15 Key Moments in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

History Hit

6 mins

27 Jan 2019

The Israel-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s most controversial and longstanding conflicts.

At its heart, it is a fight over the same territory between two self-determination movements: the Zionist project and the Palestinian nationalist project.

But it is an immensely complicated war, one that has deepened religious and political divides for decades.

The current conflict began in the early 20th century, when Jews fleeing persecution wanted to establish a national homeland in what was then an Arab – and Muslim – majority territory. The Arabs resisted.

An early UN plan to portion each group some of the land failed, and several bloody wars were fought over the territory. Today’s boundaries largely indicate the outcomes of two of those wars, one waged in 1948 and the other in 1967.

Dan talks to James Barr about the role of Jerusalem in the Israel-Palestine conflict.Listen Now

Here are 15 key moments in this long-running conflict:

1.  First Arab-Israeli war (1948-49)

Armistice agreements left Israel with more territory than was planned in the Partition Plan, including western Jerusalem.

Jordan annexed the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, while Egypt occupied Gaza.

Of a total population of around 1,200,000 people, around 750,000 Palestinian Arabs either fled or were driven out.

2. Six Day War (1967)

Egypt’s expulsion of the UN buffer force from Sinai and its closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping led to Israel launching a pre-emptive attack on Egypt. Syria and Jordan then joined the war.

It lasted 6 days and left Israel in control of east Jerusalem, Gaza, Golan Heights, Sinai and all of the West Bank. Jewish settlements were established in these areas, helping to consolidate control.

As a result of the Six-Day War, Israelis gained access to important Jewish holy sites, including the Wailing Wall. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

3. Munich Olympics (1972)

Palestinian ‘Black September’ gunmen took the Israeli team hostage at the Munich Olympics.

2 athletes were murdered at the site and a further 9 were killed during a failed rescue attempt by the German authorities.

4. Camp David Accord (1977)

In May, Menachem Begin’s right-wing Likud party won a surprise election victory. They brought religious Jewish parties into the mainstream, and encouraged settlements and economic liberalisation.

In November, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visited Jerusalem and began the process that would lead to Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai and Egypt’s recognition of Israel in the Camp David Accords, which also pledged Israel to expand Palestinian autonomy in Gaza and the West Bank.

5. Invasion of Lebanon (1982)

In June, Israel invaded Lebanon in order to expel the PLO leadership after an assassination attempt on the Israeli ambassador to London.

In September, the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut by Israel’s Christian Phalangist allies led to mass protests and calls for the Defence Minister, Ariel Sharon, to be removed from office.

A hung-parliament in July 1984 led to an uneasy coalition between Likud and Labour, and in June 1985 Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon but continued to occupy a narrow ‘security zone’ along the border.

6. First Palestinian Intifada (1987-1993)

IDF roadblock outside Jabalya, 1988. Credit: יעקב / Commons.

In 1987 Palestinians in Israel began to protest their marginalised position and agitated for national independence. With Israel’s settler population in the West Bank almost doubling in the mid-1980s, a growing Palestinian militancy agitated against the de-facto annexation that seemed to be taking place.

Although around 40% of the Palestinian workforce worked in Israel, they were mostly employed in jobs of unskilled or semi-skilled nature.

In 1988 Yasser Arafat formally declared the establishment of a Palestinian state, despite the fact that the PLO had no control over any territory and was held to be a terrorist organisation by Israel.

The first intifada became a largely spontaneous series of demonstrations, nonviolent actions like mass boycotts and Palestinians refusing to work in Israel, and attacks (such as with rocks, Molotov cocktails and occasionally firearms) on Israelis.

During the six-year intifada, the Israeli army killed from 1,162 – 1,204 Palestinians – 241 being children – and arrested more than 120,000. One journalistic calculation reports that in the Gaza Strip alone from 1988 to 1993, some 60,706 Palestinians suffered injuries from shootings, beatings or tear gas.

7. Oslo Declaration (1993)

Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin took steps toward peace between their two countries, mediated by Bill Clinton.

They planned Palestinian self-government and formally concluded the First Intifada. Violence from Palestinian groups who reject the Declaration continues to this day.

