History of the Arab–Israeli conflict

History of the Arab–Israeli conflict

The Arab-Israeli conflict is a modern phenomenon, which takes its roots back in the end of the 19th century. The conflict became a major international issue with the birth of Israel in 1948. The Arab-Israeli conflict has resulted in at least five major wars and a number of "minor conflicts". It has also been the source of two major Palestinian intifadas (uprisings).


Beginning of the Zionist entreprise

Tensions between the Jews and Arabs started to emerge after the 1880s, when immigration of European Jews increased with the development of the Zionist ideology. This immigration increased the Jewish communities in Palestine by the acquisition of land from Ottoman and individual Arab landholders, known as effendis, and establishment of agricultural settlements in the historic lands of Judea and Israel, which were then part of the Ottoman Empire. [Yishuv] At the time, Arab Palestinians lived an almost feudal existence on the effendis' land. [ [http://www.ismi.emory.edu/JournalArticles/MESapr84.html The Jewish National Fund: Land Purchase Methods and Priorities, 1924 - 1939] by Kenneth W. Stein. "Middle Eastern Studies". April 1984. Volume 20 Number 2, pp. 190-205] The population in 1880 of Palestine west of the Jordan River was estimated at "under 590,000, of whom 96 percent were Arabs (Muslim or Christian); roughly 4 percent of the population was Jewish". [Donner, Fred M. [http://www.princeton.edu/~paw/web_exclusives/more/more_letters/letters_doran.html Princeton Alumni Weekly: Letter Box] . "Princeton University". 26 June 2003. 15 October 2004.]

British Mandate (1917-1947)

During the time of the British Mandate, the Balfour Declaration, signed in 1917, stated that the government of the United Kingdom supported the establishment of a "Jewish national home" in Palestine. This exacerbated tensions between the Arabs living in Mandate Palestine and the Jews who emigrated there during the Ottoman period. Signed in January 1919, the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement promoted Arab-Jewish cooperation on the development of a Jewish National Homeland in Palestine and an Arab nation in a large part of the Middle East, though this event had little to no effect on the conflict.Sela, Avraham. "Arab-Israeli Conflict." "The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East". Ed. Avraham Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002. pp. 58-121.]

In 1920, the San Remo conference largely endorsed the 1916 Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Agreement, allocating to Britain the area of present day Jordan, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and Iraq, while France received Syria and Lebanon. In 1922, the League of Nations formally established the British Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan, at least partially fulfilling Britain's commitments from the 1915-1916 Hussein-McMahon Correspondence by assigning all of the land east of the Jordan River to the Emirate of Jordan, ruled by Hashemite King Abdullah but closely dependent on Britain, leaving the remainder west of the Jordan as the League of Nations British mandate of Palestine. While the British had made promises to give both Arabs and Jews land, the British claimed they had never promised to give either side all of the land. Rising tensions had given way to violence, such as the Riots in Palestine of 1920, and Jaffa riots of 1921. To assuage the Arabs, and due to British inability to control Arab violence in the British Mandate any other way, the semi-autonomous Arab Emirate of Transjordan was created in all Palestinian territory east of the Jordan river (roughly 77% of the mandate).

The conflicting forces of Arab nationalism and the Zionist movement created a situation which the British could neither resolve nor extricate themselves from. The rise to power of Adolf Hitler in Germany created a new urgency in the Zionist movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine, and the evident intentions of the Zionists provoked increasingly fierce Arab resistance and attacks against the Jewish population (most notably in the preceding 1929 Hebron massacre, the activities of the Black Hand, and during the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine). The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husayni, led opposition to the idea of turning part of Palestine into a Jewish state. He objected to any form of Jewish homeland on what he regarded as Arab land. In search for help in expelling British forces from Palestine, thus removing the enforcer of the Zionist enterprise, the Grand Mufti sought alliance with the Axis Powers.

The response of the British government was to banish the Mufti (where he spent much of World War II in Germany and helped form a Muslim SS division in the Balkans), curb Jewish immigration, and reinforce its police force. However, many of the British reinforcements were Arabs who supported and collaborated in the Great Arab Uprising. The Jewish leadership ("Yishuv") "adopted a policy of restraint ("havlaga") and static defense in response to Arab attacks." [Sela, 63.] It was at this time that critics of this policy broke away from the "Hagana" (the self-defense organization of the "Yishuv") and created the more right-wing militant "Irgun", which would later be led by Menachem Begin in 1943. For a list of Irgun attacks on Palestinian civilians and policemen during this period, see List of Irgun attacks during the 1930s.

