Palestine Through History: A Chronology (II)

By Nizar Sakhnini

1949, 4 January: Egypt announced her readiness to begin armistice negotiations.  The UN-decreed cease-fire went into effect on 7 January, marking the formal end of the war.  Armistice negotiations between Israel and the neighboring Arab states got under way with the help of the UN acting mediator, Dr Ralph Bunche, at the Roses Hotel in Rhodes. 

Armistice Agreements were signed with Egypt on 24 February, with Lebanon on 25 March, with Transjordan on 3 April, and with Syria on 20 July1949. 

As a result of the war, 530 villages were bulldozed, 11 urban neighbourhoods were destroyed, about 10,000 Palestinian Arabs were killed, about 30,000 were wounded, and over 750,000 were ethnically cleansed and became refugees. 

1949, 5 March: One day after the start of the official armistice negotiations with Jordan, Israel launched Operation Uvda (Fait Accompli) to extend its control of the southern Negev down to Eilat.

1949, 26 April: The PCC conference was opened in Lausanne, Switzerland, and under the threat of preventing Israel’s admission to the UN, Israel agreed to attend the conference.

1949, 11 May: Israel was admitted to UN membership.

1949, 12 May: The Arab states and Israel signed a protocol stating that the UN Partition Resolution and the partition map included in it constituted the basis for negotiations.

1949, 29 May: Ben-Gurion explained to his cabinet members that time had worked to Israel’s advantage with respect to borders, refugees and Jerusalem.  He stated that, with the passage of time, the world would get used to Israel’s existing borders and to Israel’s position with respect to the Palestinian refugees.  He added that the same was true for Jerusalem and people are beginning to see the absurdity of establishing an international regime over the city.

1949, 6 July: Israeli Consul General in New York, Arthur Lourie, transmitted a copy of a letter from American journalist Drew Pearson, whom Lourie said, “expressed anxieties characteristic of a large section of American opinion on whose support we have hitherto been able to count.” 

Pearson had written that “in preventing Arab refugees from returning to their native land, the Jews may be subject to the same kind of criticism for which I and others have criticized intolerant Gentiles…  Now we have a situation in which the Jews have done to others what Hitler, in a sense, did to them!”

1949, 14 July: Ben-Gurion recorded in his war diary that Abba Eban, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, “sees no need to run after peace.  The armistice is sufficient for us; if we run after peace, the Arabs will demand a price of us – borders or refugees or both.  Let us wait a few years.” 

1949, 18 July: In an interview with Kenneth Bilby, the correspondent of the New York Herald Tribune, Ben Gurion stated, “I am prepared to get up in the middle of the night in order to sign a peace agreement-but I am not in a hurry and I can wait ten years.  We are under no pressure whatsoever.”

1949, 12 September: The PCC Lausanne conference ended without any results.  it called for a return of the refugees to their homes.  Israel simply rejected that.  Palestinian homes and lands were needed to settle Jewish immigrants coming from all corners of the world.  It also called for the assumption of the functions of mediation started with Count Bernadotte to arrive at a “final settlement of questions outstanding between the Governments and authorities concerned”.  This meant final boundaries for Israel and peace with its neighbors, which would have limited its desire for expansion.

1949, December: UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that called for treating Jerusalem as a separate entity and placing it under UN rule.  In response, Ben-Gurion decided to move the Knesset and the government offices from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

1950: Israeli Knesset passed the ‘Law of Return’ according to which every Jew “has the right to immigrate to the country”.  It also passed the Absentees Property Law, according to which any Palestinian Arab who was not present directly before, during or after the war – regardless of the reason – was defined as absentee and his land as surrendered.

About 20 percent of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel were internally displaced in the 1948 war – in other words, while remaining in Israel, have been prevented from returning to their homes and villages.  These displaced persons were considered ‘absentees’ and became refugees in their own country.

The ‘Land Requisition Law’ was passed in 1953, which ‘legitimized’ theft of Arab lands.

1953, 12 October: Unit 101 of the IDF under the command of Ariel Sharon converged on Qibya and stormed the village demolishing about forty-five houses.  After withdrawal of the unit, seventy corpses were found in the rubble. 

1953: The Israeli Knesset passed the ‘Land Requisition Law’, which legalized the expropriation of Arab lands.

1956, 21 October: Following Nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian President Nasser, Ben-Gurion participated in a secret conference with the British and French at Sévres, France and agreed to a combined military operation.

