The Palestine-Israel conflict is one among the unresolved and bloodiest conflicts of the world. Several attempts were made to enforce peace but the conflict still festers. Read on to know about its history.
The Palestine-Israel issue is one of the most contentious political issues of the present times. Israel and the proclaimed State of Palestine have been engaged in a violent conflict ever since the declaration of the separate Jewish state of Israel. There is an immediate need to resolve this issue because, if ignored, it could snowball into a global crisis, with other countries forced to take sides.
Here, we will take a look at the important events of this age-old conflict.
Before going into a concise timeline chronicling the issue since the formation of Israel, we need to delve a bit in the past, and try to understand just why it is so difficult to resolve it in a way that pleases all concerned parties.
The formation of Israel stems from the emergence and empowerment of Zionism, a nationalist movement for Judaism. Zionism was conceived by Theodor Herzl, and was seen as a solution to continued oppression of the Jewish people all over Europe. Recognizing the need for a Jewish nation in order to counteract the anti-Semitic mindset, the Zionist movement strengthened its demand for a Jewish nation, a “homeland for the Jewish people”. Zionists intended to claim the Levant region around Jerusalem, an area into which Jews expelled from prevalent European empires had immigrated. In the first place, the Jews had been exiled from their homeland – in Levant – in antiquity by the Romans, and had subsequently settled in other European communities. The Jewish National Council (JNC), an ally of the Zionist General Council, was an agency working to bind the Jews together as a ‘nation without territory’. The Philistines, an ancient enemy of the Levant Jews, considered Gaza their homeland. Another prime factor in this conundrum was the emergence of Arab nationalism in the late 19th century, which claimed the Levant region as their fatherland.
After the fall and consequent division of the incumbent Ottoman Empire after the First World War, the British reigned over the newly formed British Mandate for Palestine, which included present-day Israel, Gaza, West Bank and part of Lebanon. At the expiry of the Mandate in 1948, the JNC declared Israel as a free Jewish state. The defeat of the Ottoman Empire served as a galvanizing agent for nationalist movements of the Jews as well as Arabs situated in the area, and the close proximity of the two nascent nationalist movements has resulted in the prolonged continuance of this violent conflict.
►► Formation of Israel
1923: The British gained control over the British Mandate for Palestine.
1947: The British handed over the responsibility of solving the Zionist-Arab problem to the United Nations. The United Nations voted to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Jerusalem received an international status.
1948: Israel was declared as the first Jewish state on May 14, 1948. The British left Palestine. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Egypt declared war on Israel.
1949: Israel and the Arab states agreed to armistice. Israel gained about 50% more territory than was originally allotted to it by the United Nations Partition Plan.
►► Formation of the PLO
1959: Yasser Arafat and Khalil al-Wazir established the Palestinian political party Fatah.
1964: The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed. The PLO aimed for “liberation of the Palestine” through “armed struggle”.
►► Escalating Violence
1967: The Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors took place from June 5 to June 11. Israel destroyed the Egyptian air force on the ground and occupied the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. It then conquered the West Bank from Jordan and Golan Heights from Syria. U.N. Security Resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from territories it occupied in the war. Israel refused, but the U.N. Security Council did not take any action. Instead, Arab states refused to recognize Israel as a state.
1972: A Palestinian militant faction known as Black September kidnapped and then killed 11 Israeli team members at the Summer Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. Israel retaliated by carrying out covert operations to seek out and eliminate those behind the plot.
1973: Since they were unable to regain the territory they had lost in 1967 by diplomatic means, Egypt and Syria launched major offensives against Israel, sparking to life the Yom Kippur War. The clashes were also known as the Ramadan war. Initially, Egypt and Syria made significant advances in Sinai and the Golan Heights. These were reversed by Israel after three weeks of fighting. U.N. Security Council Resolution 338 called for a ceasefire and for the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242. Israel pushed on into Syria beyond the Golan Heights, although they later gave up some of these territories. In Egypt, Israel regained territory and advanced to the western side of the Suez Canal. The United States, the Soviet Union and the United Nations all made diplomatic interventions to bring about ceasefire agreements between the combatants, and Israel withdrew its forces back across the Suez Canal into Sinai.
1974: The Rabat Arab League Summit recognized the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
►► Camp David Agreement
1979: Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed a peace treaty at Camp David. As a part of the terms, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. Arab states boycotted Egypt for negotiating a peace treaty with Israel.
