As Israelis celebrate the creation of Israel, Palestinians mark what they call 'al-Naqba'

On 14 May, 1948, shortly after World War II and the death of around 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, Israel declared itself an independent state. 

This week Israelis took to the streets to celebrate the country's 60th anniversary. Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank held solemn marches. For them the date represents al-Naqba, or "the Catastrophe".  

The establishment of Israel was a key event in the history of the Middle East - it began one of the world's most protracted conflicts and has shaped the region's political climate ever since. 

Sir David Frost looks back at the events of 1948 and the beginning of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

He talks to some of the key players in the region - Middle East envoy Tony Blair, Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, and Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.

Sir David also hosts a debate between the Palestinian scholar and political activist Hanan Ashrawi, the Israeli politician and lawyer Isaac Herzog, and Al Jazeera's political analyst, Marwan Bishara.

Tony Blair

Tony Blair is the Quartet's Middle East envoy
Tony Blair served as the British prime minister for ten years before stepping down in June 2007. 

He is currently the Middle East envoy working on behalf of the 'Quartet' - the US, UK, EU and Russia. 

Blair's predecessor, former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, resigned in frustration at the lack of progress.

Blair tells Sir David that the rocket attacks from Gaza must stop and that Israel must then stop the process of retaliation for these attacks. 

He says the conflict is a major source of poison between Islam and the West and that the next few weeks will be crucial in determining how far peace negotiations have come. 

Salam Fayyad

The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority calls
for a renewed effort to end the conflict
Salam Fayyad was sworn in as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in June 2007. 

He worked for the World Bank and more recently as the International Monetary Fund's representative to Palestine. 

Between 2002 and 2005, Fayyad served as the finance minister under the Fatah-controlled administration. He was praised by many for introducing economic reform.

Fayyad says that Israeli settlement expansion is eroding the credibility of the political process. He expresses his hope that a Palestinian state will be established within the 1967 borders and calls for a renewed effort to bringing the conflict to an end.

Shimon Peres

Israeli president Shimon Peres has played a key role
in Israeli politics since the state was created
Shimon Peres was an aide to David Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, in 1948 and has played an integral role in Israeli politics ever since. 

Polish-born Peres has held almost every senior cabinet position, serving as prime minister twice. 

In 1994, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Oslo peace accord, alongside Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the PLO, and the then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin. 

Peres tells Sir David that the greatest victory for Israel would be peace and that he is hopeful of a resolution to the conflict within five years. 
Peres says Hamas is a boundary to peace in the Middle East but suggests the group is not strong enough to build a state in Gaza. 
He also highlights Iran as being part of the larger problem.
Watch Sir David's interview with Shimon Peres on YouTube

Frost over the World airs at 18:00GMT every Friday on Al Jazeera English and is repeated during the week.
This episode of Frost over the World aired on Friday, May 09, 2008

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