In a round table meeting with the French at the Sévres Conference, Ben-Gurion proposed a plan for settling all the issues in the Middle East:

1.  Eliminating Nasser in Egypt.
2.  Partition of Jordan, with the West Bank going to Israel and the East Bank to Iraq.  In exchange, Iraq would sign a peace treaty with Israel and undertake to absorb the Palestinian refugees.
3.  Israel would annex southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, with a Christian state established in the rest of the country.
4.  Being placed under a pro-Western ruler would stabilize the Syrian regime.
5.  The Suez Canal would enjoy international status and the Straits of Tiran would be under Israeli control.

1956, 29 October: Israeli forces over-ran Gaza on their way across Sinai to the Suez Canal.  The canal was not taken, but the greater part of Sinai Peninsula as well as the islands of Tiran and Snapir was captured by Israel.

A massacre was committed in Kafr Qasem on the eve of Israel’s attack in which 49 Palestinians lost their lives.  The innocent victims, including women and children, were farmers coming back from the field not aware that a curfew had been imposed on their village and neighboring Arab communities.  The curfew was declared at 4:30 P.M. to take force at 5:00 P.M.  Explicit orders were given to the soldiers “to shoot to kill all who broke the curfew…there shall be no arrests”.

1956, 7 November: In his address to the Knesset, a victorious Ben-Gurion stated, “The revelation of Sinai has been renewed in our time by our army’s thrust of heroism… Our army did not infringe on Egyptian territory… Our operations were restricted to the Sinai Peninsula alone… The Armistice Agreement with Egypt is dead and buried…the armistice lines between us and Egypt have also given up the ghost…we are prepared for negotiations for a firm peace… We are prepared for similar negotiations with each of the other Arab states…”  On the other hand, Ben-Gurion sent a message to the victory parade held at Sharm el-Sheik: “Yotvat [the island of Tiran] will once more become a part of the Third Kingdom of Israel!”

The following day, Ben-Gurion addressed the nation on the radio after midnight.  He read out letters received from Bulganin and Eisenhower and his replies.  From his note to Eisenhower, his listeners grasped the decision: the army was going to withdraw from Sinai.

1956, 16 November: Moshe Sharett wrote in his diary: “I have learned that the state of Israel cannot be ruled in our generation without deceit and adventurism…”

1963, June 16: Ben-Gurion resigned Israeli premiership and was succeeded by Levi Eshkol.  Later in the month, he was joined by Shimon Peres and Moshe Dayan to set up an independent slate.  The outcome of the election showed a victory for the Labor Alignment and Ben-Gurion’s battle ended in a shameful defeat and heralded his final decline.

1964, January: The Arab League created the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

1967: The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was founded. 

1967, Late May and early June: UN Secretary General, U Thant, visited Cairo to mediate the escalating crisis in the Straits of Tiran in an effort to solve the crisis.  Egypt agreed and Israel rejected U Thant proposals.

The U.S. also tried to mediate.  Nasser indicated he was open to World Court arbitration of the dispute over the Straits of Tiran and agreed to send his vice-president to Washington to explore a diplomatic settlement.  The meeting, however, did not happen because Israel struck before it could take place.

U.S. Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, stated, “We were shocked…and angry as hell when the Israelis launched the surprise offensive.  They attacked on a Monday, knowing that on Wednesday the Egyptian vice president would arrive in Washington to talk about re-opening the Strait of Tiran…”
1967, 5-10 June: Israel attacked and occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Sinai, and the Golan Heights.

1967, 27 June: Israel annexed East Jerusalem.

1967, 26 July: Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Yigal Allon, proposed a plan calling for annexation of about one third of the Palestinian areas occupied in the June 1967 war and for an Israeli security belt of 10 – 15 kilometers wide running the length of the Jordan Rift. Israel would keep the lush citrus-growing area of Gaza, which would be settled by Jews. Only the urban center of Gaza City and its port might be made available for Arab use. Palestinian refugees living in the Gaza Strip areas to be annexed by Israel ‘should be settled in the West Bank or al-Arish district’.

Allon was supportive of the religious settlers in the occupied territories. When they complained about his plan, Allon told them: “Jews have to be smart. No Arab will ever accept this plan”. With Allon’s help the settlement of religious Jews at Kiryat Arba near Hebron and other settlements were established.

