HISTORY IN THE NEWS
Dedicated to the background of contemporary events around the world.
IN BRIEF: Palestinians fire a rocket from Gaza while Israel gives with one hand and takes with the other as peace talks begin Wednesday.
IN THE NEWS: A ROCKET FIRED FROM GAZA IS FOILED BY ISRAEL'S 'MISSILE DOME.' MEANWHILE ISRAEL BUILDS NEW SETTLEMENTS WHILE RELEASING 26 PALESTINIAN PRISONERS ON THE EVE OF PEACE PEACE TALKS BEGINNING WEDNESDAY. MORE PRISONERS ARE TO BE RELEASED DURING THE TALKS IN STAGES. U.S. NEGOTIATOR JOHN KERRY, MEANWHILE CALLS THE SETTLEMENTS ILLEGITIMATE WHILE CONCEDING THEY WILL NOT HINDER THE TALKS.
-the history is long:
-Israel maintains a biblical claim to Palestine going back to 1200 BC when Hebrew tribes colonized the lands of Canaan.
-the Palestinians claim the same territory which was taken by Islam in 637 AD.
-since the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine 1917 and the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, there has been a prolonged struggle between the two peoples over sovereign claims to the same lands. Israel, for the most part, has come out ahead.
The major stumbling blocks remain:
-Israel has continued to build settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem and Prime Minister Netanyahu has only hinted that he will "slow down" construction during the talks.
-The Palestinians want a return to the 1967 borders, before Israel took Palestinian territory in the 1967 war.
-the Islamist political party, Hamas, rules the Gaza strip and Hamas still refuses to accept the existence of the state of Israel.
-Natnyahu,however conservative his own views, remains politically at the mercy of Israel's far right, which defends Israeli settlers in the Palestinian territories and the right of unlimited settlement.
-in a new development: Hamas no longer has access to help from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, only recently thrown from power in Egypt.
1250-1030 BC - the Jews colonize Canaan.
637- Muslims capture Jerusalem. It is made the second holy city after Mecca.
1948- May 14- Britain withdraws from Palestine. David Ben Gurion announces the creation of an independent state of Israel.
1967- The Six Day War. Israel emerges victorious and adds East Jerusalem, Gaza, Sinai, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights as occupied territories
1973- The Yom Kippur War- Egypt and Syria launch a surprise attack on Israel to recover occupied Syrian and Egyptian lands. Israel defeats Syria and Egypt, providing the basis for eventual peace with Egypt.
1979- Israel's Begin and Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat sign the Camp David Accord, peace between Israel and Egypt.
1993- September: the Oslo Accord and Gaza-Jericho agreement: Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip; seven major west bank towns to be handed over to Palestinian rule as Israel formally recognizes a potential Palestinian State. The Palestinian National Authority is recognized as its government. Hamas rejects the agreement.
-the problem of a divided Jerusalem remains unaddressed in the Oslo Accords.
RELEVANT DATES for the 2013 resumption of Palestinian-Israeli Peace Talks.
1250-1030 BC - the Jews colonize Canaan.
1220- Joshua, successor to Moses, takes Jerusalem for the Hebrews.
-Hebrew tribes, without any single leader, begin to unite to face the menace of the Canaanites and especially the Philistines.
The Hebrew Kingdom
1200-586 BC- the Hebrew Kingdom.
The Jewish War
66-70 AD- rebellion of the Jews against Rome. The Jewish war begins.
70- the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Roman general Vespasian ends the Jewish War.
637- Muslims capture Jeruslem. It is made the second holy city after Mecca.
1948- May 14- Britain withdraws from Palestine. David Ben Gurion announces the creation of an independent state of Israel.
The Six Day War and the PLO.
1967- The Six Day War. Israel emerges victorious and adds East Jerusalem, Gaza, Sinai, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights as occupied territories. The Suez Canal Zone and the Syrian frontier along the Golan Heights are supervised by the UN.
The Yom Kippur War
1973- The Yom Kippur War- Egypt and Syria launch a surprise attack on Israel to recover occupied Syrian and Egyptian lands. Israel defeats Syria and Egypt- providing the basis for eventual peace with Egypt.
1975- Egypt regains the Suez Canal area, supervised by the UN since 1967.
1979- Israel and Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat sign a peace agreement.
The First Intifada.
1987- Dec 9- Palestinians launch the Intifadah- permanent resistance to Israel.
Dec 27- Hamas (Movement of Islamic Resistance) is founded by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its short-term aim is to eject Israel from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza -and in the long run to found an Islamic State, ratified by referendum, in all of Palestine.
The Oslo Accords
1991- -as a result of the defeat of Iraq, which had been a supporter of the Palestinians, a weakened PLO decides to bargain for peace with Yitzak Shamir's Labour party government in Israel. The result is secret talks held in Oslo, Norway.
1993- September: the Oslo Accord and Gaza-Jericho agreement: Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip; seven major west bank towns to be handed over to Palestinian rule as Israel formally recognizes a potential Palestinian State. The Palestinian National Authority is recognized as its government. Hamas rejects the agreement.
-the problem of a divided Jerusalem is not dealt with in the Oslo Accords.
1994- May-- Gaza becomes the base of the Palestinian National Authority. Under an Interim Agreement, it is enlarged to accommodate buffer zones between Jews and Palestinians. Sections southern coastal border and the southern border with Egypt are under Israeli-Palestinian joint control. Israel occupies a strip along the entire eastern border and three strips running across central Gaza to the coast so that Palestinian Gaza is divided in four. Israel also occupies a strip alng the south end of the west coast. Hamas decries Israeli occupation and declares Israeli settlers to be occupiers who must be resisted.
-July- Yasser Arafat returns to the Palestinian territories after 33 years' absence. He becomes chairman of the Palestinian Authority.
-Jericho also transferred to Palestinian control.
-Israel's commitment to Oslo is revealed as little than a negotiation for security as it begins land confiscations which break up Palestininan areas designated under Oslo, making them difficult to administer.
1995- -about forty separate islands of land in the West Bank are under Palestinian administration.
Collapse of Oslo Accords
1996- June- Benjamin Natanyahu elected prime minister of Israel at head of Likud Party. Oslo Accord collapses
September- Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank: Tulkarm, Nablus, Qalqiliya, Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah are under Palestinian control. Salim, Birzeit, Halhul, Nahalin, Hebron and Abu Harah are under joint control. Scattered in the entire western half of the West Bank are at least 128 Jewish settlements.
