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The roots of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians
03:12 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Palestinians say only the end of the Israeli occupation will address the causes of violence

But Jewish settlers in the West Bank don't buy it and say they're there to stay

U.N. leader warns the region is "on the brink of another catastrophic period of violence"

Hebron, West Bank CNN  — 

The armed Israeli police officers stand behind thick concrete barriers that separate Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem from the center of the city.

Young men who want to get past are asked to pull up their pants, lift their T-shirts, turn around and show their IDs.

This, say Palestinians, is the face of the occupation.

“The occupation sleeps on our chests, on our stomachs,” said 63-year-old Khalid Froukh.

But many settlers who have set up Jewish outposts in the West Bank don’t see themselves as occupiers.

They say the security measures are necessary against violence fueled by an “incitement machine” made up of mosques, schools, media and politicians that train Palestinians to hate Jews.

Two different viewpoints but one tragic outcome that has repeated itself in a violent cycle every few years.

There have been two major Palestinian uprisings in the past 30 years and many more flare ups in between.

Observers are warning that the current wave of unrest is driving the region to the verge of another bloody and disastrous phase.

“We need to keep the situation from escalating into a religious conflict with potential regional implications,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday.

‘The foundation of Jewish history’

Since Israel took East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan during a war in 1967, more than half a million Israelis have settled in the areas, often on confiscated Palestinian land. Much of the international community consider these occupied territory.

The settlers say they’re not settlers; they’re living on land that Israel has liberated.

“Hebron is the beginning and the cradle and the root and the foundation of Jewish history,” said Noam Arnon, one of around 700 Jews who’ve settled in the heart of Hebron.

Recent violence centered around the settlement – set off by the deadly shooting of a Palestinian man by a Jewish settler who said he was defending himself against a knife attack – is nothing new, according to Arnon.

He points to a museum exhibit dedicated to a massacre in 1929 when Palestinians turned on the local Jewish community, murdering 67 people.

“It happened right here against an innocent Jewish community, 40 years before the state of Israel was even established,” he said.

‘You need real medicine’

Palestinians see it differently.

At the core of the anger driving the escalating unrest is Israel’s decades-long control of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

“Occupation means that you have approximately two and a half million Palestinians living for almost 50 years now under military administration,” said Uri Zaki, an Israeli representative of Human Rights Watch.

They argue the only way to end the seemingly endless spiral of violence and recrimination is for Israel to pull out of the areas it seized in 1967.

Stopping the violence without addressing its causes isn’t a long-term solution, they say.

“If you have cancer, do you think that Advil can help you?” said Ziad Abu Zayyad, a former Palestinian Authority minister. “It can be a pain relief for a short while, but it will not cure you. You need real medicine to cure you, and the real medicine here is the end of the occupation.”

Israeli-Palestinian violence: What to know

‘We’re here to stay’

Twenty-two years ago, Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accord, meant to lay a foundation of peace and move ultimately toward a two-state solution.

That was in 1993. All these years later, the failure of real progress has many frustrated with negotiations.

Uri Karzen, who settled in Hebron more than 30 years ago, doesn’t buy the idea of Israel and Palestine coexisting as peaceful neighbors.

“The attacks will continue if they think they’re going to achieve a Palestinian state,” said

“Eventually, the Arabs will just have to get used to the idea that we’re here to stay,” he said.

And so it goes.

Both sides believe their cause is just. And their dogged determination appears set to spawn yet more violence.

Opinion: Israelis and Palestinians– rage, fear and misunderstanding

CNN’s Phil Black reported from Hebron, Ben Wedeman reported from Jerusalem, and Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong.