History Files
 

Near East Kingdoms

Arabic States

 

Modern Palestine
AD 1948 - Present Day
Incorporating the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Palestinian National Authority (1994-2013), & State of Palestine (2013-On)

Palestine and Israel are irrevocably linked in terms of modern history, with the latter having been carved out of a large proportion of the former in 1948. The modern territory of Palestine is split into two surviving parts: the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, all that remains of the former Mandate Palestine territory, and populated to an extensive level by refugee families from the conquered parts of Palestine.

The Gaza Strip occupies a long, narrow, densely inhabited ribbon of territory along the eastern Mediterranean coast. It lies on a relatively flat coastal plain which enjoys moderate year-round temperatures but low rainfall levels. Around seventy-five percent of its land is under agriculture. Its biggest crop, citrus fruits, is exported internationally under agreement with Israel which controls its borders.

Israel also controls its power supply, frequently using this as a weapon to incentivise Gazan obedience. The southern border with Egypt opens and closes according to circumstances, providing a frequent supply and escape route.

The West Bank, which gains its named from its bank of the River Jordan which separates it from the kingdom of Jordan, contains a range of terrain types and several small cities. It consists mainly of north-south-orientated limestone hills which are usually known as the Samarian Hills to the north of Jerusalem and the Judaean Hills to the south of Jerusalem.

The hills descend eastwardly to the low-lying Great Rift Valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea. Those hills and well-watered arable areas are ideal for sheep and cereal crops respectively. Industry is light, never having been particularly developed, and now being limited by Israeli controls.

The region's history within the Near East goes back beyond the beginnings of local recorded history. Various independent or united city states in what was Canaan or Syria (the latter an approximate area which was larger than today's Syria) emerged into history in the second millennium BC. A period of regional prosperity was ended by the late thirteenth century BC climate-induced social collapse. But this in turn made possible the formation of the early Israelite state, along with the city states of the Philistines and those of the Phoenicians.

Then came the age of great empires in the form of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Islam, until the twentieth century saw the modern age of empires come to an end and individual sovereign states emerge. By that time the Jewish Diaspora was at least two thousand five hundred years old, and a millennium and-a-half of Arab settlement had taken place in the region.

On 7 July 1937 the British 'Peel Commission' recommended partitioning Mandate Palestine into separate Jewish and Palestinian states. Emir Abdullah of Transjordan supported this as it meant the Arab section would be incorporated into his territory. While the Jews reluctantly accepted the commission's findings, the other Arabs nations did not, and it was eventually dropped.

With general support from Britain and the USA, on 29 November 1947 the United Nations adopted a resolution to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. British troops staunchly maintained their peacekeeping role until 1948, despite extreme provocation from militant Jewish groups which were intent on hurrying things along. As soon as the British ended their mandate duties on 14 May 1948, on the very same day leading Jewish figure David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of a Jewish state.

The subsequent Arab-Israeli War created territorial divisions out of Palestine which have lasted to this day. The West Bank at least is slowly edging towards statehood in its own right, but always under Israel's terms. Those terms wax and wane in their degree of control, but they did allow the formation of the Palestinian National Authority in 1994, if not the 'State of Palestine' in 2013.

Arabs on an Assyrian panel

(Information by Peter Kessler and the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information by Allan Rousso, from Palestine, Joshua J Mark (available via the Ancient History Encyclopaedia website), from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (General Ed, 1986), from Hammond Historical Atlas (Maplewood, New Jersey, 1963), from The Horizon History of the British Empire, Steven W Sears (Ed, American Heritage Publishing Co, 1973), from Times Atlas of World History (Maplewood, New Jersey, 1979), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), and Ancient DNA sheds light on the origins of the Biblical Philistines (Archaeology News Network), and The Madrid Conference 1991 (United States Department of State, Office of the Historian), and The Six Day War Legacy (The Guardian).)

1948 - 1949

David Ben-Gurion makes his proclamation of the creation of the state of Israel on 14 May 1948, the last day of Britain's governance over Mandate Palestine. British troops are already pulling out, aware that the region is about to erupt into violence.