1997- Israeli troops withdraw from Hebron in accordance with the Oslo Accords.
-fast-growing illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories spark renewed fighting.
-Prime Minister Netanyahu orders construction of settlements for 30,000 new Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. Hamas, in response, starts a new suicide bombing campaign.
The Wye Agreement.
1998- the Wye Agreement between Arafat and Netanyahu moderates Jewish settlement in Palestinian lands. Because of that, and failure to reach agreement about East Jeruslaem, Netanyahu starts to lose settlers’ support and the agreement is suspended. Jerusalem is not dealt with.
Camp David II
2000- President Clinton’s Camp David II peace talks fail. Barak is seen by Israelis as being soft on Palestine during negotiations with Arafat. Barak starts to negotiate the status of Jerusalem. Arafat sunders the talks by holding out on East Jerusalem.
2002- in response to a continuing second intifadah, or rebellion, Israel re-occupies the West Bank and begins construction of a security wall between Israel and Palestine. The wall is plotted so that it cuts off chunks of Palestinian land. .But Israeli right wing critics complain that the wall effectively recognizes a Palestinian nation.
U.S. Bush Government's Road Map to Peace.
2003- -the U.S. releases its updated Road Map to peace
Arafat Dies; he is succeeded by Abbas as Prime Minister.
Nov. 11- Yasser Arafat dies.
2004- July 9- International Court of Justice rules that the Israeli security barrier violates international law and must be torn down.
2005- Aug 16- Sept 1- under Sharon, Israel evacuates Gaza, handing settlements over to Palestinians.
Sept 15- Sharon calls for peace, recognizes Palestinian rights in an address to the UN.
2007- May 4- the US sets a timetable for Israel to ease restrictions in the Palestinian territories and for the Palestinians to increase border security for Israel.
Annapolis Two-State Solution Talks.
Nov. 26- President Bush inaugurates peace talks between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas at Annapolis with the goal of a two-state solution.
2008- Feb 27- March 3- Isreali military attack on Gaza kills 100, mostly civilians, ostensibly to stop rockets fired at Isreal.
March 6- Palestinian terror attack kills 8 in Jerusalem.
Obama Elected President of US.
Nov 4- Obama elected president of US- the Arab world hopes for a radical change in US policy.
Nov 9- Annapolis peace process reaffirmed at meeting of Quartet at Sharm al Sheikh.
Dec 19- Hamas increases rocket fire from Gaza.
Dec 27- In Operation Cast Lead, Israel bombs tunnels and Hamas bases in Gaza killing about 400 as Hamas rains rockets on Israel.
Obama's Cairo Speech.
2009- June 4- President Obama's Cairo speech: Obama calls for an end to the building of Israeli settlements on occupied land and asks the Arab nations to recognize Israel.
June 14- Prime Minister Netanyahu, in response to Obama's Cairo speech, agrrres to move toward the recongition of a Palestinain state but refuses to halt the building of Israeli settlements.
UN Endorses Unilateral Palestinian State.
-August 26- PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, announces his plan to declare a unilateral Palestinian State by August 2011, the end date for Palestinian-Israeli peace talks on a two-state solution. His plan is endorsed by the Quartet- the UN, the US, the EU and
US Attempts to Re-start Peace Talks.
2010- March 7-8- US envoy Senator Mitchell meets Abbas and Netanyahu and obtains a framework for preliminary and formal peace talks.
May 9- commencement of indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Netanyahu Refuses to Freeze Settlements
July 28- Prime Minister Netanyahu refuses to extend a freeze on the building of more Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory.
July 30- Hamas condemns Abbas's initiative toward peace talks.
Secretary of State Clinton Attempts Direct Talks.
2010- Aug 20- Palestinians are invited to enter direct negotiations with Israel by US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton.
Aug 30- Meeting at the White House with President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian authroity agree to begin peace talks.
Sept 1- Palestinian gunmen kill Jewish settlers in the West Bank just as peace talks get started.
2010-Sept. 2- Netanyahu deamnds two pillars for peace: the recognition of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and arrangements to prevent Israel from comong under attack from an independent Palestinian state.
Collapse of Direct Peace Talks.
2010- - Sept 28: A partial freeze of West Bank settlement building expires, leading to the collapse of direct talks.
2010- - November: Palestinian officials begin talking publicly about seeking UN membership for a Palestinian state on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War incorporating the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
CONTENTS: SCROLL DOWN FOR:
DISTANT BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS
RECENT BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS
PREVIOUS ENTRIES ON ISRAEL-PALESTINE.
REMOTE BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS
TIMELINE FOR THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL.
The Fall of the Ottoman Empire
Upon the alliance of Turkey with Germany and Austria and the onset of World War One, Palestine and Gaza become a battleground between the British and the Turks. In 1917, anticipating victory, the British, after Jewish lobbying, produce the Balfour Declaration- a statement of intent toward the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Ultimately, it implies a state. The wartime campaign of the British agent TE Lawrence to liberate the Arab Bedouin, has ignited Arab nationalism. Invading from Egypt, the British march through Gaza and push the Turks out of Palestine. By the Treaty of Sevres, the former Ottoman empire of the Middle East is divided among the victorious European powers, Palestine falling under British Mandate. Meanwhile, nationalist aspirations have also been aroused among Palestinian Arabs and Jews alike.
The 1920s- Jewish-Arab Riots
In May, 1921, rioting begins between Arabs and a new wave of Jewish settlers. In 1928, an Arab conference at Jerusalem fails to reconcile rival ruling clans among the Palestinians, the Husaynis and the Nashabibis. In 1929, more Arab-Jewish riots ensue as Amin Husayni tries to limit Jewish use of the Wailing Wall. In Hebron, Arabs massacre 200 Jews.
The Intifada of the 1930s
Due to persecution in Germany, Jewish immigration increases exponentially after 1935. A Palestinian radical cleric, Izz a Din Qassam, foments guerilla attacks on the British in northern Palestine but is killed in the process. In 1936 Husayni forms the Arab High Committee to fight all Jewish claims in Palestine. Arabs call a general strike in protest against arms smuggling by Zionists. From 1936 to 1939 a general uprising of the Palestinians against the Jews and the British is led by veteran fighters of the late Izz a Din Qassam. In 1937 the Peel Report recommends a Jewish state, a Palestinian state and a British mandated area. Jews are divided over it; Arabs reject it outright. To quell the fighting, the British deport Amin Hysayni but the radicals increase their grip on the Palestinian movement. In 1938, the British postpone, then abandon plans of partition while the Intifada collapses due to in-fighting between the Husaynis and the Nashibibis. All plans for reconciliation between Jews and Arabs or joint government between them are abandoned. The British give in to Arab pressure to curb Jewish immigration and to limit the sale of land in order to preserve the Arab majority. The Second World War breaks out in Europe. The Jewish Agency makes Palestine into an allied supply centre
The Foundation of the State of Israel.
