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Spiritual Justice -Introduction to Middle East  >  Geography, Religions and Conflicts of the Middle East  >  History and Background to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Early Period to 638 AD  >  History and Background to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: From 638 AD  >  The Role of the United Nations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict  > Middle East Resources

History and Background to the Israeli - Palestinian Conflict:

From 638 AD


Go to 1900s

         Oslo Accords - 1993, 1995

Go to 2000s

Roadmap  |  Geneva Accord   |  Gaza Strip disengagement plan  |  Greater Middle East Initiative |

 Refugee Question re-visited  |   Successor to Arafat


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638 AD to 1071 AD

Muslim powers controlled Palestine.  Christians and Jews were allowed to keep their religions.


The Seljuk Turks (from Central Asia, whom conquered Persia. later to be known as Iran, in 1037) gained control of Jerusalem.


The Seljuk Empire declined.  The Christian crusaders from Europe captured Jerusalem and slaughtered both Jewish and Muslim people.  No Jews were allowed to live in Jerusalem.


The Muslim Kurdish general from Syria, Saladin, attacked Palestine and took control of Jerusalem.  Despite Saladin's relentless military and diplomatic efforts, a Christian land and naval blockade forced the surrender of the Palestinian stronghold of Acre in 1191.  In 1192 Saladin concluded an armistice agreement with King Richard I of England that allowed the Christians to reconstitute their kingdom along the Palestinian - Syrian coast, but left Jerusalem in Muslim hands.


In 1244 and 1249 Jerusalem was sacked by Tartars and Mongols.  In 1260 Turkish Mamelukes (military, landholding aristocracy) based in Egypt (whom originally had been imported into Egypt as slaves) extended their Empire to include Palestine.  Arab-speaking Muslims made up most of Palestine's population.


The Turks of the Ottoman Empire defeated the Mamelukes.  The Turkish Sultan allowed Jews fleeing the Catholic inquisition to settle in Palestine.


Napoleon invaded the region.  Arabs and Jews fled to safer lands.  After subsequent re-organisation, both the Arab and Jewish populations increased until 1880, when the Ottoman government imposed severe restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchase.


The first Zionist writings were published by Rabbi Yehuda Alcalay in the area now known as Yugoslavia.  The Zionist movement aims for a national homeland and claims the right of return of all Jews to their homeland, Palestine (Zion).

Late 1800s

The Zionist movement became a formal organisation in 1897 with the first Zionist congress in Basle, organised by Theodore Herzl.  The Zionist movement aimed to resolve the situation of a minority population, the Jewish people, whom were repeatedly subjected to pogroms and persecutions, and discriminated against wherever they settled, thus being a homeless community.  Zionism synthesized the goals of liberation and unity, i.e. to free the Jews from hostile and oppressive rule and to reestablish Jewish unity by gathering Jewish exiles from the "four corners of the world" to the Jewish homeland.

Oppression of Jews in Eastern Europe galvanised emigration of Jews to Palestine.  By 1914 the total population of Palestine stood at about 700,000, with approximately 615,000 Arabs and 85,000 to 100,000 Jews.

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1914 to 1918

The Turkish military governor ordered internment and deportation of all foreign nationals during World War One, and large numbers of Jews were forced to flee.   After the war, the enfeebled Ottoman Empire was divided up by the Allies.  Britain was in possession of the Suez Canal and attached great strategic importance to the Middle East region.  The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 called for part of Palestine to be under British rule, part under a joint Allied government, and for Syria and Lebanon to be given to France.

Britain offered to back Arab demands for post-war independence from the Ottomans in return for Arab support, but in 1917 Britain pledged itself to the Zionist cause by issuing the Balfour declaration.  It seemed that the Zionists appeared to Britain as a potential ally capable of safeguarding British imperial interests in the region.  This document declared the British government's "sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations" and viewed with favor "the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People".  The letter added the provision of "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."


The British Mandate for Palestine was established by Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations , the predecessor of the United Nations, in 1919.  Under this article it was stated that the territories inhabited by peoples unable to stand by themselves would be entrusted to advanced nations until such time as the local population could handle their own affairs.  The Mandate recognized the "historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine" and called upon the formation of "an appropriate Jewish agency" to "secure establishment of the Jewish National Home."


Britain subdivided the British Mandate for Palestine along the Jordan River-Gulf of Aqaba line.  The eastern portion, called Transjordan, was to have a separate Arab administration operating under the general supervision of the commissioner for Palestine.  This represented approximately 75% of the region originally designated, as a result of the British Mandate, as Palestine (the historical land of Canaan).  In 1946, Transjordan was renamed by its leader, Emir Abdullah, as Jordan.  For more information on Transjordan, click here.


