In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Palestine (and the Israel Question)

  • Introduction
  • General and Diverse Overviews
  • Historical Background
  • Middle Eastern Implications
  • Humanitarian Legal Questions
  • Criminal Responsibility for War Crimes
  • Human Rights Perspectives

International Law Palestine (and the Israel Question)
Carmen Pérez González
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 June 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 June 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0086


The complexity of Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been sufficiently underlined by politicians and scholars. This is a long-standing dispute, to whose resolution the international community has been strongly committed during more than six decades. But there has not been enough progress toward a just and lasting solution ensuring the Palestinian right to self-determination and Israel’s right to live in peace within secure and recognized borders. Peace proposals have followed one another and none of them have achieved their goals. The focus here will be on the international legal aspects of the conflict. The general idea underlying this analysis is that the final settlement between Palestinians and Israel should be reached in full compliance with international obligations imposed to both parties by international law, particularly by international human rights law and international humanitarian law. As repeatedly required by relevant United Nations resolutions, international rules should be applied to solve the core issues that will have to be addressed in a future peace agreement. Among them are the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their home in Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the legal status of Arab-Israeli citizens, the question of the Israeli settlements in those territories, and the status of Jerusalem. Since this is a multidimensional conflict, contributions that explore nonlegal aspects of the Palestinian-Israeli controversy are also of importance. In this sense, the historical background is considered in this article. Selected references take into account that the facts surrounding the beginning of the conflict are still open to debate. Attention will also be drawn to the international and regional political dynamics behind the Palestinian-Israeli question.

General and Diverse Overviews

The following entries provide a broad introduction to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. An international legal approach was chosen early by the author of Akehurst 1973 for analyzing some basic aspects of the question. In the same sense, Quigley 2005 applies international law reasoning to the historical narrative of the Palestinian-Israeli controversies. From a political point of view, Álvarez-Ossorio and Izquierdo 2007 stresses the obstacles posed by Israel in the framework of the peace process. Lentin 2008 brings together some essays on the idea of Palestine and Oren and Bar-Tal 2007 is a sociological analysis of the dynamics underlying the conflict. The economic implications of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories are examined in the report Khalidi and Taghdisi-Rad 2009. Finally, Pappé 2007 collects diverse essays dealing with different elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as a history of Palestinian women or the question of Arab-Israeli citizens. See also Iglesias Velasco 2000.

  • Akehurst, Michael. “The Arab-Israeli Conflict and International Law.” New Zealand Universities Law Review 5 (1973): 231–249.

    The international law perspective is unavoidable when analyzing the Palestinian-Israeli question. Professor Akehurst highlights in this early article some aspects of the origins of the conflict, taking into account international legal rules applying to it. Valuable conclusions are reached in this regard.

  • Álvarez-Ossorio, Ignacio, and Ferrán Izquierdo. ¿Por qué ha fracasado la paz? Claves para entender el conflicto palestino-israelí. Madrid: Los Libros de la Catarata, Instituto Universitario de Desarrollo y Cooperación, 2007.

    Originally written in Spanish, this book (titled “Why has peace failed? Keys to understanding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict”) analyzes the main elements of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to conclude that both the conflict and the possibilities of settlement are directly linked to the power and the interests of Israeli actors. The Israelis, in the author’s opinion, have the stronger position in the controversy and so are able to impose their points of view on the “weaker” Palestinians.

  • Iglesias Velasco, Alfonso J. El proceso de paz en Palestina. Madrid: Ediciones Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 2000.

    This monograph (titled “The peace process in Palestine”) focuses intensively on different aspects of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: the history of the conflict, the legal status of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the role played by the United Nations, and the status of Jerusalem. There is also a rigorous and really interesting analysis of the peace initiatives begun in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

  • Khalidi, Raja, and Sahar Taghdisi-Rad. The Economic Dimensions of Prolonged Occupation: Continuity and Change in Israeli Policy towards the Palestinian Economy. UNCTAD/GDS/2009/2. New York and Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2009.

    In this report, the authors apply economic analysis to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories. After theorizing about the links between occupation and economic development, they present an in-depth examination of Israeli policies toward the Palestinian economy. Among other interesting conclusions, they affirm the existence of an Israeli policy aiming “to maintain occupation and administration of the Palestinian territory by whatever means available, including economic strategies” (p. iii).

  • Lentin, Ronit, ed. Thinking Palestine. London and New York: Zed Books, 2008.

    This book collects the works of a group of American, Irish, Israeli, and Palestinian scholars on the question of Palestine. Divided into three parts, it focuses on several theoretical topics. The first part talks us about the palestination of race. The second one includes different works on so-called biopolitics and the states of exception. In the last part, the authors write about some examples of contested representation of Palestine.

  • Oren, Neta, and Daniel Bar-Tal. “The Detrimental Dynamics of Delegitimization in Intractable Conflicts: The Israeli-Palestinian Case.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 31 (2007): 111–126.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2006.07.003

    The article analyzes a key element of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: delegitimization. Defined as a process by which members of a delegitimized group are morally derogated and considered of less existential value than members of the delegitimizing group, this phenomenon characterizes the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. The authors deduce some consequences of it, based on factual ground provided by survey data carried out in Israeli and Palestinian contexts. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Pappé, Ilan. The Israel/Palestine Question: A Reader. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 2007.

    With the purpose of revisiting some elements of the history of the Palestine-Israeli conflict, the book brings together the works of a group of Israeli and Palestinian scholars on the formation of Palestine and the origins of Zionism. This second edition expands the part on women’s history (adding to Part 4 a new chapter titled “Minor Marriages and Khiyar Al-Bulugh in Ottoman Palestine: A Note on Women’s Strategies in a Patriarchal Society”) and the part focusing on the situation of Palestinians in Israel (adding to Part 5 three new chapters: chapter 11, titled “Crime and Legal Control: The Israeli Arab Population during the Military Government Period [1948–1966]”; chapter 12, titled “Palestinian in Israel under the Israeli ‘Ethnocratic’ Regime”; and chapter 13, titled “Present Absentees and Indigenous Resistance”).

  • Quigley, John. The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 2005.

    Undoubtedly, Professor John Quigley is one of the leading experts on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He has fully written and lectured on it. This updated and revised version of his first edition, published in 1990, presents an international legal analysis of the conflict. As with Akehurst 1973, the book applies international law categories and reasoning to the historical narrative of the Palestinian-Israeli controversies.

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