Know the Facts

Modern Israel’s History “on one foot”

1882-1897 After growing anti-Semitism in Europe in the late 19th Century, Zionism was founded with the goal of re-creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine. During this time, the Zionists established dozens of colonies in Palestine. At the same time, Arab nationalism was beginning to surface in opposition to Turkish rule.
1917 After World War I, the British gained control of Palestine. They endorsed the “Balfour Declaration”, which called for a national home for the Jews in Palestine.

The British continue governing Palestine.

The first Arab riots against Zionism take place, and a call is made for Islamic Jihad (holy war). Jews begin arming themselves.


Nazism, strikes and boycotts

The rise of Nazism in Europe reinvigorated Zionism, and the British raised Jewish immigration quotas for Palestine from about 5,000 in 1932 to about 62,000 in three years. Fearing the Jews would seize control, the Arabs launched a series of strikes and boycotts. A British commission concluded that Palestine should be partition into Jewish, Arab and British states, something the Zionists accepted reluctantly. But the Arabs totally rejected the idea.

For 12 years between 1933 and 1945, in what would later be referred to as the Holocaust, Germany’s Adolf Hitler persecuted the Jews and other minorities. The Nazis systematically killed an estimated 6 million Jews


War, Holocaust and partition

Jewish refugees from the Holocaust flooded into Palestine during World War II, their plight stirring support for a Jewish state. The Arabs formed the Arab League as a counterweight to Zionism, and in 1947 the United Nations voted to divide Palestine into Arab and Jewish States, the latter occupying 55 percent of the land west of the Jordan River. Jerusalem was designated as an international enclave.



After World War I, the British gained control of Palestine. They endorsed the “Balfour Declaration”, which called for a national home for the Jews in Palestine.


The Sinai Campaign

In February 1956 the Egyptian army posed a new tangible threat as it mobilised along the border with Israel after the Egyptian government nationalised the Suez Canal. Jordan joined the central military command of Egypt and Syria bringing the Arab threat to an unprecedented high. The Sinai Campaign broke out at the end of October 1956, resulting in ten years of cease-fire along the Egyptian border, but costing the lives of 170 soldiers.


Al Fatah and the PLO

Former Palestinian activist and Egyptian army soldier Yasser Arafat and Abu Jihad (Khalil al-Wazir) founded al Fatah – an acronym for the Palestinian National Liberation Movement. It grew rapidly through the 1960s to become the biggest and richest Palestinian force. In 1969, Arafat became the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, a group formed in 1964 as an umbrella for a number of Palestinian factions engaging in guerrilla warfare against Israel. The U.N. General Assembly voted to grant observer status to the PLO in November 1974.

Note that the PLO was formed before the six-day war, when the West Bank was captured.


Six-Day War

Arab armies, led by Egypt, gathered their troops on Israel’s borders. Israel pre-empted an Arab offensive with a well-orchestrated attack against Arab forces. In a war fought only for six days on the three fronts, against Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Israel succeeded in capturing the West Bank, Sinai, the Golan Heights, and unified its capital, Jerusalem.


War of Attrition

In this conflict, Israel was confronted with repeated incursions, guerrilla warfare and static artillery from Egypt. In August 1970 a cease fire was reached.


PLO expelled

Artillery duels between Israelis and Palestinians based in Jordan, along with airline hijackings by Palestinian guerrillas, led to fears that Jordan might be taken over by the PLO. Jordanian troops drove the PLO out of the country in 1971, and the PLO relocated to Lebanon. In September 1972, a militant faction known as Black September killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.


Yom Kippur War

Egypt and Syria launched a joint attack on Israel on October 6, the Jewish Holy Day Yom Kippur. Iraq also joined the attack, and other Arab states contributed support. Caught off-guard, Israel took several days to mobilise, suffering heavy casualties, but it forced the opposition back. The Israeli army even pushed Egyptian forces back across the Suez Canal and occupied the canal’s western bank. It also took large chunks of Syrian territory before the Arab forces agreed to another cease-fire arranged by the United Nations. In a series of 1974 agreements, Israel withdrew its forces back across the canal into Sinai and came to cease-fire terms with Syria.


Camp David Accords

Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty on 26 March that formally ended the state of war that had existed between them for 30 years. In return for Egypt’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula. The two nations also formally established diplomatic relations.