In the wake of World War Two, the horrors of the Holocaust bring world opinion round to supporting the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine. The UN gives it strong backing and proposes a partition with a Palestinian state in the Negev on the Siania border, in Gaza, in the West Bank and in Galilee. The plan is rejected by the Arabs but David Ben Gurion unilaterally declares the Jewish state of Israel in 1948. Egypt, Jordan and Syria invade to nip the fledgling state in the bud but Israel fights them to a standstill, carving territory out of western Palestine while East Palestine remains with Jordan, and Egypt holds onto the Gaza strip on the Mediterranean coast. Gaza City is made its capital. In Egyptian-occupied Gaza, Arab leader Amin Hussayni makes the first attempt to found a Palestinian state.
Gaza and the Suez
Peace is fragile, however, and in 1955, Israeli troops stage a raid on Gaza, killing 36 Egyptians. The following year Egyptian President Abdul Nasser defies the west by nationalizing the Suez Canal, successfully faces down French and British opposition. In the midst of the crisis, Israel occupies Gaza but returns it the following year, in 1957.
The Six Day War.
In 1967, prompted more by fear of the Arab states that surround it, than by any Arab moves toward war, Israel launches a successful pre-emptive strike against Egyptian forces on manoeuvres in the Sinai desert. Successively defeating Jordan and Syria, Israel annexes Gaza from Egypt, East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees flow into Jordan and Lebanon. As it hangs on to the occupied lands for the dual purpose of defense and toward its biblical borders, Israel's reluctance to withdraw to its 1967 boundaries will become a chief obstacle to regional peace until the present day.
By 1970, Palestinian refugees are unwelcome in Jordan and Jordan's King Hussein expels them into the West Bank where they support the Palestinian Liberation Organization, dedicated to the expulsion of Israel and the formation of a Palestinian state. Its leader is Yasser Arafat, a blood connection of the great Palestinian leader of the 1930s, Ali Husayni. The PLO begins a systematic campaign of military and terror attacks against international Jewish targets, among them the slaughter of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
The Yom Kippur War
In 1973, in what will be known as the Yom Kippur War, Egypt and Syria launch a surprise attack on Israel in order to recover the territories lost in 1967. Both are resoundingly defeated.
In 1979, the balance of power shifts further toward Israel as Egypt's Anwar Sadat signs a peace treaty with Israeli President Menachem Begin. Gaza, though still under military command is finally given a civilian administration in 1981.
The PLO in Lebanon.
In the meantime, the PLO have been setting up in Lebanon and staging attacks across Israel;s northern border. In 1982, Israel's minister of defense, Ariel Sharon leads an invasion of southern Lebanon to crush the PLO and expel its fighters once and for all from the Palestinian refugee camps of Beirut. After the city is virtually placed under siege, the PLO and their leader, Yasser Arafat, are evacuated by sea and took refuge abroad.
The First Intifada
With little hope that negotiation or international intervention would lead to the formation of a Palestinian state, ordinary Palestinians initiate the First Intifada in 1987, the inaugural insurrection in what would be a series of popular rebellions against Israeli rule. These are the first Intifiadas to be held since the Intifada of the 1930s. Also in 1987, Hamas, "the Movement of Islamic Resistance" is formed. Its short-term goal is to evict Israel from Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights; its longer term objective is the elimination of the state of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state ratified by referendum. The armed wing of Hamas is named Izz-a-Din-Qassam after the legendary leader of the 1936-38 Intifada. Only at this early stage does Hamas reject the Iranian Revolution, on sectarian grounds, as being Shia.
The PLO becomes pragmatic
The PLO, meanwhile, continues on a somewhat more moderate track: when, in 1988, Jordan renounces any claim to the West Bank, Arafat's PLO declares Palestine a sovereign state while recognizing the state of Israel. Israel comes more and more to target Hamas, imprisoning its leader Sheikh Yassin who is then replaced by Abdul Aziz Rantizi. The first Gulf War of 1991 brings Iran, Iraq and Saudu Arabia to centre stage, causing a shift in regional power politics which will have a direct affect on the relations between Hamas and Fatah, the political wing of the PLO.
The Gulf War
In 1991, Arafat's decision to side with Iraq after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, results in loss of support from Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf states. During the ensuing Gulf War which entails a US and allied invasion of Iraq, Hamas distinguishes itself from the PLO by opposing Iraq and obtaining funding from the Gulf states- despite its reservations about their decadence and closeness to the United States. Still, it looks like the beginning of a separate foreign policy. Hamas is looking for worthy allies in the region and it's after the Gulf War that it begins to hold talks with Iran and with Hezbollah in Lebanon. In 1992, Israel deports 413 Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders to Lebanese soil.
The PLO, sidelined by the Gulf States and cut off from Iraq one of its major supprters, is despertate for funds. Meanwhile, the permanent expansion of the Israeli state into the West Bank and Gaza through the occupation of land by Jewish settlers has continued and by 1993 one-third of Gaza is taken up by Israeli settlement. Finding itself on the defensive and lacking in funds, Arafat decides to take the PLO to the bargaining table. At the US-brokered Oslo and Jericho Accords of September 1993, seven major West Bank towns are handed over to administration by the newly recognized Palestinian National Authority (PNA). While the PNA sees the agreement as the de facto recognition of a Palestinian state, Hamas sees it as a capitulation and rejects it. Significantly, Palestinian claims in Jerusalem are not mentioned in the Accords. This is followed, nevertheless, by a PNA Declaration of Principles for self-rule in the Palestinian territories.
The Intifada Continues
Throughout the early 1990s the intifada increases with suicide bombings against Israeli civilian targets carried out mostly by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israeli military incursions into the territories kill even larger numbers of civilians. After 1993, Hamas begins to receive several million a year in funding from Iran. Sensing, perhaps, that Gaza is becoming the point of greatest tension, the PNA moves its administrative centre there while Hamas hardens its line against Israeli settlements in Gaza. In 1994, tensions increase after an Israeli murders 29 Palestinians in Hebron and Israel assasinates Yahyah Ayash, the commader of Hamas's suicide bombers. Palestinian casualties remain ten times those they inflicted upon the Israelis.
