The Zionist state emerged in 1948 after Britain and its allies facilitated its founding in Palestinian territories. Here is its brutal story.
The lands known as Palestine were a part of the Ottoman Empire a little more than a century ago. During World War I, as the empire faltered –– and collapsed, eventually giving way to the Republic of Turkey –– Britain seized it.
In 1917, Britain, in a letter from Arthur James Balfour, the British foreign secretary, to Lionel Walter Rothschild, stated its support for a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine, paving the way for Israel.
The Balfour Declaration, for what it's worth, also demanded protection for Arabs, saying "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities," yet it did not mention their political or national rights.
When the British mandate over Palestine began, the Jewish population was nine percent. With the immigration of European Jews under British allowance, this percentage rose to nearly 27 percent of the total population between 1922 and 1935.
The establishment of Israel
The Holocaust during World War II became one of the major reasons for Jews, who were massacred in Europe in the 1940s under the Nazi regime, to undertake mass migration to Palestine. This happened despite the fact that in 1939 a British government white paper had tried to cap yearly migration to Palestine to 10,000 persons, excepting emergencies.
After WWII, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for Palestine to be partitioned between Arabs and Jews on November 29, 1947. This led to the establishment of Israel.
The New York Times at the time wrote that: "The walkout of the Arab delegates was taken as a clear indication that the Palestinian Arabs would have nothing to do with the Assembly's decision."
Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes that "On May 14, 1948, on the day in which the British Mandate over Palestine expired, the Jewish People's Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum, and approved the following proclamation, declaring the establishment of the State of Israel. The new state was recognised that night by the United States and three days later by the USSR."
The 1948 War
Israel's founding led to a full-blown war between Israel and neighbouring Arab states, one from which Israel emerged victorious, ending up with more land than the UN's initial plan.
Palestinians call it "al Naqba", meaning "the Catastrophe" as Israel's victory led to the mass displacement of some 700,000 members of the Palestinian community.
Between 1949 and the 1960s, up to a million Jewish refugees and immigrants as well as an additional 250,000 Holocaust survivors immigrated to Israel, the BBC reports.
The formation of PLO
In 1959, Yaser Arafat and his friends established Fatah, a Palestinian resistance group, in Kuwait, a tiny Gulf country, to resist Israeli occupation.
In 1964, Arafat and other Palestinian leaders decided to join forces to create the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) to establish a unified resistance to Israel.
The Six-Day War
In 1967, the Six-Day War erupted between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Israel won and gained east Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and the Sinai.
Peter R Mansoor, writing for the Hoover Institute, notes that, "While the Golan Heights and much of the West Bank remain under Israeli control, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt as part of the Camp David accords in 1978 and voluntarily abandoned Israeli settlements in Gaza in 2005."
The 1973 War
In 1973, there was yet again another war, the October Arab-Israeli War. Egypt and Syria fought against Israel on the religious holiday of Yom Kippur (October 6 that year). The two sides sought a ceasefire agreement at the end of the month, and the US stepped in to help with the negotiations.
Yasser Arafat's 'olive branch' speech to the UN
In his address to the UN General Assembly on November 13, 1974, the then PLO leader Yasser Arafat rejected the "terrorist" label ("otherwise the American people in their struggle for liberation from the British colonialists would have been terrorists; the European resistance against the Nazis would be terrorism") and appealed to the UN to help facilitate the peace process in the Middle East: "Today I come bearing an olive branch in one hand, and the freedom fighter's gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat, do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."
The First Intifada
The First Intifada (Palestinian Uprising) began following what Israelis call an accident and Palestinians call a provocation: "On December 8, 1987, an Israeli settler identified as Herzel Boukiza rammed his vehicle into Palestinian workers returning home through Erez/Beit Hanoun checkpoint between Israel and Gaza. Four workers from Jabalya and Maghazi in the Gaza Strip were killed in the terror attack." Protests and violence erupted; only to end after the "Oslo Accord" was signed.
Zack Beauchamp, writing for Vox, notes "The first intifada was a largely spontaneous series of Palestinian demonstrations, nonviolent actions like mass boycotts and Palestinians refusing to work jobs in Israel, and attacks (using rocks, Molotov cocktails, and occasionally firearms) on Israelis."
According to the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), based on figures from the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, "[f]rom the start of the First Intifada in December 1987 to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, approximately 150 Israelis are killed by Palestinians, including about 100 civilians," while Israeli forces killed more than 1000 Palestinians.
In October 1991, Spain hosted a peace conference in Madrid co-hosted by the US and the USSR. It brought together representatives from Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. Talks continued in Washington and Moscow in 1992.
As the US State Department notes, "Yet by 1993, the Washington talks had become deadlocked and were overtaken by secret Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Jordanian negotiations, which produced the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles (the so-called "Oslo Accord") of September 1993 and the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty of October 1994."
In 1993, Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Declaration. In the following year, Arafat set up the Palestinian National Authority thanks to Israel moving out of most of Gaza and the West Bank city of Jericho.
In 1994, Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in October, while in December Rabin, Arafat and Israeli FM Shimon Peres became joint Nobel Peace Prize laureates.
Yitzhak Rabin was later killed, in 1995, by an Israeli extremist, which led to Peres becoming prime minister.
Reviewing Dan Ephron's book in the New Yorker, Dexter Filkins writes: "As the Oslo process gathered steam, [Rabin's future assassin Yigal] Amir became increasingly convinced that Rabin was selling out the Israelis and, in particular, the settlers; he organised rallies in the occupied territories to denounce the agreements and even tried to start his own militia."
The Second Intifada
The Second Intifada took place between 2000 and 2005 and was more violent than the first. Peace talks had broken down, and Israelis and Palestinians were wary of each other.
Zack Beauchamp, writing for Vox, adds that by the time the Second Intifada was over, "[t]he Israeli peace camp's traditional argument, that Israel would be eventually rewarded for trading land for peace, became significantly less popular. Scepticism of the peace process grew, complicating future efforts to arrive at a two-state agreement."
IMEU quotes Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem as calculating that between October 2000 and the start of Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, 4878 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces while Palestinians killed some 1063 Israelis.
US concessions to Israel
In September 2016, the United States signed off on a 10-year military aid plan for Israel for the total amount of $38 billion. According to Reuters, this is the largest such deal in US history.
In 2017, Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel to the dismay of Palestinians and their supporters. He ordered the United States Embassy moved from Tel Aviv.
In March 2018, Trump tweeted: "After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognise Israel's Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!" While Turkey and the international community condemned this, Israel went on to build settlements on the occupied land and named one after Trump.
Trump's so-called Deal of the Century
Israel-Palestine conflict continued throughout 2018. In 2019, there were multiple elections in Israel which produced no clear winner between incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, leading to a third election in March 2020.
In the meantime, US President Donald Trump hosted Netanyahu and Gantz at the White House before unveiling his Mideast Peace Plan. The plan was outright rejected by Palestine, the Arab League and The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The 'Deal of the Century', as Trump calls it, is considered to be ill-advised and essentially amounts to a surrender of Palestinian rights in return for aid money, and effectively kills the two-state solution.