For years, peace talks have revolved around the idea of a two-state solution, with peaceful coexistence between Israel and a stable, democratic Palestinian state. To achieve this, peacemakers drew up the “road map” to peace, calling for an end to violence and terrorism. Some Israeli and Palestinian leaders accepted the two-state plan. Iran and radical Islamist groups rejected it.
The most recent peace talks opened in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring.” The uprisings did little to improve the outlook for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Islamists won power in some elections, while turmoil engulfed Egypt and Syria.
Why is Jerusalem so important to both Israelis and Palestinians?
Internal divisions and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict impacted neighboring Lebanon and Syria. Both nations gained independence in the 1940s. Both are home to diverse religious and ethnic groups.
A woman is helped by the military after a bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1986.
What does this image tell you about the way that the Lebanese civil war was fought?
Historically, Lebanon was a thriving center of commerce. After gaining independence from France in 1943, its government depended on a delicate balance among diverse Arab Christian sects, such as the Maronites, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and Druze, people with a religion related to Islam. Palestinian immigration after the 1948 and 1967 wars increased the Muslim population. By the 1970s, Muslims outnumbered Christians. In 1971, PLO fighters were expelled from Jordan after attempting to overthrow its government. The enlarged PLO presence in Lebanon and the intensification of fighting on the Israeli-Lebanese border added to the internal unrest in Lebanon.
Tensions among the diverse groups erupted into civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990. Christian and Muslim militias, or armed groups of citizen soldiers, battled each other. Syria invaded Lebanon and Syrian troops remained for 29 years. Israel briefly invaded Lebanon to stop cross-border attacks first by PLO guerrillas and later by Hezbollah fighters, the militant group backed by Iran and Syria.
Sectarian divisions remained even after a fragile peace was restored. By 2012, the civil war in neighboring Syria threatened renewed violence among rival militias in Lebanon. In addition, a huge number of refugees fled the civil war in Syria, straining Lebanon's resources.
Syria's diverse population includes Armenians, Assyrians, Christians, Druze, Kurds, Alawite Shiites, and Arab Sunnis. For decades, Hafez al-Assad and later his son, Bashir al-Assad, ruled the country and its diverse population with an iron hand. The Assads opposed peace with Israel and supported militant groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
During the “Arab Spring,” the Syrian government met pro-democracy protests with brutal force, plunging the country into civil war. Rebel groups were deeply divided between moderates and extremist groups. Hezbollah and Iran supported the Assad regime. Western countries, however, hesitated to support the rebels, fearful that weapons could fall into the hands of radical groups. After Assad was accused of using chemical weapons, global condemnation forced Syria to agree to give up its chemical arms stockpiles.
As the death toll mounted above 100,000, millions more Syrians were displaced by the fighting. Refugees flooded into nearby countries and raised fears that the Syrian civil war could destabilize the region. International efforts to negotiate peace were complicated by disunity among rebel groups and Assad's continued grip on power.