A British Royal Commission of Inquiry that came to be known as the Peel Commission was established in 1936. In its 1937 report, it proposed a two-state solution that gave the Arabs control over all of the Negev, much of the present-day West Bank, and Gaza and gave the Jews control over Tel Aviv, Haifa, present-day northern Israel, and surrounding areas. The British were to maintain control over Jaffa, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and surrounding areas. The Jews were bitterly divided over the Peel Commission, [ Jewish Virtual Library [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/peel.html] ] but they ultimately accepted the principle of partition.Eran, Oded. "Arab-Israel Peacemaking." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. Ed. Avraham Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002.] The Arabs, however, rejected it while demanding "an end to Jewish immigration and land sales to Jews, calling for independence of Palestine as an independent Arab state."

Jewish violence against the British Mandate continued to mount throughout the 1940s, with attacks by the Irgun, assassination of British Mandate officials by the Lehi, and the 1946 King David Hotel bombing.

As of 1947 the population was reported as 1,845,000, consisting of 608,000 Jews and 1,237,000 Arabs and others. [ [http://www.mideastweb.org/unscop1947.htm Report of UNSCOP, 1947] ]

War of 1948

The 1948 Arab-Israeli War, known as the "Israeli War of Independence" by Israelis or "al-Nakba" (The Disaster) by Arabs, 1948-1949, began after the November 1947 UN Partition Plan, which proposed the establishment of Arab and Jewish states in Palestine. The Arabs had rejected the plan while the Jews had accepted it. By March 1948 however, the US was actively seeking a temporary UN approved trusteeship rather than immediate partition. [ [http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/decade/decad167.htm The Avalon Project : United States Proposal for Temporary United Nations Trusteeship for Palestine - Statement by President Truman, March 25, 1948 ] ] The Jewish leadership rejected this. [ Truman Library [http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/israel/large/documents/index.php?documentdate=1948-05-07&documentid=45&collectionid=ROI&pagenumber=1] ] By now, both Jewish [ [http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/08/02/opinion/edkkhouri.php A new history lesson in Israel - International Herald Tribune ] ] and Arab [Bard, Mitchell [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/1948_War.html "The 1948 War."] "Jewish Virtual Library". 16 February 2007.] militias had begun campaigns to control territory inside and outside the designated borders, and an open war between the two populations emerged.

Jordanian, Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Saudi troops invaded Palestine subsequent to the British withdrawal and the declaration of the State of Israel on May 14 1948. Israel, the US Fact|date=February 2007, the Soviet UnionFact|date=February 2007 , and UN Secretary-General Trygve LieFact|date=February 2007 called this illegal aggression, while China broadly backed the Arab claims. The Arab states proclaimed their aim of a "United State of Palestine" [ May 15, 1948, at Wikisource. Accessed 22 March 2006.] in place of Israel and an Arab state. They considered the UN Plan to be invalid because it was opposed by Palestine's Arab majority, and claimed that the British withdrawal led to an absence of legal authority, making it necessary for them to protect Arab lives and property. [ [http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/d442111e70e417e3802564740045a309?OpenDocument The Origins and Evolutionof the Palestine Problem: 1917-1988, PART II, 1947-1977] , United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine(UNISPAL), June 20, 1990, ST/SG/SER.F/1] About two thirds of Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from the territories which came under Jewish control; the rest became Arab citizens of Israel. Practically all of the much smaller number of Jews in the territories captured by the Arabs, for example the Old City of Jerusalem, also fled or were expelled. The official United Nations estimate was that 711,000 [ [http://domino.un.org/unispal.nsf/9a798adbf322aff38525617b006d88d7/93037e3b939746de8525610200567883!OpenDocument General Progress Report and Supplementary Report of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, Covering the Period from 11 December 1949 to 23 October 1950] , published by the United Nations Concilation Commission, October 23, 1950. (U.N. General Assembly Official Records, 5th Session, Supplement No. 18, Document A/1367/Rev. 1). The Committee believed the estimate to be "as accurate as circumstances permit", and attributed the higher number on relief to, among other things, "duplication of ration cards, addition of persons who have been displaced from area other than Israel-held areas and of persons who, although not displaced, are destitute."] Arabs became refugees during the fighting. see also|Palestinian exodus

The fighting ended with signing of the several Armistice Agreements in 1949 between Israel and its warring neighbors (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria), which formalized Israeli control of the area allotted to the Jewish state plus just over half of the area allotted to the Arab state. The Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan until June 1967 when they were seized by Israel during the Six-Day War.

