Towards the end of the 19th century, Palestine and the area beyond was inhabited predominantly by Arab Muslims with smaller numbers of Christians (mostly Arab) and Jews. Whether Palestine was mostly barren or inhabited is in dispute, as is the issue of the size of the Arab population at that time. Most Arab historians claim a far larger Arab population than most Israeli historians.
The Zionist movement, which originated in Europe towards the end of the 19th century, maintained that Jews had a right to Jewish state, and increasingly came to hold that this state should be in their historic homeland, which they referred to as the Land of Israel.
Though there had already been Arab protests to the Ottoman authorities in the 1880s against land sales to foreign Jews, the most serious opposition began in the 1890s when the scope of the Zionist enterprise became known. There was a general sense of threat. This sense was heightened in the early years of the 20th century by Zionist attempts to develop an economy on socialist principles designed to create a Jewish proletariat, working class and self-reliant farming communities. They sought to create settlements which were not colonial enterprise "exploiting" cheap Arab labor. However, well-intentioned though this may have been, the policy had the effect of excluding Arabs from the settler activities. The early Zionists also had a policy of buying Arab land for Jewish agricultural activity. When land was bought, the Arabs who previously worked the land were often unable to find work on the new Jewish settlement.
Faisal's agreement with Weizmann led the Palestinian Arab population to reject the Syrian-Arab-Nationalist movement led by Faisal (in which many previously placed their hopes) and instead to agitate for Palestine to become a separate state, with an Arab majority. To further that objective, they demanded an elected assembly. Palestinian Arab nationalism was motivated by anti-Zionism more than any other factor and developed in opposition to Zionism.
The Arabs in Palestine were led by two main camps. The Nashashibis were led by Raghib al-Nashashibi, who was Mayor of Jerusalem from 1920 to 1934, were moderates who sought dialogue with the British and the Jews.
The rise of anti-Semitism in Western Europe was an important factor in shaping Zionist ideology. Anti-Semitism was the main reason for a number of significant Zionists to adopt the ideology in the first place. One of these was Theodor Herzl who was a successful journalist reporting for the "Viennese newspaper Neue Freie Presse. Being highly integrated into the Western Christian culture and with little Jewish education, Herzl had little interest in the Jewish issues. But rising anti-Semitism attracted his attention and shortly afterwards published The New Ghetto, "a play in which his diminishing faith in assimilation is expressed. One of the play's central characters is told that the Jews will never achieve total equality, no matter how educated and emancipated they might become: 'When there was a real ghetto, we were not allowed to leave it without permission, on pain of severe punishment. Now the walls and barriers have become invisible....Yet we are still rigidly confined to a moral ghetto. What Herzl witnessed also led to conclude that creation of a Jewish state in Palestine was the only viable and permanent solution to the problem of the Jews; and after reaching this conclusion, he immediately sought audiences with wealthy Jews who he hoped would assist in the creation of his proposed state. The World Zionist Organisation was found in 1897 by Herzl and "declared that the aim of Zionism was to establish 'a national home for the Jewish people secured by public law'...Zionism gained adherents among Jews and support from the West as a consequence of the murderous anti-Jewish riots (known as pogroms) in the Russian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Nazi genocide (mass murder) of European Jews during World War II killed over six million, and this disaster enhanced international support for the creation of a Jewish state.
Furthermore, different international actors and events have had massive impacts on the region's politics, especially in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 1916, the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Agreement allocated to the British Empire the area of present day Jordan, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and Iraq, while France received Syria and Lebanon. In 1922, the League of Nations formally established the British Mandate of Palestine, at least partially fulfilling Britain's commitments from the 1915-1916 Hussein-McMahon Correspondence by assigning all of the land east of the Jordan River—Transjordan—to the Emirate of Jordan, ruled by Hashemite King Abdullah I but closely dependent on Britain, leaving the remainder west of the Jordan as a League of Nations mandate administered by Britain.
Arabs opposed this, and viewed it as a secretly agreed-upon, externally enforced division of their lands into multiple territories under the control of various European powers as imperialist. Jews, on the other hand, viewed it as one of a number of valid geographical settlements made by the European powers during that period, in Europe, Asia, and Africa, to settle conflicting geographic and nationalistic claims. In some ways, it resembled some of the important diplomatic arrangements which established some of the Arab countries, defining their leaders and boundaries, including most notably in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
In 1917, the British army took control of Transjordan and Palestine (known sometimes in this period as Cisjordan) from the Ottomans. In that year, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter (now known as the Balfour Declaration) to Lord Walter Rothschild, for transmission to the Zionist Federation, stating that the British government viewed "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people ... it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." During the same period, the British were giving contradictory assurances to the Arabs. The Zionists interpreted the Balfour Declaration as a promise from the British that they would support the building of a Jewish state in Palestine; however history would prove that the British did not support the building of a Jewish state in a visibly active way. The Arabs in the region opposed the idea of turning part of Palestine into a Jewish state, objecting to any form of Jewish homeland. This was the source of much of the Palestinian and Arab resentment against the British government and Jewish immigrants in Palestine.