A British government memorandum in1922, known as "the Churchill White Paper", was approved by the League of Nations Council, to exclude Jewish settlement from Transjordan.  This move was aimed at satisfying wartime pledges made to the Arabs.  Many of the Jewish people saw this partition as unfairly excising a large part of Palestine from the Jewish National Homeland.  The Arabs mainly opposed the idea of a Jewish National Home and rejected the partitioning, claiming all of Palestine as their land.

1920 to 1929

The Arabs felt they were in danger of dispossession by the Zionists.  Arab nationalists instigated riots against Jews and the Haganah organisation (Jewish Self Defence) was formed by some of the Jews in self-defense.  In 1929 the World Zionist Organisation was recognised as the appropriate Jewish Agency to establish a national home for the Jews.


Jewish immigration swelled in the 1930s, driven by persecution in Eastern Europe and Nazi Germany.  The Yishuv, or Jewish community in Palestine, led by David Ben Gurion (later to become Israel's first Prime Minister), responded to Arab riots with defensive measures.   Random terror attacks and bombings of Arab civilian targets were carried out by a group called the Irgun.  The Irgun was the military underground of a right wing dissident "revisionist group" and was led at one stage by Menachem Begin (who was Prime Minister of Israel from 1977 to 1983).

In 1939 the "MacDonald White Paper" was signed to appease the Arabs.  It restricted immigration of the Jewish people to Palestine, to 75,000 in total over five years and restricted Jewish land purchases.

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Britain turned the issue of control over Palestine to the newly formed United Nations.  On 27 November 1947 the General Assembly passed UN Partition Resolution 181 which divided the 23% left of the original British Mandate into two areas, about 10% of it to be included in the formation of an Arab state and about 13% to be included in the formation of a Jewish state.  However, the areas had complicated zig-zag borders, and of the total area, 1% was designated as a shared region as an international zone for the holy places in and around Jerusalem.  Click here to view a map of the UN Partition Plan of 1947.

There were approximately 600,000 Jews in Palestine, almost all living in the areas allotted to the Jewish state or in the internationalized zone of Jerusalem, and about 1.2 million Arabs in the British Mandate for Palestine.  The relatively large Jewish population of Jerusalem and its neighboring areas were geographically cut off from the rest of the Jewish state, which, with the tension between the Arabs and Jews, was untenable.

1948 - 1949

Fighting occurred between members of the Arab League and the Jewish people and on 14 May 1948, in accordance with UN Resolution 181, the Jews proclaimed the independent State of Israel.  The British withdrew from Palestine, and on 15 May 1948, neighboring Arab nations attacked Israel.   The Arabs from both Palestine and the surrounding countries lost their initial advantage when they failed to organize and unite, and with better organisation, intelligence and clandestine arms shipments, the Jews gained decisive victories in the War of Independence and they occupied territories beyond the boundaries set by the UN plan, about 70 percent of the British Mandate area for the Arab and Jewish states, being about 50 percent more than the UN Partition plan had allotted to the state of Israel.  These borders created by the Israelis became known later as the "Green Line."

The UN made no serious attempt to enforce the internationalization of Jerusalem, which was now divided between Jordan and Israel.  The rest of the area assigned to the Arab state was occupied by Egypt and Jordan.  Egypt held the Gaza Strip and Jordan held the West Bank.  Approximately 780,000 Arabs fled or were driven out of Israel to take refuge in neighboring Arab countries.  For more information on refugees, click here.

UN Resolution 194 called for cessation of hostilities and return of Arab refugees who wished to live in peace, however, Israel refused to readmit more than a small number of refugees.  From January to July 1949, armistice agreements were signed with Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria based on the frontlines as they were at the end of the fighting.  The armistice line became known as the Green Line.  The 1947 UN borders were rejected by the Arabs and became later unacceptable to Israel because of the difficulty in providing security within such borders.  But the Arab countries refused to sign a permanent peace treaty with Israel, and consequently the borders of Israel established by the armistice commission never received complete legal international recognition.  The Partition resolution was never suspended or rescinded, leaving undecided the boundaries of the two states.

The website of the Council for the National Interest states that recognition of Israel in 1948 by many countries was done without reference to important policy lines.  Recognition of only one state, Israel, prejudged the outcome of the struggle between the Arabs and Jews.  De jure recognition of the state of Israel was given, while not calling for the other part of Resolution 181 to be implemented, i.e. the creation of a viable Palestinian state on the remaining territory.

