Patrick Martin examines the potential ramifications of Israel’s recent re-election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for progress toward the Israel-Palestine “two-state solution.” In a follow-up article entitled “Election win for Netanyahu and one misstep closer to a Palestinian state” the same author discusses ways the election outcome could affect Israel-US and Israel-Canada relations.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, history, current events

Key Questions to Explore:

  • How do the historical facts about the formation of the state of Israel inform the current state of affairs between Israel and the Palestinians and also with neighbouring Arab States?

New Terminology:

Apartheid, Netanyahu, coalition, recanting, Likud, annul, veto

Materials Needed:

Globe article, the Internet

Time required:

One class period and a homework assignment

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Wars and military skirmishes between Israel and its neighbours have continued for decades, punctuated by occasional periods of uneasy peace. In recent years, Palestinians within the larger state of Israel have used violence as a lever to argue for their own home state. Between military eruptions, work toward peace processes has centred on a two-state solution, which is not universally applauded by all Israelis. At first, the recent re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to be a negative omen for the this solution, but shortly after he was elected, he appeared to soften his stance. This may have something to do with his need to form a working coalition with other political parties, most of whom favour the two-state solution.

To appreciate the continuing news stories on the this subject, students need to understand—at least, in very broad terms—the relatively recent history of Israel and of its stormy relationship with its Arab neighbours. As well, they need to be aware of Canada’s traditional relationship with Israel and its newer position as formulated by the current Conservative government. As well, students can learn about the common practice of governing democracies via coalition arrangements.

Students will work in groups to generate very basic understandings of 1) how Israel came to be; 2) the lasting significance and effects of the “six-day war”; 3) the historic relationship between the United States and Israel and, 4) the current state of affairs between Israel and the Palestinians, especially as Israel now works to assemble a new coalition government charged with dealing with the issue.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Start by determining how much students already know about Israel and its relationship with the Palestinians. If you have Jewish students in your class who are willing to do so, you might ask them to tell their version of how Israel came to be its own country. Similarly, if you have any students whose ancestry is based in what is now Palestinian territory, they may be willing to tell their side of the story. However, you will need to exercise discretion to ensure that this can be done such that both views are presented and received respectfully.

You can also engage students in a general discussion to find out what they know about Israel, the tensions between Israel and the Palestinians and the recent re-election of Mr. Netanyahu. To pique their interest, have them go online to find a 1920s or 1930s era map of Israel (none exists, since Israel only became a country in 1948). Consider showing a video about the birth of Israel, being careful to avoid those that are overly partisan. Consider one of the History Channel segments on YouTube:

Next, organize the class into groups of four or five and provide each one of these three short sets of tasks: (They will need the Internet to complete this assignment)

Set One

In broad terms, describe the way the state of Israel came to be. Address the following in your report, which you should be prepared to deliver orally to the class:

  • Prior to 1948, what was the territory called that is today known as Israel?
  • Why did Jews flock to this territory after WWII and what effect did this have on the eventual formation of a Jewish state?
  • After Israel became a country in 1948, what happened to the Palestinians who also lived there?
  • Describe the resistance to the formation of Israel—who resisted, which people, which countries?
  • When the state of Israel was created in 1948, how long had it been since the Jews had their own official homeland?

Set Two

In broad terms, describe the relationship between Israel and its Arab neighbours since 1948. Address the following in your report, which you should be prepared to deliver orally to the class:

  • Why did Palestinians and neighbour Arab states object to the formation of the state of Israel? What were the fundamental points of disagreement?
  • What is the dominant religion of Israel? Of the Arab states?
  • Describe, very briefly, the 1967 six-day war: Which countries were involved? What were the outcomes? What territory did Israel then occupy after the war and how much has it given back since?
  • Explain the significance of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights to the current conflict.
  • Outline both the Israeli and Palestinian positions in explaining the continuing state of violence between these two groups. What does each side want from the other?
  • What is meant by a “two-state” solution to the conflict?

Set Three

In broad terms, describe the historical and current relationship between Israel and the United States and Canada. Explain why, following the most recent election, Mr. Netanyahu will require a coalition to govern. Address the following in your report, which you should be prepared to deliver orally to the class.

  • In 1947 and 1948, how did the United States respond to Israel’s struggle to create the state of Israel?
  • Explain, in broad terms, why the United States has become such a staunch ally of Israel, and why it continues to provide aid and military support to Israel. Consider the strategic military advantages for both countries.
  • Israel possesses nuclear weapons. Which of its neighbour Arab states also has nuclear weapons? Which country is engaged in nuclear research and is currently engaged in talks about restricting its nuclear abilities? Why might these factors contribute to continuing tensions among these countries?
  • How has Canada’s official position on Israel and the Palestinians changed under the current Conservative government, if at all? What was our position prior to their election in 2006?
  • What is your understanding of the term “coalition government”? Do you see coalitions as positive or negative arrangements? Give reasons.

Students will need a half hour or so to complete the above work. When they’ve finished, ask for each group to give an oral report. Compare the reports of groups working on the same set of tasks to see points of similarity or differences and discuss these.

For homework, provide students with Mr. Martin’s two articles and assign the following:

Using the articles provided, write a report on the recent re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu. Answer the following questions:

  • Mr. Netanyahu is described as being right wing. How do those identified as right wing and those who identify as left wing differ on their proposed solutions to the conflict between Israel and Palestine?
  • Explain the need for a coalition government and how this would require both the right and the left to compromise on their positions.
  • Finally, if coalition governments can work in other countries, could they work in Canada as well? For example, the Reform, Alliance and Progressive Conservative Parties joined forces to form the current Conservative Party of Canada, which is now our government. Is this a form of coalition, or something different? If the Liberals formed a coalition with the NDP to govern as a coalition, how might this be a benefit or not for Canadian voters?

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Oral presentations of group reports at the end of the class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students are able to explain, in general terms, the current state of Israel-Palestinian relations.

Confirming Activity:

  • Successful completion of the writing assignment.