Aftermath of the 1948 war

The 630,000-700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from the areas that became Israel were not allowed to return to their homes, and took up residence in refugee camps in surrounding countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and the area that was later to be known as the Gaza Strip; they were usually not allowed to leave refugee camps and mix with the local Arab society either, leaving the Palestinian refugee problem unsolved even today. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was established to alleviate their condition.

After the war, " [t] he Arab states insisted on two main demands", neither of which were accepted by Israel:1. Israel should withdraw to the borders of the UN Partition Plan — Israel argued "that the new borders—which could be changed, under consent only—had been established as a result of war, and because the UN blueprint took no account of defense needs and was militarily untenable, there was no going back to that blueprint."2. The Palestinian refugees deserved a full right of return back into Israel — Israel argued that this was "out of the question, not only because they were hostile to the Jewish state, but they would also fundamentally alter the Jewish character of the state."

Over the next two decades after the 1948 war ended, between 700,000 and 900,000 Jews fled the Arab countries they were living in, in many cases owing to anti-Jewish sentiment, expulsion (in the case of Egypt), or, in the case of Iraq, legal oppression; of this number, two-thirds ended up in refugee camps in Israel, while the remainder migrated to France, the United States and other Western or Latin American countries. The Jewish refugee camps in Israel were evacuated with time and the refugees were eventually integrated in the Jewish Israeli society (which in fact consisted almost entirely of refugees from Arab and European states). Israel argued that this and the Palestinian exodus represented a population exchange between Arab nations and the Jewish nation. see|Jewish exodus from Arab lands

For the nineteen years from the end of the Mandate until the Six-Day War, Jordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip In 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank, but this annexation was recognized only by the United Kingdom. Both territories were conquered (but not annexed) from Jordan and Egypt by Israel in the Six-Day War. Neither Jordan nor Egypt allowed the creation of a Palestinian state in these territories. The effect this had on Israel during this period "were frequent border clashes ... terror and sabotage acts by individuals and small groups of Palestinian Arabs."

War of 1956

The 1956 Suez War was a joint Israeli-British-French operation, in which Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula and British and French forces landed at the port of Suez, ostensibly to separate the warring parties, though the real motivation of the United Kingdom and France was to protect the interests of investors in those countries who were affected by Egyptian President Nasser's decision to nationalize the Suez Canal. Israel justified its invasion of Egypt as an attempt to stop attacks (see the Fedayeen) upon Israeli civilians, and to restore Israeli shipping rights through the Straits of Tiran, which Egypt claimed was within its territorial waters. The invading forces agreed to withdraw under U.S. and international pressure, and Israel withdrew from the Sinai as well, in return for the installation of U.N. separation forces and guarantees of Israeli freedom of shipment. The canal was left in Egyptian (rather than British and French) hands.

Between 1956 and 1967

This period saw the rise of Nasserism; the founding of the United Arab Republic in 1958 and its collapse in 1961; Syrian plans for the diversion of water from the Jordan River; continued fedayeen raids, mostly from Syria and Jordan, and Israeli reprisals; and the increasing alignment of the Arab states with the Soviet Union, who became their largest arms supplier.

In 1964, the PLO was established by mostly Palestinian refugees mostly from Jordan. The Article 24 of the Palestinian National Charter of 1964 [http://www.palestine-un.org/plo/pna_two.html] stated: "This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or in the Himmah Area."

War of 1967

The background from which erupted the Six-Day War was caused by an erroneous information given to Nasser from the Soviet intelligence services that Israel was amassing troops near the Israeli-Syrian border. The state of conflict was also very tense after increased conflicts between Israel and Syria and Israel and Jordan - i.e. the Samu incident.