1954 - 1957

King Farouk of Egypt was overthrown in 1954 and replaced by Gamal Nasser, who made some moves toward peace with Israel.  However, in response to the activities of an Israeli spy ring aiming to create tension between the US and Egypt, the Egyptian President became suspicious of Israel and began negotiating to purchase large quantities of arms.  The Egyptian President closed the straits of Tiran and the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping. Nasser nationalised the Suez Maritime Canal Company.  See this website also

In October 1956 Israel invaded and conquered the Sinai, in the Suez War or Sinai Campaign, as part of a plan with France and Britain, to try to reverse the nationalization of the Suez Canal.  Israel eventually withdrew from the Sinai under pressure from the UN, with guarantees from the US that the international waterways would remain open to Israeli shipping.

The Fatah organisation (the Movement for Liberation of Palestine) was founded in 1957, with Yasser Arafat as its leader, and had the declared aim of destroying Israel.


Israel began to implement its National Water Carrier Plan to pump water from the Sea of Galilee to irrigate south and central Israel, but Arab governments refused to participate because of the implied recognition of  Israel.  In several summit conferences beginning in 1964, some Arab leaders founded the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) with the declared aim of destroying Israel.  Conflict broke out amongst the Syrians, Lebanese and Israelis, escalating into air strikes.

In mid-May 1967 Egyptian President Gamal Nasser again closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and he expelled the UN peace force from the Sinai Peninsula.  Over May and June 1967, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq formed a military alliance and threatened Israel with war, in retaliation for Israeli forces occupying the Sinai in 1956.  Israel pre-empted their attack and attacked the Egyptians on June 5, 1967.   Israeli troops quickly conquered the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, and then the West Bank and Jerusalem, and captured the Golan Heights, which had been under control of Syria.   These areas became known as the Occupied Territories.  The war became known as the Six Day War..  Following this, Israeli settlement of the occupied territories intensified.  To view a map showing the Israeli occupation and settlements, click here.   As a result of the Six Day War, Israel tripled the size of the area which it controlled.

After the Six Day War, Yasser Arafat became the Chairman of the PLO, and the PLO became recognised by the Arab states as the representative of the Palestinian people.  The Arab nations would not cooperate with Israel by signing peace treaties for the return of all occupied territories, apart from Jerusalem, to Arab control, and some Jewish groups called for annexation and settlement of areas in the West Bank and Golan Heights.  Settlements by Israelis were expanded after the Khartoum Arab Summit in August and September 1967 which demonstrated the un-willingness of the Arab nations to recognise the state of Israel.

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1970s and 1980s

Egyptian President Nasser broke the cease fire, and in August 1970, a second cease fire was signed by Egypt and Israel.   Upon the death of Nasser, Anwar Sadat tried to negotiate a peace deal for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, and the UN tried to mediate.  However, no other support was given for his proposal, and Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel (from 1969 to 1974), refused to order withdrawal from the occupied territories.  In October 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against Israel.  Israeli troops, under the leadership of General Ariel Sharon, cut off the Egyptian army at the Suez Canal, in the Yom Kippur War.  Cease-fires ended most of the fighting within a month.  An armistice was achieved on the Egyptian front on 24 October 1973, which left Egypt in control of the Egyptian areas west of the Suez Canal in the Sinai, and all of the eastern bank. Israel was left in control of the rest of the Sinai, including Sharm El Sheikh, commanding the Straits of Tiran.  An armistice was not achieved with Syria until May 1974, which left the Israelis in full control of the Golan Heights.

Golda Meir resigned and was replaced by Yitzhak Rabin, who had been Israeli ambassador to the US and Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces.   For a list of the leaders of Israel, see the Palestine Facts website, scroll down and click on "Frequently Asked Questions About Palestine", then scroll down and click on "Who are the leaders of Israel?".

In 1975 the UN Resolution "Zionism is Racism" was passed, on the basis that Jewish claims to settlements in the occupied territories were unjust.  Settlement expansion became official Israeli policy after the opposition revisionist Likud party came to power in 1977, and continued during the Oslo accords. 

In 1976, Syrian troops, upon the request of Maronite Christians in Lebanon, entered Lebanon after the Jordanian government had expelled the PLO from Jordan in 1970, following revolts by the PLO.  The Likud Party, with Menachem Begin as its leader, took up office in Israel in 1977.  In 1978, Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt, and Menachem Begin, President of Israel, under the auspices of President Jimmy Carter of the United States, signed the Camp David framework agreements.   This lead to a peace treaty being signed in principle, in March 1979.   In October 1981, Anwar Sadat was assassinated, and in 1982, Israel completely withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula under the terms of the 1979 peace treaty. 

