The Israeli-Palestinian peace process chronology

The term Israeli-Palestinian peace process can be quite large. In fact, since the early 20th century, the Zionist movement has been fighting to establish a « Jewish national homeland » in the land of his ancestors, Palestine. On the other hand, the Arab world is waking up. Feeling the power of the Ottoman Empire weakened, the Arab provinces express a will for independence increasingly pronounced. Soon after the First World War, men were reflecting on the problem of sharing this land claimed by two peoples.

There was no real Palestine at the time, the interests of the Palestinians were supported by various Arab monarchs as king Faisal of Greater Syria after the First World War, or after that kings Abdullah and Hussein of Jordan. On the other hand, there was no overall Israeli government before 1948. Israeli interests were defended by the Zionist movement based mainly in England.

Many agreements are then made between the representatives of the two peoples, but none gives fruit. In 1947, the Security Council vote, resolution 181 establishing a Jewish state alongside an Arab Palestine. This decision will be rejected by international Arab countries. Immediately after the declaration of independence of Israel, they expresses the desire to destroy the new state by military force.

The next three decades witnessed the Arab-Israeli wars. No proposal of agreement is followed by real progresses. Both sides remain in their positions.

The Camp David accords (1978)

The first step towards peace is led by Israel bigger ennemy, Egypt. In 1977, Sadat went to Jerusalem to propose a bilateral peace between his country and Israel. Headed by the United States of Jimmy Carter, the Camp David Accords were signed in 1978. Beside peace between the two countries, a proposal for resolution of the Palestinian issue was made. Egypt intends to set himself up as a representative of the Palestinian cause. But in this role, the legitimacy already belonged to the PLO, which categorically refused to join the talks. So it is a peace proposal conducted without major stakeholders and that therefore didn’t lead to something. Nevertheless, it must be stressed that most of the ideas found in the following peace proposals are already in the Camp David agreements.

The Oslo Accords (1993-95)

See: Conference for Peace in the Middle East (Madrid 1991, Oslo 1993); OSLO peace process .

In 1991, after the Gulf War, President George H. Bush called on the Israeli and Palestinian sides to come together in a peace conference in Madrid. The negotiations lasted more or less two years, continuing in Washington, but were hampered by a lot of disagreements.

It is therefore a surprise when in 1993 the representatives of Palestine, Yasser Arafat, and Israel, Yithzak Rabin, announce the signing of a peace treaty secretly negotiated in Oslo. The agreement was finally signed at the White House in the presence of President Bill Clinton. This agreement is called « Oslo I ». It details the modalities and timing of a five-year interim period of autonomy of the Palestinian territories, after which would establish an independent Palestinian state. A Palestinian government is established by these agreements, it is the Palestinian Authority that Arafat took the lead. The agreement of the « Oslo I » is accompanied by letters of mutual recognition on the part of both parties.

Between May 1994 and September 1995, delays continue. The agreement on autonomy in Gaza and Jericho is endorsed in Cairo in May 1994. This date marks the beginning of the period of autonomy, to be completed no later than May 4, 1999. On Sept. 28, 1995, a new interim agreement, « Oslo II », was signed late on the extension of autonomy in the West Bank and the division of the West Bank into three zones. Only Area A, including six cities evacuated by Israel between November 13 and December 21, as well as Jericho, already autonomous, are under the Palestinian Authority. The start of negotiations on the final status of the territories was set for May 4, 1996 at the latest.

Unfortunately the assassination of Israeli President Yithzak Rabin in 1995 and the election of a member of the Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu, put an end to efforts for peace. Furthermore the situation of Palestinians is not improving. Colonies continue to be established in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In response, many Palestinian suicide attacks are carried out against Israelis. The Israeli military forces responded by reinvesting the occupied territories. So the peace process is completely frozen.

The Wye River agreements (1998-99)

See: WYE RIVER (Memorandum)

Between January 1997 and September 1999 further negotiations are held. The return of the Israeli right to power in 1996, complicates the process. In October 1998, the Wye River agreement, « said Wye I, » says a timetable for redeployment of the Israeli army as well as the release of prisoners. Without results. Finally, on Sept. 4, 1999, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, signed the memorandum of Sharm-al-Sheikh, « said Wye II ». Negotiations on the final status begin in November but end finally without real discussions.

Meetings at Camp David, Sharm-el-Sheikh and Taba (2000-2001)

See: Special File : What did really happen in Camp David?

Both sides have committed themselves in 1999 to reach a final agreement before September 13, 2000. Will then follow a series of missed appointments. From 11 to 25 July 2000, at Camp David, both parties are making unprecedented concessions, but the talks fail, particularly on the problem of refugees and the holy sites in Jerusalem. Three months later, on 16 and 17 October 2000, the summit of Sharm el Sheikh will result in a simple commitment of both parties to take « measures of appeasement », while clashes have resumed since.