The fighting in the Six-Day War of 1967 began with a strike by Israel, which many consider preemptive, against Egypt and Syria following the breakdown of international diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis begun by the Egyptian closure of the Straits of Tiran on May 21-22, 1967 (thus "blocking all shipping to and from Eilat ... a "casus belli" according to a possible interpretation of international law), expulsion of U.N. peacekeepers from the Sinai, and stationing of some 100,000 Egyptian troops at the peninsula. The Israeli army had a potential strength, including the not fully mobilized reserves, of 264,000 troops. Surprise Israeli air strikes destroyed the entire Egyptian air force while it was still on the ground. A subsequent ground invasion into Egyptian territory led to Israel's conquest of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. In spite of Israel's request to Jordan to desist from attacking it, Jordan along with Syria began to shell Israeli targets. In addition, Hussein, reluctant at first, sent ineffective bomber strikes because of Nasser's requests and affirmation of a sound Egyptian victory. With the rapid and rather unexpected success on the Egyptian front, Israel decided to attack and successfully captured the West Bank from Jordan on June 7, and the Golan Heights from Syria on June 9.

UN Resolution 242 and peace proposals

Following the Six-Day War, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 242 which proposed a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The resolution was accepted by Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, but rejected by Syria until 1972-1973 and the Yom Kippur War. To this day, Resolution 242 remains controversial due to conflicting interpretations over how much territory Israel would be required to withdraw from in order conform with the resolution. Also, after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank following the war, Palestinian nationalism substantially increased. Armed resistance was encouraged from within the newly occupied territories and from the Arab nations that lost in the war.

US Secretary of State William P. Rogers proposed the Rogers Plan, which called for a 90-day cease-fire, a military standstill zone on each side of the Suez Canal, and an effort to reach agreement in the framework of UN Resolution 242. [“The Ceasefire/Standstill Proposal” 19 June 1970, http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.nsf/db942872b9eae454852560f6005a76fb/3e33d676ae43229b85256e60007086fd!OpenDocument last visited 2007/6/11 ] The Egyptian government accepted the Rogers Plan even before Anwar Sadat became president. The Rogers peace plan finally failed due to the initiation of the war of attrition from Egypt followed by a heavy response by Israel. No breakthrough occurred even after President Sadat in 1972 surprised everyone by suddenly expelling Soviet advisers from Egypt and again signaled to the United States government his willingness to negotiate. [“The Camp David Accords: A Case of International Bargaining” Shibley Telhami, Columbia International Affaris Online, http://www.ciaonet.org/casestudy/tes01/index.html, last visited 2007/6/11 ]

War of 1967-1970

The War of Attrition was a limited war fought between Egypt and Israel from 1967 to 1970. It was initiated by Egypt to damage Israel's morale and economy after its victory in the Six-Day War. [ [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/war_of_attrition.html "The War of Attrition."] "Jewish Virtual Library". 24 March 2008.] The war ended with a cease-fire signed between the countries in 1970 with frontiers at the same place as when the war started.

War of 1973

The 1973 Yom Kippur War began when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise joint attack, on the Jewish day of fasting, in the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. The Egyptians and Syrians advanced during the first 24–48 hours, after which momentum began to swing in Israel's favor. By the second week of the war, the Syrians had been pushed entirely out of the Golan Heights. In the Sinai to the south, the Israelis had struck at the "hinge" between two invading Egyptian armies, crossed the Suez Canal (where the old cease-fire line had been), and cut off an entire Egyptian army just as a United Nations cease-fire came into effect. During this time, the United States airlifted military supplies to Israel while the Soviet Union airlifted military supplies to Egypt.

Israeli troops eventually withdrew from the west of the Canal and the Egyptians kept their positions on a narrow strip on the east allowing them to re-open the Suez Canal and claim victory. [Slantchev, Branislav L. [http://polisci.ucsd.edu/~bslantch/courses/nss/lectures/19-detente-malaise.pdf "National Security Strategy: The Rise and Fall of Détente, 1971-1980."] "UCSD - Department of Political Science". 2 March 2005. 26 March 2008. p. 7.] According to "The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East" (ed. Sela, 2002), Israel clearly had the military victory over both Syria and Egypt, but it suffered a large blow to morale as well as substantial human casualties. The outcome of the Yom Kippur War set the stage for "a new phase in Israeli-Egyptian relations" ending ultimately in the signing of the Camp David Accords.