Israeli forces entered Lebanon and Beirut in 1982, to help the Syrians and the Maronite (Lebanese) Christians to expel PLO members.  It is purported that in September 1982, the Lebanese Christian Phalange units were not prevented by Israeli troops from entering two Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Sabra and Shatilla, and that they (the LCP) massacred 400 Palestinian civilians. After mass demonstrations by Israelis calling for a commission of enquiry into the massacre, in 1983 Israel began partial withdrawal from Lebanon.  Shimon Peres took up office for a short while as President of Israel in 1985, and ordered Israeli troops to completely withdraw from Lebanon.  In 1987, civilian Palestinian Arabs in the occupied territories, armed with stones, revolted with violence against Israeli troops in the first "Intifadeh".  After Israel withdrew from Lebanon, a Shi-ite anti-Israel terrorist group, the Hizbolla, was formed in Lebanon.

Since the Six Day War in 1967, the United States has been providing military and economic aid to Israel, amounting recently to $3 billion annually, which has contributed to the Israeli Defence Forces being well organised and well armed.  An analysis of why the U.S. supports Israel can be found by clicking here, or by going to the United For Peace web site, and performing a search of their site using the search criteria "supports Israel".

In 1988 the Hamas Islamic Brotherhood, the armed wing of the non-nationalist, religious revivalist Muslim Brotherhood, was founded in the Gaza Strip, with the intention of destroying Israel.  In May 1989, a peace initiative plan was formulated by the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir of the Likud Party (President from 1983-1984 & 1986-1992), and Israeli Defence Minister, Yitzhak Rabin (Labour Party), of the Israel unity government, consisting of four basic points:  to strengthen peace with Egypt as a regional cornerstone, promote full peaceful relations with the Arab states, improve refugee conditions through international efforts, and to hold elections and interim self-rule for the Palestinian Arabs.  This initiative was in response to the Intifadah and was negotiated under intense pressure from the United States, whom wished for a peaceful resolution on both sides.


The 1989 peace initiative plan formed the basis of the Madrid framework (or peace conference) in October 1991, which was hosted by U.S. Secretary of State, James Baker, and called upon Israel and neighboring Arab countries, to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict.

Labor Party leader and former General, Yitzhak Rabin, was elected President of Israel in June 1992.  Yitzhak Rabin exchanged letters, dated 9 September 1993, with Arafat, setting out key issues such as the renouncement of violence by Arafat and the PLO, and the agreement that, on such a basis, "Israel has decided to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and commence negotiations with the PLO within the Middle East peace process". 

Oslo Accords

On 13 September 1993, Yitzhak Rabin, and Mahmoud Ridha Abbas, representing Yasser Arafat for the PLO, signed the Oslo Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements at a ceremony in Washington DC hosted by the US President, Bill Clinton.

The document was also known as the Oslo Accords and contains a set of mutually agreed-upon general principles regarding a five year interim period of Palestinian self-rule. "Permanent status issues" were to be deferred to later negotiations, beginning no later than the third year of the interim period.  The main points of the Oslo Accords can be found in the web site of "Palestine Facts", by clicking here.  For an overview of how the Oslo Accords were negotiated, see the web site of "MidEast Views" by clicking here.

The terms of the Oslo Accords effected a partial transfer of power and responsibilities to the Arab Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  It called for withdrawal of Israeli troops only from the Gaza Strip and from Jericho in the West Bank (and not from the Golan Heights, which had been annexed from Syria, by Israel, after the Six Day War, or from the remainder of the West Bank). Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organisation had to recognise the right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.  The Accord also provided that, during the interim period, Israel would be responsible for security along the international borders and the crossing points to Egypt and Jordan, as well as be responsible for the overall security of Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli settlements in those areas, and freedom of movement on roads.  However, there was no provision in the Oslo Accords for Jewish settlements in any of the occupied territories to be dismantled. 

In October1994 Israel and Jordan signed a Peace Treaty, the terms of which can be found by clicking here.

On 24 September 1995, in Taba, Egypt, the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, known as the Oslo II Accords or the Taba Agreement, was signed.   On 4 November 1995, Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel, was assassinated by a fanatic whom did not want concessions made to the Arabs.   The Oslo II Accords is an extensive and complicated document calling for major redeployments of Israeli troops from Arab Palestinian population centres in the West Bank.  One of the problems with the agreement was a conflict of stated terms that the Agreement would not prejudice Israel's right, for security and safety considerations, to close the crossing points to Israel, and to prohibit or limit the entry into Israel of persons and of vehicles from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and that Palestinians wishing to travel between the West Bank and Gaza, necessarily crossing Israeli territory to do so, would be granted such rights.  By early 1996 Israeli troops had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip and from most cities and towns of the West Bank.   In 1999, Labor Party leader and former General, Ehud Barak, was elected President of Israel.