After Hamas's kidnapping of an Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv in 1994, the PNA's more moderate direction becomes clear when it responds by rounding up 350 Hamas supporters.
There is a respite as Palestinian Jericho and Gaza are given autonomous status. With the election of the hard-line Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996 as Prime Minister of Israel, however, the Oslo Accords slowly fall apart. Suicide bomnings increase as Israeli forces engage the PLO in the West Bank and south Lebanon. Arafat, meanwhile, is losing popularity due to high levels of corruption in the PNA and among his personal Fatah loyalists while ordinary Palestinians feel increasingly helpless.
The Wye Agreement
In 1997, Israel gives a nod to the Oslo Accords by withdrawing from Herbon but at the same time Netanyahu rapidly increases the expansion of Jewish settlements. In response, the campaign of suicide bombings increases against Israel. In the Wye Agreement of 1998, Netanyahu places limits on settlements but the protest from Israeli settlers is so strong that the agreement is eventually disregarded. At the same time, the PNA arrests Hamas leaders for opposing the Wye Agreement.
In 1999, it seems a new course might be set with the election of Ehud Barak as Prime Minister. US President Clinton inaugurates the Camp David talks between Arafat and Barak in which Barak is seen to make the most generous possible offer to Arafat on the issues of Jewish settlements, the status of Jerusalem and the occupied territories. But Arafat refuses to negotiate and the Camp David talks collapse. Hamas, as always, stays aloof.
Sharon at the Temple Mount.
Former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon uses this low point for a provocative visit to the disputed holy site of the Temple Mount, setting off a Second Intifada among the Palestinians. The outrage among the Palestinians results in a rapprochement between the PNA and Hamas as Arafat refuses Israeli requests to arrest Hamas leaders. For once, Hamas is numbered among Arafat's Popular Resistance Committees which includes Islamic Jihad and Fatah.
The Second Intifada
By 2000, Israel is responding to a renewed suicide bombing campaign with targeted killings. In 2001, Prime Minister Barak is defeated by Ariel Sharon in elections. Sharon is seen as the settlers' man. As Prime Minister he mounts large scale military incursions into the territories and begins the construction of a security barrier intended to wall Israel off entirely from the Palestinian territories. The problem is that the wall, built in defiance of UN objections, slices off large sections of Palestinian land. In the heated atmopshere, contacts among Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran increase. In 2003, Ariel Sharon is re-elected while Arafat is forced by international pressure to appoint mahmoud Abbas as President of the PNA. Chaos ensues as Abbas and his successor Ahmed Qurei resign in succession finding it impossible to gain a free hand under Arafat and his corrupt apparatus. In March 2003, Israel assassinates Sheikh Yassin, the leader of Hamas, a blow which only causes Hamas and Hezbollah to increase their rapprochement.
An International Court decision in July of 2004 that Israel's security barrier must be removed is heartily ignored by Tel Aviv.
Even Ariel Sharon knows that things can only go s far and in late October, 2004, the Knesset approves his plans for military disengagement with the Palestinians. Perhaps a sea-change is afoot because on November 11, Arafat dies, ending four decades of Palestinian leadership. He is succeeded at the head of the PNA by Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas is confirmed by election in January, 2005. On May 26, Abbas visits Washington and President Bush agrees in theory to the old 1949 borders between Israel and the Palestinians. Sharon, meanwhile orders the evacuation of Israeli settlers from Gaza, amid intense protest. On September 15, Sharon addresses the UN with an essential recongition of Palestinian rights. having gone from a man of war to a man of peace Sharon succumbs to a stoke on January 4, 2006.
Hamas Wins Elections
2006 seems to inaugurate a new age as Hamas wins the Palesitnian parliamentary elections on january 26 and Ehud Olmert is elected prime Minister of Israel on March 28. The radical, islamist party Hamas, dedicated to the expropriation of Israel, now has parliamentary power. But soon the territories begin to suffer as the international community, fearful of Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel, cuts the flow of aid. The boycott only brings Hamas closer to Iran, which continues to provide economic support to the territories. In the summer, the kidnapping by Hamas of an Israeli soldier in Gaza and of three Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah on the Lebanese border sets off a general conflagration during which Israel launches major incursions into the Palestinian territories and invades Lebanon.
The 2006 Invasion of Lebanon
In Lebanon, Israel does enormous damage without destroying Hezbollah, the intended target. The result is a major public relations victory for Hezbollah and Hamas and a fanning of radical Islamist sentiment throughout the the Middle East, particularly in Iran. Israel's Prime Minister Olmert is held respnsible for the disastrous invasion of Lebanon. There is, meanwhile. much talk of tactical and logistical links between Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. Ceasefires ensue in Lebanon in August and in November in Gaza, though bombings and rocket attacks between Israel and Hamas continued in Gaza.
The PNA versus Hamas
Meanwhile in the Palestinian territories, a simmering power struggle escalates between Hamas which holds the parliamentary power and the Palestinian Authority whose president Mahmood Abbas along with his Fatah party still control the executive. In January of 2007, Israel makes its own position clear by awarding 100 million in witheld tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas. Hamas and Fatah meet for power-sharing talks at Mecca on February 8 where they sign the Unity Agreement. But fighting between Hamas and Fatah continues to escalate in Gaza between March and May. Throughout mid-May, Israel launches air strikes in Gaza and arrests a Gaza minister to deter rocket attacks on Israel. In the civil war in Gaza, Hamas begins to prevail, killing or expelling Fatah members and declaring victory on June 14. In effect, there are now two Palestinian entities- Gaza, ruled by Hamas and the West Bank ruled by Fatah and the Palestinian Naional authority. Israel, showing a tactical preference for the secular PNA and its Fatah Party begins to explore a rapprochement with President Abbas in the West Bank.
Kidnapped BBC Reporter Freed
On July 3, the BBC journalist Alan Johnston who had been abducted in Gaza is freed, having bee in captivity since March 12. Hamas claims it had intervened with his captors, an al-Qaeda-linked group called the Army of Islam. Hamas leader Ishmael Haniyeh, meanwhile denies any links to the group or to al Qaeda. Skeptics view Hamas's intervention as a publicity stunt to obtain renewed funding from the international community. At the end of September, Gaza and Israel trade rocket attacks and air strikes. By October 10 meanwhile, Hamas says it is ready for renewed talks with Fatah although this may have been to conceal a simmering split inside Hamas itself, in Gaza. In fact, fighting breaks out on October 20 as a radical Hamas faction fights to wrest control from the Hamas leadership. At the same time, Israel cuts off supplies of gas and power to Gaza.