After 1920 Haj Amin al-Husseini became the focus of Palestinian opposition to Zionism. In 1920 he was instrumental in causing religious riots. In 1921 the British made him Mufti of Jerusalem. The Mufti stirred religious passions against Jews by alleging that Jews were seeking to rebuild the Jewish Temple on the site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque and responded by trying to gain control of the Western Wall (the Kotel), saying that it was sacred to the Moslems.
Religious tension (over the Kotel), the general international economic crisis of 1929 (affecting crop prices) and nationalist tension (over Zionist immigration) led to the 1929 Palestine riots. In these religious-nationalist riots Jews were massacred in Hebron and the survivors were expelled from the town. Devastation also took place in Safed and Jerusalem. This violence was directed against the non-Zionist orthodox communities; Zionist communities were able to defend themselves and had established defence organizations. As a result the orthodox community in Palestine was increasingly dependent on Zionist support.
A British commission was established to investigate the riots and throughout his interview the Mufti held a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In 1936, as Europe was preparing for war, the Supreme Muslim Council in Palestine, led by the Mufti, instigated an Arab uprising which lasted for three years and significantly changed British attitudes. During the revolt the Mufti was forced to flee to Iraq where he was involved in a pro-Nazi coup during which the Jewish areas of Baghdad were subjected to a pogrom. In May 1941 he issued a fatwa for a holy war against Britain. After the British reoccupied Iraq the Mufti joined the Nazis, serving with the Waffen SS in Bosnia. During the war he made requests to "the German government to bomb Tel Aviv.
In 1948 the Mufti returned to Egypt from where he made his way to Palestine and assumed command of the Palestinian Arab forces. In his radio broadcasts to Palestinian Arabs he called for genocide against the Jews ("Kill Jews wherever you find them").
During 1936-1939, an upsurge of militant Arab nationalism came as Palestinian Arabs of the lower classes felt that they were being marginalized. In addition to non-violent strikes and protests, some resorted to acts of violence targeting British military personnel, Jewish civilians, and other Arabs in the upper classes. The uprising was put down largely by the British forces.
In response the British government issued a white paper that placed restrictions on Jewish immigration and Jewish land purchases in the remaining land in an attempt to limit the socio-political damage already done. In addition this white paper also noted the need for a Palestine state that could accommodate both Palestinians and Jews without further conflict, yet ruled out the option of partition. Jews alleged that this contradicted the League of Nations Mandate which said: "the administration of Palestine ... shall encourage, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency ... close settlements by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not acquired for public purposes." Jews argued that the British had allotted twice as much land to Arabs as Jews instead of the same amount. Arabs held that the contract was disproportionately in favour of Jewish settlement when the relative size of the two populations at the time was considered.
After Operation Agatha, the June 29, 1946 arrest by British authorities in Palestine of about 2700 Jewish activists and fighters, on July 22, 1946, members of the militant Zionist group Irgun Tsvai-Leumi bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was the base for the British Secretariat, the military command and a branch of the Criminal Investigation Division (police). Ninety-one people were killed, most of them civilians: 28 British, 41 Arab, 17 Jewish, and 5 other. Around 45 people were injured. This escalation of violence may have decreased British resolve to continue their presence in Palestine.
The Zionist leadership decided to begin an illegal immigration (haa'pala) using small boats operating in secrecy. About 70,000 Jews were brought to Palestine in this way between 1946 and 1947 . A similar number were captured at sea by the British and imprisoned in camps on Cyprus.
Details of the Holocaust (through which the German Nazi government was responsible for the deaths of approximately six million European Jews) had a major effect on the situation in Palestine. It propelled large support for the Zionist cause and led to the 1947 UN Partition plan for Palestine.
The newly-formed United Nations appointed a committee, UNSCOP, to try to solve the dispute between the Zionists and the Arabs. UNSCOP recommended that Mandatory Palestine be split into three parts, a Jewish State with a majority Jewish population, an Arab State with a majority Arab population and an International Zone comprising Jerusalem and the surrounding area where the Jewish and Arab populations would be roughly equal. Under the plan, the Jewish State would comprise most of the coastal plain (where the majority of Jewish settlements were located), as well as the eastern part of the Galilee and the Negev desert. The Arab State would encompass roughly a section of the Mediterranean coast from what is now Ashdod to the Egyptian border, a section of the Negev desert adjacent to the Egyptian border, the Judean and Samarian highlands, and the eastern part of the Galilee including the town of Acre. The town of Jaffa would be an exclave of the Arab State. Resolution 181 decided the size of land allotted to each party. The Jewish State would be roughly 5,700 square miles in size (including the large Negev desert which could not sustain agriculture at that time, but also controlling the fertile coastal areas) and would contain a sizeable Arab minority population. The Arab state would comprise roughly 4,300 square miles and would contain a tiny Jewish population. Neither state would be contiguous. Jerusalem and Bethlehem were not included, being put under the control of the United Nations.