Official declaration of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948
The white-haired, sixty-two year-old David Ben-Gurion proclaims the declaration of the creation of the state of Israel, doing so in the small art museum on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv in 1948

On the following day the neighbouring Arab states of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria attack Israel, prompting the start of the Arab-Israeli War. Saudi Arabia sends its own military contingent to support the Egyptians. The war lasts for a year before a ceasefire is agreed.

1949 - 1956

The Green Line is established - temporary borders which can generally be agreed by all sides. Egypt gains the Gaza Strip while Jordan controls East Jerusalem and the West Bank region, but an estimated seven hundred thousand Palestinians have been expelled or have fled their homeland, mostly to enter southern Lebanon or Jordan.

1956 - 1957

Israel occupies the Sinai peninsula as part of its efforts against Egypt in the Suez Crisis. While its objectives are achieved as part of an agreement with France and Britain, Israel is pressured into withdrawing by the United Nations and even more especially by the USA, which fails to support any of its allies in this affair. The disrupted Egyptian control of the Gaza Strip is restored in 1957 due to concerted international pressure on Israel.

Isser Harel, head of Mossad, 1952-1963
Isser Harel, head of Mossad between 1952-1963, had been born in Byelorussia - then part of the Russian empire - before emigrating at the age of eighteen to pre-statehood Israel when it was still British Mandate Palestine

1957 - 1967

Egypt once again controls the Gaza Strip, a situation which echoes a small part of the territory which had once been controlled by the empire of ancient Egypt's 'New Kingdom'.

However, the Egyptian government does not consider the area to be part of Egypt and does not allow the refugees there to become Egyptian citizens or to migrate into Egypt or to other Arab countries in which they might be integrated into the population.

1964

At the Arab League summit in Cairo, a mandate is created to initiate contacts with Palestinians which are aimed at establishing a united identity for this highly-fractured community. Displaced Palestinians create various resistance groups, the most important of which is the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), which is committed to restoring the former mandate-era Palestine.

The PLO's most famous chairman is Yasser Arafat (1969-2004), but it begins in 1964 under the direction of the Turko-Palestinian Ahmad Shukeiri, a former solicitor and civil servant in Syria.

1964 - 1967

Ahmad Shukeiri

First chairman of the PLO. Died 1980.

1967

Amid ever-increasing tensions and acrimonious relations with Israel, Egypt expels UN peacekeepers from the Sinai. Several Arab states begin to mobilise their troops, prompting Israel to launch a pre-emptive attack against Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria, triggering the Six Day War.

The Six Day War, 1967
The Six Day War was fought between 5-10 June 1967, seeing Israeli forces capture East Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the Golan Heights and Sinai, in a series of lightning advances

Jordan loses the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem, a third of the kingdom, while Israel also gains the Golan Heights and the ancient region of Bashan from Syria, and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and also temporarily occupies the Sinai peninsula for a second time.

1967 - 1969

Yahya Hammuda

Chairman. PLO. Died 2006.

1969 - 1994

Yasser Arafat / Abu Ammar

Chairman. PLO. Became Palestine Authority president.

1973 - 1975

The Yom Kippur War (alternatively known as the Arab-Israeli War of 1973) sees the combined forces of Egypt and Syria simultaneously attack Israel during its highest holiday. Jordan does not actively participate in the conflict as it is still licking the wounds suffered in 1967.

The Syrian army is held and repulsed by the Israelis while the Egyptian armies take longer to pin back. The war ends in an imposed ceasefire, supported by the USA (backers of the Israelis) and Soviet Union (supporting the Arab forces) as tension rises between the two superpowers.

President Richard M Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was elected president of the United States in November 1968, assuming office in January 1969, but from the beginning his administration was plagued by leaks to the press.

1976

The 'Raid on Entebbe' takes place on 1July 1976 when Israeli commandos daringly rescue one hundred and two hostages who are being held by PLO guerrillas at Uganda's Entebbe International Airport.