Between May and July 1994, Israel withdrew from most of Gaza and Jericho, allowing Yasser Arafat to move the PLO administration from Tunis and to establish Palestinian National Authority. Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in October.

The Interim Agreement for the transfer of further autonomy and territory to the Palestinian National Authority in September 1995 paved the way for the 1997 Hebron Protocol, 1998 Wye River Memorandum and the 2003 ‘Road Map for Peace’.

This was despite Likud’s electoral success in May 1996, which saw Benjamin Netanyahu come to power. But Netanyahu did pledge to halt further concessions and settlement expansion resumed.

In 1993 Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin took steps toward peace between their two countries mediated by Bill Clinton.

8. Pullout from Lebanon (2000)

In May, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon.

Two months later however, talks between Prime Minister Barak and Yasser Arafat broke down over the timing and extent of proposed further Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

In September, Likud leader Ariel Sharon visited the site in Jerusalem known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Arabs as Al-Haram-al-Sharif. This highly-provocative visit sparked new violence, known as the Second Intifada.

9. Second Palestinian Intifada – 2000-2005

A new wave of violent protests erupted between the Palestinians and Israelis following Sharon’s visit to Temple Mount. Ariel Sharon went on to become Prime Minister of Israel in January 2001, and refused to continue peace talks.

Between March and May in 2002, the Israeli army launched Operation Defensive Shield on the West Bank after a significant number of Palestinian suicide bombings – the largest military operation on the West Bank since 1967.

In June 2002 the Israelis started to build a barrier around the West Bank; it frequently deviated from the agreed pre-1967 ceasefire line into the West Bank.

The 2003 Road Map – as proposed by the EU, the USA, Russia and the UN – attempted to resolve the conflict and both Palestinians and Israelis supported the plan.

Israeli soldiers in Nablus during Operation Defensive Shield. CC / Israel Defence Force

10. Withdrawal from Gaza (2005)

In September, Israel withdrew all Jewish settlers and military from Gaza, but maintained control over airspace, coastal waters and border crossings.

At the start of 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian elections. Rocket attacks from Gaza escalated, and were met with rising Israeli violence in retaliation.

In June, Hamas took Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, hostage, and tensions rose sharply. He was eventually released in October 2011 in exchange for 1,027 prisoners in a deal brokered by Germany and Egypt.

Between July and August, there was an Israeli incursion into Lebanon, which escalated into the Second Lebanon War.

In November 2007, the Annapolis Conference established a ‘two-state solution’ for the first time as a basis for future peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

11. Gaza Invasion (2008)

In December Israel launched a month-long full-scale invasion to prevent Hamas staging further attacks. Between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinians were killed; the Israeli’s lost 13 men.

12. Netanyahu’s fourth government (2015)

In May, Netanyahu formed a new coalition government with the right-wing Bayit Yehudi party. Another right-wing party, Yisrael Beitenu, joined the following year.

In November, Israel suspended contact with European Union officials who had been in talks with Palestinians over the decision to label goods from Jewish settlements as coming from settlements, not from Israel.

In December 2016 Israel broke ties with 12 countries that voted for a Security Council resolution condemning settlement building. This occurred after the US abstained from its vote for the first time, rather than using its veto.

In June 2017 the first new Jewish settlement in the West Bank for 25 years started construction. It followed after a law was passed that retroactively legalised dozens of Jewish settlements that were built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank.

13. US raised the military aid package to Israel (2016)

In September 2016 the US agreed a military aid package worth $38bn over the next 10 years – the largest deal of its kind in US history.

The previous pact, which expired in 2018, saw Israel receive $3.1bn each year.

14. US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (2017)

In an unprecedented move, Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital, causing further upset and divides in the Arab world and drawing condemnation from some Western allies.

15. A ceasefire between Israel and Palestine is brokered (2018)

The UN and Egypt attempted to broker a long-term ceasefire between the two states, following a steep rise in bloodshed on the Gaza border.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman resigned in protest at the ceasefire, and withdrew the Yisrael Beteinu party from the coalition government.

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