prevent new peace initiatives, went hand in hand with the inconsistency of the strategy. Palestinian negotiation.

After two years of creeping crisis, on November 14, 2012, Israel launched Operation Column of the Cloud. These events triggered the killing of the military leader of Ḥamās by Israel and the hundreds of missiles launched from Gaza in response to the murder which, for the first time, reached Tel Aviv. On November 21, the truce was signed with the mediation of Egyptian President Muḥammad Mursī: 177 Palestinian deaths, six Israelis killed. A few days later Palestine obtained recognition as an observer state from the United Nations Assembly. Netanyahu’s irritation spilled into an ever more decisive push for colonization (over half a million Israelis living in the settlements, fig. 3), but – despite the climate of gloomy pessimism – in mid-2013 the US Secretary of State John Kerry announced to the world the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians (see Palestine). The negotiations, however, appeared destined for a dramatic failure also due to the hesitant American strategy in the Middle East. In June 2014, the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli boys in the West Bank, for which Israel blamed Ḥamās, led to a new war in Gaza within a few weeks, the fourth since 2006, lasting almost 50 days. Operation Protective Edge (more than 2100 Palestinian deaths, about 70 Israelis), was aimed at destroying the tunnels dug by Ḥamās in Israeli territory; the joint ceasefire of August 26, reached with the mediation of Egypt.

In 2015, the internal life of the country was put to the test by a new symbolic appointment. In the elections of March 2015 the electorate was called upon to pronounce themselves on the very idea of ​ Israel outlined in the bill wanted by Netanyahu, which defined Israel ‘State of the Jewish nation’, and the polls rewarded the outgoing premier and his increasingly radical slogans: religious Zionism, nationalism and colonization. Likud won 30 seats, followed by the Zionist Union (24 seats), the center-left electoral list, and, surprisingly, the coalition of Israeli Arab parties which won a historic result with 14 seats. Decisive for the formation of the government, however, proved to be the smaller formations of the extremist right (The Jewish house) and ultra-Orthodox (Shas and United Judaism of the Torah) who saved Netanyahu a few hours after the expiry of the exploratory mandate.

Israel in the 21st Century