The Palestinian Authority (or Palestinian National Authority) was created as a requirement of the Oslo Accords to form a semi-autonomous interim governing body while the Oslo Accords were implemented. It was mandated to administer all civil affairs in Palestine except foreign affairs and some security matters, which would be administered by Israel . In January 1996, 88 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) were directly elected, and a minority of externally appointed officials were chosen, mainly from the members of the Palestinian National Council to form the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian National Council comprises approximately 600 members and is the most important institution of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).  All of the PLC members are automatically members of the PNC, affirming their links to PNC members world-wide.  The PLC members plus approximately 100 other members of the PNC live in the Palestinian territories.  The remaining 400 or so PNC members represent  the Palestinian "diaspora", living outside Palestine. (source:  The Palestinian National Authority  website).  The Palestinian Authority has control over both security-related and civilian issues in Palestinian urban areas (which in the Oslo accords is called "Area A"), and civilian control over Palestinian rural areas ("Area B").  The Palestinian Authority is made up of various government departments, headed by ministers appointed from the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the Palestinian National Council.

The PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, running with token opposition, became President of the Palestinian Authority.   The Oslo Accords provided for those articles of the Palestinian Covenant (or Palestinian National Charter), which deny Israel's right to exist, as no longer valid; and for the PLO to undertake to submit to the Palestinian Legislative Council, for formal approval, the necessary changes to the Palestinian Covenant.  After the signing of the Oslo agreements, the PNC convened in Gaza in April 1996 to void parts of the Palestinian Convenant that denied Israel's right to exist. This was done by 504 votes in favour and 54 against.  On 26 October 1998 Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, declared the independent state of Palestine at a meeting of the PNC in Algiers.

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During late 1999 and the early months of 2000, three way talks between Israelis, Palestinians and the US as facilitator, were held by working-level teams to create the necessary preparations for the Oslo Peace Process "final status" negotiations. The goal was to conclude the permanent status agreement by 13 September 2000.  Despite many problems and delays, the working level meetings succeeded well enough to lead to the Camp David 2000 Summit convened on July 11, 2000.

However, the summit ended in failure on July 25 after Israeli Prime Minister Barak, under intense pressure from President Clinton, in an effort to reach a final agreement, and with promises of American support and security guarantees, put some concessions on the table in order to get an agreement, but Yasser Arafat rejected them and walked out.  In return for the concessions Arafat had to declare the "end of conflict" and agree that no further claims on Israel could be made in the future.  However, Arafat insisted on a right of return of all Arab refugees to Israel, which would have produced an Arab majority in Israel. 

In September 2000, the Arab Palestinians, fed up with the diplomatic approach, launched the second al Aqsa intifada.  (The first intifadeh had been started in 1987.)  Israeli military forces re-occupied the Arab town of Beit Jala (west of Bethlehem in the West Bank) in September, and violence against the Palestinians increased.  The Israelis claimed that the Arabs were firing on Gilo, a Jewish neighbourhood less than one kilometre away from Beit Jala.   Substantial areas of the Gaza Strip were re-occupied, resulting in 2003 in about 6,000 Israeli settlers over 40 percent of the Strip, while approximately one million Arabs occupied the remaining 60 percent.  In December 2000, talks were held with Israeli and Palestinian teams in Washington, hosted by President Clinton who presented a bridging proposal to the parties, aimed at ending the al Aqsa intifada. The proposal was taken up at marathon talks between Israeli and Palestinian delegations at the Egyptian resort of Taba between January 22 and January 28, 2001.  At this time the Clinton administration had left office and the Bush team was not yet engaged.

The Barak government continued to offer concessions to the Palestinians, but neither the Israeli public nor the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) supported them. Ariel Sharon was elected Prime Minister of Israel in a landslide victory on February 6, 2001.  On the basis of the vexatious question of the right of Arab refugees to return to Palestine, the PLO continued not to co-operate with Israel, and the violence of the Intafadeh continued.   The Sharon government turned away from the Barak policy of concessions, and the "peace process" ground to a halt.

On 12 March 2002 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1397 calling on both sides to stop the violence and for the first time calling for creation of both a Palestinian (Arab) State alongside the State of Israel.  The violence continued despite a visit by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and UN Resolution 1402 was passed, directing that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories immediately.  Israeli troops withdrew from some towns, but not from the town of Ramallah (in the West Bank), where Yasser Arafat was imprisoned in the Presidential compound. 