1980

The Israeli parliament passes an act entitled The Basic Law: Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel, otherwise known as the Jerusalem Law. It seems to suggest that Israelis can settle the occupied West Bank at will, and some political commentators certainly take it that way.

1991

The 'Madrid Conference' is organised to reignite the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The conference is the result of eight months of shuttle diplomacy by the US secretary of state. attended by Israeli, Egyptian, Syrian, and Lebanese delegations, as well as a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. For the first time, all of the parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict have gathered to hold direct negotiations, an historically unprecedented event.

1993

Under Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation recognises Israel's right to exist in peace and rejects terrorism, in return for which Israel officially recognises the PLO as the official representative of those Palestinians who are still in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Displaced Palestinians have already recognised Israel's existence, in 1988.

Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat
The famous handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat (right) in 1993, overseen by US President Bill Clinton, seemed to presage a new beginning in Palestine, but Rabin's assassination in 1995 soured matters

1994

Israel begins a phased transfer of governmental authority in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to Palestinians, under the terms of the Oslo Accords which have recently been signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The Palestinian National Authority is born.

Palestinian National Authority (Palestine)
AD 1994 - 2013

The creation of the modern state of Israel was pronounced on 14 May 1948, the last day of Britain's governance over Mandate Palestine. Following the short-but-bloody Arab-Israeli War, that proclamation had been put into effect by very well-prepared Israeli forces. The Green Line was established in 1949, creating temporary borders between Israel and the remnants of Palestine which could generally be agreed by all sides.

Egypt gained the Gaza Strip while Jordan controlled East Jerusalem and the West Bank region. A brief blip in Egypt's control of the Gaza Strip occurred in 1956-1957 and the Suez Crisis, but international pressure saw that control restored in 1957. It was the Six-Day War of June 1967 which permanently removed Egyptian control from the strip, with Israeli troops occupying the region for the next quarter of a century.

In December 1987, rioting and violent street clashes between Gaza's Palestinians and occupying Israeli troops marked the birth of an uprising which came to be known as the intifada (from the Arabic intifāḍah, meaning 'to shake off'). Israel was forced to invest significant time and resources in maintaining any meaningful form of control there.

Release came in 1994, when Israel began a phased transfer of governmental authority in the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority (PA). This was under the terms of the Oslo Accords which had recently been signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

The fledgling Palestinian government, led by Yasser Arafat, was now responsible for administering much of the Palestinian territories of the strip and West Bank, including Jericho and, from 1995, Bethlehem, Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilya, Ramallah, and Tulkarem. The seat of authority was in Ramallah. Eighty percent of Hebron was added to that list in 1997.

However, the authority struggled with problems such as a stagnant economy, divided popular support, and stalled negotiations with Israel over further troop withdrawals. It also struggled with the threat of terrorism from militant Muslim groups such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which refused to compromise with Israel and which remained intent on derailing the peace process.

Beginning in late 2000, a breakdown in negotiations between the PA and Israel was followed by a further, more extreme outbreak of violence which was termed the second intifada. In an effort to end the fighting, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced in late 2003 a plan which centred on withdrawing Israeli soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip.

In September 2005, Israel completed the pullout from the territory, and control of the Gaza Strip was transferred to the PA, although Israel continued to patrol its borders and airspace.

Arabs on an Assyrian panel

(Information by Peter Kessler and the John De Cleene Archive, from Hammond Historical Atlas (Maplewood, New Jersey, 1963), from The Horizon History of the British Empire, Steven W Sears (Ed, American Heritage Publishing Co, 1973), from Times Atlas of World History (Maplewood, New Jersey, 1979), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), and Gantz, peace and the West Bank landscape (AL Monitor), and 2006: War in Lebanon (The Guardian).)

1994 - 2004

Yasser Arafat / Abu Ammar

President. Fatah / PLO. Died in office.

1996

Two years after the formation of the 'Palestinian Authority', the semi-autonomous state of Palestine is set up by a joint Israeli/Palestinian/US deal. The assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995 by a hard-line Israeli has served as a wake-up call to moderate Israelis, and they have provided a groundswell of support for the deal.