1967, 26 September: In an editorial of Ma’ariv, Shmuel Schnitzer, who was in favor of annexing the newly acquired territories to Israel, stated that “a high [Palestinian Arab] birth rate is not a decree from Heaven.  It is a danger against which society must defend itself [by all means]”.  Schnitzer suggested that Israel should fight against the Palestinian “population explosion” both in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip by all the “legislative, information and preventive means” at its disposal.  In addition to the encouragement of high birth rate among Israeli Jews, Schnitzer stated that “we must make it clear to the Arab minority that it is not free to maintain in this small and poor country the highest birth rate in the world.  [We should] also persuade the superpowers that one of the solutions to the problem of refugees [residing in the OPT] is in the departure of Arabs for the classical countries of immigration, with international financing…” 

1967, 22 November: Security Council resolution # 242, which was adopted.  It emphasized “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and called for withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict and for achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.

The resolution also called for a UN special representative to proceed to the Middle East to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement.  Gunnar Jarring was appointed as the UN special representative.  His efforts led to nowhere.  Israel wanted peace, but Israel wanted to keep all the conquered territories and rejects return of the refugees to their homes and lands.

1967, 24 December: Ahmad Shukairy resigned as chairman of the PLO and Fatah took over.  Yasser Arafat became the chairman.

1968, March: Israel attacked the village of Karama on the East Bank of the Jordan and faced a heroic stand, which gave the PLO a boost and increased its influence.

1968, 17 April: Speaking at a Kibbutz meeting, Allon, announced: “We must settle wherever possible in accordance with Israel’s defence and security needs and the future of its borders… The Jordan valley and the range of mountains are needed for our security. We cannot yield on this point even if there is no peace”.

1968, July: The Palestinian National Charter was adopted by the Palestine National Council (PNC) held during the period 1-17 July 1968.  Article 1 of the Charter stated, “Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation”.  Article 2 stated, “Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit”.  Article 9 of the Charter stated, “Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine.  This is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase…”

1969: The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) was founded.

1969, 9 December: U.S. Secretary of State, William Rogers, announced a peace plan based on the exchange of land for peace, which was rejected by Israel and by the Arabs.

1970, 19 June: The U.S. government proposed a cease-fire in the war of attrition along the Suez Canal.  Egypt and Israel agreed to a ninety-day cease-fire.

1970, September: The Jordanian army led a bloody operation against the Palestinian factions that were expelled from Jordan and moved to Lebanon.

1970: Gush Emunim built Kiryat Arba near Hebron and pressured every Israeli Prime Minister to finance many new settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).  Ever since, more settlements and bypass roads connecting these settlements with Israel proper continued to be built on stolen Arab lands.

1972, 14 July: In an article in Yedi’ot Aharonot, a leading Israeli journalist and publicist, Yesha’ayahu Ben-Porat, wrote that “it is the duty of the [Israeli] leadership to explain to the public a number of truths.  One truth is that there is no Zionism, no settlement, and no Jewish State without evacuating Arabs and without expropriating lands and their fencing off”.

1973, April: Israeli commandos led by Ehud Barak disguising as a blond woman, raided PLO headquarters in Beirut killing several PLO leaders in their homes.

1973, August: A Palestinian National Front (PNF) was formed by numerous West Bank Palestinian groups.  On 13 August they announced that the Front was formed “in response to a call from the PNC” and that the PNF was “an integral part of the Palestine national movement as represented by the PLO”.

1973, 6 October: Egypt and Syria launched an offensive against Israel in order to regain the Sinai desert and the Golan Heights, which were lost in the 1967 war.  Many indicators led to a widespread theory that the 1973 war was designed and concocted between Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, and U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, to produce a specific result and lead to a ‘peace process’.

Following the war, a peace conference was arranged in Geneva, which was attended by Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the U.S. and the USSR.  The conference adjourned after a few meetings with the understanding that Egypt and Israel would engage in negotiations for the disengagement of their forces in Sinai.

1973, 22 October: Security Council resolution # 338 was adopted, which called upon all parties to the fighting to cease-fire and start implementation of Resolution # 242 of 1967.

1973, 11 November: Israel and Egypt formally signed a truce ending the hostilities.

1973, 10 December: By midnight on the day of the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Israeli soldiers dashed into the homes of 8 Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.  The Palestinian leaders were humiliated and dragged into an armored car which dumped them in a stretch of the desert between Palestine and Jordan.

1973, 21 December: The “Geneva Conference” was held pursuant to resolution # 338.  The conference did not produce any results and ‘temporarily’ adjourned after a few meetings.

1974, 10 April: Golda Meir resigned and was succeeded by Yitzhak Rabin.

1974, 31 May: The Israeli-Syrian disengagement agreement was signed.

1974, 8 June: The 12th PNC adopted a ten-point programme advocating the establishment of a Palestinian national and independent authority on every part of Palestinian land that is liberated.  This marked the beginning of amendments to the Palestinian National Charter that was approved by the Palestine National Council in July1968.