Neither side was happy with the Partition Plan. The Jews disliked losing Jerusalem, which had a majority Jewish population at that time and worried about the tenability of a noncontiguous state. However, most of the Jews in Palestine accepted the plan and the Jewish Agency, the de facto government of the Yishuv campaigned fervently for its approval. The more extreme Jewish groups, such as the Irgun, rejected the plan. The Partition Plan was rejected entirely by the Palestinians and the surrounding Arab states who felt it was unfair that the Zionists should receive so much of Palestine when they owned about 6% of land and constituted only one third of the population. (Proponents of the resolution pointed out that 70% of the land was state owned).
The UN General Assembly voted on the Partition Plan on November 29, 1947. 33 states, including the US and the USSR, voted in favor of the Plan, while 13 mostly Muslim countries opposed it. Ten countries abstained from the vote. The approval of the plan sparked the Jerusalem Riots of 1947 and gave great legitimacy to the future state of Israel.
Following November 29, 1947, the Yishuv was attacked by Arab irregulars. This "battle of roads" consisted mainly of ambushes against logistical convoys and traveling Jews. Jewish underground groups carried out some raids in retaliation (including some apparently deliberate attacks on civilians, such as the Deir Yassin massacre). In April operation Plan Dalet was launched by Zionist forces that aimed to take control of the state of Israel as stated in the UN Partition Plan, and other Jewish settlements, states and roads leading to them - effectively calling for the annexation of much of Palestine.
Full scale war erupted only after May 14, 1948, when Britain terminated its mandate over Palestine and the Zionists announced the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. Palestine's five Arab neighbour states - Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq - then attacked the newly self-declared state. Despite initial victories the Arab League states were quickly defeated by the better trained and armed Israeli forces.
The 1949 Armistice Agreements that Israel signed with its neighbours left 78% of Palestine (17.5% of the 1921-1946 territory of the Mandate which included Transjordan) in its hands. The remaining territories, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were occupied by Egypt and annexed by Transjordan, respectively. Jordan also took control of East Jerusalem.
Additionally, the war created about 750,000 Palestinian refugees who had lived inside Israel's borders. It also brought about the arrival of about 900,000 of Jews who were expelled from or fled Arab lands to Israel.
In 1949, Israel offered to allow families that had been separated during the war to return, to release refugee accounts frozen in Israeli banks (these were eventually released in 1953), to pay compensation for abandoned lands, and to repatriate 100,000 refugees (about 15% of those who had fled). The Arabs rejected this compromise, at least in part because they were unwilling to take any action that might be construed as recognition of Israel. They made repatriation a precondition for negotiations, which Israel rejected. All sides seemed to agree that several thousand refugees had already been allowed to return by the time this proposal was made and rejected, but reliable numbers are hard to come by.
In the face of this impasse, Israel didn't allow any more of the Arabs who fled to return and, with the exception of Transjordan, the host countries where they ended up did not grant them — or their descendants — citizenship. As of today, most of them, and their offspring, still live in refugee camps. The question of how their situation should be resolved remains one of the main issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Following years of attacks by the Palestinian Fedayeen the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964. It was the first Palestinian organization that worked for the right of Palestinian refugees to return, and, initially, for the destruction of Israel. From the start, the organization used armed violence against civilian and military targets in the conflict with Israel. From 1969 to 2004 the PLO was led by Yasser Arafat.
In October 1954, Gamal Abdel Nasser became the President of Egypt, and was president during the Suez crisis in 1956, which was a conflict in which Egypt confronted France and Britain, with Israel siding with the latter side. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Nasser sought to position himself as leader of the Arab world; during this effort, he began to agitate against Israel. In 1967, Egypt ordered the UN to remove its peacekeepers from the Sinai Peninsula. Also, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran. Since Egypt had barred Israel from the Suez Canal since 1956, this effectively blockaded Israel completely from reaching ports to the east and in Asia. These actions were accompanied by numerous statements against Israel by Nasser, and overt military mobilizations by Egypt and other Arab nations.
