The Israelis say that, as they are constantly under militant attack of varying degrees, the very survival of the Jewish state hangs in the balance. The Palestinians claim a right to return to the land that refugees fled in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war or the Six Day War in 1967. Even the means of conflict stoke controversy. Learn more here.
It's an issue where, if brought up as dinner conversation, knives generally need to be removed from the table: the Mideast question. The seemingly never-ending struggle for the Holy Land intertwines the hot-button issues of politics, religion, territorial claims, and war in one imperfect storm with a bleak forecast.
President of the Palestinian National Authority since Jan. 15, 2005. Abbas was also briefly Yasser Arafat's prime minister in 2003. Also known as Abu Mazen (literally, "father of Mazen," the name of Abbas' first-born son who died of a heart attack in 2002 at the age of 43).
Late founder and leader of the Fatah party. Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. President of the Palestinian National Authority. Revered by some as a freedom fighter and reviled by others for terrorist attacks against Israel and alleged corruption while governing the Palestinians. Recipient of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and President Shimon Peres for the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords.
Mashal became one of the founders of Hamas in Jordan after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He became chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau in 1996, and was a vociferous critic of Yasser Arafat before his 2004 death. Mashal viewed Hamas' 2006 parliamentary victories as a mandate, and has spoken of unifying the Palestinian territories' myriad militias. The subsequent breakdown in the power-sharing agreement between Hamas and Fatah, with Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip and Fatah in control of the West Bank, has put the focus again on factional strife.
Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, from the League of Nations' 1920 plan for a Jewish homeland, the British Mandate of Palestine. The United Nations approved a 1947 partition of the area into Jewish and Arab states. The day after declaring independence, the Arab-Israeli war began, securing Israeli territory. The 1967 Six Day War was launched in response to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan massing troops along Israel's borders; in the war, Israel captured territory including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (ceded to the Palestinians in 2005). In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel repelled an attack by Egypt and Syria.