1974, 14 October: The PLO was recognized by the U.N. General Assembly and gained the status of observership. 

1974, 23 October: The Arab Summit meeting declared the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

1974, 13 November: Arafat addressed the UN General Assembly offering Israel a ‘branch of an olive tree’ in one hand and a ‘gun’ in the other and expressed his hope that the olive branch will not be dropped.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, announced: “The government has worked to increase the population of settlements in the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley and, should war break out, this is the line which will determine the results”.

Gush Emunim, advocating Jewish settlements in the OPT became active and pressured every Israeli Prime Minister to finance many new settlements.

1975, 1 September: Kissinger supervised the signing of an agreement between Israel and Egypt according to which both sides agreed that “the conflict between them…shall not be resolved by military force but by peaceful means.”

In addition to the strict observance of the cease-fire, Israel agreed to withdraw from the oil fields it had occupied in the Sinai and to pull back from two strategic passes.  In return, Israeli nonmilitary cargoes were to be permitted through the Suez Canal. 

1976, 30 March: Palestinian Arabs under occupation since 1948 and holding Israeli citizenship held a general strike and demonstrated peacefully against a wave of land confiscations.  Six young Palestinians were shot dead by the Israeli army and the Israeli government refused to set up a commission to investigate the killings.  Ever since, March 30 is commemorated by the Palestinians as the Land Day. 

1977, 12-22 March: The 13th PNC Congress decided to open dialogue and co-operation with liberal non-Zionist Jewish groups.

1977, 17 May: The Likud won the elections for the 9th Knesset in Israel and Menachem Begin became Prime Minister.  In a press conference, Begin announced that he would invite Sadat, Assad and King Hussein to come and start negotiations to sign peace treaties with Israel.  When asked about the OPT, he snapped at a journalist: “What occupied territories?  If you mean Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, they are liberated territories.  They are part, an integral part, of the Land of Israel”. 

1977, September: Israeli Agriculture Minister, Ariel Sharon, outlined a proposal calling for the settlement of a million Jews in the West Bank within 20 years. 

1977, 1 October: In his efforts to reconvene the Geneva peace conference, Carter met with the Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko, who indicated that the Soviets wished to be brought into the Geneva negotiations.

Reference to the Palestinian people in the communiqué and an implied role for the USSR provoked opposition from the U.S.-Israel lobby. 

Israel’s foreign minister, Moshe Dayan, who was conducting negotiations in the U.S., threatened Carter with a public Israeli disavowal of the superpower communiqué that would have created a firestorm of protest in the American Jewish community.  Carter was forced to issue a statement indicating that the communiqué was “not a prerequisite for the reconvening and conduct of the Geneva Conference”.  This brought about the virtual nullification of the communiqué and was a fatal blow to the Geneva Conference.  Sadat’s visit to Israel in November gave it the death certificate. 

1977, 19 November: Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, made a surprise visit to Israel, marking the beginning of a new era with respect to the Zionist-Arab conflict.

1977, 16 December: Begin unveiled a Palestinian autonomy plan in Washington, which was integrated into the Camp David Accords.

1978, 14 March: Israel launched Operation Litani and occupied southern Lebanon up to the Litani River.

1978, 5-17 September: A Camp David summit was held between Carter, Sadat, and Begin, which produced the ‘Camp David Accords’. 

1979, 26 March: A Peace Treaty was signed between Egypt and Israel.

1980: The Israeli government formally called for the re-establishment of a Jewish quarter in Hebron.  Within a few years, Jewish settlers with active official backing occupied several more locations. 

1980, 26 May: Ha’aretz carried a warning by the former chief of military intelligence, General Ahron Yariv, that there was a widely held opinion in the IDF that any future war should be exploited to expel up to eight hundred thousand Palestinians from the territories.  General Yariv noted that the plans for the ‘forced transfer’ already existed and the means of implementation had been prepared.  Ariel Sharon warned Palestinians that they “should not forget the lessons of 1948”. 

1980, 30 July: A Basic Law was passed in the Israeli Knesset unilaterally declaring Jerusalem, ‘complete and united’, as the ‘eternal and undivided capital’ of Israel.

1981, August: Ariel Sharon was appointed as Defence Minister and Menachem Milson was appointed as head of a new ‘civilian administration’ in the military government.

Milson assumed office on 1 November 1981 and believed that a class of collaborators in the ‘territories’ could be developed who would participate in the autonomy talks planned at Camp David.  He approached Mustafa Dudin of Hebron to organize the rural population in ‘Village Leagues’ who would accept de facto annexation of the West Bank under the cover of civil administration and autonomy.