In June 1967, Israel launched an airstrike against Egyptian airfields, which began The Six-Day War (June 5-June 11 1967). This opening airstrike was waged as a security measure designed to remove the threat of Arab attack which arose from the Egyptians who had amassed an increased number of troops in the Sinai Peninsula, and were arming displaced Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who launched insurgent attacks on Israel. Such actions were seen as a threat by Israel who, despite their military successes in the past, were wary of fighting a war on their own territory, preferring to take such a situation onto enemy land.
Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria. This meant that Israel controlled all of the former British mandate of Palestine, that under the Balfour Declaration was supposed to allow a Jewish state within its borders, how much of the land should fall under Jewish control was never defined. The fact that Palestine was never a sovereign state has given the Israelis subsequent support for their argument that they did not occupy these territories, and therefore did not break the Fourth Accord of the Geneva Conventions and International Law. Sinai has since been returned to Egypt in a phased withdrawal in 1979–82 and in August-September 2005 , Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip. The war also created a new wave of 200,000 to 300,000 Palestinian refugees. They also have neither been allowed to return nor granted citizenship in their host countries.
Between 1969 to September 1970, the PLO, with a passive support from Jordan, fought a war of attrition with Israel. During this time, the PLO launched artillery attacks on the moshavim and kibbutzim of Bet Shean Valley Regional Council as well as attempted to launch attacks by fedayeen on Israeli civilians. These attacks came to an end after the PLO expulsion from Jordan in September 1970.
After Black September, the PLO and its offshoots waged an international campaign against Israelis. In an attempt to publicize the Palestinian cause, frustrated Palestinian guerrilla groups in Lebanon attacked Israeli "civilian 'targets' like schools, buses and apartment blocks, with occasional attacks abroad—for example, at embassies or airports—and with the hijacking of airliners" (Sela, 97). At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, the Palestinian Black September group, a militant faction of the PLO, carried out the Munich massacre, resulting in the deaths of eleven Israeli Olympic athletes. It was among the first Palestinian attacks to become world news. In October 1974, the Arab nations came together at the Arab Summit Conference in Rabat and adopted their own resolution stating that the PLO was "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" (Sela, 96). Israel and the United States, on the other hand, refused to recognize the PLO as a legitimate organization in the mid-1970s because of the PLO's stance at the time that Israel did not have the right to exist.
Notable events were the Munich Olympics massacre (1972), the hijacking of several civilian airliners, the Savoy Hotel attack, the Zion Square explosive refrigerator and the Coastal Road massacre. During the 1970s and the early 1980s, Israel suffered attacks from PLO bases in Lebanon, such as the Avivim school bus massacre in 1970 and the Maalot massacre in 1974.
After the PLO was ousted from Jordan, its previous base, in 1970 , it relocated to southern Lebanon. From there it carried out attacks into and against Israel. Ending these attacks was one of the reasons given for the 1982 Lebanon War as a result of which the PLO was forced to relocate to Tunisia.
During the war, Phalangist Christian Arab militias carried out the bloody Sabra and Shatila Massacre (September 16-September 17 1982). Estimates of victims ranged from 700 to over 3000. For its involvement in the Lebanese war and its indirect responsibility for the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, Israel was heavily criticized, including from within. An Israeli Commission of Inquiry found that Israeli military personnel, among them defense minister and future prime minister Ariel Sharon, had several times become aware that a massacre was in progress without taking serious steps to stop it.
The First Intifada began in 1987 . It was a partially spontaneous uprising among Palestinians in the disputed territories, but by January 1988, it was already under the direction from the PLO headquarters in Tunis which continued to target Israeli civilians. The riots escalated daily throughout the territories and were especially severe in the Gaza Strip. The intifada soon became an international concern. On December 22 of that year, the UN Security Council passed United Nations Security Council Resolution 605, which condemned Israel's handling of the first Intifada.
During the Oslo peace process throughout the 1990s, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was ceded authority from Israel over large parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This process gave the PA governmental authority and economic authority over many Palestinian communities. It also gave the PA many of the components of a modern government and society, including a Palestinian police force, legislature, and other institutions. In return for these concessions, the PA was asked to promote tolerance for Israel within Palestinian society, and acceptance of Israel's right to exist.
One of the most contentious issues surrounding this peace process is whether the PA in fact met its obligations to promote tolerance. Supporters of Oslo say that the PA did the best it could under trying circumstances. They point out that PA officials continually issued condemnations of terrorism and violence. They also note that PA officials actions were limited by Israeli constraints on Palestinians; thus they had only limited ability to promote respect for Israel. Opponents of Oslo in Israel claim that the PA has continued to glorify certain "martyrs" who conducted violent activities in Israel. Furthermore, there is specific evidence that the PA actively funded and supported many terrorist activities and groups.
