Israel and Palestine: What is the history of the conflict between them in the Middle East

Israel and Palestine: What is the history of the conflict between them in the Middle East
RAFAH, GAZA - AUGUST 13: Palestinians wait before crossing the border after Egypt opened the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip for three days, in Rafah, Gaza on August 13, 2020. The terminal will remain open in both directions to allow Palestinian travelers to leave and those stranded to return to Gaza, the embassy said in a statement. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The dispute goes back thousands of years and encompasses a basic, but ancient point of contention.

On one side is Palestine which sits along the Mediterranean coast, a 140-mile stretch of land north of Egypt and west of the country it considers its most hated enemy.

On the other side is the state of Israel, created by an agreement between a collection of nations following the Second World War, and carved out of the ancestral lands of the Palestinian people.

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From the time of the beginning of the Israeli state, Arabs in the Middle East have decried the actions of the United Nations in the formation of the Jewish homeland. While Israel held fast to its claim to the region around the holy city of Jerusalem, Arabs claimed the land was theirs and had always been, including Jerusalem, which is central to the tenets of Islam.

Here is a look at the past 100 years of turmoil in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israelis.


At the end of the First World War in 1918, Britain was put in charge of the area. The League of Nations, a precursor to the United Nations, issued a mandate which formalized British rule over parts of the Levant, which was the region that comprises countries to the east of the Mediterranean. Part of the mandate called on Britain to establish a Jewish national homeland there. The mandate went into effect in 1923 and established an area called Mandatory Palestine.

Britain was given this duty at the end of World War I when the winning European and regional powers divided up what was the former Ottoman Empire. Britain was given the area known as Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and Palestine (modern-day Israel, Palestine and Jordan).

Following the mandate, Jewish migrants headed to Mandatory Palestine and began populating the area. Tensions arose in the area as Jewish institutions were established.

Over the next 20 years, British support for the mandate and the establishment of an independent Jewish state waned.


A year after World War II ended, Britain granted Jordan independence. The United Kingdom declared that it would terminate the mandate in Palestine on May 14, 1948.

The United Nations, which had been formed after the end of WWII, took up the “Question of Palestine.” The body drafted a Plan of Partition that was approved by its General Assembly on Nov. 29, 1947.

The United Nations plan called for a partition of Palestine into two sections: an independent Jewish state and an independent Arab state. Jerusalem was carved out of the partition and made an internationalized territory.

While the diplomats at the U.N. and Jewish immigrants to the region signed on to the plan, it was rejected by most of the Arab world.

One day after the partition, war broke out between Israel and five Arab countries: Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. When the fighting, which became known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, ended, Israel had more territory than envisaged under the Partition Plan, Egypt was given control of the Gaza Strip and Jordan annexed the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

That arrangement lasted for nearly 20 years and saw up to a million Jewish refugees come to the new state of Israel.


In 1967 the Six-Day War broke out. At the end of that war, Israel occupied East Jerusalem and has kept it since then.


Tension grew in the ensuing years and in 1972, Palestinian "Black September" gunmen took the Israeli Olympic athletes hostage at the Munich Olympics. Two of the athletes are murdered initially, and seven others died during a failed rescue attempt by German authorities.

A year later, in October 1973, Egypt and Syria launch a coordinated attack against Israeli forces in the occupied Sinai and Golan Heights. Israel was able to repel Egypt and Syria.

In May 1977, Menachem Begin was elected prime minister. By November of that year, he and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, along with American mediators and President Jimmy Carter, were working together to craft the Camp David Accords. The peace plan saw Israel's withdrawal from Sinai and Egypt's recognition of Israel. The accords also pledged Israel to expand Palestinian self-government in the West Bank and Gaza.


In June 1982, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon in order to expel the Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO had tried to assassinate the Israeli ambassador to Britain.

Three years later, in 1985, Israel withdrew from Lebanon while remaining in a narrow “security zone” along the country’s border.

In December 1987, the Hamas movement was born. Hamas directed violent attacks against Isreal.


In 1990, the area became more crowded when Jews were allowed to emigrate from Russia to Israel. Some one million Russian Jews moved to the region.

In October 1991, the Madrid conference brought Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestinian representatives together for the first time since 1949 to talk about the region and its future.

In 1992, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin vowed to stop the settlement expansion program. Rabin opened secret talks with the PLO to work toward an agreement. The meetings with PLO leader Yasser Arafat led to the Oslo Declaration. The Declaration aimed to create a plan for Palestinian self-government.

In the spring and early summer of 1994, Israel withdrew from most of Gaza and the West Bank city of Jericho. The PLO administration moved in and set up the Palestinian National Authority.

In September 1995, Rabin and Arafat signed an agreement for transfer of further territory to the Palestinian National Authority.

By May 1996, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to halt further concessions to Palestinians. Netanyahu went on to sign the Hebron Protocol and Wye River Memorandum, which removed troops from the West Bank.


In May 2000, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon.

In March 2002, Operation Defensive Shield was launched on the West Bank after an increase in Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel.

Three months later, Israel began building a wall in and around the West Bank.

Once again, world powers intervened to work for peace in the Middle East when the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations proposed a road map to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The proposal included an independent Palestinian state and a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

In September 2005, all Jewish settlers and military personnel were withdrawn from Gaza.

In 2006, clashes with Hamas and Lebanon drew Israeli attacks and escalated into the Second Lebanon War.

In November 2007, the Annapolis Conference proposed a "two-state solution" for the first time. In December 2008, Israel launched a month-long invasion of Gaza to prevent rockets from being launched.


In May 2010, pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed as Israelis boarded a ship while trying to break a blockade of Gaza.

In November 2012, Israel launched a seven-day military campaign against Gaza-based groups that had for months launched rocket attacks against Israeli cities.

In July and August of 2014, Israel responded to attacks by armed groups in Gaza with a military campaign by air and land.

In September 2016, the U.S. provided Israel with a military aid package worth $38 billion.

In February 2017, the Israeli Parliament passed a law that retroactively legalized dozens of Jewish settlements that had been built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank, and four months later, work began on the first new Jewish settlement in the West Bank in more than 25 years.

President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017. Palestine and the rest of the Arab world signaled their disapproval. Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

In 2019, the US said it no longer considered Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal.


On August 13, 2020, Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached a peace deal that will lead to full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two nations and calls for Israel to suspend its plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank.