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8/29/05

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict timeline, continued . . .

1949 - Despite the end of the First Arab-Israeli War, Israel's existence remains tenuous. Thousands of Arab infiltrators penetrate Israeli borders. Early incursions come mostly from Arab refugees seeking to reclaim houses, possessions, or crops lost in the war. Soon, however, incursions by Arab guerrillas begin. Border raids, including attacks on civilians, pick up where the war left off.

1953 - Israel establishes a special commando unit, led by Ariel Sharon, to carry out retaliatory strikes and deter attacks. In response to an Arab grenade attack killing a mother and two children, Sharon's unit kills dozens of villagers in the West Bank town of Qibya. The incident triggers a wave of international condemnation, with the United States suspending economic aid. Israel directs future reprisals at Arab military targets, rather than civilians.

1956 - Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal, formerly controlled by Britain and France. Israel, under a secret agreement with Britain and France, invades the Sinai Peninsula. The Sinai-Suez War begins. In days, Israeli forces conquer the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip. British and French troops enter the region, ostensibly to protect the canal but really to reassert their countries' canal interests. Pressure from the United States compels Britain, France, and Israel to withdraw. The United Nations stations troops on the Israel-Egypt border, providing a buffer between Arab and Israeli forces.

1964 - The Arab states, along with Palestinian Arabs, create the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO charter asserts that the establishment of Israel was "illegal and false," that international support for a Jewish national home was a "fraud," and that Jews' historical ties to the region cannot be "the true basis of sound statehood." The charter urges other countries "to consider Zionism an illegal movement and to outlaw its presence and activities."

1965 - A Palestinian guerrilla group led by Yasser Arafat, called Fatah (Arabic for "victory"), begins attacks on Israel. Syrian authorities hang an Israeli spy in front of a crowd in Damascus, broadcasting the execution live on state TV and leaving the body on display.

1966 - A new regime in Syria encourages Palestinian guerrilla attacks on Israel, calling for a "war of liberation." Fatah, in particular, answers the call. Border skirmishes between Israeli and Syrian forces increase.

1967 - Israeli warplanes down six Syrian MiGs. Syria appeals to Egypt for aid. Egypt orders U.N. troops out of the Sinai Peninsula, inserts its forces, and blockades the Israeli port of Elat. Israel responds by destroying nearly the entire Egyptian air force on the ground in a surprise air attack. The Six-Day War begins. In just a few days, Israel routs the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and conquers the West Bank (including the eastern part of Jerusalem), Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, and Sinai Peninsula. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs flee. Israel annexes eastern Jerusalem and sets up a military government to administer the occupied territories. The U.N. Security Council passes Resolution 242, calling for an Israeli withdrawal and for an "acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of every state in the area."

1968 - Israel's wartime success sparks the settler
movement, which argues that Israel has rightfully reclaimed the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria. Jewish settlers occupy a hotel on the outskirts of Hebron, raise an Israeli flag, and refuse to leave. The Israeli government allows the settlers to move into the town's police fort. A few months later, it consents to the start of a Jewish neighborhood around Hebron. The PLO, increasingly controlled by groups such as Fatah rather than by Arab states, revises its charter. It now calls explicitly for the "liquidation of the Zionist presence" through "commando action."

1969 - Fatah leader Yasser Arafat becomes PLO chairman. Guerrilla attacks against Israel surge. Egypt begins the "War of Attrition," bombarding Israeli positions in the Sinai with artillery fire. Israel responds with air strikes. Attacks and counterattacks continue until 1970.

1971 - PLO operatives hijack three western planes and force them to fly to Jordan, where the PLO leadership resides. Responding to western outrage and PLO challenges to Jordan's sovereignty, Jordan's King Hussein orders his army to destroy the PLO. Its leadership flees to Lebanon.

1972 - PLO operatives murder 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Israeli agents begin a long-term campaign to track down and assassinate the operation's planners.

1973 - Egypt and Syria launch a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year. The Yom Kippur (or Ramadan) War begins. Caught off guard, Israeli forces in the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights fall back. After several weeks of fighting, and a crucial arms shipment from the United States, Israel fends off the attacks and reclaims nearly all held territory. Oil-producing Arab states begin an oil embargo against Israel's supporters, creating an energy crisis in the West.

1977 - For the first time since Israel's start, Israeli voters turn to a party other than the leftist Labor Party to lead the government, bringing the right-wing Likud Party to power. Likud leader Menachem Begin inaugurates a program, under Ariel Sharon, to promote Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which Begin regards as part of "Greater Israel." Begin takes a different tack on the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt and Israel begin secret peace negotiations. Shocking the world, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat flies to Jerusalem to address the Israeli Knesset (Israel's parliament).

1978 - Egypt and Israel negotiate the first Arab-Israeli peace accord at Camp David in the United States, with U.S. President Jimmy Carter mediating. As part of the final agreement, signed the following year, Israel agrees to return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt within three years. The United States agrees to provide both nations with billions of dollars in economic aid.