The fatal Arafat Rally
On November 12, Fatah holds a massive rally in Gaza to commemorate the second anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat. Hamas, after attempting to put a stop to the rally, begins firing into the crowd, killing 7 and then detaining 400. On the 13th, as Palestinians throughout the West Bank demonstrate on behalf of Fatah against Hamas, the army and foreign ministers of Hamas in Gaza continue moves to seize the leadership of Hamas from Khaled Meshal and Ismael Haniyeh.
President Bush makes a late attempt to jump-start the peace process with the Annapolis talks on a two-state solutionm between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert in late November. But the talks seem to ignore the reality of Hamas's domination of Palestinian Gaza as Hamas militants blast open a border crossing into Egypt in January, 2008. President Abbas responds by matching EU and UN guards on on the broken border crossing with his own PA guards. As Hamas increasingly defies Israel and the West, Abbas and his Palestinian Authority are increasingly marginalized. Isreal scored a regional victory in its probable assassination of Imad Mughniyeh in Damscus on Februay 13. Since early 2007, meanwhile, PA Prime Minister and Security chief Salam Fayyad, backed by US Security Coordinator Keith Dayton, is accused by palestinians of allowing PA Security forces to be used as an armed political force against Hamas on behalf of Israel and US policy.
An Israel Gaza Skirmish
What would grow into a war of attrition began February 27, when Israel bombed Gaza, killing 100, in response to Palestinian rocket attacks. The Palestinians responsed with an attack in Jerusalem costing 8 lives. In June there forlowed a truce and exhange of prisoners. Israel exacerbated divisions inside Gaza by giving Fatah members fleeing from Hamas, safe passage out of Gaza. In September 5, Israel showed its partilaity toward Fatah again by allowing the entry of a shipment of 1,000 rifles to the Palestinian National Authority as internecine fighting flared up again inside Gaza, killing 11.
Obama and Livni: Changes at the Top.
Prime Minister Olmert resigned under a cloud of scandal as Tzipi Livni runs for head of the Kadima Party. Unable to form a government, Livni called an election on Oct 26. Barak Obama was elected US president in early November as dakrness gathered over Gaza: Israel bombed a Hamas smugglign tunnel and Hamas backed out of a summit in Cairo called to unifiy Palestinians. Maenwhile, the Annapolis tlaks were tardily rraffirmed at a summit a Sharm al Sheikh in Egypt.
The Israel-Gaza War
Contrinued Rocket attacks from Gaza prompted Israel to respons with an all-out invasion in mid-December. Israel's Operation Cast Lead takes the IDF deep inside Gaza bombing and attacking Hamas bases and tunnels with numberous deliberate attacks on civilians. Though there were human rights abuses on both sides, Israel withdrew on January having killed 1,300, mostLY civilians, about 100 times the humber of its military casualties.
Likud Victory and Obama's Cairo Speech
In February, benjamin Netanyahu is elected prime minister at the head of a minority Likud-led government. In June, Obama's watershed Cairo speech, asking Arabs to recognize Israel and Israel to accept a palestinain state did not prevent Netanyahu, in talks with Obama, from refusing to halt the building of Israeli settlements, while agreeing to work toward a two-state solution. But on August 26, the Palestinian Authority agreed, with EU support, to work out a Palestinian State within two years.
Opening Moves of Indirect 2010 Peace Talks
The 2010 new year opened with Isael's bombing of tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle mortars via Egypt for attacks on Israel; several Hamas militants were killed. By this time, Netanyahu had agreed to a temporary freeze on the building of Jewish settlements on occupied land. On March 3, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas agreed to a preliminary round of 'proximity talks', easing the the negotiations forward without getting into sensitive issure of the Israeli settlements. Nevertheless, Hamas condmened his initiative outright. No sooner had the first words been spoken than Abbas accused Israel of provoking an Israeli demonstration on March 7 at a Jerusalem mosque in order to derail the negotiations. A sour note for US envoy George Mitchell's arrival on the 7th. Nevertheless Mitchell met with Abbas and Netanyahu on March 8 and obtained from both an agreement for in which peace talks can begin.
Indirect Peace Talks Begin.
March 9 saw the commencement of indirect peace talks amid the expected disruptions; this one, however, was a surprise- a May 30 Israeli commando raid in international waters on a 'Freedom Flotilla' of several ships intending to run Israel's blockade of Gaza. Several men on a Turkish vessel attacked the commandos with clubs and furniture and the commados overreacted, killing several of them. UN and international outrage followed, giving Israel a black eye. As the indirect peace talks continued, an Israeli coast guard vessel shot killed and Hamas diver-commandos who Hamas claimed where only training.
Direct talks begin. Netanyahu Refuses to Extend Freeze on Settlements.
With the freeze on Jewish settlement building due to end, Netanyahu, on July 28, refuses to extended it any further. Despite Hamas speaking out on July 30 to condemn Abbas's afgreement to direct talks, Mitchell and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton agree that direct talks can proceed. In August, meanwhile. PA Prime Minister and Security Chief Salam Fayyad announces that the PA will unilaterally declare a Palestinian state in August, 2011, the date the peace talks are due to end- hinting that if the talks fail, pre-established Palestinian state, (approved by the Quartet- the US, UN, EU and Russia) will be the only thing left standiung. On August 30, Abbas and Netanyahu agree to commence face to face talks at the White House with President Obama. No sooner have the talks opened on September 1 than Hamas guerillas killed several Israeli Settlers in the West Bank in obvious move to upset the talks and undermine Abbas's authority. On Sept. 2, Netanyahu outlines two pillars, or non-negotiable conditions for peace: the recognition of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and the adoption of arrangements to prevent Israel from coming under attack from within an independent Palestinian state.
PREVIOUS ENTRIES ON ISRAEL-PALESTINE.