Operation Peace for the Galilee – War in Lebanon

The PLO had taken advantage of the Lebanese government’s weak position and used the country as a springboard for attacks against Israel targets in Israel and around the world. After repeated terrorist attacks, Israel entered Lebanon to act against PLO bases. IDF troops reached Beirut and evicted the PLO from Lebanon.

In May 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered the IDF to withdraw from Lebanon and to move from the security zone to the internationally recognised northern border. However, the conflict continues along the northern border with stone throwing, shooting, the diversion of the Hatzbani River and the kidnapping of 3 Israeli soldiers from Har Dov in October 2001.



Friction peaked again when Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, rioted against the Israelis in what came to be known as the Intifada, or “uprising”. The demonstrations continued for years, and Yasser Arafat proclaimed that the PLO was the government in exile of a “State of Palestine”.


A handshake and treaty

Secret negotiations near Oslo, Norway, between Israel and the PLO resulted in a treaty that included mutual recognition, limited self-rule for the Palestinians in Jericho and Gaza, and provisions for a permanent treaty that would resolve the status of Gaza and the West Bank. Signed in Washington, the agreement was sealed by a historic handshake between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin, Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.



Israel withdrew in May from Jericho on the West Bank and from Gaza. In July, Arafat entered Gaza and swore in members of the Palestinian Authority, which took control of education and cultures, social welfare, tourism, health and taxation.


Rabin assassination

In September Rabin and Peres signed an agreement expanding Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and giving the Palestinian Authority control over six large West Bank towns. Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally two months later by an Israeli law student with connections to right-wing extremists.


Pivotal elections

In the first-ever elections held by the Palestinians, Arafat was the overwhelming choice as president of the Palestinian Authority. In Israel, a massive bus bomb set off by Islamic extremists killed 25 and wounded dozens in the run-up to the Prime Minister election. Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu defeated Peres in a close race. Netanyahu and Arafat pledged to work toward a final peace treaty. The Israeli government decided later that year to end a freeze on construction in the occupied territories. Clashes continued between Palestinians and Jewish settlers.


Wye River accords

After a yearlong stalemate and a marathon 21-hour session mediated by U.S. President Bill Clinton, Netanyahu and Arafat signed a land-for-peace deal on October 23 at Wye Mills, Maryland. It called for a crackdown on terrorists, redeployment of Israeli troops, transfer of 14.2 percent of the West Bank land to Palestinian control, safe passage corridors for Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank, the release of 750 Palestinians from Israeli prisons and a Palestinian airport in Gaza.


Barak by a landslide

Moderate Labor candidate Ehud Barak unseated Netanyahu in the May Prime Minister election, winning by a record margin. Israel released 200 Palestinian prisoners and began transferring West Bank land to Palestinian control as part of the terms of the Wye Accords.


Impasse, more fighting

Clinton moderated a summit between Barak and Arafat at Camp David in July as the September 13 deadline for a final peace accord approached. The talks ended after 15 days with no agreement. Arafat rejected Barak�s offer for control of most, but not all, of the territory Israel occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank attacked Israeli security forces as they embarked on a second Intifada. Barak�s support eroded and he resigned in December, calling for a special Prime Minister election to be held in February 2001.


Handover, housing and Hamas

In the first-ever elections held by the Palestinians, Arafat was the overwhelming choice as president of the Palestinian Authority. In Israel, a massive bus bomb set off by Islamic extremists killed 25 and wounded dozens in the run-up to the Prime Minister election. Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu defeated Peres in a close race. Netanyahu and Arafat pledged to work toward a final peace treaty. The Israeli government decided later that year to end a freeze on construction in the occupied territories. Clashes continued between Palestinians and Jewish settlers.


Sharon victory and renewed violence

President Clinton left office in January without bringing both parties together in a final peace agreement.

After months of stepped-up violence, Likud party leader Ariel Sharon defeated Ehud Barak by a landslide in Israel�s February 6 special election for Prime Minister.

The September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States sparked a renewed interest in the Middle East Peace Process. But violence erupted again in December after Palestinian homicide bombings in Jerusalem and the northern Israeli port city of Haifa, which killed at least 25 Israelis.


Operation Defensive Shield

In March 2002, following a wave of bombing attacks including the Netanya Pesach attack, Israel embarked on Operation Chomat Magen – Defensive Shield. In a legitimate military operation to protect its citizens, the Israel Defence Forces entered the Palestinian towns to dismantle and terminate terrorist cells, in an attempt to stop violence at the source. The IDF also invaded Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah compound and uncovered numerous documents confirming the Palestinian Authority’s financial and social support of terrorism.


