At the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, the victorious European states sought to divide the many regions including the Middle East into political entities - termed League of Nations mandates - according to their own needs, and, to a much lesser extent, according to deals that had been struck with other interested parties. 'Syria' (including the Ottoman autonomous Christian Lebanon and the surrounding areas that became the Republic of Lebanon) came under French control, while 'Mesapotamia', and 'Palestine' (including what became Transjordan) came under British control. Most of these territories achieved "independence" (Some regimes were puppets of the West, Colonial Legacy was continued through granting of exclusive rights to market/manufacture oil and keep troops to defend it.) during the following three decades without unusual difficulty, but the case of Palestine remained problematic.
Following the war and the subsequent entrance of Europeans, two new movements, based on European nationalism, arose: Arab nationalism, which hinges on the cultural commonalities of all Arab peoples, and Pan-Arabism, which calls for the creation of a united state for all Arabs. Most of the mandate territories achieved independence in the following three decades with relative ease, yet Palestine proved especially difficult for the British.
The future of Palestine was contentious from the beginning of the Palestine Mandate since the British declared support for a "Jewish national home in Palestine" even though most of the population were Arabs (though in some regions of the territory, most of which are now under Israeli control, Jews formed a majority) at that time there wasn't any majority for Jews, they were inhabiting small farms. It was also, according to one common view, the subject of British promises to the Arabs (creation of a large Pan-Arab state; promised to the Sharif of Mecca in exchange for Arab help fighting the Ottoman Empire) during World War I. Therefore, it is not surprising that many different proposals have been made and continue to be made, including an Arab state, with or without a significant Jewish population, a Jewish state, with or without a significant Arab population, a single bi-national state, with or without some degree of cantonization, two states, one bi-national and one Arab, with or without some form of federation, and two states, one Jewish and one Arab, with or without some form of federation.
At the same times, many Arab leaders believed that Palestine should join a larger Arab state covering the imprecise region of the Levant. These hopes were expressed in the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement, which was signed by soon-to-be Iraqi ruler Faisal I and the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, which called for a Jewish homeland in Palestine amidst a larger Arab state. Despite this, the promise of a Pan-Arab state including Palestine were dashed as Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan declared independence from their European rulers, while Palestine festered in the developing Arab-Israeli Conflict.
In light of these developments, Palestinian Arabs began calling for both their own state in the British Mandate of Palestine and an end to the British support of the Jewish homeland's creation and to Jewish immigration. The movement gained steam through the 1920s and 1930s as Jewish immigration picked up. Under pressure from the arising nationalist movement, the British enforced the White Papers, a series of laws greatly restricting Jewish immigration and the sale of lands to Jews. The laws, passed in 1922, 1930, and 1939, varied in severity, but all attempted to find a balance between British sympathies with the Jews and the Arabs.
Finally, the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine led the British to create the Peel Commission, which produced the first concrete suggestion for a Palestinian state. The Commission's report published in 1937 called for a small Jewish state, an Arab state covering Judea, Samaria, and the barren Negev desert, and a British enclave stretching from Jerusalem to Yafo. The plan also called for a large population transfer. Jewish leaders accepted the plan, while Arab leaders rejected it and the two subsequent proposals offered by the Peel Commission.
World War II (1939–1945) gave a boost to the Jewish nationalism, as the Holocaust reaffirmed their call for a Jewish homeland. At the same time, many Arab leaders had even supported Nazi Germany, a fact which could not play well with the British. As a result, Britain pooled her energy into winning over Arab opinions by abandoning the Balfour Declaration and the terms of the League of Nations mandate which had been entrusted to her in order to create a "Jewish National Home". Britain did this by issuing the 1939 white paper which officially allowed a further 75,000 Jews to move over five years (10,000 a year plus an additional 25,000) which was to be followed by Arab majority independence. The British would later claim that that quota had already been fulfilled by those who had entered without her approval.
Jewish leaders accepted the plan, while Arab leaders refused it. Large-scale fighting soon broke out between the Jews and the Arabs. King Abdullah I of Jordan met with a delegation headed by Golda Meir to negotiate terms for accepting the partition plan, but rejected its proposal that Jordan remain neutral. Indeed, the king knew that the nascent Palestinian state would soon be absorbed by its Arab neighbors, and therefore had a vested interest in being party to the imminent war. As the Mandate was set to end, the State of Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, leading to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence and to Palestinians as the Nakba - the disaster. Almost immediately, Transjordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Arab Liberation Army declared war against Israel. Over the course of the war, scores of Arab settlements in the new state, mostly small villages, were depopulated due to a variety of often-disputed reasons, including expulsion by Jewish or Israeli troops, fear from attack, or encouragement by the British or Arab officials to leave until the situation had died down (see Palestinian exodus).