Annapolis: Abbas, Olmert agree to Bush peace talks on Palestine 11/28/07
Demonstrations after Hamas kills 7 at Fatah Arafat rally in Gaza- 11/13/07
Palestinian President Abbas gets support from Russia- 8/1/07
REMOTE BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS. The region of Palestine and of modern day Israel was originally occupied by the Canaanites, one of many Semitic peoples of the ancient Levant. Jerusalem was already inhabited by 3000 BCE and by 1900 BCE it was a Canaanite city state. In the second millennium BCE, the Hyksos invaded from the north, taking Canaan and Egypt after which Egypt's new Kingdom then ruled Canaan. At that time Gaza was already a significant Mediterranean port and trading city. In the late second millennium the Hebrews enter the historical record with Joshua, successor to Moses, ruling Jerusalem. In that period, the Hebrew tribes begin to unite in the face of the hostile tribes of the Canaanites and of the Philistines in the coastal area.
The Hebrew Kingdom.
The Hebrew kingdom of Judah is ruled by King Saul who defeats the powerful Philistine city States before being defeated in turn. Saul's son-in-law David rallies the Hebrews and defeats the Philistines. By tradition, King David is founder of the kingdom of Israel at the beginning of the first millennium BCE. However he rules it from Samaria in the north and only around 1000 BCE does he move the Ark of the Covenant from Hebron to Jerusalem, making Jerusalem the religious capital of Israel. His successor, King Solomon, builds the first great temple of the Jews in Jeruslaem but taxes the people heavily. Upon his death, Judah secedes from Israel as a separate southern kingdom.
The Two Kingdoms
Israel is the wealthier cosmopolitan kingdom and Judah, to the south, is poor and agricultural. In the eighth sentury BCE, the Assyrian king, Tiglath Pilesser invades, conquers Israel and takes its inhabitants captive. For most of that century, Israel is ruled by Assyria. At the beginning of the sixth century BCE, Babylon, successor to Assyria, conquers Judah and takes its population captive as well.
Rule by Persia
Until the middle of the fourth century BCE, both kingdoms are occupied and ruled by Persia which uses Gaza as its Mediterranean port. Persia's King Cyrus, an enlightened monarch, treats the captive Jews as cultured near-equals and allows the the Jews a safe retrurn from exile to Jerusalem in 537 BCE. Persia will still rule for the next century and a half. Prominent are Cambyses II and Darius I who allows the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem at the beginning of the fifth century.
In the late fourth century BCE, Alexander the Great of Macedon conquers the entire Levantine region, Egypt and eventually Persia as well. Alexander sacrificed in the temple at Jerusalem, as a gesture of religious tolerance. However he encountered resistance from Batis, the Persian governor of Gaza, captured him, had him dragged around the city and enslaved Gaza's population. Alexander's general, Permenion, ooccupies Jersualem and Judah but has to reduce Samaria by force. After Alexander's death, his general Antigonus rules the Levant and Persia as one of the Seleucid kingdoms. Throughout the third century BCE, Israel is invaded and ruled by Alexander's heirs, the Ptolemys of Egypt.
The great Jewish struggle for independence begins in the late Seleucid period. In the early second century BCE, Antiochus Epiphanes IV rules Babylon and the Levant from Syria, embarking on a campaign to Hellenize the entire region by force and, through violence and persecution, abolish the the religion and culture of the Jews. A furious Jewish resistance is led by the Maccabees in mid second century BCE. They are triumphant and the Hasmonean priesthood rules an independent state of Judah until the middle of the first century BCE. It was then that rivalry between branches of the Hasmonean priest kings opened Judah to invasion by the Roman conqueror Pompey. His general, Sacaurus takes the kingdom by siding with one of the claimants to the throne.
Pompey enters Jerusalem and expresses Roman domination by tearing away the curtain to the Holy of Holies, an act of blasphemy which the Jews wwill never forget. Within twenty years, a Jewish resistance to Rome, calling themselves the Zealots, springs up in Galilee. Rome meanwhile, appoints Herod, a Jewish convert from the southern kingdom of Idumea, to rule Judah. Siding with Mark Antony, in the growing Roman Civil War, Herod overthrows Antognus, the last Hasmonean priest king of Judah. Thus began the reign of Herod the Great.
Herod the Great.
Herod's rule begins aupiciously but quickly turns sour. He makes Caesarea his capital and launches a splendid construcion program, erecting Hellenistic public buildings. He rebuilds the Jerusalem temple for the Jews but in the end places above it, a Roman eagle. The Jews riot and in response Herod massacres a lot of the leading Pharisees. Around the end of the first century BCE, Herod dies and Jesus is born. Judas the Galilean, heir to the Zealots, starts an insurrection upon the death of Herod.
Herod Antipas, one of the Tetrarchs imposed by the Emperor Augustus, rules Galilee while unstable Judah falls under direct Roman rule but is soon ruled by Herod Archelaus. Meanwhile, the Roman commander Varus is sent from Syria and quells the uprising in Galilee. Two thousand rebels are crucified. The rebels, driven underground, see the Jewish leading families, known as the Sanhedrin and the Pharisee class as collaborators with Rome and at the beginning of the first century AD, the rebellion continues. The Roman Legate Quirinnius crushes the rebellion, Judea is formally annexed to the Roman Empire, governed from Antioch in Syria and adinistered by a Prefect in Jerusalem. Under the rule of th Emperor Tiberius, it was the Prefect, Pontius Pilate, who collapbrated with the Sanhedrin in the crucifixion of Jesus, an Apocalyptic Jew whom they probably misunderstood as a Zealot.
Roman successors to Tiberius and the Destruction of Jerusalem.
The Emperor Caligula commits abuses in Judea by trying to get his own statue set up in the temple in Jerusalem by force. The rule of Claudius is more relaxed. Sporadic persecution of Christians by Rome and by the Jews begins as Jewish insurrection against Rome continues. In 70 AD, during the Jewish war, the Roman General Vespasian destroys Jerusalem and the temple once and for all. From that date begins the Jewish tradition of the diaspora, the scattering of the tribes, a fourth 'exodus' after those of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon and centuries of hope for the final recovery of a Jewish national identity. For Christians, it becomes an apocalyptic moment in which God's plan for the followers of Christ is released into a new, transnational Gentile world. Under the rule of the emperor Hadrian, a resurgence of Jewish militancy led by Simon Bar Kockba in 132-135 was ended once and for all with the destruction of Jewish towns, the massacre of the rebels in the fortress of Masada and the prohibition of Jews from entering Jerusalem. Hadrian formally reconstructs Judea as a Roman colony rom the ground up.
With the Chrsitianization of the Empire by Constantine the Great in the fourth century, Jerusalem becomes a Christian holy place and a destination of pilgrimage from all over the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire. In Jeruslaem a Christian revival is under way. The Byzantines build the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In the fifth century, the Council of Chalecdon makes Jerusalem one of five Holy Sees. For a brief period in the early seventh century, Palestine is conquered by the Sassanians of Persia before it is retaken by Byzantium.
