You may have been hearing about the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel. This post will tell you about what is going on in this region of the Middle East and how it has come to be.
The current conflict stems from a legal agreement during the British Mandate period that attempted to balance between Palestinian Arab and Jewish claims to land in Palestine. The agreement allowed Jews to establish homes in a part of Palestine, called “the Jewish National Home”, with the understanding that they would eventually form a majority where they were not already when World War II started. This was never achieved and instead, Jews constituted about one-third of total population at that time while also owning one-third of total agricultural acreage. The territory that was to become the Jewish National Home was named Palestine by the Ottomans in 1915 without consulting with (or even alerting) the indigenous Palestinian population. The British later adopted this name in 1920, after obtaining a mandate from the prior Ottoman government in 1922 to govern Palestine .
The 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine against Jewish immigration and British colonial rule saw large numbers of Jews killed or injured. The violence prompted international criticism and a United States-endorsed plan to partition former Ottoman territory into two states . However, Arabs rejected this plan, as they believed it would create further conflict by creating an Arab state while leaving all major Jewish population centers under British rule.
In 1947, United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) proposed a partition plan to resolve the Arab–Jewish conflict by partitioning Palestine into two states and letting the Palestinians and Jews who immigrated there vote to determine which state they would join. The plan passed in the General Assembly with a two-thirds majority but was opposed, mainly by Arabs. The plan was formally accepted by Britain as the governing authority in Palestine, with no input from any Palestinian Arabs. Many of them had advocated for a single state in which Jews and Arab Palestinians would have equal rights.
The day after its adoption, Arab leaders met at Sèvres and issued their opposition to the Partition plan. The following day, Jerusalem was captured by the Arab Legion and Violence broken out between Jews and Arabs in various parts of Palestine. The next day, the British government announced its decision to terminate its mandate in Palestine. The State of Israel was proclaimed, an independent Jewish state with its capital in Jerusalem. By the end of the month most Palestinian Arab areas had been occupied by Israel.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established at this time based on the principles of Palestinian Arab nationalism and formed to coordinate resistance against Israel’s existence, as well as for all purposes to replace the discontinued Arab League as a representative body for all Palestinian Arabs worldwide. The PLO was declared the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by both the UN and many Arab countries.
Since then, warfare has continued between Israel and other Arab states on one side, and between Israel and other Palestinians on the other. The conflict has become known as “The Israeli–Palestinian Conflict” in English but is usually simply called “the Arab–Israeli conflict”, or simply “the Middle East conflict”, in Arabic or other languages.
In 1949, the first state for Jewish Israelis was declared by members of Knesset (Israeli parliament). It became known as the State of Israel, which later changed its name to Israeli to reflect this new statehood. Some Arabs and Palestinians opposed the declaration of the state, considering it to be an illegal act.
By 1950, four Arab states invaded and occupied Palestinian territory in what is known as the 1948 Arab–Israeli War (also called the “War of Independence” by Israel), which ended with an Israeli victory. The conflict was fought between Israel and a coalition of Arab states that had formed under British sponsorship during World War II to defend Palestine while it was still under occupation by Islamic forces (see also Israeli–Lebanese war). The hostilities ended on May 15, 1949, when Israel signed an armistice agreement with Jordan and Egypt. By the terms of the agreement, Egypt was to withdraw all its forces from the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula within three months, and would have returned the territories by October 15, 1949. During the war, Syria had sent a small detachment of troops to assist Jordan.
In 1950, British-mediated negotiations preceding Britain’s withdrawal from the area ended with a UN Security Council resolution recommending that both sides should be prepared to cease fighting upon Israel’s withdrawal. Jordan agreed that Transjordan would be an independent state in line with the resolution. The Resolution ofistance was a central agreement reached by those involved in negotiating an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians following 1948 war.
Before the Jordanian annexations of the West Bank, in April 1950, the All-Palestine Government was declared and recognized by Egypt and Syria. It lasted for just over one year and was headed by Ahmed Hilmi Pasha. This government was considered illegitimate by Israel and most of the international community. Only Arab League members recognized its existence, but even they were divided in their attitude towards it: while Egypt accepted it as a temporary measure subject to a future settlement, Syria regarded it as a substitute for permanent solution based on UNGA 194; Iraq took neither side. Upon cessation of activities of this government, many of its Palestinian personnel left Gaza Strip for Egypt or Jordan.
On the eve of the 1967 Six-Day War, the area was made up of Israeli-administered areas (including East Jerusalem) and Jordanian-administered areas (the West Bank). On May 14, Israel launched a preemptive air strike on the Egyptian Army’s headquarters in Abdeen Square, Cairo.