Operation Litani of 1978

Operation Litani was the official name of Israel's 1978 invasion of Lebanon up to the Litani river. The invasion was a military success, as PLO forces were pushed north of the river. However, international outcry led to the creation of the UNIFIL peacekeeping force and a partial Israeli retreat.

War of 1982 and subsequent occupation

The 1982 Lebanon War began when Israel attacked Lebanon, justified by Israel as an attempt to remove the Fatah militants led by Yasser Arafat from Southern Lebanon (where they had established, during the country's civil war, a semi-independent enclave used to launch attacks on Israel. The invasion was widely criticized both in and outside Israel, especially after the Israeli-backed Phalangist Christian militia's Sabra and Shatila massacre, and ultimately led to the death of roughly 1,000 Palestinians. Although through the war, Israel succeeded in exiling the PLO military personnel, including Arafat to Tunisia, it became entangled with various local Muslim militias (particularly Hezbollah), which fought to end the Israeli occupation.

By 1985, Israel retreated from all but a narrow stretch of Lebanese territory designated by Israel as the Israeli Security Zone. UN Security Council Resolution 425 (calling on Israel to completely withdraw from Lebanon) was not completely fulfilled until 16 June 2000. [http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2000/20000618.sc6878.doc.html] Despite UN Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1583, Hezbollah continues to have a military wing.

Intifada of 1987-1993

The First Intifada, 1987-1993, began as an uprising of Palestinians, particularly the young, against the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the failure of the PLO to achieve any kind of meaningful diplomatic solution to the Palestinian issue. The exiled PLO leadership in Tunisia quickly assumed a role in the "intifada", but the uprising also brought a rise in the importance of Palestinian national and Islamic movements, and helped lead to the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988. The "intifada" was started by a group of young Palestinians who began throwing rocks at the Israeli occupying forces in Jabalia (Gaza Strip) in December 1987. In May 1989, the government of Yitzhak Shamir, the prime minister of Israel at the time, "suggested that violence cease, and that elections should be held in the West Bank and Gaza for a political delegation with whom Israel would come to terms regarding the implementation of Palestinian interim self-governing authority in these areas." These elections never materialized. The Intifada ended with the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the signing of the Oslo Accords by Israel and the PLO in 1993.

Gulf War of 1990-1991

The Gulf War, 1990-1991, began with the Iraqi invasion and annexation of Kuwait and did not initially involve direct military engagement with Israel. An international coalition led by the United States which included Arab forces was assembled to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. To draw Israel into the confrontation and thereby make it difficullt for Arab regimes to remain in the coalition, Iraq launched 39 Scud missiles on Israeli cities and on Israel's nuclear facilities near Dimona. However, under strong pressure from the US, which feared direct Israeli involvement would threaten the unity of the coalition, Israel did not retaliate against Iraq and the multinational coalition ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait. During the war, the PLO and King Hussein of Jordan supported Iraq's invasion of Kuwait (Yasser Arafat had received $100 million from Saddam HusseinFact|date=July 2008).

The defeat of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War "was a devastating blow to ... the Palestinians." [Lewis, Bernard. "The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror". New York: The Modern Library, 2003. p.62.] Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf Arab monarchies then expelled just under 400,000 Palestinian refugees ( [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4089961.stm] ) and withdrew their financial support from the Palestinian cause due to the Palestinians' support of Saddam Hussein. It was this political environment that allowed for the PLO to begin talks with the United States and Israel.

Oslo peace process (1993-2000)

In September 1993, then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles (DOP) which "shaped the principles for a prospective process of the establishment of a five-year interim self-governing authority" in the Palestinian territories. In May 1994, the first stage of the DOP was implemented, Arafat arrived in the Gaza Strip, and financial aid started pouring in from the parts of the Western world and Japan. Unfortunately, "the new trend in Israeli-Palestinian relations also entailed a wave of violence by religious fanatics." In September 1996, after the opening of some ancient tunnels near the Temple Mount, a small wave of violence occurred. This frightened many Israelis into believing that "the new reality created by the Oslo Agreements, namely the presence of an armed police force of approximately 30,000 Palestinians, ... could easily shift from cooperation to hostility."