From 633 the Caliph Omar conquers Palestine and Syria from Byzantium, taking Jerusalem in 637 and making it the second holy city after Mecca. Gaza is the burial place of Mohammed's great grandfather, Hashem Ibn Abdul Manaf and the Dome of the Rock is where Mohammed was said to have been taken up to heaven. In 691, the Umayyad Caliph, Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan, erects a mosque on the site which is also said to be the site of the temple of Solomon. The Al Aqsa Mosque was built nearby. Jerusalem has become sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. In 750, Palestine becomes part of the Abbaside Caliphate although struggle continues with their predecessors, the Umayyads. From 800 and over the next two centuries, Byzantium and Islam are in rivalry over Jerusalem.
In the 9th century, Palestine is ruled by the Muslim Fatamid Dynasty. The Fatamids persecute Christians and Jews. In 969, the fatamid ruler Muizz takes Jerusalem and burns down the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. A multicultural community of Bedouins, Byzantine Christians, Seljuks and Karmatians suffer Fatamid persecution. At the end of the century, the Fatalid Caliph Hakim ruthlessly supresses Christians and Jews. Churches are burned.
In 1099, European Crusaders, bent on reconquering Palestine from Islam, conquering Jerusalem and massacring Muslims and Jews. The great Kurdish leader Saladin rallies the Muslim armies, defeats the Crudaders at the battle of Hittim, retakes Jerusalem and founds the Ayyubid dynasty.
The sack of Jerusalem by the Mongols in 1244 inaugurates a new age. The Crusades are drawing to a close and in Egypt the Mamelukes, originally a corps of Turkish slave soldiers for the Abassids, supplant the Fatamids and the Ayyubids in Cairo in 1249, eventually ruling Egypt, Palestine and Syria. It is the Mamelukes who expel the last of the Crusaders from Acre, Palestine, in 1291.
The Decline of Palestine.
The rule of the Mamelukes bring the Levant into decline. The Crusades and the Mongol invasions have already damaged the overland trade routes into Asia from which the Levant had profited. Now, the Mamelukes, traditionally a nomadic desert people, arrive late at seafaring. Though they control the commercial crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle east from the Egyptian coast of the Red Sea and from the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, the city is allowed to decline with the silting up of the Nile. They suffer increasing competition from the Ottoman Turks and in the 15th century, the European discovery of sea routes to the East, around Africa, weakens the Red Sea traffic and the commercial importance of Egypt and Palestine. In 1516, Mameluke Egypt and Palestine finally fall to conquest by the Ottomans.
The Ottomans make an administrative change which would have a psychological effect down to the present day. Palestine is made formally part of Syria and is divided into a northern Sanjak of Beirut and a southern Sankaj of Jerusalem. Both are administered from Damascus. The difficult , multi-religious and multi-ethnic city of Jerusalem itself is ruled directly from Constantinople. Improvements are made and trade routes are restored, bringing commerce and economic recovery to the region. The Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem in 1541. Gradually, however, the Ottomans isolate Palestine from outside influences and decline continues. However some contact with Europe is sustained when Francis I, king of France is accorded the right to protect the Christian shrines.
Reform, Reaction and the Reappearance of the West
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witness frenetic attempts at political and economic reform from Constantinople. However it is usually stymied by conservative, religious reaction in the provinces. Among the few positive developments are European trade contacts, particularly with the French, which develop as a result of France's interest in protecting local Christians. In 1757, the Sultan reverses his policy by making Russia the protector of Middle Eastern Christians and in 1774 Russia becomes protector of the Orthodox Christians in particular.
At the end of the eighteenth century, France sends General Bonaparte to take Egypt with a view to cutting the British off from India. He succeeds in subduing the Mamelukes in Egypt and invades Syria. However he fails to hold either. Though the invasion is a failure, the presence of the French in the Middle East is sustained and Bonaparte's expedition will be seen, with the Crusades, as one of the West's signal encroachments on the Arab world.
In the early nineteenth century, Jerusalem witnesses a brief Christian revivial. In 1831, the Ottoman's Viceroy of Egypt, Mohammed Ali, rebels against the Sultan in Constantinople and annexes Palestine and Syria. He holds them until 1840, French support of his policies and acquisitions becoming one of the early ways in which European powers will exploit internecine Muslim rivalries to assert power in the region. Under Muhammed Ali's relatively enlightened rule Jewish immigration to Palestine increases, many Jews seeking shelter from poverty and persecution in Europe and Russia. Throughout the mid-nineteenth century, Muslims tend to compete for political power while trade is left to Jews, Greeks, Armenians and other Christians. It is these trading peoples in Palestine and Lebanon, who deepen contacts with Europe. In 1840 Britain, opposed to French influence in the region through Muhammed Ali's new Egyptian-Levantine empire, invade and expel Ali from Syria and Palestine, returning them to Ottoman rule. The region, a center of Christian veneration and a commercial crossroads between Europe and the East has become a center not just of Muslim but of European power struggles and hence European influence and control.
Palestinian Clans and the Return of the Jews
The mid-nineteenth century sees increased Jewish settlement. The residual stagnant Jewish community in Jerusalem begins to grow. By 1875, Jerusalem has a Jewish majority. Forebears of the 20th century Palestinian resistance, the Husayni family, take over large tracts of land in southern Palestine. Meanwhile, the Sultans try to force increased reform on the empire and in the process impose increasingly autocratic rule. As European and Russian Jewish immigration increases in the late nineteenth century, political consciousness develops among Palestinian Arabs. Ruled in separate "millets" and oppressed by Osmanli (Ottoman adminstrative) tax collectors and absentee landlords, Palestinian Arabs and Christians fail to make any collective protest. And there is little consciousness of Palestine, its north being under the effective rule of Damascus and Beirut landlords and the south loosely populated by migrant Bedouin herders, a domain which gradually comes under the sway of Husayni landlords.
Dawn of Palestinian Nationalism circa 1880.
While most Palestinians identify with Beirut, the Palestinian Arabs of the poorer south look to the Husayni clan for leadership. In the late nineteenth century, half of Jerusalem's mayors are Husaynis. In this period two trends, fated to be tragically opposed get under way: the Jewish population of Palestine rapidly increases and the Zionist movement, a political drive to secure a homeland for the Jews is founded. Meanwhile, the Palestinians develop an Arab nationalism in opposition to Ottoman rule. By 1900, the Jewish population of Jerusalem has moved past the the city walls. A large wave of scholarly and middle class European Jews arriving before the First World War is still regarded as a population of guests and refugees and Palestine is still regarded, internationally, as a part of Syria.
