domingo, 18 de janeiro de 2009

Palestine: Still The Issue

Background to the Conflict

1947 The British refer the 'Palestine problem' to the United Nations, which passes a resolution for the partition of Palestine.

1948 The state of Israel is declared. The result is the first Arab-Israeli war, which lasts from May until January 1949.

1964 Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is founded with the aim of liberating the whole of Palestine.

1967 The Six Day War. Israel occupies the Sinai Peninsula (belonging to Egypt), the West Bank (belonging to Jordan) and the Golan Heights (belonging to Syria).

1979 The Camp David Accords. Egypt signs a peace treaty with Israel, the first Arab nation to do so. Israel withdraws from Sinai but continues its occupation of Gaza.

1982 Israel invades Lebanon under the command of Ariel Sharon with the aim of destroying the PLO. Thousands of civilians are killed during the operation and the PLO flees Lebanon, spreading across the Arab world.

Late 1987/8 The first intifada begins in the West Bank and Gaza. The situation appears outside of the control of the PLO and the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas (which was for a time funded by Israel) begins to emerge as an important player.

1991 The Gulf War. The PLO backs Saddam Hussein, which results in the withdrawal of its support and funding by Arab governments.

1992 As a result of its newfound isolation and financial hardship, the PLO is forced to begin negotiations with Israel, which lead eventually to the Oslo Peace Agreement.

1994 The Oslo Peace Agreement is signed. The deal sees the PLO return to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the form of the Palestinian Authority (PA). It is the first peace deal between the PLO and Israel. However, the agreement leaves all Final Status issues unresolved. These are:

- The return of Palestinian refugees from 1948 to their homes
- Where the borders of the Palestinian state will lie
- The status of Jerusalem
- The status of Israeli settlements on Gaza and the West Bank

A deadline 1999 is set for the resolution of Final Status issues.

1994 Israeli troops withdraw to the edges of major Palestinian population centres, to be replaced by the Palestinian police force. The result is increased poverty and authoritarian rule administered jointly by the PA and Israel.

1999 The deadline for resolution of Final Status issues passes. There has been no change in the situation, except for increased poverty in Palestinian areas and the massive growth of Israeli settlements, which have doubled in number between 1992-99.
The lack of a political solution results in increased tension and outbursts of violence between Israeli troops and Palestinian stone-throwers.

2000 Bill Clinton, attempting to establish a legacy for himself during the last days of his presidency, calls a conference at Camp David. Negotiations break down and delegates return to the Middle East with tension increased still further.

2000 Ariel Sharon - who was found responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in Lebanon in 1982 - decides, for internal Israeli political reasons, to visit Haram Al-Sharif, which is Islam's third holiest site and the holiest site in Judaism. During his visit, Sharon is surrounded by 1,000 Israeli Police officers.

The following day Palestinian stone-throwers begin protests in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. The violence is triggered by Sharon's visit to Haram Al-Sharif, but is ultimately a function of the frustration and anger caused by the lack of progress towards a political solution for the Palestinians.

The Israeli military responds to the violence by shooting dead dozens of Palestinians during the ensuing months, with the final death toll during this outbreak of disturbances being in the hundreds.

2001 Ariel Sharon is elected Israeli Prime Minister, and the level of violence in the region is ratcheted up still further. Palestinian bombs are matched by invasions of Palestinian cities by Israeli tanks, bombings by planes and raids by helicopter gunships. The results for Palestinians are unparalleled poverty, mass joblessness and the placing of two million people under curfew.

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