The West Bank wall in Palestine
This section of the Israeli-built separation barrier (photographed in 2004) severs Eastern Jerusalem neighbourhoods from the West Bank town of Abu Dis

2000

By this time the Palestinian Authority controls less than one-fifth of the West Bank, mainly the cities mentioned above. Israeli occupation which, in some areas, is combined with Palestinian Authority local administration, continues in the remainder.

2002 - 2004

Arafat is, in effect, under house arrest in his capital of Ramallah, with the Israelis wishing to sideline him, or arrest or remove him entirely. In October-November 2004, while he is incapacitated, Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia acts for him, but Arafat dies in office on 11 November 2004.

2004 - 2005

Rauhi Fatouh

Acting president. Fatah / PLO.

2005 - 2013

Mahmoud Abbas

President. Fatah/PLO. Created state of Palestine.

2006

With Lebanon more stable than at any time in a generation, Israel launches a military attack on 12 July, which lasts for a month and which seriously damages the country. The Second Lebanon War is caused primarily by Palestinian militants firing rockets at Israeli targets from inside Lebanon, but the war is a military and political disaster for Israel.

Second Lebanon War of 2006
Hizbullah missiles are launched at Israeli targets on 2 August 2006, as part of the Second Lebanon War which had very mixed results for the involved Israeli forces

2007

In June 2007, Hamas seizes control of the Gaza Strip. President Abbas, whose Fatah organisation remains in control in the West Bank, declares an emergency and selects a new government for the strip, headed by Salam Fayyad. However, Ismail Haniya, Hamas leader, refuses to acknowledge the new government.

2008

Towards the end of the year, Israel enters into the Gaza War after a ceasefire collapses between it and the militant Palestinian group Hamas. The fighting last for three weeks and leaves the Gaza Strip devastated. Israel announces a unilateral ceasefire, while Hamas announces a ceasefire of its own, opening the border crossings and withdrawing its militant forces.

2013

Since about 2007, the Palestinian Authority has been pursuing neo-liberal state-building agenda in the West Bank which is designed to prepare it for eventual statehood. Since 2011 it has been lobbying for international recognition of statehood and has been gaining partial recognition from 2012. Now, on 3 January 2013, the Palestinian Authority announces the formation of the 'State of Palestine' as a step towards furthering true statehood. Israel does not recognise the change.

State of Palestine (Palestine)
AD 2013 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (2013-2024)

The creation of the modern state of Israel was pronounced on 14 May 1948, the last day of Britain's governance over Mandate Palestine. Following the short-but-bloody Arab-Israeli War, that proclamation had been put into effect by very well-prepared Israeli forces. The Green Line was established in 1949, creating temporary borders between Israel and the remnants of Palestine which could generally be agreed by all sides.

Egypt gained the Gaza Strip (apart from a short interlude in 1956-1957), while Jordan controlled East Jerusalem and the West Bank region. It was the Six-Day War of June 1967 which permanently removed Egyptian control from the strip, with Israeli troops occupying the region for the next quarter of a century.

In December 1987, the intifada began against occupying Israeli forces. In 1994, Israel began to transfer governmental authority in the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority (PA) under the terms of the Oslo Accords which had recently been signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

The PA wielded a somewhat tenuous level of authority, however, especially over the Gaza Strip. Once Hamas gained control of the strip in 2007, international attention turned almost exclusively to the West Bank as a potential source of a future Palestinian nation state. The Palestinian Authority began pursuing a neo-liberal state-building agenda in the West Bank which was part of this process. In 2011 it began lobbying for international recognition of statehood and began to gain partial recognition from 2012.

On 3 January 2013, the Palestinian Authority announced the formation of the 'State of Palestine' as a step towards furthering true statehood. Israel did not recognise the change. Quite the contrary in fact. In the same week, prominent members of Israel's ruling Likud party were proposing the annexation of part of the West Bank as part of its elections campaigning.