The traditional village notables and the rural intelligentsia refused to join the ‘Village Leagues’, which led to its failure. Sharon decided to use other measures to force the Palestinians to accept autonomy.  None of the measures helped to weaken support for the PLO in the occupied territories or to gain support for the Village League puppets.

Sharon concluded that the only way to destroy the will of the Palestinians in the West Bank was to strike at the heart of the PLO in Beirut. This was one of the major objectives of the military operation ‘Peace for Galilee’ against Lebanon in early June 1982.

The Village Leagues began to disintegrate in 1983.  The Hebron League lingered on until its head disbanded it in February 1988 after the outbreak of the Intifada.

1981, 14 December: Israel annexed the Golan Heights.

1982, February: Oded Yinon, a journalist and analyst of Middle Eastern affairs and former senior Foreign Ministry official, wrote an article, which appeared in the WZO’s periodical Kivunim, which called for the dissolution and fragmentation of the Arab states.

1982, 26 April: Israeli withdrawal from Sinai was completed.

1982, 3 June: Israeli ambassador Argov was critically wounded in London and Israel used the incident as an excuse to invade Lebanon. 

The PLO and all the Palestinian factions were forced out of Lebanon as a result of the Israeli invasion.

Special U.S. envoy Philip Habib concluded an agreement for safe departure of PLO fighters from Beirut.  The first group of Palestinian fighters sailed for Cyprus on 21 August and Yassir Arafat left Beirut on 28 August and the PLO moved to Tunis.

Fathi Shakaki split from Sheikh Ahmad Yassin’s Muslim Brethren to form Islamic Jihad.

1982, 1 September: – In a speech from the oval office in the White House, President Reagan called, among other things, for peace negotiations using the Camp David accords as a convenient framework and for a Palestinian self-government in Gaza and the West Bank in association with Jordan.  Reagan also proposed a transitional period of 5 years after which a final solution based on UN Security Council resolution # 242 may be negotiated.

Arab response to Reagan’s initiative was positive.  Israel rejected the proposals.

1982, 14 September: Bashir Gemayel, who was expected to be sworn as the new Lebanese President, was assassinated in Lebanon following his refusal to sign a Peace Treaty with Israel.  In the following day, Israeli forces entered Beirut where the Christian militiamen committed a major massacre in the Palestinian camp of Sabra/Shatila, under IDF sponsorship.

A plan had been laid to storm the Sabra and Shatila camps for Palestinian refugees in the Beirut area since the first day of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Its purpose was to weaken the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut and force them to emigrate outside Lebanon.

Before sundown on Thursday, September 16, 1982, the storming of the camps began.  The massacre continued for approximately 36 hours. During the operation, the Israeli army surrounded the camps, preventing anyone from entering or leaving.

The massacre was carried out by the Lebanese kata’ib (Falangist) militia under the leadership of Ariel Sharon.

Later on, Israel began withdrawing from Lebanon, leaving a residual force in the border area to support the South Lebanese Army (SLA).

1982, 10 October: At the opening of a new settlement, the Minister of Energy, Mordechai Sippori, indicated why the Israeli government supported colonization of the OPT.  He said, “The continuation of settlement is the backbone of the Zionist movement in the West Bank and it is the only means to defeat any peace initiative which is intended to bring foreign rule to Judea and Samaria”.

1983, February: The PNC made a decision to start official contacts with the Israelis. 

1985, 11 February: An accord was signed between Jordan and the PLO to accommodate Reagan’s peace initiative. Arafat agreed with Hussein to “March together toward a just, peaceful settlement of the Middle East issue…  It was envisaged that the PLO would be represented within a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and that if the negotiations were successful, a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation would emerge”.  This intensified the schisms within the PLO, leading to the distancing of the PFLP, DFLP, and other factions from Arafat’s leadership.

1986, 6 November: A meeting was held in Romania between PLO representatives and the Israeli Peace Now Movement.  Other meetings were held later in Hungary in Spain. 

1987: Members of the Muslim Brotherhood led by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin founded Hamas.  Hamas did not join the PLO.

1987, 8 December: An Israeli truck ploughed a car in Gaza killing four Palestinians inside.  It was widely believed that the incident was deliberately committed.  The following day, Gaza exploded in angry anti-Israeli demonstrations and riots, which marked the beginning of what came to be known as the ‘Intifada’.

1987, 21 December: In solidarity with the Intifada, a ‘Peace Day’ protest took place by the Palestinian Arabs living in the territories occupied in 1948.  Over one hundred Palestinians were arrested.  In Nazareth and Umm al Fahm, tear gas was used to disperse the demonstrators in.  Arab Bedouins in the Negev and Palestinians living in mixed cities participated in the protests.  There were violent scenes between demonstrators and police in Jaffa and Lydda.