1981 - Israeli warplanes destroy a nuclear reactor in Iraq, fearing that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein will use it to develop nuclear weapons. Radical Islamists assassinate Egyptian President Sadat for concluding the Egyptian-Israeli peace. Israel formally annexes the Golan Heights.

1982 - Israel invades Lebanon to root out the PLO, which had been conducting rocket and artillery strikes on Israel in addition to guerrilla attacks. The Lebanon War begins. Directed by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, Israeli forces advance all the way to Beirut. Israeli planes, tanks, and artillery bombard PLO strongholds in Beirut for two months until PLO leaders agree to leave for Tunisia. Israeli forces allow Lebanese Christians allied with Israel into Palestinian refugee camps to search for remaining PLO militants. They kill hundreds of Palestinian civilians. An Israeli judicial inquiry condemns Sharon for allowing the Lebanese Christians into the camps despite indications a massacre might occur.

1985 - Israeli forces withdraw from most of Lebanon, after several years of unprecedented Israeli public protests against the war. Israel maintains a "security zone" three to four miles inside Lebanon for 15 more years. Israeli warplanes bomb PLO headquarters in Tunisia after continued PLO attacks.

1987 - The first Palestinian intifada, or "shaking off," begins. The popular uprising shifts attention away from the PLO in Tunisia and toward the West Bank and Gaza Strip. New Islamist groups such as Hamas gain influence.

1993 - After secret negotiations at Oslo, Norway, Israel and the PLO sign a mutual recognition agreement, with the PLO recognizing Israel's right to exist and Israel recognizing the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. Israel promises to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho and to allow limited Palestinian self-rule. The agreement sets a five-year deadline for additional withdrawals and for a "final-status" agreement on issues such as borders, Jewish settlements, the return of Palestinian refugees, Palestinian statehood, and control of Jerusalem.

1994 - A Jewish settler opens fire with an assault rifle inside a Hebron mosque. Hamas begins suicide bombings. Undeterred, Israel and the PLO implement the Oslo agreement. PLO leader Yasser Arafat comes to Gaza to head the new Palestinian Authority. Jordan makes peace with Israel. At a mosque in South Africa, however, Arafat likens the Oslo agreement to a peace treaty made by Muhammad with those in control of Mecca in 628. Muslims conquered Mecca two years later.

1995 - Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree on a detailed plan for additional withdrawals from the West Bank, with most cities going over to Palestinian control but most land remaining in Israeli hands. Infuriated by the surrender of any land, a Jewish extremist assassinates Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

1996 - Hamas steps up suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, striking restaurants, buses, and crowds. Israeli voters turn to right-wing Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who demands "peace with security."

1997 - Israel withdraws from the West Bank city of Hebron. Netanyahu lifts a freeze on new Jewish settlements and begins construction of Jewish neighborhoods in disputed parts around Jerusalem. Arafat suspends security cooperation with Israel and releases Hamas militants from Palestinian jails.

1998 - Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree to more withdrawals, to occur in two stages. Israel completes the first stage but suspends the second, accusing Arafat of failing to honor security commitments.

1999 - Israeli voters return the Labor Party to power. Prime Minister Ehud Barak promises to deliver a final peace settlement with the Palestinians. New Israeli withdrawals, completed the following year, leave the Palestinian Authority with direct or partial control of 41 percent of the West Bank and 65 percent of the Gaza Strip.

2000 - Final-status peace negotiations at Camp David end when Yasser Arafat rejects the last offer of Ehud Barak. After the failed talks, Likud opposition leader Ariel Sharon visits Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem accompanied by hundreds of armed guards. A second, more violent intifada begins.

2001 - All attempts to halt the escalating violence and to restart peace negotiations fail. In an early election, Israeli voters reject Barak and turn to Ariel Sharon to restore security. Sharon orders reprisal attacks in Palestinian-controlled territories.

2002 - Palestinian suicide bombers launch a string of deadly attacks, starting on the Jewish holiday of Passover. In response, Israeli forces reoccupy most of the West Bank and begin mass arrests. Israel declares former Oslo agreement partner Yasser Arafat an enemy and demolishes his compound in Ramallah. Israeli forces also begin construction of a security barrier between Israel and the West Bank. Palestinians protest that the barrier makes deep incursions into West Bank territory and unilaterally fixes a future border.

2003 - Suicide bombings continue. Israeli forces reoccupy parts of the Gaza Strip and assassinate Hamas leaders. The United States, European Union, Russia, and United Nations release a "road map" of steps designed to get Israel and the Palestinian Authority back into negotiations. Both sides shake hands on the plan, but the conflict goes on.

2004 - Israel's parliament approves Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and evacuate all Jewish settlements there. Yasser Arafat dies at a hospital in France at age 75.

2005 - Mahmoud Abbas becomes president of the Palestinian Authority. He and Ariel Sharon meet and declare an end to the violence. Hamas and other militant groups agree to temporarily end the fighting as well.

Michael Himick
August 26, 2005

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