A chronology of the Middle East conflict

1917: In the Balfour Declaration, Britain expresses its support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”, though without prejudicing its non-Jewish communities.

1920: Britain takes over the administration of Palestine, Transjordan (later renamed Jordan) and Mesopotamia (Iraq), following the defeat of the Ottoman empire in the first world war.

1923: Britain cedes the Golan Heights from Palestine to French-run Syria. Britain’s official mandate over Palestine, from the League of Nations, comes into effect.

1936: A three-year Arab revolt begins, amid frustration at rising Jewish immigration and continued colonial rule.

1939: Britain imposes restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine.1939: Britain imposes restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine.

1945: At the end of the second world war, America urges Britain to lift its restrictions on Jewish refugees settling in Palestine but Britain resists this pressure

1946: The King David Hotel, Britain’s military headquarters in Jerusalem, is bombed by a Jewish militant group, Irgun.

1947: Britain asks the recently formed United Nations to take over the Palestine problem. The UN proposes partition. The Arabs reject this.

1948: The state of Israel is proclaimed. Neighbouring Arab states invade it. Israel’s nascent defence forces repel them. Around 700,000 Arabs flee. Though Egypt ends up occupying the Gaza strip and Transjordan takes East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israel ends up bigger than the UN partition plan had proposed.

1956: Egypt nationalises the Suez Canal and closes off access to the Israeli port of Eilat. Israel, France and Britain form a secret pact to attack Egypt. Under American pressure, they are forced to withdraw.

1964: Arab leaders create the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), whose founding charter calls for a Palestinian Arab state encompassing the whole of British Mandate Palestine and declares the establishment of Israel “illegal and null and void”.

1967: After Egypt masses its troops in the Sinai desert and blockades Eilat, the six-day war is launched and won by Israel. Sinai and the Gaza strip are taken from Egypt; the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan; and the Golan Heights from Syria. The PLO moves to Jordan. The UN passes Resolution 242, calling among other things for Israeli forces to withdraw from “territories occupied in the recent conflict” (a phrase whose precise meaning still provokes fierce debate) in return for Arab recognition of Israel’s right to exist peacefully. The Arab League issues its “three noes”: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel.

1969: America launches the Rogers plan, which reiterates Resolution 242’s land-for-peace formula. Both sides reject it.

1970: In what becomes known as “Black September”, Jordan expels the PLO after it creates a “state within a state” and hijacks American, Swiss, Israeli and British planes, holding some passengers hostage. The PLO eventually re-establishes itself in Lebanon, from where it launches raids on Israel.

1973: The Yom Kippur war: attacks by Egypt and Syria on Judaism’s holiest day take Israel by surprise but it strikes back and its troops cross the Suez Canal and enter Syria before the UN calls for a ceasefire.

1977: Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat becomes the first Arab leader to go to Israel, visiting Jerusalem to seek a peace settlement.

1978: After terrorist attacks on buses in northern Israel, its forces launch an incursion into Lebanon to attack PLO bases. America’s President Jimmy Carter hosts the Camp David talks between Israel and Egypt.

1979: Israel and Egypt sign a peace deal, in which Israel returns the Sinai to Egypt.

1981: A ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon-based Palestinian militants is brokered by an American envoy, Philip Habib, but lasts less than a year.

1982: Israel invades Lebanon. The PLO moves to Tunisia. America sends peacekeeping troops to Lebanon. It also launches the Reagan plan, proposing self-government for the West Bank and Gaza, though in association with Jordan rather than as an independent state. Israel, followed later by the PLO and Jordan, reject it. Up to 2,000 Palestinians are killed by Lebanese Christian militiamen allied to Israel in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps.

1983: A suicide bomber kills 241 American marines, sailors and soldiers in their base in Beirut.

1985: Most Israeli troops are withdrawn from Lebanon, except for a border “security zone”.

1987: Palestinians launch the first intifada (“struggle” or “shaking-off”) against Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza. The clashes continue into the early 1990s.

1988: America launches the Shultz plan, incorporating elements of earlier peace proposals. The PLO issues a statement renouncing terrorism and recognising Israel’s right to exist, leading America to open direct talks with the PLO. Jordan renounces its claim to sovereignty over the West Bank in favour of the PLO.

1991: After the first Gulf war ends, America launches the Madrid peace conference, with Israel holding its first formal negotiations with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestinian representatives (though not the PLO).

1993: Secret talks begin in Oslo between Israeli academics and PLO officials, leading to the Oslo accords. These propose an interim Palestinian Authority (PA), conducting limited self-government in part of the occupied territories, and a phased plan leading to a permanent peace settlement.

1994: The PLO’s chairman, Yasser Arafat, returns from exile to the occupied territories. Israel and Jordan sign a peace treaty.

1995: Israel and the PLO sign the Oslo II agreement, under which Israel hands over security responsibility to the Palestinian Authority in parts of the occupied territories.

1998: Arafat and the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, sign the Wye River memorandum, which aims to clarify the Oslo II agreement and set a timetable for its implementation.

1999: After slippage in the implementation of the Oslo accords, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Barak, and Arafat sign the Sharm el-Sheikh memorandum, setting a new timetable, in talks hosted by Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak.

2000: Talks at Camp David between Mr Barak and Arafat end in failure. Israel’s opposition leader, Ariel Sharon, makes a provocative visit to Temple Mount in Jerusalem—known to Muslims as the “noble sanctuary”, one of their holiest places. Incensed, Palestinian militants launch a second intifada. President Bill Clinton hastily calls another summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, which reaches an agreement “to return the situation to that which existed prior to the current crisis”. A fact-finding commission headed by George Mitchell, an American former senator, is set up. Amid attacks from Lebanese militants, Israel pulls out of its “security zone” in southern Lebanon, as Mr Barak had promised the previous year.

2001: Between George Bush taking office as American president and Ariel Sharon winning the Israeli election, Israeli and Palestinian delegations hold talks at Taba in Egypt. But Mr Sharon refuses to talk peace while terrorist attacks continue, and the Oslo process stops. The Mitchell commission produces its report but it fails to make much impact. Mr Bush then sends the CIA chief, George Tenet, to the region. He produces another report proposing a ceasefire.

2002: After several Palestinian suicide bombings, Mr Sharon launches Operation Defensive Shield, seizing areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, which Israel accuses of failing to stop militants’ attacks. Most of the West Bank and Gaza comes under siege as Israeli forces close down the areas. The Quartet group (America, the European Union, Russia and the UN) launches the “road map”, a new phased plan for peace, including the creation of an independent Palestine. Mr Bush calls for new Palestinian leadership in place of Arafat.

2003: Under pressure from the Quartet, Arafat hands much of his power to Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate, who becomes Palestinian prime minister. Mr Bush gets Mr Abbas and Mr Sharon to shake hands on the road map. The Palestinian militant groups agree among themselves a fragile ceasefire. But it collapses after only seven weeks: after a Hamas suicide bomber kills 22 people on a Jerusalem bus, Israel resumes its “targeted killings” of militant groups’ political leaders. Mr Abbas resigns and his place is taken by Ahmed Qurei, another moderate, though closer to Mr Arafat.

2004: Mr Sharon unveils a controversial proposal to evacuate all Jewish settlements in the Gaza strip. After a suicide bombing kills ten in the Israeli port of Ashdod, Israel steps up its attacks on Palestinian militants and kills Hamas’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Arafat dies in a Paris hospital and Mr Abbas is named his successor as PLO leader.

2005: Palestinians elect Mr Abbas to succeed Arafat as PA president. At a summit with Mr Sharon in Sharm el-Sheikh, both men declare a ceasefire.

source:economist.com

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