The area including Palestine
had been ruled by the Ottoman Empire since 1517. With the defeat of the Ottoman
Empire in World War I, Palestine came under British jurisdiction and became
known as British-mandate Palestine. Britain had enlisted Arab support in a
revolt against the Ottomans (lead by T.E. Lawrence) with the promise of supporting
the establishment of an independent Arab state in the area. On November 2,
the British Foreign Minister, Lord Arthur Balfour, issued a declaration (the
Balfour Declaration) supporting a "Jewish national home in Palestine."
The British divided the
Arab land under their jurisdiction in two. The area east of the Jordan River
became the Emirate of Transjordan. The area west of the Jordan remains the
Palestine Mandate under British authority. This was the first time in modern
history that Palestine became a unified political entity. Jews had been immigrating
to the Holy Land near Jerusalem throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
This immigration increased prior to World War II due to persecution of European
Jews by the Nazis. The local Arab population wanted to limit the number of
Jewish immigrants. This resulted in clashes between immigrants and local Palestinians
who were supported by neighboring Arab states.
On November 29, the United
Nations approved a plan to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into
separate Jewish and Arab states. The Jews accepted the plan while Arabs and
neighboring Arab states rejected it. The City of Jerusalem would be internationally
Israel signs armistice
agreements with Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Jordan's annexation of
Judea and Samaria, recognized only by Britain and Pakistan, is part of this
armistice. Jerusalem is divided under Israel and Jordanian rule.
On May 14, the day that
the British Mandate over Palestine expired, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion
signed a document declaring Israel's status as an independent state. Within
24 hours, Israel was invaded by Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, initiating
Israel's war of independence. This war lasts 19 months. Up to 800,000 Palestinians
fled their homes or were expelled during the war.
Egypt concentrates troops
in the Sinai Peninsula. Troops from Jordan and other Arab countries mass along
Israel's borders. Israel responds to this military threat with a pre-emptive
attack known as the Six Day War, lasting from June 5 to June 11. Israel destroys
Egyptian air forces before they've left the ground and seizes the West Bank
from Jordan, Golan Heights from Syria, and the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip
from Egypt. Jerusalem came completely under Israeli control. The United Nations
calls for Israeli withdrawal and establishment of peace. More than one million
Palestinians fell under Israeli control during this conflict.
Yasser Arafat forms the
Fatah Guerilla movement, precursor to the Palestinian Liberation Organization
(PLO) and Palestinian Authority.
On November 22, Palestinian
Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat appears before the United Nations
to appeal for Palestinian rights to statehood and sovereignty. He is met with
a mixed response. The Israeli delegation to the UN boycotts his speech. One
week later, the UN recognizes Palestinians' rights to statehood.
On October 6, the Jewish
festival of Yom Kippur, Egypt and Syria attack Israel. Egypt takes back the
Suez Canal and a narrow strip of land, while Syria reclaims the Golan Heights.
Israel, taken by surprise, narrowly survives the attack with the help of US
military airlifts. Questions about the Israeli army's lack of preparation
lead to Prime Minister Golda Meir's resignation.
Egyptian President Anwar
Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin meet with American President
Jimmy Carter to develop a framework for peace in the Middle East. They sign
the Camp David peace accords at the White House on September 18, 1978. In
the early 1980s, Israel returns the Sinai to Egypt.
In December, a riot in
the Jebaliya refugee camp on the Gaza Strip touches off six years of Palestinian
uprising, or "intefadeh." This riot and the ensuing violence pressure Israel
to reach a compromise over Palestinian rights.
Just prior to the first
elections since the peace process had begun, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzahk
Rabin is assassinated. His killer is a Jew opposed to the peace process.
Late in the year, Israel
withdraws from six West Bank cities in compliance with the Oslo Accords.
On September 13, Israeli
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat agree to mutual
recognition through the Oslo Peace Accord. The accord allowed for creation
of autonomous zones for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. In return,
the PLO renounces violence and terrorism, and agrees to revise its charter
to remove sections referring to the destruction of Israel. Issues such as
the future of Jerusalem are tabled for future discussion.
This timeline shows the
development of Israel throughout the 20th century to the present day.
Using your mouse pointer,
select dates on the timeline below to follow Israel's development.
Ariel Sharon is sworn
in as Israel's prime minister. Although he wishes to work for peace, he feels
there can be no negotiations while the violence of the Palestinian uprising
continues. In April, Palestinian mortar bombs in the southern Israeli town
of Sderot stir Israel to assault Palestinian targets and retake land in Gaza
ceded to Palestine. Within 24 hours, Israeli troops withdraw in response to
United States (US) criticism of the raids. Israelis and Palestinians agree
to cease fire following the September 11 attacks on the US but that is not
implemented. In December, the militant Islamic group Hamas claims responsibility
for three suicide bombings and a bus explosion in Israel that are the deadliest
in four years. More violence leads Palestinian Authority President Yasser
Arafat to call for a halt to all violence in the Middle East on December 14.
Sporadic violence continues and escalates through the first half of 2002.
In July talks between
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat collapse
at Camp David. On September 28, Israeli Likud party leader Ariel Sharon visited
Temple Mount, a Jewish holy site sacred to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or
noble sanctuary. His visit, considered a demonstration of Israeli domination,
spurs Palestinian riots in Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank. Violence soon
escalates from rock throwing to machine gun fire and suicide bombings.