1988, 30 March: A strike and demonstration were organized by the Arabs in Israel for the “Land Day” to commemorate the demonstration of 1976 against Israel’s seizure of Arab lands during which six Arab were killed.

1988, 22 August: The first, of three secret meetings, was held between Israeli and Palestinian representatives in Paris.  The other two meetings were held in September.  The meetings aimed at arriving at “an agreement between the PLO and the Labor Party leadership regarding an end to the Intifada before the general elections in Israel in November”. 

1988, 15 November: The 19th PNC formally ratified a two-state settlement of the conflict and adopted a resolution specifically recognizing UN Security Council resolution # 242, and all other UN resolutions on Palestine.  Arafat read out the Declaration of Independence and announced the creation of the state of Palestine. 

1988, December: The PLO announced in Geneva its recognition of Israel’s right to exist and its renunciation of ‘terrorism’.  Arafat implied that he would accept a Palestinian state limited to the [1967] occupied territories and that “many compromises were conceivable”.  This was the start for a path that led to Oslo.

1989: Mass emigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union began and were channeled to Israel though most of them preferred to go to the USA.

1989, 16 November:   Benjamin Netanyahu told Bar-Ilan University students that the government had failed to exploit internationally favorable situations, such as the Tianamen Square massacre in June 1989 when world attention and the media were focused on China, to carry out ‘large-scale’ expulsions at a time when “the damage [to Israel’s public relations] would have been relatively small…  I still believe that there are opportunities to expel many people”.   Netanyahu later denied making the remarks but the Jerusalem Post presented a tape recording of his speech.

1991, 30 October: The “Middle East Peace Conference” was convened in Madrid to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict.  Israeli PM Shamir later declared that he wanted the negotiations in Washington (following the Madrid conference) to continue for 10 years, if need be, so that he had enough time to keep on going with planned Israeli settlement in the OPT and leave nothing for the negotiations to talk about.

1992, 14 May: Shamir told The Jerusalem Post that the “term ‘right of return’ is an empty phrase that is utterly meaningless…  It will never happen, in any way, shape or form.  There is only a Jewish ‘right of return’ to the land of Israel.

1993, 20 January: While the negotiations in Washington were going on between the Israelis and a Palestinian team lead by Faisal Husseini and Hanan Ashrawi, another round of secret negotiations with the Israelis were taking place in Oslo.  The negotiations in Oslo were conducted by Ahmad Kure’i and Hassan Asfour under the supervision of Mahmoud Abbas.  These negotiations in Oslo came as a surprise to everyone. 

1993, 9 September: Arafat addressed a letter to Rabin recognizing the right of Israel to exist in peace and security accepting UN Security Council resolutions 242 & 338, and renouncing acts of violence.  In response, Rabin signed a letter to Arafat recognizing the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.  These letters followed the Oslo agreement, which was secretly negotiated between Israel and a group from the Fatah leadership, lead by Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmad Curei.

Ever since, both sides were engaged in meaningless negotiations leading to nowhere.

1993, 13 September: A Declaration of Principles (DOP) was signed between Israel and the PLO at the White House in Washington.

1994, 25 February:  Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslim worshippers at Haram al-Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron, killing 29 and wounded 125.

1994, 4 May: Arafat and Rabin signed the Gaza-Jericho self-rule accord. 

1994, 12 July: Arafat returned to Gaza crossing the Rafah border by car.

1994, 25 July: Jordan and Israel signed a Declaration of Principles ending state of war, which was followed by a Peace Treaty that was signed on 26 October 1994.

1994, 1 September: Morocco and Tunisia opened liaison offices in Tel Aviv.

1994, 30 September: Gulf Co-operation Council – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain – officially ended economic boycott of Israel.

1995, 28 September: Interim Agreement (Oslo II) on the 2nd stage of Palestinian autonomy was concluded by Israel and the PLO in Washington.

1996, January: A Palestinian Legislative Council was elected for the West Bank and Gaza.

1996, 18 April: Israeli artillery and helicopters shelled a shelter inside the Fijian battalion working within the UN forces in south Lebanon.  The operation led to the death of 160 civilians, most of them women, children and the elderly who were unable to flee toward Beirut and were thus obliged to seek refuge in the shelter at the Fijian Battalion headquarters in the Lebanese village of Qana.

