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A short timeline of the history of the peace process in the Middle East
1947 – The United Nations recommends partition with the passage of Resolution 181 by a vote of 33 to 13 – with Canada supporting the division of the former British Mandate into “Jewish” and “Arab” states. The Jewish community in the region accepts the decision. Arab nations and Palestinians reject partition.
1948 – Israel declares independence on May 14th on the territory partitioned according to Resolution 181. The following day, 6 Arab states invade Israel.
1949 – War of Independence ends, with armistice lines being drawn between the two sides. Egypt assumes control of the Gaza Strip, while Jordan occupies the West Bank and the eastern side of Jerusalem.
1956 – Egypt nationalizes the Suez Canal, blocking Israeli shipping. Sinai War breaks out, resulting in Israel controlling the entire Peninsula.
1957 – After Egypt refuses to make peace, Israel withdraws independently from the Sinai Peninsula. United Nations peacekeepers are installed along the Israel-Egypt border.
1967 – Egypt expels UN peacekeepers from the Sinai, blockades the Straits of Tiran (Red Sea) from all Israeli shipping, and establishes a unified military command with Jordan and Syria. The Six Day War results, with Israel winning control of the Golan Heights, Gaza, the Sinai, and the West Bank. Jerusalem is united under Israeli sovereignty.
The Arab League Summit meets in Khartoum, establishing a “three no’s” policy – “no recognition, no negotiation, and no peace with Israel.”
The United Nations passes Resolution 242 establishing a formula for “a just and lasting peace in the Middle East”: Israel is to cede captured territory only in the context of Arab states granting peace, recognition and security to Israel.
1973 – Yom Kippur War breaks out, with Egypt and Syria launching a surprise attack on Israel. Over 2,500 Israeli soldiers are killed.
1979 – Egypt and Israel sign a comprehensive peace agreement at Camp David. In exchange for Egypt’s recognition and an end to hostilities, Israel withdraws from the entire Sinai Peninsula. In the process, Israel transfers a territory area three times the size of Israel, uprooting established Jewish communities and forfeiting energy self-sufficiency.
1982 – Following years of attacks on civilians in northern Israel committed by terror operatives in Lebanon, Israel launches Operation Peace for Galilee. Israeli forces engage Lebanese and Syrian forces, with the war resulting in the establishment of a security zone in southern Lebanon to serve as a buffer between militants and Israel. Working with United Nations forces, Israel maintains military personnel inside the security zone until 2000.
1991 – Iraq attacks Israel during the Gulf War, launching 39 Scud missiles on the Jewish state, terrorizing Israeli civilians.
Madrid Peace Conference establishes bilateral and multilateral frameworks. The PLO participates as part of Jordanian delegation. Talks do not prove productive.
1993 – Israel and the Palestinians extend mutual recognition and sign the first phase of the Oslo Agreements – setting out the framework for a comprehensive peace agreement to be phased in over the a five-year period. Israel agrees to withdraw from areas of the disputed territories and pave the way for final-status negotiations. The Palestinians establish self-governing authority and agree to crack down on terrorism, end incitement, and accept Israel’s right to exist. Hamas and other militant groups respond with a wave of suicide bombings on Israeli civilian targets, lasting throughout the Oslo process.
1994 – Israel and Jordan sign a peace agreement, overseeing cooperation on a wide range of border issues. As a part of the settlement, Israel transfers land in exchange for water rights in the region.
1997 – By this point, following implementation of Israeli withdrawal plans, 98% of the Palestinian populace is now governed by the Palestinian Authority.
1998 – The Wye River Memorandum is released, clarifying outstanding issues and obligations. The document requires the Palestinians to do more in terms of ending incitement and shutting down terror groups, as conditions to be fulfilled prior to additional Israel withdrawals.
2000 – Israel independently withdraws all of its military personnel from south Lebanon.
At Camp David with the support of President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offers Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat full statehood. The proposal includes Israeli withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip and 95% of the West Bank, compensating land swaps, and shared sovereignty in Jerusalem. Arafat rejects the offer, refuses to make a counter-offer, and encourages Palestinians to respond with violence. The resulting wave of suicide bombings and attacks kill more than 1,000 Israelis and wound more than 8,000 more.
2003 – The “performance-based roadmap” to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is presented by the Quartet – the UN, EU, Russia and the United States.
2004 – President George Bush’s letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon assures Israel that, in light of Sharon’s plan to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, the United States will recognize “new realities on the ground, including already existing Israeli population centers” (i.e. settlement blocs around Jerusalem) that will become part of Israel in final status talks with the Palestinians. Bush writes that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”
2005 – Israel independently withdraws from the Gaza Strip, removing all military forces as well as 8,500 Israeli civilians; also dismantles four settlements in the West Bank.
2006 – Hamas terrorists from Gaza invade Israel and ambush an Israeli border post, killing two Israeli soldiers and kidnapping another. The kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit was freed from Hamas captivity October 18, 2011, though in his five years of captivity with the group was denied visitation by the International Red Cross.
Hezbollah operatives invade Israel and ambush an Israeli border patrol, killing eight soldiers and kidnapping two. The Second Lebanon War erupts, with Hezbollah firing thousands of missiles at cities and communities across northern Israel.
2007 – Hamas, a partner with Fatah in the Palestinian Authority’s unity government, launches a violent coup in Gaza. Hamas quickly seizes control of the territory and leading Fatah figures are forced to flee to the West Bank with Israel’s assistance.
2008 – In behind-the-scenes talks, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offers Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas full statehood in a formula considered even more generous than the Camp David proposals. Abbas rejects the offer.
Hamas and militant forces in Gaza continue to fire missiles at communities inside Israel. After a decade of such attacks (numbering in the thousands), Israel launches Operation Cast Lead with the stated mission of ending the ongoing threat facing the people of southern Israel.
2009 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces a temporary 9-month building freeze in all Jewish communities over the Green Line (1949 armistice lines) – which extends to 10 months. Intended as a gesture to build trust and confidence, the move represents the first time an Israeli government has suspended all construction – even natural growth – in the region. Netanyahu calls on Abbas to meet immediately and without pre-condition, in order to negotiate the establishment of full peace and a Palestinian state. Abbas refuses to meet for all but the last month of that period, and the two sides end up resorting to proximity talks through international parties.