The Oslo peace process was in fact punctuated by numerous occurrences of violence by both sides. Palestinians stated that any terrorist acts were due mainly to Israel not having conceded enough land and political power to win support among ordinary Palestinians. Israelis stated that these acts of terrorism were due to the PA having openly encouraged and supported incitement against Israel, and terrorism.
In the first years of the Oslo process, there was increasing disagreement and debate among Israelis about the real amount of positive results and benefits produced by the Oslo process. Supporters claimed it was producing real advances leading to a viable Palestinian society which would promote genuine acceptance of Israel. Opponents claimed that concessions were merely emboldening extremist elements to commit more violence in order to win further concessions, without providing any real acceptance, benefits, goodwill, or reconciliation for Israel in return.
In October 1995, Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir. Official sources indicated that Amir was a right-wing activist who had assassinated Rabin due to Rabin's support for the peace process. Upon Rabin's assassination, the Prime Minister's post was filled by Shimon Peres, a fellow member of the Labor Party, who had served in Rabin's Cabinet as Foreign Minister. Peres continued Rabin's policies in supporting the peace process. In 1996, increasing Israeli doubts about the peace process led to the election of Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party as Prime Minister. Netanyahu raised many questions about many central premises of the Oslo process. One of his main points was disagreement with the Oslo premise that the negotiations should proceed in stages, meaning that concessions should be made to Palestinians before any resolution was reached on major issues, such as the status of Jerusalem, and the amending of the Palestinian National Charter.
Oslo supporters had claimed that the multi-stage approach would build goodwill among Palestinians, and would propel them to seek reconciliation when these major issues were raised in later stages. Netanyahu claimed that these concessions only gave encouragement to extremist elements, without receiving any tangible gestures in return. He called for "reciprocity," meaning tangible gestures of Palestinian goodwill, in return for Israeli concessions. Netanyahu did make some tangible concessions, such as the withdrawal of Israel from Hebron.
Under Netanyahu, Palestinian violence increased, without the appearance of any chance of resolution or diplomatic progress. Eventually, the lack of progress caused both sides to seek further American mediation. This led to new negotiations which produced the Wye River Memorandum. This was a political agreement negotiated to implement the earlier Interim Agreement of September 28 1995 and completed on October 23 1998. It was negotiated at Wye River, MD (at the Wye River Conference Center) and signed at the White House with President Bill Clinton playing a key role as the official witness. It was signed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, and on November 17 1998, Israel's 120 member parliament, the Knesset, approved the Wye River Memorandum by a vote of 75-19.
As Israeli elections approached, it appeared that violence had increased with little hope for diplomacy. This caused Israeli voters to turn back towards the Labor Party. On May 17 1999, Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister. Barak asserted greater support for the peace process, and worked closely with president Clinton. In July 2000, he met with Clinton and Arafat for the Camp David 2000 Summit. This summit was aimed at reaching a "final status" agreement, but it collapsed after Yasser Arafat would not accept a proposal drafted by American and Israeli negotiators. Barak was prepared to offer the entire Gaza Strip, a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, 94% of the West Bank (excluding eastern Jerusalem), and financial reparations for Palestinian refugees for peace. Arafat turns down the offer without making a counter-offer.
Later that year, one of the most prominent outbreaks of violence occurred during the al-Aqsa Intifada. This was the wave of violence which began in September 2000 between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis; it is also called the Second Intifada. Many Palestinians consider the intifada to be a war of national liberation against foreign occupation, whereas many Israelis consider it to be a terrorist campaign.
In January 2001, as the end of the Clinton Administration approached, Barak and Arafat met in Taba, Egypt for the Taba Summit. This ended with little results. It had limited credibility in some ways, as Barak had resigned his office in December 2000, and was only serving as a "caretaker" Prime Minister, in accordance with Israeli law.
On January 20 2001, George W. Bush was inaugurated as President of the United States. His Administration would display a different approach to this conflict than that of the Clinton Administration. On February 6 2001, the lack of diplomatic progress by Barak caused Israeli voters to elect Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister. Sharon refused to continue negotiations with the PA at Taba, or under any aspect of the Oslo Accords. Bush refused to meet with Arafat, and repeatedly stated that he would not meet with Arafat unless Arafat clearly renounced terrorism, and took steps to end incitement against Israel, and to restore democratic processes, administrative accountability and fiscal integrity and transparency.
Sharon's first year in office was unexpectedly marked by his calls for restraint, in response to several attacks on Israel. In March 2002, in response to a terrorist attack known as the Passover Massacre, Sharon ordered Operation Defensive Shield, a large-scale military operation by the IDF in the West Bank. In June 2002, Israel began construction of the West Bank Fence. Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis subsequently dropped by 90%. However, this barrier became a major issue of contention between the two sides.
