Look at the brief history of the events that led to creation of the State of Israel and the major events that have taken place since then.
This historical timeline of Israel-Palestine is also available for download.
1881 March - 1884 May: First Wave of Russian Pogroms
In Russian pogrom means “to wreak havoc or to violently demolish.” The Russian pogroms of the 1880s were riots of violence focused on the Jewish people. The reason given for this series of pogroms was the rumor that it was a Jewish person or group that had carried out the assassination of Tsar Alexander II on March 13, 1881. It has also been claimed the violence was linked to the economic conditions of the time, especially from competitors of Jewish businesses.
1882 January - 1903 February: First Aliyah
Aliyah is a Hebrew word meaning “to go up.” It is used to denote Jewish immigration to Israel. This first major wave consisted mainly of Russian Jews who were escaping the recent pogroms. The total number of Jews who immigrated in this first wave is around 35,000. Most were immigrating to get away from violence and not for political reasons. As a result nearly half of those who came, to what was at the time Ottoman Palestine, left soon after arriving. Those who stayed founded agricultural settlements and focused on the Jewish relationship to the land.
1896 July: Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State)
Theodor Herzl writes this book to address his feelings that the Jewish people will never fully assimilate into European culture and should therefore find a peace of land where they could found a Jewish homeland of their own. The popularity of this book prompted Herzl to hold the First Zionist Congress the next year.
1897 August: First Zionist Congress
Though the concepts of Zionism and Jewish Territorialism had been around for a while this was the first event that really had a major effect of moving the agenda forward. It was held in Basel, Switzerland and was headed by Theodor Herzl. This congress drafted the Basel program which stated explicitly that creating a Jewish homeland in Eretz Israel (Palestine) was the goal of Zionism.
1903 September - 1906 August: Second Wave of Pogroms
A second wave of pogroms swept through Russia and Eastern Europe from 1903-1906. The two major events were the First Kishinev pogrom, which blamed Jews for the death of a Christian boy, and the 1905 Russian Revolution, when anti-government anger often turned into anti-Jewish violence.
1904 November - 1914 April: Second Aliyah
This second aliyah was even larger than the first, with nearly 40,000 Jews immigrating to Ottoman Palestine. Yet, the reason for immigration was the same, with most of the immigrants coming from Russia or Eastern Europe looking for escape from the economic and physical violence. Also, the outcome was the same with almost half of the immigrants leaving within a few years of arriving. Those who stayed were primarily idealists who founded the Kibbutz movement.
July - 1919 June: World War I
With regards to the history of Israel-Palestine, the major outcomes of World War I are: the fall of the Ottoman Empire and its 400-year control of Palestinian land (including biblical Israel) and what to do with the multitude of commitments made by the British concerning the area and its future after the war. These commitments are the Hussein-McMahon correspondences, the Sykes-Picot agreement and the Balfour declaration.
1915 July - 1916 January: Hussein-McMahon Correspondence
The British High Commander in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, and the Sharif of Mecca, Hejazi (Arab) leader Hussein ibn Ali, exchange letters that offer the Arab people a vague area of land if they will help the British in fighting the Ottoman Empire in WWI. After the war, it is debated what land was actually offered. Palestine was a hotly-contested area.
1916 May: Sykes-Picot Agreement
Francois Georges-Picot of France and Sir Mark Sykes of England divide up the falling/fallen Ottoman Empire. This agreement did not take into account any League of Nation mandates, which were not determined until after WWI, but was used as a roadmap in determining control.
1917 November: Balfour Declaration
Britain declares that it will help the Jewish people found a homeland in Palestine that does not hinder the lives of the current population.
1919 December - 1923 February: Third Aliyah
This third wave of Jewish immigration to the land of Palestine, again from Eastern Europe, was prompted mainly by the Balfour declaration and the creation of the British Mandate of Palestine following World War I. Other factors were the new economic depression in Eastern Europe and the national fervor that arose with the founding of nine new countries after the war.
1922 June: Churchill White Paper
This white paper came out in support of the Balfour Declaration, while "clearing up" the problems of the Hussein-McMahon letters. This document played strongly into the outcome of the League of Nations discussion of how to deal with the territorial questions of former Ottoman Empire.
1922 June: League of Nations Passes Palestinian Mandate for Britain
Britain is given control of an area that included the regions of Palestine and TransJordan. This mandate charged Britain to do two major things: 1) secure the establishment of a Jewish homeland and 2) safeguard the civil and religious rights of all inhabitants of the mandate.
1930s-1940s: Rise of Anti-Semitism and Hitler in Europe
WWII and the Holocaust increases both the number of Jewish immigrants to Palestine, becoming known as Eretz Israel, and the desire for a sovereign Jewish state.
1936 April - 1939 March: Arab Revolt
This uprising starts as a general strike in hopes of forcing an end to Jewish immigration and hopefully a general election. When these goals were not met, the strike became violent. During its response the British chose to use the Jewish para-military group Haganah to quell the Arabs. This continued to incite the Arabs, as it fed their belief that the British were there for the promotion of the Jews and not of the Arabs. There was a brief moment of tentative peace during the work of the Peel commission in 1937, believed by some to have prompted the MacDonald White Paper.