From 18 to 28 January 2001, both sides find themselves in Taba under American mediation. The differences fade, but the Israelis, in the midst of election campaign interrupt the discussions. Ehud Barak was defeated by Ariel Sharon in elections on 6 February.

Set up in Sharm-al-Sheikh, the International Commission of Inquiry into the causes of the intifada called in May 2001 on the stop « without conditions » of all violence and on the « freezing of all settlements » before it can return to negotiations. In June, CIA Director George Tenet was dispatched to the region to promote the resumption of security cooperation between the two sides. Both initiatives remain unfulfilled.

A new dynamic moves in with the speech made by President George W. Bush, on June 24, 2002. He called on the Palestinians « to change their leadership » and, in these circumstances, envisages a Palestinian state.

The Quartet’s Road Map (2002)

See: Roadmap for the Middle East peace process (Quartet, April 2003)

In December 2002, a Road Map prepared by the Quartet (the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia) provides for the establishment, in three phases, of a Palestinian state before 2005. This document is published on April 30, 2003. The first phase that had to be completed in May 2003 is being launched at the Aqaba summit in Jordan on June 4, but the talks bogged down again and implementation of this peace plan into action stops with the resignation the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, on September 6.

But the Road Map remains to this day (late 2007) the basis of various meetings for peace.

The Geneva Agreement (2003)

See: Geneva Agreement (10/2003)

Even if it does not have the status of other agreements, the Geneva agreement should be pointed out as an original initiative for peace. Developed by the former Israeli Minister of Justice, Mr. Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian Minister of Information, Mr. Yasser Abed Rabbo, it was signed in the presence of numerous personalities in Geneva on 1 December 2003. More completely than the Road Map, it solves the thorny problems of Jerusalem, the settlements and refugees. The Geneva initiative has received strong support from many European powers. Although initially reluctant because they saw it as a competitor to the Road Map, the United States supported it. Yasser Arafat approved of it but stressed that it was not an official text. But this agreement encountered fierce opposition from the government of Ariel Sharon who refused even the publication for the Israeli citizens. Though remarkable, this agreement remained without results. The media stressed nevertheless at the time that future peace agreements would necessarily be similar to this one.

Israeli unilateralism and death of Arafat (2003 – 05)

On 19 November 2003, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1515 endorsing the Quartet’s Road Map. Ariel Sharon announced five days after his disengagement plan from Gaza, the implementation of which is scheduled for 2005.

But the period that followed was marked by a radical Israeli policy regarding terrorism. Not only did the Israelis conduct targeted assassinations of terrorist leaders, but they also begin to build a wall of protection all along their border with the West Bank. Both initiatives were criticized by international opinion. On 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice delivered an opinion declaring the new Israeli wall illegal.

The situation therefore seems totally blocked again when the 1 November 2004, the world heard of the death of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat. This disappearance inaugurates a new phase of the peace process.

It is being launched by the meeting of Ariel Sharon and the new President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas to Sharm-al-Sheikh in February 8, 2005. Both sides agree to resume efforts toward peace, according to the program provided by the Road Map. Mahmoud Abbas soon get Palestinian armed groups to respect a truce and to cease their violent actions against Israel.

From 15 August to 12 September, the President of Israel for its part undertakes to implement its plan to dismantle the settlements in the Gaza Strip. This territory, regardless controlled by the Palestinian Authority, falls under the influence of Hamas. The Islamic party also won the Palestinian legislative elections a few months later, in January 2006. But Hamas does not recognize the existence of the State of Israel, which creates many tensions on the border between the Gaza Strip and the hebrew State. From June to August, clashes along this line will happen, and this at the same time as the conflict against Hezbollah at the Northern border.

Meanwhile relations between Fatah and Hamas deteriorate until the latter proclaimed the secession of the Gaza Strip.

The peace process seems to be not only frozen, but also suffered setbacks. Mediation is essential. Immobiles for too long, the United States decide to intervene.

The conference Annapolis (2007)

See: Annapolis: description and challenges of the conference; Annapolis: results of the conference.

Following an invitation from GW Bush, Israelis and Palestinians are meeting again in Annapolis in Maryland on November 27, 2007, surrounded by representatives from other Arab countries. The consequences of failure could be harmful not only for Israeli-Palestinian relations, but also for the internal political situation of the different parties, concerning the legitimacy of their government (for Olmert, Mahmoud Abbas, or even Bush).

Hamas has already said he would reject the outcome of negotiations whatever it will be. The negotiations begin on December 12, 2007.