1996, 24 April: The PNC voted to amend the Palestinian National Charter of 1968 according to the commitment made by Arafat in his letter of 9 September 1993 to Rabin.

1996, 5 May: Opening sessions for final status talks were held between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel.    The press reported that the leading Palestinian representative at the meeting, Mahmud Abbas, refrained from mentioning the refugees in his speech, as requested by Israel.

1996, 17 June: Binyamin Netanyahu’s office released a statement outlining his government’s guidelines with regard to the peace process, which stated: no to withdrawal from the OPT, no to a Palestinian State, no to an official Palestinian presence in Jerusalem, and no to the refugees’ right of return…

1996, 8 July: Richard Perle, a former head of the Defense Policy Board in the Pentagon, delivered a document to the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Perle, and a team of American neo-cons, had been tasked by Netanyahu to draft a new Israeli strategy that would abrogate the Oslo Accords and overturn the entire concept of ‘comprehensive land for peace’ in favor of a policy of military conquest and occupation.  This document, ‘A Clean Break’, became the guiding strategic doctrine of the U.S. and Israel.

1996, 25 September: Netanyahu made an order to open a second entrance to an archaeological tunnel close to the al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem.  The action set off a massive outburst of Palestinian anger and led to a violent and bloody confrontation during which 70 Palestinians were shot to death.

1997, 27 October: Netanyahu told the Knesset that he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state and he would build more Jewish settlements.

1997: A Washington-based neo-conservative think-tank, The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), was founded to ‘rally support for American global leadership’.  The events of September 11, 2001 provided a window of opportunity for furthering PNAC’s agenda. The ‘Cold War’ was replaced with a new war against ‘Islamic Terror’, which is used as a pretext to justify Imperialist and Zionist wars. 

1998, 31 October: A Memorandum of Agreement was signed by American President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu according to which the U.S. would enhance Israel’s defensive and deterrent capabilities, and upgrading the framework of the U.S.-Israeli strategic and military relationships, as well as the technological cooperation between them.

1998, 14 December: Leading Palestinians, meeting in the presence of President Clinton, reaffirmed the nullification of clauses in the PLO charter calling for Israel’s destruction. 

Aviv Bushinsky, a spokesman for Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, told Reuters that Netanyahu, who has frozen the further handover of West Bank land, would continue to insist Palestinians meet other Israeli demands.  Before the session, however, Netanyahu put the Palestinians on notice that the Wye River would not move ahead until other Israeli conditions, including a pledge not to declare a Palestinian state next year, were met.

1999, 15 March: Netanyahu toured the Jordan Valley, territory occupied in 1967, and vowed Israel would stay there forever.  “Without the Jordan Valley, without this protective wall, we cannot protect the state of Israel and therefore we will remain here forever,” he added.

1999, 16 March: Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon appeared before foreign ambassadors and told them that, “Resolution 181, which speaks about Jerusalem not being part of Israel, is null and void…  We have a very wide national consensus about this issue”.  He reaffirmed Israel’s hold over all of Jerusalem, vowing that “Israel will never make any concessions on Jerusalem — never.”

1999, 27 November: A group of twenty Palestinians figures issued a manifesto under the title ‘The Homeland Calls Us’. For the first time since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its president were publicly accused of corruption, humiliation, abuse and of selling the homeland.

2000, January: Yasser Arafat proposed a Palestinian final-status plan to U.S. President Bill Clinton along the following lines:

A Palestinian state will be established on the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the pre-1967 borders.

Jewish settlement blocs close to the Green Line will be annexed to Israel in a land trade, on the basis of a formula to be worked out in talks.

Israel will acknowledge its responsibility for refugee suffering, and will recognize in principle the right of return – though it will not necessarily condone its implementation. An international apparatus will be established to handle compensation for refugees and their future welfare.

Jerusalem would remain united, though sovereignty and municipal administration will be divided in a fashion consonant with the demographics of each neighborhood.

Clinton responded favorably and promised Arafat that he would move to accelerate progress on the Palestinian track.

2000, 24 May: Israeli forces withdrew from areas in Southern Lebanon occupied since 1978.

2000, 28 September: Ariel Sharon and six other Likud leaders made a provocative visit into the Al-Aqsa Compound in Jerusalem, which led to clashes sparking a 2nd Intifada.

2001, 7 February: Ariel Sharon won the elections for a new Prime Minister in Israel.

2001, 12 April: In an interview published by Ari Shavit in Ha’aretz, Sharon made it clear that he has no plans for a peace agreement.  In the interview, Sharon described the main points of his plan: Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights are ours. Not even one of the settlements will be evacuated.