Roadmap to Peace

In March of 2003, Yasser Arafat appointed Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian Prime Minister. In April, the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, better known as the “Quartet” created the Road Map, which were steps towards a final and comprehensive agreement to be resolved by 2005.

Unfortunately, Arafat’s manoeuvring of power and unwillingness to hand over control to the new Prime Minister resulted in Abbas’s resignation after only four months in office. The Palestinian Authority’s failure to comply to the Roadmap and eliminate terrorism, along with Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s vow to continue violence – resulting in the escalation of attacks – have severely hindered the Roadmap and further prospects for peace.


Security Fence, Arafat dies

As a response to the violence, which had continued unabated since September 2000, the Israelis decide to construct a Security Fence, not as an official border, but to be a means of security between the Palestinian towns of the West Bank and Israel proper until a proper peace is achieved. The Palestinians took the Israelis to the International Court of Justice, where they argued that the Israelis were creating an Apartheid-like situation for them. In July of 2004 the court ruled in favour of the Palestinians, but it is only an advisory decision. Construction of the Security Fence continues.

On 11 November 2004, Yasser Arafat died in hospital in Paris, France. The exact nature of his illness remains a mystery. On 15 January 2005, Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in as the new Chairman of the PA.


Disengagement, Kadima

On 6 June 2004, the Israeli Cabinet presented a Resolution regarding the Disengagement Plan � to withdraw unilaterally out of Gaza and parts of the Northern West Bank in an attempt to improve the current situation. Despite opposition from the settlers living in these areas, the Disengagement went ahead on 15 August. Many members of the coalition opposed the disengagement and it resulted in Binyamin Netanyahu resigning from his cabinet position.

On 21 November, PM Ariel Sharon announced he would be quitting the Likud party and forming a new centre party called “Kadima”. The Knesset will be dissolved and new elections will take place on 28 March 2006.


Elections, Kidnappings, Second Lebanon War

On 4 January 2006, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke, leaving the leadership in the hands of Ehud Olmert. Following a break down in the coalition in late 2005, Israelis headed to the polls for an early election and on the momentum of change, Kadima was swept into power on 28 March, making Ehud Olmert the Prime Minister.

On 26 January, Palestinian Legislative Council elections saw radical Islamist movement Hamas sweep to power.

On 25 June Hamas kidnaps Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit at an Israeli army outpost sparking an Israeli operation into Gaza.

On 12 July in a cross border raid, Hezbollah operatives killed three Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. This along with a barrage of rocket fire sparked what would later become known as the Second Lebanon War. From 12 July until 14 August, when a United-Nations brokered ceasefire went into effect, 43 Israeli civilians and 117 IDF soldiers were killed. 


Control of Gaza, Annapolis

In a bloody coup, Hamas ousts Fatah from Gaza.

In November, the US convenes a peace summit at Annapolis with participation of Arab Nations, the Quartet and EU members, among others. They aim to come to an agreement by the end of 2008 but neither side is optimistic, even from the outset. 


Elections again

Following a controversial year, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigns are Kadima Chairperson. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni takes control but does not succeed  in forming a coalition government. General elections to the Knesset have been set for 10 February 2009. 

In order to bring an end to daily rocket attacks on Israel’s southern towns, Israel launches “Operation Cast Lead”, where the Israeli Air Force attacked targets affiliated with Hamas and its terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. The targets included command centres, training camps, rocket manufacturing facilities, storage warehouses and smuggling tunnels. On 17 December 2009, Israeli Cabinet decided that the IDF had achieved their objectives and called for a unilateral ceasefire. Hamas declared their own separate ceasefire the following day. Since the start of the operation the IDF carried out over 2,744 attacks against Hamas targets. 9 IDF soldiers were killed and 336 wounded during the operation.

Since the ceasefire was declared, rockets continued to be launched into Israel.


Old/New Government?

On 10 February 2009 Israelis went to the polls to choose a new government. Kadima won 28 mandates, Likud won 27, Yisrael Beiteinu won 15 and Labor won 13. Despite Kadima’s narrow victory, President Shimon Peres decided to task Benjamin Netanyahu with establishing the next government. Coalition talks are still continuing.