On June 24 2002, President Bush delivered a major statement regarding the conflict, and he stated that he would expect the Palestinian Authority to institute democratic reforms, as a condition for any Israeli concessions or withdrawals. He stated that he expected Israel to end its incursion in to the West Bank, and withdraw to its previous lines, once they did see tangible signs of Palestinians gestures.
By early 2003, as both Israel and the United States had indicated their refusal to negotiate with Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas began to emerge as a candidate for a more visible leadership role. As one of the few remaining founding members of Fatah, he had some degree of credibility within the Palestinian cause, and his candidacy was bolstered by the fact that other high-profile Palestinians were for various reasons not suitable (the most notable, Marwan Bargouti), was under arrest in an Israeli jail. Abbas's reputation as a pragmatist garnered him favor with the West and certain elements of the Palestinian legislature, and pressure was soon brought on Arafat to appoint him Prime Minister. Arafat did so on March 19, 2003; initially Arafat attempted to undermine the post of Prime Minister, but eventually was forced to give Abbas some degree of power.
However, the rest of Abbas's term as Prime Minister continued to be characterized by numerous conflicts between him and Arafat over the distribution of power between the two. Abbas had often hinted he would resign if not given more control over the PA's administration. In early September 2003 he confronted the PA parliament over this issue. The United States and Israel accused Arafat of constantly undermining Abbas and his government.
In addition, Abbas came into conflict with Palestinian militant groups, notably Islamic Jihad and Hamas; his moderate pragmatic policies were diametrically opposed to their hard-line approach. Initially he pledged not to use force against the militants, in the interest of avoiding a civil war, and instead attempted negotiation. This was partially successful, resulting in a pledge from the two groups to honor a unilateral Palestinian cease-fire. However, continuing violence and Israeli "target killings" of known terrorists forced Abbas to pledge a crackdown in order to uphold the Palestinian Authority's side of the Road Map for Peace. This led to a power struggle with Arafat over control of the Palestinian security services; Arafat refused to release control to Abbas, thus preventing him from using them in a crackdown on militants.
Abbas resigned from the post of Prime Minister in October 2003, citing lack of support from Israel and the United States as well as "internal incitement" against his government.
There continued to be outbreaks of violent conflict between the two sides. In response to terrorist attacks, Israel launched Operation Rainbow in the Gaza Strip in May 2004, and launched another operation, Operation Days of Penitence, in September and October 2004.
Israel's unilateral disengagement plan was a proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, adopted by the government and enacted in August 2005, to remove all permanent Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the northern West Bank. The civilians were evacuated (a minority forcibly) and the residential buildings demolished after August 15, and Israel completed its disengagement and fully withdrew from the Gaza Strip on September 12 2005, when the last Israeli soldier left the Gaza strip. The military disengagement from the northern West Bank was completed ten days later.
Ehud Olmert became Prime Minister on April 14, 2006, but had been exercising the powers of the office since they were transferred to him on January 4, 2006 after Ariel Sharon suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke. Olmert's title for that period was Acting Prime Minister.
One key allegation which emerged against the PA was that Arafat and Fatah had received billions of dollars in aid from foreign nations and organizations, and had never used this money to develop Palestinian society. Instead it was alleged that the money was used for Arafat's personal expenses, or to repay his political allies. These allegations gradually grew in prominence, which increased Palestinian popular support for the group Hamas, which was often seen as being more efficient and honest, and had built various instiutions and social services. Hamas also stated clearly that it did not recognize Israel's right to exist, and did not accept the Oslo process, nor any other peace process with Israel. It openly stated that it had encouraged and organized acts of terrorism and many attacks.
In the January, 2006 legislative elections, Fatah and Hamas candidates competed for seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas won a majority in the PLC, due to widespread belief that Fatah had allowed widespread corruption and misuse of funds, mainly under Arafat's rule. Since the PA works under a parliamentary form of government, this meant Hamas now had control of the Prime Minister post, and many cabinet posts. The Prime Minister post was now filled by Ismail Haniyeh.
The List of Change and Reform, the political wing of Hamas, won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament in free elections, garnering a 44% plurality of votes cast. This result, a surprise to all parties, was widely interpreted as a protest against Fatah corruption, but was as much a cause of concern for supporters of the peace process as Ariel Sharon's rise to power, as Hamas' militant wing is actively involved in the resistance against the occupation and remains steadfast in its refusal to recognize Israel under the current circumstances.
Israel refused to negotiate with Hamas, since Hamas never renounced its beliefs that Israel has no right to exist, and that the entire State of Israel is an illegal occupation which must be wiped out. Many European countries cut off all aid to Hamas and to the Palestinian Authority, due to Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel.