In March 2002, Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia put forward a peace plan such that Israel would withdraw from the occupied territories and give an undisclosed number of refugees the right to return to within the boundaries of the former occupied territories, in exchange for recognition by the Arab nations.  The peace plan was endorsed in May 2002 by the Arab League at the Beirut Summit.

It is purported that in April 2002 Israel destroyed much of the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank as part of a retaliatory operation against suicide bombings by Arabs.

In May 2002 Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel, visited the U.S, under pressure from the US administration, to advance a peace program acceptable to both the Israelis and Arabs.  Sharon cut his visit short due to violence in Israel carried out by the Hamas (a Muslim terrorist group founded in 1988).  At the end of May, under international pressure for democratic reform, Yasser Arafat signed the Basic Law or Constitution of the Palestinian transitional state, which had been drafted some years earlier. President Bush called for a Palestinian state, insisting on democratic reform of the Palestinian Authority.  In June 2002, President Bush made a long-awaited speech, calling for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In September,  the Palestinian Cabinet Ministers resigned in protest at Yasser Arafat's blocking of reform efforts.  In November 2002 the Palestine Legislative Council convened to approve a new cabinet, but the members would not ratify the cabinet until Yasser Arafat would agree to sharing power with a legitimate Prime Minister.  Arafat responded by agreeing for elections to be held in January 2003. 

Elections in Palestine did not occur due to a failure in organisation of a ballot.  However, in March 2003, Mahmoud Ridha Abbas was named or nominated as the first Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, by Yasser  Arafat.   In October 2003, Abbas surrendered his position because Arafat would not relinquish complete control over the security services of the Palestinian Authority, and Ahmed Qorei, whom had been the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, became Prime Minister of Palestine.

Middle East Roadmap

In September 2002 representatives of the United Nations, Russia, the European Union and the United States, known as the "Quartet", released a statement outlining a plan to reach a final non-violent settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs within three years.  The plan is described as a concrete, three-phase implementation roadmap, to be put into effect from October 2002 to the end of 2005, which addresses "political, economic, humanitarian and institutional dimensions" and spells out "reciprocal steps which must be taken by the parties in each phase," and progress would be based on compliance with specific performance benchmarks to be monitored and assessed by the Quartet.

The plan calls for free, fair and credible elections early in 2003 in Palestine, the establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders based upon a new constitution, and for Israeli troops, initially, to withdraw from the territories which it has occupied since 28 September 2000, before elections are held in Palestine.  The plan calls for Israeli occupation to be ended "through a settlement negotiated between the parties and based on U.N. Resolution 242 (which called for withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied territories after the Six Day War in 1967) and Resolution 338 (which called for ceasefires and peace negotiations in 1973, after the Yom Kippur War, when Israel wrested control of the Sinai after the surprise attack by Egypt ) with Israeli withdrawal to secure and recognized borders."

This would occur, as part of the first phase, over the second half of 2002 and the beginning of 2003.  During this phase, consistent with the Mitchell Commission Report, the Government of Israel should freeze all settlement activity in the occupied territories, "including natural growth".  The Ad-hoc Liaison Committee (ALHC), created as a result of the Oslo Accords, to co-ordinate donations, would review the humanitarian situation.  For more information about the ALHC, go to the website of the World Bank, and do a search on "ALHC".  Then click on the link titled "History IBRD & WBG,"  and scroll down to the section on the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee.  The second phase would see the implementation of a Palestinian State with provisional borders in 2003.   The third phase would aim at a final or permanent status solution by the year 2005, with full Statehood for Palestine and Israel, and this phase would address the issues of borders, refugees, settlements, the administration of Jerusalem; and peace between Israel and Lebanon, and Israel and Syria.

For the full text of the Quartet's statement (released in September 2002) click here.  For the full text of President Bush's unofficial draft plan for a detailed roadmap (released in October 2002), to resolve the Israeli - Palestinian conflict, based on the Quartet's ideas and on Israeli and Palestinian input, click here.   However, all sides have failed to implement the Road Map, as shown in this Washington Post article.   

