This piece of land has been contested for millennia, with takeovers by Babylonians, Romans, Crusaders, Egyptians, the Ottoman Empire among many others. Over the past 70 years there have been many wars between Israel and its neighbors and hopes for a two-state solution – one Israel and one Palestine – are fading fast with peace talks having stalled.
Israel and The Levant
Gaza Strip: 1,795,183
4 million Palestinian refugees in surrounding states
Israel, Palestine Liberation Organisation, Hamas, Fatah, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Jordan
Declared independence in 1948 after the Palestinian leadership rejected the partition plan proposed by the UN. As the worlds only Jewish-majority state, it has repeatedly fought bloody wars against its Muslim majority
This faction is also supported by those loyal to former president Ali Abullah Saleh.
Has no diplomatic relations with Israel and has both declared war on Israel and provided assistance to Israel’s combatants in many of the subsequent wars
With Israel have enjoyed varied relations depending on the governments in Iran and were relatively friendly before the Islamic Revolution. Since then, Iran has funded terrorist organisations in Israel and there are allegations that Israel has funded Iranian insurgency groups
Has been invaded by Israel and had also declared war on Israel several times
Has been a combatant of Israel but the Hashemite dynasty have also maintained communication with Israel even before peace treaties were signed, as they were in 1995-6
Similar to Jordan, has fought Israel but now has become a long standing ally and important strategic partner of Israel in the region, since signing a peace treaty in 1979
Donates millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority. Has played a prominent role in the Arab League’s alternative to the traditional US mediated Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In recent times, antipathy towards the Iranians has brought the Israel and the Saudi governments closer together
Led the armed struggle against Israel for the Palestinian cause until secretly signing the Oslo Accords in 1993 with Israel. The movement has also engaged in intra-Palestinian tensions with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
An internationally recognized terrorist organization which wants the elimination of the State of Israel and is the government of Gaza.
The largest faction of the PLO and although it lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2005, it retained control of the West Bank.
A political party and terrorist group in Lebanon who have engaged in guerrilla war and conflict with Israel.
A Zionist terrorist organisation who agitated for the British to leave.
Regularly announces resolutions to try and ease tensions but these are non-binding so far have little impact
First Aliyah: This was a large wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine – around 35,000 people – coming mainly from Russia, with some immigrants also from Yemen
First Zionist Congress held in Basel, Switzerland which established, against the majority of Jewish opinion at that time, an agenda for Zionism: Zionism ‘seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people secured under international law’
Second Aliyah: Around 35,000 Jews migrated from Russia, its neighbours, and Yemen, to Palestine.
Arab Revolt: This was the fighting of a complex, pan-Arab movement in WWI against the Ottoman Turks.
Balfour Declaration. Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary wrote to Lord Rothschild declaring the British government’s support for a ‘national home for the Jewish people in Palestine…it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’. This prompted a surge in Zionist feeling and sowed the seeds for the British actions in Mandatory Palestine in the future.
- Third Aliyah: This Aaliyah consisted of around 40,000 immigrants and was triggered by the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The San Remo Agreement incorporated the Balfour declaration into the Mandate of Palestine. It also did not recognise a possible future Arab state in Palestine.
Fourth Aliyah: Around 80,000 Jews came from Eastern Europe and Asia to Israel, filling a whole left by the emigration of around 10,000 Jews due to an economic crisis.
Fifth Aliyah: As many Jews fled Germany and surrounding countries this Aliyah was particularly large and comprised of between 200,000 and 300,000 Jews.
The Passfield White Paper was a document produced by the British calling for a cap on Jewish migration to Palestine. This was reversed by the MacDonald letter which moderated the terms of the paper.
The Arab Revolt in Palestine tried unsuccessfully to liberate Palestine from the British Mandate and establish a home for the Palestinians. Their violence influenced the British negatively, prompting a White Paper which called for the founding of a Jewish state within the next ten years.
The bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem by the Irgun, a Jewish terrorist organisation, which resulted in the deaths of 91 people.
The UN proposes a partition plan for two states but the Palestinians reject it.
Declaration of Independence. Whilst Jerusalem was under siege, the World Zionist Organisation, sitting in Tel Aviv, declared the State of Israel.
- War of Independence. Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon attacked Israel, with the help of Iraq and Iran. Israel prevailed in 1949 and expanded their territory.
Operation Magic Carpet, also known as Operation on the Wings of Eagles brought almost all of the Yemenite Jewish community to Israel – around 49,000 people.
Arab League decides to create organisation representing the Palestinians and found the PLO, whose stated goal is armed struggle against Israel and its civilians.
Six Day War: Conflict began when the Israelis launched a pre-emptive strike on the Egyptian air force. Alongside the Egyptians, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria joined against Israel, with support from Iraq and Iran. In 6 days the Israelis succeeded not only in defeating all these countries but expanded the territory under control greatly, taking the Golan, the Sinai Peninsula and, crucially, Jerusalem. The battle changed the power balance in the region and laid the post-67 borders which are so controversial today.
- UN Security Council Resolution 242: calls for Israel to withdraw forces from new territories.