Meanwhile, Abdullah of Transjordan sent the Arab Legion into the West Bank with no intention of withdrawing it following the war. Egypt, for its part, annexed the Gaza Strip, the last remnant of the Palestinian state. The territory which Israel did not annex, Palestine's allies had taken in its place. As the Palestinian writer Hisham Sharabi would observe, Palestine had "disappeared from the map," 26 years after appearing as an officially defined, bordered territory.
King Abdullah I of Jordan decided to grant citizenship to the Palestinian refugees and residents living in the West Bank against the wishes of many Palestinian leaders who still hoped to establish a Palestinian state. Under Abdullah's leadership, Palestinian hopes of independence were dealt a severe blow. In March he issued a royal decree forbidding the use of the term "Palestine" in any legal documents, and pursued other measures designed to make the fact that there would not be an independent Palestine clear and certain.
In Gaza, a government calling itself the All-Palestine Government formed, even before the war's end in September 1948. The government, under the leadership of the Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, declared the independence of the Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. The All-Palestine Government would go on to be recognized by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, while Jordan and the other Arab states refused to recognize it.
In practice, the All-Palestine government was only a publicity stunt, as it was given no real authority by the Egyptian government. In 1959, Egypt's new leader Gamal Abdul Nasser ordered the dismantling of the All-Palestine Government, yet notably refused to grant Palestinians in Gaza Egyptian citizenship.
Jordan continued to have economic influence over the West Bank until the 1980s, when King Hussein unilaterally cut the link between his kingdom and its residents and the Palestinians of the West Bank. Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
The PLO would become the leading force in the Palestinian national movement politically, and its leader, Yassir Arafat, would become regarded as the leader of the Palestinian people.
In 1974, the PLO adopted the Ten Point Program, which notably called for the establishment of an Israeli-Palestinian democratic, bi national state (a one state solution). It also called for the establishment of Palestinian rule on "any part" of its liberated territory, as a step towards "completing the liberation of all Palestinian territory, and as a step along the road to comprehensive Arab unity." While this was not seen by Israel as a significant moderation of PLO policy, the phrasing was extremely controversial within the PLO itself, where it was widely regarded as a move towards a two-state solution. The adoption of the program, under pressure from Arafat's Fatah faction and some minor groups (eg. DFLP, al-Sa'iqa) led many hard-line groups to break away from the Arafat and the mainstream PLO members, forming the Rejectionist Front. To some extent, this split is still evident today.
The main discussion during the last fifteen years has focused on turning most or the whole of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank into an independent Palestinian state. This was the basis for the Oslo accords and it is favoured by the U.S. The status of Israel within the 1949 Armistice lines has not been the subject of international negotiations. Some members of the PLO recognize Israel's right to exist within these boundaries; others hold that Israel must eventually be destroyed. Consequently, some Israelis hold that Palestinian statehood is impossible with the current PLO as a basis, and needs to be delayed.
The specific points and impediments to the establishment of a Palestinian state are listed below. They are a part of a greater mindset difference. Israel declares that its security demands that a Palestinian entity would not have all attributes of a state, at least initially, so that in case things go wrong, Israel would not have to face a dangerous and nearby enemy. Israel may be therefore said to agree (as of now) not to a complete and independent Palestinian state, but rather to a self-administering entity, with partial but not full sovereignty over its borders and its citizens.
The central Palestinian position is that they have already compromised greatly by accepting a state covering only the areas of the West Bank and Gaza. These areas are significantly less territory than allocated to the Arab state in UN Resolution 181. They feel that it is unacceptable for an agreement to impose additional restrictions (such as level of militarization, see below) which, they declare, makes a viable state impossible. In particular, they are angered by significant increases in the population of Israeli settlements and communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the interim period of the Oslo accords. Palestinians claim that they have already waited long enough, and that Israel's interests do not justify depriving their state of those rights that they consider important. The Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a territorially disjointed state. It is feared that it would face difficulties similar to Bantustans.