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Geneva Accord

The Geneva Accord is a peace proposal put together over the last two years or so by Palestinian officials and Israeli leftist opposition members.  It has no official status, and was mediated and financed by the Swiss Foreign Ministry.  The full document was signed and released in Switzerland in November 2003.  Under this proposed deal, Israel would return to its 1967 borders, withdrawing from most Palestinian lands, except for a few of the larger settlements.  Palestinians would give up the so-called 'full right of return' of refugees.  The Palestinian government would recognise Israel as "the state of the Jewish people".  It would also take proper steps to prevent terrorist attacks and disarm all militant groups.  Although some Palestinian insiders deny forgoing the right of return, some members of the Palestinian Authority would accept such a deal; which if honored, would make a very important bargaining point.  Israeli critics say that the proponents of the Geneva Accord are simply putting forward another version of the Oslo Accords, which the critics believe will excise land from Israel which historically belongs to the Israelis.

But perhaps the time is coming now for the decades of conflict and stress to be brought to a relatively peaceful end.  The full text of the draft Geneva Accord can be accessed via the haaretz.com website.  Even now, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, is protesting the Geneva Accord as being too generous to the Arabs, but the Prime Minister of England, Mr. Blair, and the leaders of other countries are supportive of it.  Under Ariel Sharon, the Israelis have begun building the "apartheid wall" or "separation fence", bull-dozing and destroying people's homes, injuring, even killing people, preventing access to resources, and restricting movement.  The wall is supposedly a security measure, but some say that it is really an annexation of land as the wall does not follow the "Green Line", i.e. the 1948-1949 armistice borders (also known as the pre-1967 boundaries, i.e. boundaries drawn prior to the 1967 "Six Day War"),  Also, protestors claim that the "security barrier" excises Arab land which has been settled upon by Arabs since the 1967 War.  See this website for further information about the wall.

Pamphlets promoting the Geneva Accord have been widely distributed within Palestine, and it is hoped that the tide will change very soon where all sides will realize that there must be peace, and that peace can be negotiated.

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Gaza Strip disengagement plan

In the face of the Geneva Accord, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon proposed a disengagement plan, which was published in Israeli newspapers on 16 April 2004.  This uni-lateral plan called for forcible withdrawal, by the end of 2005, of about 7,0000 Israeli settlers living in 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and demilitarisation of the Strip, and evacuation of four settlements in the West Bank and of permanent military installations, allowing for a continuous Palestinian presence in the northern area of the West Bank.  Click here for the full text.  Arab protestors were sceptical, claiming that the Sharon government planned to annex other territories, and that their concerns about other issues, such as refugees, were not covered by the unilateral plan.  Political analysts have said that the plan will aid Israel by allowing the diverting of the Israeli military presence from the Gaza Strip to regions targeted by Palestinian terrorists and was inspired by pressure upon the Sharon government to make moves toward peace.  A referendum on the plan was voted on by only 40% of Sharon's party, the Likud Party, with 60% of the voters voting against the plan. On June 6 2004, the Israeli Cabinet voted in principle to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, but modified Sharon's plan, demanding that votes be put and passed before the settlements are actually dismantled, which must occur in four stages, rather than withdrawing all at once.  According to this article, Sharon's endorsement of Palestinian state-hood and of withdrawal from Gaza is an important shift in his position, but does not necessarily indicate genuine acceptance of the Palestinian people's right to exercise self-determination and/or sovereignty. Recognition of Palestinian's historic rights in the Occupied Territories could raise questions about the foundations or basis of the Israelis' own legitimacy in Israel.  While Sharon's vision appears to be changing for the better, it is not a blueprint for a successful two-state solution, although Sharon has staked his electoral credibility on it.  According to the Bitter Lemons website, neither Sharon, Arafat or President Bush of the United States has in mind a realistic peace map and the necessary resources or determination to achieve it.

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The Greater Middle East Initiative

The resolution of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict and the successful restructuring of Iraq should be central elements of President Bush's plan to democratically reform the Middle East, according to many countries.   The idea for a "Greater Middle East Initiative", incorporating not only the Arab world, but also Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, was discussed by the U.S. policy makers early last year.  A working paper prepared for the G-8 Summit was leaked to the press.  According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the plan will address a range of social, economic and political issues, but will not advance democracy.  There is no recognition of the crucial political steps that the non-democratic countries will need to take to launch genuine processes of democratisation, and no indication of the support or incentives which the G-8 countries would provide to these countries.  The plan provoked strong negative reactions by Arab governments, whom believe that the US will foist a grand plan upon them without any regional consultation other than piece-meal bilateral discussions.  See this site for details if you have Adobe Acrobat Reader.  If not, to view the Google HTML version, click here, or search using the keywords "greater middle east initiative" and "carnegie endowment". 