The Arab League has urged its members to join the PLO in all combatant duties during 1967 War. The Arab League also supported Egypt and Syria in their war against Israel. Egypt had some success against Israel. The Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline was bombed by Egypt at this time, though they failed to destroy it completely. Israel responded with a series of air raids that destroyed most of the Egyptian Air Force. Egypt was expelled from the league, and came under the control of Syria.
Most Arab countries boycotted any UN peace initiative which would result in a state for Arabs in Jerusalem or West Bank territory. On March 22, 1974, the PLO was recognized by Syria as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and by all Arab states except Iraq. In April 1974, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat met with King Hussein of Jordan at an Arab League summit in Rabat, Morocco. According to “The New York Times” report: “King Hussein told Mr. Arafat that he would meet his commitments as an Arab leader and offered him the official protocol of the league, while the PLO chairman promised to recognize King Hussein as King of Jordan.”
The Israeli Army then launched a surprise attack on the Syrian-backed PLO in Lebanon, using airstrikes, armored raids and artillery. In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. This was done to end attacks on northern Israel by Palestinian guerrillas based in Lebanon. The invasion was also an attempt to create a zone free of these kinds of attacks along Northern Israel’s border with Lebanon; however, it has resulted in civilian casualties among Lebanese and Palestinians alike. This led to United States Marines entering Beirut as a peacekeeping force.
The Soviet Union was invited by the PLO to become an observer at the conference in Algiers. The Soviets stated that they would help Arafat, but the US demanded that he not be given anything from the conference.
In May 1982, the PLO’s parliamentary leadership held its first meeting in Damascus, Syria, and agreed to negotiate with Israel, based on UN Security Council Resolution 242. The PLO began talks under Syrian auspices and offered to meet Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in September 1982. Israel refused to negotiate until it had bombed Beirut twice (twice), in October and again in January 1983.
Attempts at peace negotiations were fruitless until March 1983, when U.S. intervention brought about the agreement in May to establish a ceasefire and the withdrawal of PLO forces from Lebanon in exchange for a cessation of Israeli attacks. In August 1983, Israel and Lebanon reached an accord for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from most of Lebanon. The agreement was signed on 23 May by Israel and by representatives of Syria, Lebanon, the P.L.O., and some other factions.
The 1982 PLO-Israel Agreement on Palestinian Self-Rule in Gaza and Jericho was signed on September 9, 1982 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It took effect Apr. 22, 1983, the date on which the PLO agreed to withdraw its forces from Lebanon as part of the Israeli-Lebanese understanding. It was superseded by later agreements in which Israel accepted the PLO’s presence in and control of areas A and B (the West Bank), Golan Heights, and Eastern Jerusalem.
Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon—The 1982 Israeli-Lebanese Agreement for Peace between Israel and the P.L.O. ended the war of attrition Israel had carried out in Lebanon since June 1982. The hostilities also ended the PLO’s paramount claim to represent the Palestinian people.
Israel had already launched a series of limited military operations in Lebanon and, by July 1984, had reached agreement for a comprehensive peace settlement with the government of resigned prime minister Shafik al-Wazzan. The U.S., however, was unwilling to press for agreement with al-Wazzan’s government unless certain Lebanese political and military forces were first neutralized. To that end, Israeli and U.S. officials secretly met with Syrian, Saudi, and Qatari officials at an international conference in Geneva in August 1984. They agreed that the Lebanese Shi’a group of General Michel ‘Aflaq and the Lebanese Sunni groups of Kamal Jumblatt and Sulaiman Abu Ghazaleh would be prime ministers of a future government.
In March 1985, Israeli forces launched a major invasion of Lebanon. It ended with the Israeli withdrawal from Beirut on September 16, 1985. This left the PLO as the sole authority in Lebanon for the first time since 1967. In February 1986, Israel and Syria signed an unprecedented peace treaty that gave Damascus control over sections of Lebanese capital Beirut.
The 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence stated that it was a result of the Israeli occupation, Israel’s military attacks on the Gaza Strip, and the economic blockade imposed by Israel. The document also stated that “Resistance will continue to liberate all Palestinian and Arab lands occupied since 1967.” The PLO established the Palestine National Council in July 1988 based on an agreement with Jordan. The council had 667 members as of 1990.
In 1988, General Michel Aoun led an attempted coup against Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in Lebanon. The Syrian government sent armed forces to quell the rebellion and had Aoun arrested, imprisoned, tried and convicted in absentia.