2001, May: The Mitchell Committee (headed by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell) concluded that Jewish settlements are a barrier to peace.  Israeli Prime Minister, Sharon, vowed to continue expanding the settlements.

2001, 10 August: Israeli forces raided the Orient House, the headquarters of the Palestinian team to the Peace talks.  The Palestinian flag was pulled down and the Israeli flag was hoisted in its place.  All files related to the negotiations, along with other classified documents were confiscated.  The Arab Chamber of Commerce, Prisoners Society, and The Higher Council of Tourism were among the other Palestinian institutions sealed off by an order from the Israeli Minister of Internal Security Uzi Landau.

2001, December: The first of a series of annual conferences was held in the Institute of Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center – Herzliya in a systemic effort to discuss and confront the ‘demographic threat’ that came back to haunt the Zionist leadership as a ‘strategic threat’ to the ‘Jewish State’.

2002, 28 March: The Arab League summit held in Beirut-Lebanon promised Israel peace, security and normal relations in return for a full withdrawal from Arab lands occupied since 1967, the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital and a fair solution for the Palestinian refugees.

The following day, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield against the West Bank.

2002, June: Israel launched Operation Determined Path to reoccupy the West Bank areas that were handed to the PA following the Oslo accords.

2002, 20 June: The Moledet party held its ‘Transfer Now’ conference at the Jerusalem Theater. Israeli PM Sharon and President Katsav spoke at the conference.

2003, January: In his speech in Davos, U.S. Secretary of State Collin Powell stated that a democratic and viable Palestinian state was possible in 2005.  “To achieve this vision, the Palestinians must build trust by establishing a new and different leadership … and by putting an end to all terror and violence,” he said.  

Powell later on made it clear that war on Iraq was seen as a prelude to achieving progress on the Middle East peace.  He stated, “Success [in the war on Iraq] could fundamentally reshape that region in a powerful, positive way that will enhance U.S. interests, especially if in the aftermath of such a conflict, we are also able to achieve progress on the Middle East peace.”

2003, 30 April: A Road Map for ‘peace’ was proposed by the U.S., European Union, Russia and the UN.  The principles of the plan were first outlined by U.S. President George W. Bush in a speech on 24 June 2002 that called for an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace. 

2003, May: The Mitchell Committee (headed by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell) concluded that Jewish settlements are a barrier to peace.  Israeli PM Sharon vowed to continue expanding the settlements.

2003, June:  Israel began building an apartheid wall aimed at caging Palestinian Arabs into densely populated Bantustan-like areas.

2004, 22 March: Hamas spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin was assassinated by Israel.

2004, 17 April: An Israeli missile strike killed Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi as he rode in his car. Rantisi’s son Mohammed and a bodyguard were also killed in the attack.

2006, 14 March: Israeli forces stormed a prison in Jericho and seized five Palestinians accused of assassinating former Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. Israel used helicopters and tanks to fire at the prison before smashing through its walls with armed bulldozers. Two Palestinians were killed during the assault and a third has since died of his injuries.

2006, 28 June – 8 July: Israel launched Operation Summer Rains against the Gaza Strip demolishing homes, bulldozing land, blowing bridges, and conducting air strikes on Gaza’s only electricity plant.
2006, 12 July: Israel started an ‘open war’ against Lebanon using Hezbollah’s kidnapping of 2 Israeli soldiers as a pretext.  After 33 days of destruction and killing of innocent civilians, they had to withdraw without achieving any of their goals.

During the war, a massacre was committed by Israel in Qana. About 54 innocent Lebanese civilians, including about 37 children, were killed through an air raid.

2007: Painful and shameful fighting broke out between Palestinian factions killing and wounding hundreds of Palestinians.

2007, 16 August: Israel and the U.S. signed a Memorandum of Understanding on a new American defense package for Israel.

2007, 27 November: The U.S. sponsored a one-day peace conference in Annapolis.

2008, 23 January: The besieged Palestinians in Gaza rushed into the borders with Egypt, broke the walls and crossed into Egyptian territory to get food.


Imperialist powers made it possible for the Zionists to create Israel in 1948.  After six decades, Israelis began to wake up to reality.  Palestinian Arabs did not vanish into thin air.

Number of Palestinian Arabs living within the borders of Mandate Palestine is over 4.5 Million.  Within 10 years, Palestinian Arabs would exceed the number of Jews even if the refugees did not return.

It is about time for the Zionists to realize the absurdity of their project, open the doors for the Refugees who want to return, and live together as equal people with equal rights.

Read: Palestine Through History: A Chronology (I)

-Nizar Sakhnini contributed this article to

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