The G8 summit is chaired by the leaders of the major industrialised nations - France, Germany, Japan, Canada, the US, the UK, Italy and Russia.  The Summit meets once a year to discuss current world issues in a "frank and informal way".  On 9 June 2004 a version of the GMEI, recognising the need to support an end to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict, was agreed to and launched by the Summit, which can be read by clicking here.  The initial proposal in early January can be read by clicking here.   The leaders of Egypt and Saudia Arabia were invited to the Summit, but refused to attend it  But in an attempt to deflect criticism from some of the Arab leaders the GMEI paper states that reform should not and could not be imposed from the outside.   The U.S. views the democratisation of the Greater Middle East as an important "weapon in the fight against terrorism,"  but time will tell if the G8 really does faciliate the democratic reform they say they seek.  For other documents tabled at the G8 Summit , visit the UK G8 website by clicking here and searching the Summit Documents area (or try searching Google or other search engine for the U.S. site !)

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The Refugee Question:  Camp David re-visited?

Despite the hardships of the Palestinian Arabs, Yasser Arafat was largely considered the legitimate ruler of the Palestinian Arabs by them, and thus, his influence in Palestine was considerable.  The Haaretz newspaper reported on 18 June 2004 that Arafat recognised that Israel must preserve its character as a Jewish state, and that the PLO has adopted the Arab Summit resolution of 2002, which was based on the Saudi Arabia initiative that called for a just and agreed solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, based on the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (passed in 1948), which called for a cessation of hostilities and the return of Arab refugees.  Although he has declined to say how many refugees he would insist Israel absorb as a condition for any peace agreement, Amos Malka, the former head of Military Intelligence, told Haaretz that Arafat would be willing to compromise on the return of only 20,000 to 30,000 refugees to Israel.  Arafat said that he would be willing to sign an agreement under which Israel would withdraw from 97 to 98 percent of the West Bank and give the Palestinians other territory equivalent in size and quality to the 2 or 3 percent that would be annexed to Israel .  The return of 97 to 98% of the West Bank had been proposed by President Clinton of the United States at the 2000 Camp David Summit and accepted then by the Israeli government, but not by Arafat.

If the successor to Arafat is sincere on the refugee question, and if the Israeli and Palestinian authorities can trust each other and put aside their hatreds and grudges, then perhaps ..... soon ..... a resolution can be found.

Successor to Arafat

On 11 November 2004 Yasser Arafat died.   Arafat was both Chairman of the PLO and President of the Palestinian Authority.  So, what will happen now that Arafat has gone?  The PLO has unanimously voted Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (founded in 1964 as a Palestinian nationalist umbrella organization dedicated to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state).  Under the terms of the Palestinian Basic Law, Rawhi Fattou, the Parliamentary speaker, was president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) until the elections held 60 days later. Ahmed Qorei is presently Prime Minister of the PA (which has been more of a symbolic role than one with real power) and together with Abbas was hoped to form the core of a collective leadership until elections for President of the PA were held.

Abbas helped found Fatah (a terrorist organisation which merged into the PLO), and was nominated by Arafat as the first Prime Minister of the PA in March 2003, but because Arafat would not relinquish power over the security forces, Abbas resigned in October that year and Ahmed Qorei replaced him.  But since then, Abbas has recognised the state of Israel and has claimed to denounce Palestinian terrorist activities.  He is seen by Ariel Sharon to be a legitimate leader of Palestine to talk to.

See the following International Herald Tribunal article for information:


An interesting article from the Asia Times about an Asian opinion on the current situation faced by Bush re: Israel-Palestine follows.  Significantly, it highlights the need for Sharon's peace plans to be bi-lateral, given the election of a new leader.  


On 9 January 2005 Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) was elected President of the Palestinian Authority (PA).  The President holds ultimate authority over the PA.   The Prime Minister, Ahmed Qorei, is responsible for over sighting the day to day  work of the several ministries of the Government, such as internal security, local government, justice, finance, trade, labor, information, telecommunications, health, housing, education, sports, and religion.


The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process: New Hopes and Old Realities

Click here for a speech by Gershon Baskin, Co-Director, Israeli-Palestinian Cooperative Research Institute


 Latest News from Israel

Kadima Party leader, Ehud Olmert elected new Prime Minister. Click here.

Olmert's gamble - click here

In February 2005 the Israeli government voted to implement Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip beginning on August 15, 2005. The plan required the dismantling of all Israeli settlements there, and the removal of all Israeli settlers and military bases from the Strip, a process that was completed on September 12, 2005 as the Israeli cabinet formally declared an end to military rule in the Gaza Strip after 38 years of control.  See this link for more information.


For more information, please refer to the links below.

PLO Negotiations Affairs Department

The Palestinian Legislative Council



Official website of the Palestinian National Authority



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