Israel Travel Guide
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Israel History - Conflicts & Peace Treaties
Arab nationalists led by Nasser refused to recognize Israel or its right to exist, calling for its destruction. In 1967, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan massed troops close to Israeli borders, expelled UN peacekeepers and blocked Israel's access to the Red Sea. Israel saw these actions as a casus belli for a pre-emptive strike that launched the Six-Day War, in which Israel achieved a decisive victory and captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. The 1949 Green Line became the administrative boundary between Israel and the occupied territories. Jerusalem's boundaries were enlarged, incorporating East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Law, passed in 1980, reaffirmed this measure and reignited international controversy over the status of Jerusalem. The position of the majority of UN member states is reflected in numerous resolutions declaring that actions taken by Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on Jerusalem are illegal and have no validity.
The failure of the Arab states in the 1967 war led to the rise of Arab non-state actors in the conflict, most importantly the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) which was committed to what it called "armed struggle as the only way to liberate the homeland". In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Palestinian groups launched a wave of attacks against Israeli targets around the world, including a massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Israel responded with Operation Wrath of God, in which those responsible for the Munich massacre were tracked down and assassinated. From 1969 to 1970, Israel fought the War of Attrition against Egypt.
On October 6, 1973, as Jews were observing Yom Kippur, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israel. The war ended on October 26 with Israel successfully repelling Egyptian and Syrian forces but suffering great losses. An internal inquiry exonerated the government of responsibility for the war, but public anger forced Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign.
The 1977 Knesset elections marked a major turning point in Israeli political history as Menachem Begin's Likud party took control from the Labor Party. Later that year, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat made a trip to Israel and spoke before the Knesset in what was the first recognition of Israel by an Arab head of state. In the two years that followed, Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and agreed to enter negotiations over an autonomy for Palestinians across the Green Line. Begin's government encouraged Israelis to settle in the West Bank, leading to friction with the Palestinians in those areas.
On June 7, 1981, Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in Operation Opera, disabling it. Israeli intelligence had suspected Iraq was intending to use it for weapons development. In 1982, Israel intervened in the Lebanese Civil War to destroy the bases from which the Palestine Liberation Organization launched attacks and missiles at northern Israel. That move developed into the First Lebanon War. Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, but maintained a borderland buffer zone until 2000. The First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule, broke out in 1987 with waves of violence occurring in the occupied territories. Over the following six years, more than a thousand people were killed in the ensuing violence, much of which was internal Palestinian violence. During the 1991 Gulf War, the PLO and many Palestinians supported Saddam Hussein and Iraqi missile attacks against Israel.
In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin became Prime Minister following an election in which his party promoted compromise with Israel's neighbors. The following year, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, on behalf of Israel and the PLO, signed the Oslo Accords, which gave the Palestinian National Authority the right to self-govern parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A declared intent was recognition of Israel's right to exist and an end to terrorism. In 1994, the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed, making Jordan the second Arab country to normalize relations with Israel.
Arab public support for the Accords was damaged by the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, continuation of settlements, and checkpoints, and the deterioration of economic conditions. Israeli public support for the Accords waned as Israel was struck by Palestinian suicide attacks. While leaving a peace rally in November 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a far-right-wing Jew who opposed the Accords.
At the end of the 1990s, Israel, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew from Hebron, and signed the Wye River Memorandum, giving greater control to the Palestinian National Authority.
Ehud Barak, elected Prime Minister in 1999, began the new millennium by withdrawing forces from Southern Lebanon and conducting negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton at the July 2000 Camp David Summit. During the summit, Barak offered a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat rejected it. After the collapse of the talks, the Second Intifada began.
Ariel Sharon became the new prime minister in a 2001 special election. During his tenure, Sharon carried out his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and also spearheaded the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier. In July 2006, a Hezbollah artillery assault on Israel's northern border communities and a cross border abduction of two Israeli soldiers sparked the month long Second Lebanon War.
In May 2008, Israel confirmed it had been discussing a peace treaty with Syria for a year, with Turkey as a go-between. At the end of 2008 a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel collapsed, hostilities broke out marking the start of the three-week Gaza War. In January, Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire, conditional on elimination of further rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, and began withdrawing over the next several days. Hamas announced its own ceasefire, with its own conditions of complete withdrawal and opening of border crossings. Despite neither the Qassam launchings nor Israeli retaliatory strikes having completely stopped, the fragile ceasefire remained in order.
I still make sure to go, at least once every year, to a country where things cannot be taken for granted, and where there is either too much law and order or too little. Christopher Hitchens
“Everyone carries his own inch rule of taste, and amuses himself by applying it, triumphantly, wherever he travels. Henry Adams