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by Casey MacLeod

The peoples of Israel and Palestine have  been in conflict with each other since 1948.  Sixty years of dispute has produced a long line of grievances. 

According to President Bush a peace agreement will be reached by the end of his presidency.  But is one year really long enough to resolve six decades of conflict?

Despite what some students believe the issue is not whether Arabs and the Jews 'can just get along.'

The conflict is not about religion.   It is about land and who controls it.  In 1948 the United Nations created the state of Israel out of Palestinian land.  A war followed and hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Palestinians who did not want to become Israeli were put into refugee camps.

“Those people, some of them still alive, have never given up their claim to their land,” said Howard Leeson, a University of Regina political science professor.  Leeson has been studying the conflict between Palestine and Israel for thirty-five years.

Now, 60 years later, Israel is still in existence and the boundaries of the two states have changed.  The Israeli state has grown larger, while the Palestinian state has shrunk.

“It’s a question of who has military and economic power and who doesn’t,” said Dr. Leeson.  The “government of Israel has always had more power than the Palestinians have had.

A peace agreement would essentially reassign the areas being fought over, but the question is, who gets what?

An already confusing situation has been made all the more so due to the fact that the people within both states are not unified.

In Palestine there are militant groups who continue to impede peace talks with continued violence towards Israel.  And in Israel the issue is not only one of defense versus peace, but one of getting factions within the state to agree to the outline of that peace.

Both states claim Jerusalem as their capitol and many Zionist Jews are outraged at the thought that East Jerusalem will be given to Palestine.

While a peace agreement by the end of the year is a worthy goal, it does not seem very plausible.

The optimism of the Nov. 27 Annapolis Conference was soon diminished by continued violence between the two states.

The violence is coming not from the Fatah, Palestine’s ruling political party, but from the Islamic militant group Hamas.

“They mirror….the major split in the whole Islamic world.  Between those who want to be more secular and those who want to be more religious,” said Dr. Leeson.

Rockets are being launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip which is controlled by the Hamas, violence which is being met by Israeli retaliation.  Here in lies the biggest obstacle to the peace agreement.

“It’s difficult to see how you would get a comprehensive enough settlement, where it would allow the two communities to live in peace,” said Dr. Leeson.

“I just think that the two sides are so far apart that it doesn’t matter who acts as facilitator at this point.”