In October 1998, Arafat and then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed the Wye Memorandum which "called for the implementation of Israel's first and second redeployments according to the DOP in three phases." Shortly after, Netanyahu's government fell and the Labor Party (under Ehud Barak) won control of the Knesset. Barak's election campaign was mostly geared toward a lasting peace in the Middle East by further implementation of the Wye Memorandum and the Oslo Accord.

Intifada of 2000

The al-Aqsa Intifada began in late September 2000, around the time Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon and a large contingent of armed bodyguards visited the Temple Mount/Al-Haram As-Sharif complex in Jerusalem and declared the area eternal Israeli territory. Widespread riots and attacks broke out among Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel in Jerusalem and many major Israeli cities, and spread throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority (PA) involvement in the Intifada was handled by the "Tanzim" ("Organization), which was the secret armed branch of Arafat's Fatah party within the PLO. In January 2002, the "PA's direct involvement in the Intifada was confirmed ... when the IDF intercepted a cargo ship in the Red Sea carrying tons of rockets, mortars, and other weapons and ammunition from Iran, earmarked for smuggling into PA [Palestinian Authority] areas." In March 2002, just prior to the Arab Peace Initiative, suicide bombings committed by Palestinians against Israeli civilians "intensified ... in buses restaurants, coffee shops, and other public places in Israel." An Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, estimated the death toll to be 3,396 Palestinians and 994 Israelis, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3694350.stm] although this number is criticized for not showing the whole picture, and not differentiating between combatants and civilians (suicide bombers, for example, are counted in that death toll). [http://www.ict.org.il/casualties_project/stats_page.cfm] [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/03/19/wmid219.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/03/19/ixnewstop.html] The Intifada also created "heavy economic losses to both sides" of the conflict.

Arab Peace Initiative of 2002

In 2002, Saudi Arabia offered a peace plan in "The New York Times" and at a summit meeting of the Arab League in Beirut. The plan is based on, but goes beyond UN Security Council Resolution 242 and Resolution 338. It essentially calls for full withdrawal, solution of the refugee problem through the Palestinian "right of return", a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem in return for fully normalized relations with the whole Arab world. This proposal was the first to receive the unanimous backing of the Arab League.

In response, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said: "... the details of every peace plan must be discussed directly between Israel and the Palestinians, and to make this possible, the Palestinian Authority must put an end to terror, the horrifying expression of which we witnessed just last night in Netanya", referring to the Netanya suicide attack. [http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/About+the+Ministry/MFA+Spokesman/2002/Response+of+FM+Peres+to+the+decisions+of+the+Arab.htm]

In November 2005, the George W. Bush administration acknowledged that Saudi Arabia has renewed funding to Hamas and other Palestinian insurgency groups. [http://www.menewsline.com/stories/2005/november/11_10_2.html]

Israel's Disengagement of 2005

In 2005 Israel unilaterally evacuated settlements, and military outposts from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank.

The Disengagement Plan was a proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, adopted by the government and enacted in August 2005, to remove a permanent Israeli presence from the Gaza Strip and from four Israeli settlements in the northern West Bank. The civilians were evacuated (many forcibly) and the residential buildings demolished after August 15, and the disengagement from the Gaza Strip was completed on 12 September 2005, when the last Israeli soldier left. The military disengagement from the northern West Bank was completed ten days later.

Israel-Lebanon conflict of 2006

The 2006 Israel-Lebanon crisis began on 12 July 2006, with an attack by Hezbollah on Israel. Three Israeli soldiers were killed, and two were kidnapped and taken prisoner into Lebanon. In a search and rescue operation to return the captured soldiers, a further five Israeli Defense Forces troops were killed. It marked the beginning of a new wave of clashes between Israel and Hezbollah which saw the Lebanese capital, the sole Lebanese international airport, and much of southern Lebanon attacked by the Israelis, while Lebanese militias, presumably Hezbollah, bombarded northern Israeli cities, striking as far south as the city of Haifa. The conflict killed more than a thousand people, most of whom were Lebanese civilians and Hezbollah fighters; and displaced 974,184 LebaneseLebanon Higher Relief Council (2007). [http://www.lebanonundersiege.gov.lb/english/F/Main/index.asp? "Lebanon Under Siege"] . Retrieved March 5, 2007.] and 300,000-500,000 Israelis. [cite news
title= Hizbullah attacks northern Israel and Israel's response
date=August , 2006
publisher=Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
url= http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terrorism+from+Lebanon-+Hizbullah/Hizbullah+attack+in+northern+Israel+and+Israels+response+12-Jul-2006.htm
] cite web
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5257128.stm
title = Middle East crisis: Facts and Figures
publisher = BBC News Online
date=August 31, 2006
accessdate = 2007-03-20
] cite news
url = http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2006-08-14-mideast_x.htm
title = Israel says it will relinquish positions to Lebanese army
source = USA Today
date=August 15, 2006
] Fears were growing that the situation could deteriorate further, with the possibility of either Syria or Iran becoming involved. [ [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3281121,00.html Iran threatens response if Syria attacked - Israel News, Ynetnews ] ] But a ceasefire was signed, and went into effect 14 August.

