The geographical space occupied by the Israelis and Palestinians is one of great contention. Wars have been waged over this historically and religiously significant land and just as many attempts to resolve the conflict have taken place since the Israel was recognized as a state in 1948. This is a subject about which some people have very strong opposing opinions, while others are completely immune to what’s going on “over there”. Why does it matter?

The United States has played a central role in the creation of Israel, in the subsequent conflicts over its territory, in the support and defense of the country, and in the efforts to find a solution to the issue. Israel and its supporters have significant influence in the United States’ political apparatus and policies, domestically and abroad. However, the U.S. must play a delicate balancing act in the Middle East where its vital interests are dependent upon on friendly relationships with a number of states, not all of which maintain functional, if any, contact with Israel.

Many leaders and citizens alike cite this enduring Arab-Israeli conflict as the number one impediment to peace in the Middle East. Right now, there are many sources of instability in the region but determining a one- or two-state solution, conclusive borders, a resolution to the right of return issue (there are some 5 million Palestinian refugees outside of Israel and the Occupied Territories who stake claim to their family’s land), and the free movement of goods and people will go a long way towards establishing normalcy in this particular corner of the world.

Before the crisis can be solved, though, it is necessary to understand how it all began. The material here will provide you with the history, the terminology, the arguments and the important people and events that make up both the conflict and its prospects for resolution.