Israel entered a new phase in 1977, with the right-wing bloc Likud’s election victory. Until then, all governments had been led by the Labor Party, which had admittedly allowed Jewish settlements on occupied land but had not encouraged the expansion as Likud did.
Likud’s policies resulted in large settlements for Israelis in the West Bank, where Palestinian frustration grew at the same rate as fears of occupying power diminished. In the autumn of 1987, stone-throwing youths began an uprising, the Intifada. The Israelis responded with low-intensity warfare and collective punishment, but in the long run the situation appeared unsustainable. Contacts were established between Israelis and Palestinians at all levels.
In 1988, the PLO’s exile parliament formally declared an independent Palestinian state (with Arafat as president from 1989). Thus, the PLO professed a two-state solution: both peoples would have the right to their own state. The PLO also recognized UN Resolution 242 of 1967, which calls for withdrawal from occupied territories, respect for and recognition of the territorial integrity of the states involved and their right to live within safe and recognized borders.
According to ebizdir, the Palestinian state was recognized by the Soviet Union and more than 80 other countries, most of them in Africa and Asia. The United States and other Western countries abstained.
1990s peace process
In the early 1990s, a peace process began. It was made possible, among other things, by the fact that the Palestinian side was in a vulnerable position. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union ended and the Palestinians lost their protection from the Soviet Union, which was dissolved in 1991. At the same time, countries around the Persian Gulf withdrew their support for the PLO as punishment for Palestinian support for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. war in the region.
Around the same time, the Labor Party returned to power in Israel. New settlement projects were stopped, except in East Jerusalem. With Norwegian mediation, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s government secretly negotiated with the PLO.
In 1993, the first so-called Oslo Accords were signed at a ceremony in Washington. The agreement was an agreement in principle on limited Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. The PLO also formally recognized Israel’s right to exist within secure borders, and Israel recognized the PLO for the first time as the representative of the Palestinian people. Local Palestinian self-government began in 1994 in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank city of Jericho.
With the support of the agreement, the PLO leader Arafat had a national administration, the Palestinian Authority, set up to take care of parts of the West Bank. Arafat was later elected president.
The Oslo process included peace agreements “for the time being”. Negotiations on the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, security and borders would be completed within five years. Thereafter, UN Resolution 242 would be implemented and occupied territories would be handed over. However, the parties did not agree on the exact meaning of the UN resolution, while opponents on both sides tried to sabotage the agreement.
Wave of violence against civilians
The Islamist movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad began carrying out suicide attacks on Israeli civilians, and in 1995 Prime Minister Rabin was shot dead by a Jewish extremist. The assassination was the culmination of a right-wing hate campaign against Rabin’s peace policy. In retrospect, it appeared as the beginning to the end of the peace process.
The violence continued with Palestinian suicides and Israeli retaliatory attacks. Israel began building a “security barrier” against the West Bank. The barrier was largely located on Palestinian land. In 2000, a new uprising began, the second intifada. After suicide bombings, Israel recaptured the West Bank and Arafat’s headquarters were besieged.
Jewish settlements on Palestinian land continued to grow. Unlike many others on the right, however, Likud leader Ariel Sharon, who became prime minister in 2001, felt that settlement policy had not made Israel safer from attack. The Palestinians were still in the majority in the occupied territories, and their population growth was rapid. If the occupation continued, Israel would soon become a country with an Arab majority. Sharon concluded that small and remote settlements must be abandoned, but the largest settlements in the West Bank would be retained by Israel. Sharon announced that Israel would evacuate its settlements in the Gaza Strip and the plan was implemented in 2005.
Since the peace process of the 1990s went awry, several failed attempts have been made to reach a final peace agreement. The most important issues are Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees and the settlements.
Both Israel and the Palestinians demand Jerusalem as its capital. The Temple Mount (al-Haram al-Sharif in Arabic) is a sacred place for both Jews and Muslims. Here were two Jewish temples in older times and at the southwest side of the mountain is the Wailing Wall (Western Wall) which is believed to have been part of the wall around one of these temples. The Wailing Wall is an important place for Jewish prayer and a place of pilgrimage for Jews. Above the wall, on the mountain itself, are two shrines: the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Rock Dome, placed over a cliff from which the Prophet Muhammad is said to have made an ascension.
The Temple Mount is managed by a religious foundation under the supervision of Jordan. Jews and Christians may visit the mountain but not pray there. Jewish religious fanatics want the ban lifted. At regular intervals, unrest flares up between Jews and Palestinians adjacent to the Temple Mount.