It remains a fact that Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are not considered to be part of the state of Israel under international law, despite frequent and ongoing Israeli 'settler-creep' and domination of important agricultural land.

Arabs on an Assyrian panel

(Information by Peter Kessler and the John De Cleene Archive, from The Horizon History of the British Empire, Steven W Sears (Ed, American Heritage Publishing Co, 1973), from Times Atlas of World History (Maplewood, New Jersey, 1979), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), and EU guidelines on Israeli settlements (The Guardian), and Israeli annexation of West Bank territories (The Guardian), and Israeli air strikes kill at least 33 in Gaza Strip (The Guardian), and Israeli progressives on 'apartheid' (The Guardian), and Israel-Hamas War (Encyclopaedia Britannica).)

2013 - On

Mahmoud Abbas

President of Palestine. Fatah / PLO. Born 1935.

2014

A new deal between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is achieved in which the latter agrees to hand over administration of the Gaza Strip and recognise the prime ministership of Rami Hamdallah. As such, the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip resigns, including its prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh.

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the state of Palestine
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) since 11 November 2004, PNA president since 15 January 2005, and 'State of Palestine' president since 2013.

2017 - 2019

The Palestinian Authority is only now allowed to resume control of public institutions in the Gaza Strip, late in 2017 following the implementation of a new agreement. The Palestinian Authority still fails to gain full governance in the area though, so it decides to cut funding to the Gaza Strip in 2018.

As disagreements continue to escalate, the Palestinian Authority ceases to operate the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in January 2019. Later that month Prime Minister Hamdallah resigns, terminating the unity government.

2021

A week of heavy bombardment of Gaza by Israel takes place, but with the unusual circumstance of opposing Hamas rockets being longer-range and more penetrative than previously, at least when they can get past the Israeli air and missile defences.

The conflict is triggered by Israeli attempts to forcibly evict Palestinians from their own homes in East Jerusalem so that Israelis can be settled there, along with aggressive Israeli police clashes near the al-Aqsa mosque during the Palestinian holy month of Ramadan.

Gaza War of 2008
Hanadi tower in Gaza City was one of the victims, along with any inhabitants, of a heavy-handed retaliatory strike by the IDF following a series of rocket attacks on Israel, the majority of which were stopped by Israel's defensive air and missile shield

2022

Once again, Israel's elections are fought to a large degree on the subject of whether the far-right Benjamin Netanyahu, still on trial for corruption, is fit for office.

Israel's left-wing and pro-Arab-rights parties are left licking their wounds when it turns out that he is, and with a comfortable majority. The outlook for a two-state peace process and even Palestinian cultural and linguistic survival on the West Bank both look bleak.

2023 - 2024

Ever more politically isolated and hardline, Benjamin Netanyahu has seemed intent on alienating even his closer allies. A new Israel-Hamas War is triggered on 7 October 2023 when Palestinian militants strike from an ever-increasingly desperate situation in Gaza.

Aided by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Hamas launches a land, sea, and air assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip. The attack results in more than twelve hundred deaths, primarily Israeli citizens, making it the deadliest day for Israel since its independence. Over 240 are taken hostage. Netanyahu declares a state of war on the following day.

A destroyed Khan Younis in 2024
Khan Younis as seen after the conclusion of Israel's fighting in this southern city, with those Palestinians who have survived a death toll of at least 33,000 since October 2024 now 'allowed to return to their homes'

The Hamas strike has been brutal, merciless, and bloody, but so is Israel's response. The IDF conducts air raids on Gaza, and a 'complete siege' which locks in Hamas fighters and innocent civilians alike. IDF forces enter Gaza by the end of October in a deliberately slow, calculated, and methodical process of full destruction of what it considers to be legitimate targets (which includes hospitals).

Violence against Palestinians (and some IDF strikes) also takes place in the West Bank. With Iran assumed to be coordinating opposition, Houthis in Yemen launch drone and missile strikes against southern Israel, while Hezbollah in Lebanon initiates limited actions against Israel's north. The violence in Gaza continues, however.

 
Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.