Yom Kippur War: To regain territory Israel’s neighbours attacked on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, which fell on the 6thof October. Syrians attacked from the Golan in the North and the Egyptians attacked through the Sinai Peninsula in the South at the same time. Within four days, the Israelis had broken through the Syrian forces and were shelling Damascus and, shortly, breached the Egyptians and started marching towards Suez. This war was not only a key military development in the region but it was also a flashpoint between the USA, backing Israel, and the USSR, backing the Arabs. The UN brokered a first ceasefire, on October 23rd, and a second, final ceasefire on October 25th.
Camp David was the secret negotiations between Israel and Egypt which, after 12 days, led to two framework agreements for a way forward to peace being signed. The UN condemned these two frameworks for having been concluded without the inclusion of the Palestinians.
- Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian premier, was assassinated by dissident Egyptians for having signed the treaty.
The Peace Treaty with Egypt was signed. This returns the Sinai Peninsula to the Egyptians, evacuating the 4,500 Israelis living there.
- Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, about 30,000 Iranian Jews migrated to Israel.
Lebanon War: This war was triggered by the attempted assassination of Israel’s ambassador to the UK and brought the Israeli Defence Forces to occupy Beirut, causing the PLO to move its headquarters to Tripoli. Violence increased and guerrilla warfare claimed the lives of many Israeli soldiers, civilians and Lebanese alike.
Operation Moses – 8,000 Ethiopian Jews airlifted from Sudanese refugee camps into Israel.
The First Intifada: this flashpoint of high tension led to wide criticism of Israel’s handling of resistance. The Israelis began firing live rounds at protestors, later beating them. The increased violence seems to have ended with the signing of the Oslo accords.
Operation Solomon – 14,000 Ethiopian Jews taken to Israel in just a few days. The total Ethiopian immigration has reached over 100,000.
The Oslo Accords were the agreements signed by Yitzchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat (representing the PLO) which led to mutual recognition and the laying down of the Oslo Process, which was supposed to bring the parties to peace. After many rounds of negotiation, the talks ended in failure in 2000.
Yitzchak Rabin is assassinated by right wing nationalist Yigal Amir.
Rabin, Arafat, and Shimon Peres jointly awarded Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in the Oslo Accords.
The Second Intifada was prompted by Ariel Sharon – the Israeli Prime Minister – visiting the Temple Mount, an extremely sensitive location. Palestinians responded with higher levels of violence against Israelis and the IDF fought back. Over the course of the Intifada 1053 Israelis were killed and 4745 Palestinians were killed.
Road Map for Peace – an attempt to ease the fighting through a series of treaties by the Americans but which never even progressed to complete Phase I.
Disengagement from Gaza: Ariel Sharon ordered the evacuation of Jewish settlements in Gaza, prompting vociferous backlash from sections of Israeli society. The army faced violence in their relocation of around 8,000 Israelis.
The Second Lebanon War lasted 34 days but is estimated to have killed over 1000 Lebanese and 165 Israelis. It was sparked by a Hezbollah ambush of Israeli soldiers on the border.
Operation Cast Lead: This three week offensive claimed the lives of 1391 Palestinians and 13 Israelis; a discrepancy which the Israelis pin on Hamas’s human shield tactics during guerrilla warfare.
Operation Pillar of Defence began with the killing of a senior Hamas leader and led to the deaths of 167 Palestinians and 6 Israelis.
Operation Protective Edge: This offensive in Gaza was triggered by the kidnapping and murder of 3 teenagers from an Israeli settlement but was really an opportunity to destroy the tunnels formed by Hamas to circumvent the blockade imposed by the Israelis. The Israelis accused Hamas of using these tunnels, some of which could fit large vehicles through, for importing devices for explosives. 2104 Palestinians and 72 Israelis were killed.
Egyptian brokered compromise between Hamas and Fatah
Netanyahu (the Israeli PM) announces plans to build 2,500 more homes in the West Bank.
Work begins on the first new Jewish settlement in the West Bank for 25 years.
Donald Trump recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, upsetting the Arab world and Western allies.
The American embassy to Israel is moved to Jerusalem, sparking peaceful protests in Gaza. The protesters were met by a shower of gunfire from Israeli defense forces. 60 Palestinians were killed and nearly 3,000 were injured.
Hamas reports that armed groups in the Gaza Strip agreed to a ceasefire with Israel following a night of devastating air attacks which targeted Hamas and Jihad forces
The US votes against a United Nations Security Council proposal calling for the protection of Palestinian civilians, while also being the only country to back its own measure to condemn Hamas for the recent outbreaks of violence in the Gaza Strip
The ceasefire ends when Israel launches air raids on Palestinian forces in the Gaza Strip. Israel reports that they launched these strikes in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclaves.
An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement goes into effect following Israeli bombing of more than 40 sites in response to Palestinians sending burning protest kites into Israel, burning millions of dollars worth of crops. The ceasefire is broken days later, but remains in effect on and off through August.
US President Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and affirms his favor for brokering a peace treaty centered on the two-state solution. Trump reports that he believes Palestinians—despite exiting negotiations after having their aid from the US slashed—will return to the table. He believes the plan will be ready in the next 2-4 months.