In June 2006, in the 2006 Israel-Gaza conflict, fighting broke out between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip, after Hamas abducted an Israeli soldier, and also in responses to numerous rocket firings by Hamas, from the Gaza Strip into Southern Israel.
In July 2006, a war began between Israel and Hezbollah, involving many battles within Lebanon. This became known as the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. It was sparked when Hezbollah fighters entered Israel surreptitiously, attacked an IDF post and captured some IDF soldiers. In response, Israel attacked many Hezbollah positions within Lebanon. The result of the conflict was that both sides agreed to a cease-fire, and Lebanon agreed to station its army along the border with Israel. This conflict shaped the views on the peace process on both sides. On the Palestinian side, there was debate over whether Israeli military power had been shown to be vulnerable. On the Israeli side, there was debate as to whether military efforts were effective, but there was also debate as to whether terrorists had been emboldened by past political concessions.
During November 2006, there were efforts by Mahmoud Abbas to form a unity government with Hamas, in order to lessen European sanctions on the PA. These have met with little tangible results. Also in November 2006, the PA and Israel declared they would seek to uphold a cease-fire. This came in the wake of ongoing firing of missiles into Israel by various Palestinian factions, and various retaliatory operations by the IDF. It was unclear to what degree this cease-fire would be upheld by all parties.
On November 27 2006 Ehud Olmert appealed to the Palestinians to accept the international conditions and re-enter peace negotiations. They "will be able to establish an independent and viable Palestinian state, with territorial contiguity in Judea and Samaria, a state with full sovereignty and defined borders," referring to the West Bank by its biblical name. But that's likely to remain an empty wish if the internal Palestinian violence continues and the Hamas-led government does not moderate its policies or allow installation of a new, more moderate government. Dore Gold, an analyst to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said that despite Olmert's offers, the Palestinians are not ready for peace talks: "[N]egotiations might make nice photo opportunities, but would yield no positive results."
Since January 2006 elections in which the radical Hamas ousted Fatah, there had been periodic flare-ups of violence between the two sides. In December 2006, violence between Fatah and Hamas increased, and the conflict began to be viewed as a Palestinian civil war, as open street battles began to occur. President Abbas declared that he would call for new elections. Abbas began to seek support from foreign leaders and diplomats.
In December 2006, news reports indicated that a number of Palestinians were leaving the Gaza Strip, due to political disorder and economic stagnation there.
On the morning of December 11 2006, gunmen killed three sons of Baha Balousheh, a top Palestinian security officer and Fatah loyalist -- 3-year-old Salam, 6-year-old Ahmed and 9-year-old Osama —- opening fire on them from two vehicles, while they were in the family car on their way to school in the Gaza Strip. This threatened to ignite a Palestinian civil war, and jeopardized Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's efforts to restart long-stalled peace talks. Balousheh blamed the rival Hamas, though the Islamic movement denied responsibility and denounced the killing. As the violence intensified, Palestinians moved further away from their hoped-for national unity government — seen as a precondition for renewed negotiations with Israel. Ehud Olmert is offering the Palestinians far-reaching concessions and a state of their own if they choose the path of peace talks.
On December 19 2006, it was reported that Hamas and Fatah had agreed to a mutual ceasefire. However, fighting broke out again between Hamas and Fatah a few days later, showing the fragility of such truces. Fighting continued, with Hamas dominating the Gaza Strip, and Fatah dominating the West Bank. Conflict grew when Abbas declared he would outlaw one security unit which was commanded by Hamas, and when Fatah released a videotape of an abducted Hamas official. Fatah held a huge rally to demonstrate its popular support. Fatah hoped to expand its own forces, using aid from America.
Palestinian security officials announced that they had foiled planned violence by Hamas against senior figures. In January 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council was to have its first session in over four months; this was canceled because some legislators were scheduled to be in Indonesia, and the Council's speaker feared that he would not be able to get a quorum. Mohammed Dahlan, a Fatah leader, and former cabinet member, took a tough stance against Hamas.
At the end of January 2007, it appeared that a newly-negotiated truce between Fatah and Hamas was starting to take hold. However, after a few days, new fighting broke out. Fatah fighters stormed a Hamas-affiliated university in the Gaza Strip. Officers from Abbas' presidential guard battled Hamas gunmen guarding the Hamas-led Interior Ministry.
In February 2007, President Abbas and Prime Minister Haniyeh met in Saudi Arabia, with the active mediation of the Saudis, to discuss and resolve their differences. It was agreed that Hamas would dissolve the existing government, and form a new unity coalition with Fatah. This appeared to have the support of both parties. In accordance with the deal, Haniyeh resigned his post, in order form a new government, in coalition with Fatah. However, it was unclear whether this agreement would be considered by other nations to be satisfactory enough to warrant lifting the sanctions against Hamas and the PA. Sanctions continued, and caused economic problems for Palestinian society.
