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Land: The Heart of the Conflict Between Palestine and Israel

As Palestinians commemorate 65 years since the Nakba, the issue of land and property is still the defining aspect of the conflict.
A Palestinian labourer works on a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Har Gilo, near Jerusalem March 18, 2013. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new governing coalition prepared to take office after a parliamentary vote on Monday with powerful roles reserved for supporters of settlers in occupied territory. REUTERS/Baz Ratner (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS CONSTRUCTION) - RTR3F5GB

Two weeks ago, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a statement declaring that the crux of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was not land, but his country's very existence. The timing of this unusual statement — that goes against conventional wisdom or even logic — was important: It came on the heels of an Arab League delegation declaration (or reiteration) that land swaps would be applicable should Israel agree to end the conflict based on the 1967 borders.

Suffice it to say that — had the conflict not been about land — it would be difficult to explain why millions of dollars are spent each year by the Israeli government on a settlement enterprise that has seen the number of Israelis colonizing the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, double to half a million between 1993 and today. Had land not played a monumental role in the question of how peace can ultimately be established within this thin strip of land, Israeli authorities would not have used every tool at their disposal to acquire more territory since the state’s 1948 inception.

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