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 comes under British jurisdiction and becomes
known as the British Mandate of Palestine. Britain had enlisted Arab support
in a revolt (led by T. E. Lawrence) against the Ottomans, 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, issues a declaration (the Balfour Declaration) supporting
a "Jewish national home in Palestine."
The British divides the Arab land under their
jurisdiction in two. The area east of the Jordan River becomes the
Emirate of Transjordan. The area west of the Jordan remains the Palestine
Mandate under British authority. This is the first time in modern
history that Palestine becomes a unified political entity. Jews had
been immigrating to the Holy Land near Jerusalem throughout the late
19th and early 20th centuries. This immigration increases prior to
World War II due to persecution of European Jews by the Nazis. The
local Arab population wants to limit the number of Jewish immigrants.
This results in clashes between immigrants and local Palestinians
who were supported by neighboring Arab states.
On November 29, the United Nations approves a
plan to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into separate
Jewish and Arab states. The Jews accept the plan while the Arabs and
neighboring Arab states reject it. The City of Jerusalem will be internationally administered.
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 Israeli and Jordanian rule.
On May 14, the day that the British Mandate over
Palestine expired, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion signs
a document declaring Israel's status as an independent state. Within
twenty-four hours, Israel is invaded by Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan,
initiating Israel's war of independence. This war lasts nineteen months.
Up to 800,000 Palestinians flee their homes or are expelled during
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 preemptive attack
known as the Six-Day War, lasting from June 5 to June 10. Israel
destroys Egyptian air forces before they leave the ground and seizes
the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Sinai
Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt. Jerusalem comes completely under
Israeli control. The United Nations calls for Israeli withdrawal
and establishment of peace. More than one million Palestinians fall
under Israeli control during this conflict.
Yasser Arafat forms the Fatah guerrilla movement,
precursor to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian
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
U.S. 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 began, Israeli prime minister Yitzhak 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 Accords. The accords allow for the 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 twentieth 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 U.S. criticism of the raids. Israelis and Palestinians
agree to cease fire following the September 11 attacks on the U.S.
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 visits
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.