In May 2007, the deal between Hamas and Fatah appeared to be weaker, as new fighting broke out between the factions. This was considered a major setback. Interior Minister Hani Qawasmi, who had been considered a moderate civil servant acceptable to both factions, resigned due to what he termed harmful behavior by both factions.
Fighting widened to several points in the Gaza Strip with both factions attacking vehicles and facilities of the other side. Some Palestinians said the violence could bring the end of the Fatah-Hamas coalition government, and possibly the end of the Palestinian authority.
In response to constant attacks by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Israel launched airstrikes against various targets, destroying a building used by Hamas, and bringing on a new round of fighting.
Hamas spokeman Musa Abu Marzouk stated that Israel and the EU were to blame for the worsening situation. As the situation worsened and his government was on the verge of collapse, he indicated no acceptance of the idea that maybe the way to give the Palestinian people a better life is by working towards some form of mutual recognition and acceptance, instead of just continuing to call for more conflict and war. Expressions of concerns were received from many Arab leaders, with many offering to try to help by doing some diplomatic work between the two factions. One journalist wrote an eyewitness account which stated that political disorder had become extremely severe.
Eventually, the two factions said they had reached a ceasefire, because they did not want to fight each other in the face of Israeli attacks. However, it appeared that little had been resolved regarding their issues of contention.
Full-scale fighting broke out between the factions in several Palestinian communities, in battles during June 2007. Hamas won major victories, and won control of the entire Gaza Strip, and established a separate government. Fatah retained control of the West Bank. Israel, the U.S. and other Western countries began efforts to strengthen Fatah and to censure and isolate Hamas. Due to international sanctions, economic conditions and political stability in Gaza deteriorated. Olmert met with Abbas in mid-2007 to discuss various issues. Several week later, U.S. Secretary of State Rice also met with Abbas.
Israel stated it would not carry out a major offensive, in order to provide a chance for a new truce to begin. Later, various Palestinian groups claimed they had resumed the truce, under Egyptian mediation. At the same time, the Palestinians stated at the UN they had met all conditions for Israel to begin negotiating. Israel replied at the same session that Hamas had not yet expressed basic recognition of Israel's right to exist, or that it would not seek to destroy Israel entirely.
After Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, there have been frequent rocket attacks by Palestinians in Gaza towards the Israeli city of Sderot, and Israel responded with air-strikes, leading to a new set of battles in Gaza in 2007 and 2008. In January 2008, Israel launched ground and air attacks against various militants and targets in the Gaza Strip, including one airstrike which destroyed the office building of Hamas's Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip. Israel also closed all border crossings into Gaza, in response to frequent rocket attacks on the Israeli city of Sderot.
In January 2007, on a visit to Egypt, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the US would organize a summit between Israel and the Palestinians. In February 2007, for the first time in six years, a meeting was held in Israel which brought together Secretary Rice, Prime Minister Olmert, and President Abbas, for diplomatic talks. However, all sides reported little results.
In March 2007, Japan proposed a plan for peace based on common economic development and effort, rather than on continuous wrangling over land. Both sides stated their support. In early 2008, this plan moved closer to realization, as plans were announcedby Israeli President Shimon Peres for joint economic effort in four locations in the West Bank, in a plan known as "Peace Valley." This effort was to include joint economic and industrial projects, and a jointly-built university, with investement from several countries, including Turkey and Japan. In August 2007, Peres met with several Israeli businessmen, to discuss ways to press the plan forward.
Tony Blair traveled to the Mideast periodically following his appointment as Special Envoy for the Quartet. On a trip there in March 2008, he met with Israeli leaders to discuss recent violence. A planned meeting between Israeli and Palestinin businessmen was postponed due to recent fighting. In May 2008 Tony Blair announced a new plan for peace and for Palestinian rights, based heavily on the ideas of the Peace Valley plan.
Israel has been conducting peace talks with President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah-led government in the West Bank, while simultaneously battling Hamas in Gaza. An Israeli official said a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas would mean the end of peace talks. President George W. Bush pushed for renewed Mideast peace talks on his trip in January 2008, which he hoped would be resolved before his term ends.
Israeli forces arrested the wanted Hamas leader Omar Jabar accused of planning one of the worst suicide attacks on Israel it was reported on March 26 2008. He was wanted by Israel since 2002 for his responsibility in the March 27 2002 Passover massacre in Netanya that killed 30 Israelis and left 143 wounded. Abed Sayad, who dispatched the suicide bomber, and Omar Jabar began working together in 1994. After the Passover attack Jabar continued to recruit militants to Hamas and was involved in their combat training.