Recent Developments

(Note: This section differs from other sections in this article, in that it tracks ongoing developments in several areas, rather than one specific past event. If you feel that a separate section is needed for any one topic or past event, please create it separately above. Thanks for your help.)


"Note: Iran is an Islamic country but not an Arab country."

In January 2007, concerns increased among Israel's leaders that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran might be planning some sort of nuclear arms buildup, which might be considered for use in opposition to Israel. [ [http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/bal-te.threat19jan19,0,2874659.story?coll=bal-pe-asection For Israelis, a new worry: Iran's nuclear intentions] , John Murphy, Baltimore Sun, 1/19/07 ] The Security Council voted to put sanctions on Iran for its pursuit of nuclear technology. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6205295.stm UN passes Iran nuclear sanctions] , BBC, 12/23/06.] There was evidence that international sanctions were creating discontent among Iranians with Ahmadinejad's policies. [ [http://www.statesman.com/news/content/shared-gen/ap/Middle_East/Iran_Ahmadinejads_Woes.html Iran's Discontent With Ahmadinejad Grows] , Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press, 1/17/07. ]


Some Israeli officials asserted in January 2007 that there had been some constructive progress in unpublicized talks with Syria. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6267117.stm Syrians and Israelis 'held talks'] , BBC, 1/16/07; [http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20070118/wl_csm/otalking_1 Syrian, Israeli backdoor talks now emerging] , Christian Science Monitor, 1/18/07; [http://www.economist.com/world/africa/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8559692 Why can't they just make peace?] , Economist, 1/18/07.] Syria has repeatedly requested that Israel re-commence peace negotiations with the Syrian government. [ (The Times (UK), December 20, 2006, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article758520.ece last visited February 26, 2007) ] . There is an on-going internal debate within the Israeli government regarding the seriousness of this Syrian invitation for negotiations. The United States demanded that Israel desist from even exploratory contacts with Syria to test whether Damascus is serious in its declared intentions to hold peace talks with Israel. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was forceful in expressing Washington's view on the matter to Israeli officials that even exploratory negotiations with Syria are not to be attempted. Israel has thus far obeyed Washington's demand to desist. [ (Haaretz, February 24, 2007, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/829441.html last visited February 26/07; The Times (UK), December 20, 2006, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article758520.ece last visited February 26, 2007). ]

In May 2008 Israel and Syria officially confirmed that negotiations are taking place with Turkey serving as a mediator. These negotiations are preparing the grounds for direct Israeli-Syrian negotiations that will start in the second half of 2008.


In Jan. 2007, thousands gathered in Lebanon in a rally to support Hezbollah, and to celebrate the resignation of Israel's top military commander, Dan Halutz. [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/814702.html Thousands gather in Beirut to celebrate Halutz resignation] , Yoav Stern, Haaretz, 1/17/07. ] . However, in some Lebanese communities, Hezbollah lost popularity, for opposing Lebanon's national government. [ [http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070118/wl_nm/lebanon_hezbollah_shebaa_dc_1 Hezbollah image suffers in south Lebanon village] , Reuters, 1/18/07. ]

Egypt, and major Arab powers

In a meeting between Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in January 2007, the latter called on Israel to pursue peace more actively, but also stated that Egypt would seek to block the flow of illegal arms being smuggled into the Gaza Strip. [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/809303.html Mubarak: Israel must avoid steps that impede peace] , Haaretz, 1/5/07. ]

During the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, Egypt granted safe haven to several Fatah officials who fled Gaza. Egypt also stated it would help in policing the border, and impeding the flow of illegal arms.