In the 1990s, outstanding steps were taken which formally began a process the goal of which was to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict through a two-state solution. Beginning with the Madrid Conference of 1991 and culminating in the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israelis, the peace process has laid the framework for Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and in Gaza. According to the Oslo Accords, signed by Yassir Arafat and then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Washington, Israel would pull out of the Gaza Strip and cities in the West Bank, leaving contested East Jerusalem in question.
Following the landmark accords, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was established to govern those areas from which Israel was to pull out. The PNA was granted limited autonomy over a non-contiguous area, though it does govern most Palestinian population centers.
The process stalled with the collapse of the Camp David 2000 Summit between Palestinians and Israel.
Despite these important advancements, the Al-Aqsa Intifada brought the peace process to a screeching halt. Israel ceased to act in cooperation with the PNA and later on would occupy some Palestinian cities anew. In the shadow of the rising death toll from the violence, the United States initiated the Road Map for Peace (published on June 24, 2002), which is intended to end the Intifada by disarming the Palestinian terror groups and creating an independent Palestinian state. The Road Map has stalled awaiting the implementation of the step required by the first phase of that plan. It remains stalled due to the civil war between Hamas and Fatah.
In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip as part of the Disengagement Plan, which was seen as a move toward creating an independent Palestinian state.
Syria joined Egypt in founding the United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958 during a period of Pan-Arabism as the first step toward the recreation of Pan-Arab state. The UAR was to include, among others, Palestine. The UAR disintegrated into its constituent states in 1961.
Egypt held Gaza and Jordan annexed the West Bank between 1948 and 1967. During those years, Egyptian President Nasser created the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964 to help to destroy Israel. In 1968 Fatah was formed in Damascus, Syria with similar aims.
Currently, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), along with the United States, the European Union, and the Arab League, envision the establishment of a State of Palestine to include all or part of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, living in peace with Israel under a democratically elected and transparent government. The PNA, however, does not claim sovereignty over any territory and therefore is not the government of the "State of Palestine" proclaimed in 1988.
The 1988 declaration was approved at a meeting in Algiers, by a vote of 253-46, with 10 abstentions. The declaration invoked the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) and UN General Assembly Resolution 181 in support of its claim to a "State of Palestine on our Palestinian territory with its capital Jerusalem". The proclaimed "State of Palestine" was recognized immediately by the Arab League, and about half the world's governments recognize it today. It maintains embassies in these countries (which are generally PLO delegations). The State of Palestine is not recognized by the United Nations, although the European Union, as well as most member states, maintain diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority, established under the Oslo Accords. Leila Shahid, envoy of the PNA to France since 1984, was named in November 2005 representant of the PNA for Europe.
The declaration is generally interpreted to have recognized Israel within its pre-1967 boundaries, or was at least a major step on the path to recognition. Just as in Israel's declaration of independence, it partly bases its claims on UN GA 181. By reference to "resolutions of Arab Summits" and "UN resolutions since 1947" (like SC 242) it implicitly and perhaps ambiguously restricted its immediate claims to the Palestinian territories and Jerusalem. It was accompanied by a political statement that explicitly mentioned SC 242 and other UN resolutions and called only for withdrawal from "Arab Jerusalem" and the other "Arab territories occupied." Yasser Arafat's statements in Geneva a month later were accepted by the United States as sufficient to remove the ambiguities it saw in the declaration and to fulfill the longheld conditions for open dialogue with the United States.
Note that the materials in this section are mainly based on the Israeli (, ) and Palestinian (, ) positions during the ill-fated Camp David negotiations.
The violent conflicts and massacres of the period before the founding of the State of Israel and the decades of terrorism or political violence (most of it against civilians) and living as refugees under foreign governments has left both sides with little trust that the other will fulfill any commitments undertaken in an agreement..
There are several plans for a possible Palestinian state. Each one has many variations. Some of the more prominent plans include:
Several plans have been proposed for a Palestinian state to incorporate all of the former British mandate of Palestine (pre-1967 territory of Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank). Some possible configurations include:
Europe's Hour: Come and Gone? Ever since Washington Decided 'War-War' Was for Men and 'Jaw-Jaw' Was for Wimps, the United States Has Been a Spent Force in the Middle East
Aug 07, 2006; Byline: Denis MacShane (MacShane, a Labour M.P., was Tony Blair's minister for Europe from 2001 to 2005.) In 1992 a certain...