►► The First Intifada
1982: Israel invaded Lebanon to fight PLO. Operation “Peace for Galilee” had the objective of wiping out Palestinian guerrilla bases near Israel’s northern border, although Defense Minister Ariel Sharon pushed all the way to Beirut and expelled the PLO from the country. After ten weeks of intense shelling by the Israeli forces, the PLO agreed to leave Beirut under the protection of a multinational force to relocate to other Arab countries.
1987: A mass uprising or intifada by the Palestinians against the Israeli occupation began in Gaza and quickly spread to the West Bank. Protest took the form of general strikes, boycott of Israeli products, civil disobedience, graffiti and barricades, but it was the stone-throwing demonstrations against the heavily armed troops that captured international attention. The Israeli defense forces responded brutally and there was heavy loss of life among Palestinian civilians. More than 1,000 Palestinians died in clashes, which lasted until 1993. The Palestinian organization Hamas was formed by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin of the Gaza wing of the Muslim Brothers in the Occupied Territories. Hamas currently controls the Gaza Strip, whereas the aforementioned Fatah party controls the West Bank.
1988: Declaration of the State of Palestine took place, in exile and without any control over the claimed territory, at the 19th Palestinian National Council, Algiers. The State of Palestine is presently recognized by 130 countries, including global heavyweights such as Russia and China, and emerging powers such as Brazil, Saudi Arabia and India. However, UN doesn’t recognize the State of Palestine, a view shared by influential countries such as the USA, Great Britain, France, and Germany.
►► Peace Efforts
1993: Negotiations were held between Israel and the PLO at Oslo, which resulted in a treaty that included mutual recognition, limited self-rule for Palestinians in Jericho (West Bank) and Gaza, and provisions for a permanent treaty that would resolve the status of Gaza and the West Bank. The Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles (DOP) was signed at a White House ceremony by PLO official Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
1994: Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.
1995: Yitzhak Rabin and Peres signed an agreement expanding Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and giving the Palestinian Authority control over six large West Bank towns.
1996: Yasser Arafat won the first ever elections held by Palestinians.
1997: Israel and the Palestinians reached an agreement on Israeli redeployment in the West Bank city of Hebron.
1998: The Wye River Plantation talks resulted in an agreement for Israeli redeployment and release of political prisoners and renewed Palestinian commitment to correct its violations of the Oslo Accords including excess police force, illegal arms and incitement in public media and education.
2000: US President Bill Clinton organized the Camp David Peace Summit. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak put forth an offer of ceding the entire Gaza Strip and 92% of the West Bank (excluding another 10%, which would be temporarily controlled by Israel), with Israeli roads and checkpoints in the proposed Palestine-controlled area. This offer was rejected by the PLO leader Yasser Arafat, and the PLO’s failure to put forth a counteroffer resulted in a standstill in negotiations.
►► The Second Intifada
2000: The Al-Aqsa Intifada started. There were mass protests and general strikes. There were also suicide bomb attacks and rockets were fired into Israeli residential area.
2002: After a series of suicide attacks early in 2002, Israel occupied almost all the West Bank in March and again in June. Palestinian cities were regularly raided and remained cut off from each other, under siege and curfew for long periods. In April, Israeli forces entered and captured the refugee camp in the northern West Bank city of Jenin.
►► At Present
2004: Influential PLO leader Yasser Arafat dies on November 11.
2005: Arafat was succeeded by Mahmoud Abbas as President of the Palestinian Authority in January 2005. The Israeli Disengagement Plan took effect. This involved dismantling settlements in Gaza and four settlements in the northern part of the West Bank, but expanding the remaining settlements in the West Bank.
2006: Hamas won parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza and was democratically elected as the government of the Palestinian Authority. This caused a six-year (and, despite attempts at securing peace by neutral parties, effectively ongoing) civil war between the two Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas. As a result of the unrest and deposition of the Fatah party, Israel and Egypt enforced a land and naval blockade of the Gaza strip.
2007: Trilateral Israeli-Palestinian-American summit with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Abbas ended with no significant progress. The summit was attended by numerous Arab countries.
2009: Ceasefire was officially declared between Israel and the Hamas administration in Gaza, although skirmishes occur frequently.
2011: The UN declined the Palestine Authority membership as a fully sovereign state. It enjoys an ‘observer’ status in the UN.
It is ironic that a region that saw the birth of human civilization should have been the site of so many inhumane wars, right from the Greco-Roman times to the present. While this ancient conflict refuses to die down, the rest of the world can but hope for the best.