As the American situation in Iraq grew increasingly difficult in Jan. 2007, the conflict threatened to turn into a wider sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. It was feared that if the US suddenly withdrew, this might become a sectarian conflict which could divide the entire Mideast along sectarian lines. There were also concerns that this might give more power to more extremist elements, as opposed to existing pro-Western Arab governments. This issue carried deep implications for security of the Mideast region, including Israel.

On the plus side, it was hoped that Iraq, by creating a rare example of democratic processes in the Mideast, might help to spread democracy in the region.

In an effort to reassert law and order, and the strength of the national Iraqi government, President Bush stated plans in his State of the Union address, for a new security effort, using 20,000 new US troops in a "troop surge." In February 2007, a crackdown began, using US and Iraqi troops, as part of the new US security plan. [ [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070207/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq;_ylt=AtZjSG3SCz7_c5HB0uSfNrys0NUE Security crackdown under way in Baghdad] , by Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press, 2/7/07. ]

Hamas's control of Palestinian parliament

In January 2006, elections were held for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas won these elections, and thus secured a majority of seats. Due to the nature of their Parliamentary system, this meant they also controlled the exceutive posts of the Palestinian Authority, including the Prime Minister's post, and the cabinet. Ismail Haniyeh became Prime Minister. Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah remained as President.

Hamas gained popular support because it appeared much more efficient and much less corrupt than Fatah. It built various institutions and social services. Hamas openly declared that it did not intend to accept any recognition of Israel. It stated it would not accept the Oslo Accords, and would not accept or recognize any negotiations with Israel.Fact|date=April 2007 Throughout previous years, it had openly stated that it encouraged and organized attacks against Israel. This created a major change in previous Israeli-Palestinian interactions, which had previously been going through various periods of negotiations.

Most Western nations and international organizations did not give the Hamas lead government official recognition and responded by cutting off funds and imposing other sanctions. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President and head of Fatah, met with Khaled Mashaal, the exiled head of Hamas, in Syria, in an effort to resolve differences over the direction of the Palestinian Authority and negotiations with Israel and to try to form a unity government with Hamas. The two parties did not reach a resolution. [ [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070121/ap_on_re_mi_ea/syria_palestinians_16 Abbas, Hamas chief can't agree on gov't] , Associated Press, 1/21/07; [http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070121/wl_mideast_afp/mideastpalestinian_070121221113 Abbas and Hamas rival hold talks, differences remain] , AFP, 1/21/07. ]

In June 2007, Hamas took control of Gaza, violently routing the forces of Fatah. This effectively severed control of the Palestinian territories. Those in the West Bank were under Fatah's control, with those in Gaza under the control of Hamas. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, dissolved the government. The fighting had numerous casualties, and gave rise to refugees, who fled to Egypt and other countries.

Abbreviated timeline

*Mandate for Palestine
*Balfour Declaration, 1917
*Faisal-Weizmann Agreement
*Riots in Palestine of 1920
*Jaffa riots, 1921
*Riots in Palestine of 1929
*Great Uprising, 1936-1939
*Peel Commission
*White Paper of 1939
*1947 UN Partition Plan
*1948 Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel
*1948 Arab-Israeli War
*1949 Armistice Agreements
*Jewish exodus from Arab lands
*1956 Suez War
*Kafr Qasim massacre, 1956
*1967 Six-Day War
*Khartoum Resolution
*1970 War of Attrition
*1973 Yom Kippur War
*Geneva Conference (1973)
*1978 Camp David Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel
*1982 Lebanon War
*1990/1 Gulf War
*1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israel
*Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, 1994
*Camp David 2000 Summit between Palestinians and Israel
*Israel's unilateral disengagement plan

ee also

* History of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
* Israel-Lebanon conflict
* Peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict


External links

* [http://www.mideastweb.org/history.htm Source Documents and texts on the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and history of Israel and Palestine]
* [http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/me.htm Documents related to the Mideast Conflict] from Mt. Holyoke College
* [http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/mideast.htm The Avalon Project at Yale Law School] records from 1916-1999
* [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths/mftoc.html Myths & Facts Online: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict] (Jewish Virtual Library)

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