LOCATION OF NOTE: Rafa- Egyptian town on the border with Gaza where Hamas broke the blockade barrier. The ancient town is referred to as Raphia. After capturing and taking into exile the the Samarians of northern Israel, King Sargon of Assyria turned to a rebellion by the Philistines and the Egyptians and it was at Raphia that he defeated them in 727 BC. It was also at Raphia that Ptolemy IV of Egypt defeated Antiochus III in 217 BC. Alexanders's Seleucids had lost the region to the Ptolemies in around 300 BC. The Seleucids got the region back again around 200 BC. In 1905, Britain, in negotiations with the Ottoman Empire determined a line running from Rafa down to Aqaba to be the border between Ottoman Palestine and the Sinai of British colonial Egypt.
PROFILE: Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, (1936-2004) founder and leader of Hamas. Born on the northern edge of Gaza, his family took refuge inside the Gaza strip during the Arab-Jewish war of 1948-49. Bound to a wheel chair after a sporting accident, Yassin taught in Cairo and became a member of the Muslim Brother hood. When the Brotherhood was repressed in Egypt and in Egypt-controlled Gaza, he was imprsioned in 1966. Released after the Israeli occupation of Gaza in 1967, he argued that that Palestinian society had to be reformed internally according to Islam before there could be an Islamic State of Palestine. In 1973, Yassin was allowed by Israel to run the Islamic Centre, a Muslim social and educational institution in Gaza which was funded in part by the religious tax. Combating the secular, socialist PLO, Israel in those days favoured conservative Islamic institutions and the military governor of Gaza, General Yitzak Segev, encouraged the funding of mosques in Yassin's Islamic Centre. Alerted by the emergence of the militant group Islamic Jihad, however, Israel turned against the increasing militancy of Islamic groups and imprisoned Yassin for posession of weapons in 1984. However, he was released in 1985 as part of a prisoner exchange. In 1987, the Palestinian resistance became increasingly religious in nature and Yassin founded Hamas on the 27th December. In 1989 he was arrested for planning to kidnap Israeli soldiers and sentenced to fifteen years. However he was released in 1997 as part of another prsioner exchange. The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) put Yassin under house arrest after he criticised the Wye agreement; but when the agreement collapsed, Yassin and the PNA had a rapprochement. After the commencement of the Second Intifada in September 2000, when the PNA suffered serious damage by Israel, there was solidarity between the PNA and Yassin. When Sheikh Yassin died in 2004, victim of a targeted killing by the Israelis, a cry of protest rose across the Middle East and even among Shia leaders in Iraq.
CROSS-CENTURY SUMMARY: Like the Jews, the Philistines of Gaza endured the Assyrians, the Persians and the Seleucids. Periodically, they were ruled by Egypt. Gaza endured the Herodian dynasty for Rome. It was ruled by Byzantium, by the Muslim Caliphates and by the Ottomans. Gazans are now Muslims, ruled since 1967 by Israel in an area described by some as "the word's largest open air prison." The old hostile land of the Philistines on the Mediterranean coast is still rebellious Gaza. While the biblical borders of ancient Israel lurk behind all discussions of the borders of 1948 or 1967, the notion of a vulnerable Israel surrounded by enemies is almost exactly reversed in the case of the Palestinians, and of Gaza in particular. With Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank, the attachment of Islam to the soil of Palestine is just as indelible as the site of Judaism is for the Jews. Now it is the Palestinians who feel they are under siege, the Palestinians who have been scattered into a diaspora and the Palestinians who carry an idea of Palestine with them wherever they go. Unfortunately the takeover of Gaza by radical Islam in the form of Hamas only reinforces the sense of isolation and difference that the tiny territory Gaza seems to have born down through history.
EYE-WITNESS: Gaza City in late Ottoman times, circa 1910: "A magnificent grove of very ancient olives forms an avenue 4 m(iles) long to the north. There are many lofty minarets in various parts of the town, and a fine mosque built of ancient materials...The ancient walls are now covered up beneath green mounds of rubbish...The land for the 3 m(iles) between Gaza and the sea consists principally of sand dunes. There is no natural harbour but traces of ruins near the shore mark the site of the old Maiuma Gazae or Port of Gaza...which in the 5th century was a separate town and episcopal see under the title Constantia...Hashem, an ancestor of Mohament lies buried in the town. On the east are remains of a race course, the corners marked by granite shafts with Greek inscriptions on them. To the south is a remarkable hill, quite isolated and bare, with a small mosque and grave yard. It is called Muntar and is supposed to be the mountain "before Hebron" to which Samson carried the gates of Gaza. (judg. xvi, 3). The bazaars of Gaza are considered good...The climate is dry and comparatively healthy but the summer temperature often exceeds 100 degrees Fahr. The surrounding country is partly cornland, partly waste and is inhabited by wandering Arabs....The dress of the people is Egyptian rather than Syrian.
-- from the 1910 Encylopedia Britannica.
PRESENT SITUATION: Gaza may have a new, if luke-warm ally in Egypt's President Mubarak. He knows, after all, that his people share solidarity with Gaza and the Palestinians even if he must toe the line of his allies in Washington and Tel Aviv. But what of a Palestinian state? With Washington's less than half-hearted promotion of its "Road Map for Peace" in Israel-Palestine, it appears that the Annapolis talks are intended to give Prisident Bush a last minute legacy as his presidency expires in the wake of repeated policy failures in the Middle East. With two lame-duck participants, Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, neither of who have the full support of their own people, only the issue of Bush's legacy can explain the timing. With Hamas uninvited or boycotting the talks, Abbas's PNA represents only half of Palestinian power, while Olmert, badly damaged by his feckless Lebanon invasion and nagging financial scandals, hasn't much life expectancy. The best that can be said is that the talks will be based on achievements sponsored by the Clinton administration: the Oslo and Jericho-Gaza Accords and the Wye Agreements. If it is ever reached, the mutually painful compromise of a Palestinian state based on Israel's 1967 boundaries, might look something like the UN map proposed in 1947.
PLUS CA CHANGE: -circa 1000 BC, David, king of Israel fought the Philistines of Gaza and almost 3 millennia later Israel was was to takes Gaza in 1967.