During the 1991 Gulf War, many Arab states led by Syria and Iraq joined the war in support of Iraq.
In 1992, the First Intifada began in Gaza and the West Bank. The Intifada was an uprising by Palestinian Arabs against Israeli occupation of the occupied territories and specifically against Jewish settlements located on land that they considered ancestral for Palestinians Arabs. It is considered to be a large-scale campaign of civil disobedience that started as massive demonstrations but later escalated into violence. It lasted until September 2000, when it was violently ended after an event known as the Oslo Accords (also known as Oslo I).
In 1997, a reconciliation agreement was signed between Jordan and Israel. This agreement led to the cancellation of the clause stipulating that the Kingdom of Jordan was responsible for protecting Palestinians.
In March 1998, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat signed an agreement at Wye Plantation, Maryland. This agreement led to the Israel–Jordan peace treaty, which was signed in July. By coming to an agreement with Israel, Jordan had withdrawn all claims to sovereignty over the West Bank establishing a Palestinian state. In addition, any land that had been under Israeli control since 1967 that is “west of the Green Line” (the armistice line established after Israel’s War of Independence) would be returned to Jordan’s full administration.
In December 1998, President Bill Clinton invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to Camp David. This summit was a follow-up to the peace talks that had begun at the White House in July.
In August 2000, Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon made a provocative visit to Jerusalem’s most sacred site, the Dome of the Rock (Temple Mount) on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The next day, violence erupted between Palestinians and Israelis. This violence led to the Al Aqsa Intifada which caused many causalities on each side. In 2004, Israel pulled out of Gaza but kept control over its borders, airspace and coast-line waters.
Under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority was established. This was a result of negotiations between Israel and Yasser Arafat. The purpose of these negotiations was to create a Palestinian state, based on territorial lines that existed before 1967 but carved out of Palestinian-administered areas and Israeli-administered areas. It would have been within the borders outlined by UNSC Resolution 242 (with some modifications) and would have been at least partly sovereign. Israel agreed to permit the establishment of a Palestinian state. It would be up to the Palestinian people and their leaders to choose whether that state’s borders would match those of Israel. The Israeli government, on the other hand, agreed that it would not annex any territory nor settle in those areas.
Arafat was elected as president of the Palestinian National Authority in 1996 and 1997. He died in Paris on 11 November 2004 after a series of strokes. Upon his death, Mahmoud Abbas became Arafat’s successor as Chairman (President) of the PNA.
The Palestinian National Charter, adopted in 1964, called for the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. It also contained a clause specifying that this state would be based on the borders established before 1948.
According to Article 2 of the Oslo accords, “The State of Israel recognizes that Palestine with its boundaries as they existed on 15 May 1948 is a single, regular, and indivisible unit” [sic]. The Israeli government has made clear that while it accepts this article as defining its borders in principle, it has not accepted the clause expressing a Palestinian demand for the return to its pre-1967 frontiers: “Israel will respect existing agreements and arrangements …. Israel will seek to conclude agreements with all those concerned. But it will not be bound by any agreement between others and the State of Israel will have no obligation to accept the provisions of any agreement which may be concluded between others.” (Oslo accords: Agreement on Palestinian Self-Government: Annex I)
On Palestine, the conventions and decisions of the United Nations are accepted in full. The State of Israel will take all measures within its power to ensure that these decisions and conventions are implemented in their entirety by all parties concerned. (Oslo accords: Agreement on Palestinian Self-Government: Annex II. Bilateral declaration of Israel and Palestine, Official English version.)
The Oslo accords specified which issues would be discussed in negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority. The Israeli government would lay out its position on the issue and the Palestinian National Authority would then formulate its position. The negotiations would be conducted directly between the two parties, separate from discussions with other countries. (Oslo accords: Agreement on Palestinian Self-Government.)
The Oslo accords defined which issues would not be discussed for the time being: Jerusalem, refugees, security and settlement in Judea and Samaria. (Oslo accords: Agreement on Palestinian Self-Government: Annex III. Bilateral Declaration of the Government of Israel and the P.L.O., Official English version.)
The Oslo accords also stated that negotiations on Jerusalem were not to be discussed until the Palestinian National Authority had “meaningfully carried out its security responsibilities” in accordance with a timetable set by the Israeli government. (Oslo accords: Agreement on Palestinian Self-Government: Annex III.)
The Oslo accords also stated that negotiations on refugees would not be discussed until there was a “permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.” (Oslo accords: Agreement on Palestinian Self-Government: Annex III.