1937 July: Peel Commission
The Palestine Royal Commission headed by Earl Peel makes a recommendation for ending the British Mandate of Palestine and splitting the land up into an Arab state and a Jewish state, with the area around Jerusalem and Nazareth left under the Mandate. The Arab leadership rejected the plan. The Jewish leadership officially rejected the plan, but wanted to continue discussing the issue.
1939 May: MacDonald White Paper
Britain releases the MacDonald White Paper, which recommends restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchases. It also calls for establishment, within ten years, of an independent, bi-national state in Palestine. This angers Jews who believe the document directly contradicts the Balfour Declaration. Jews comprise 31 percent of Palestine's inhabitants at the time.
1946 July: Irgun Blows Up British Headquarters in Jerusalem
The Jewish para-military group blows up a wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem that housed the British headquarters. The perceived, and likely intended, message was that the Jewish people did not want the British in Palestine, which they called Eretz Israel. Ninety-two people were killed.
1947 November: UNSCOP Partition Plan/UN Resolution 181
Britain, having troubles in Palestine, turns to the UN to find a solution. The UN puts together UNSCOP (United Nations Special Committee on Palestine). This committee puts forth a partition plan as a solution to the problem. The UN General Assembly passed UN Resolution 181 which endorsed this plan. The Jewish state was to receive 55% of the mandate while at the time Jews owned only 6.5% of the land of Palestine. The plan is accepted by the Zionist Congress and rejected by the Arab Higher Committee.
1947 December: Britain Decides To Leave Palestine
Both the Arab and Jewish populations in Palestine have been dissatisfied with Britain’s presence in the area. Because of these sentiments, which sometimes led to violence, the British decide to pull out of Palestine by May 1948. As part of the build-up to this date the Jewish paramilitary group Haganah implements Plan Dalet. The stated purpose of this plan is to gain control of the expected Hebrew state. According to Israeli HIstorian Ilan Pappe the focus was on twelve Palestinian villages and that by the time the British left in May 1948 around one-third of the eventual Palestinian refugees had already fled.
1948 May - 1949 July: Israeli War of Independence / Palestinian Nakba
After Britain leaves, Israel declares itself a sovereign state and is recognized by the United Nations. The surrounding Arab countries attack Israel but are defeated. In addition to those who had already left out of fear, hundreds of thousands of Arabs living in the area of the new state leave or are driven from their homes. The fighting officially ended in 1949 when Israel signed separate armistices with Egypt, Lebanon, Transjordan and Syria.
1948 December: UN Resolution 194
Toward the end of the war the UN General Assembly passes Resolution 194. One of the most contentious statements of this resolution involves the status of the Palestinian refugees. The agreement declares that in the context of a general peace agreement "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so" and also "compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return." The arguments stem from defining what constitutes a "general peace agreement", who is a refugee, whether descendants can be included in that category, whether they can live in peace with their neighbors, and how much is fair monetary compensation for those not returning.
1949 December: Jordan Grants Citizenship to Palestinian Refugees
King Abdullah I of Jordan becomes the first, and only, Arab leader to offer citizenship to the Palestinian refugees of the war. At this time Jordan was in control of the West Bank.
1956 October - 1957 March: Suez War
Israel attacks Egypt with the backing of Britain and France because Egypt was intending to nationalize the Suez Canal and was putting restrictions on Israel’s port access. Israel took over the Sinai Peninsula, but the US and USSR spoke out against the attack and forced the three countries to retreat. It was at this point that the UN created the UNEF (United Nations Emergency Force) that was used to control the Sinai Peninsula until the Six-Day War.
1964 February: PLO Founded
The PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) is founded by the Arab League with the goals of the destruction of the State of Israel through armed struggle, the right of return of Palestinian refugees and the self-determination of the Palestinian people.
1967 June: Six-Day War
Sensing provocation and a possible invasion by Egypt, Israel launches a preemptive strike on Egypt, destroying Egypt’s Air Force while it was still on the ground. Over a period of six days, Israel easily routs the Arab armies and takes control of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula and all of Jerusalem. After the war, the National Unity Government of Israel voted to return the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights for peace treaties.
1967 November: UN Resolution 242
In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, the UN Security Council adopts UN Resolution 242. The most contentious portion of this resolution is Operative clause 1(i), which calls for: "Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict." The contention is mainly around the lack of the definite article in the English translation (the French translation reads "from the territories"). Some argue that the lack of the article does not mean anything and that the intention is for Israeli forces to withdraw from ALL the occupied territories, while others argue that it means only certain portions need to be returned to satisfy the resolution.
1967 September: Khartoum Resolution
In response to the Six-Day War, eight Arab countries come together to draft a response. The most well known portion of this resolution is paragraph three which contains "The Three Nos": No peace with Israel, No recognition of Israel, No negotiations with Israel.
1970 September: Black September
The PLO attempts to assassinate King Hussein of Jordan and overthrow his monarchy. King Hussein thwarts the attempt and eventually quells the PLO, though many Palestinian refugees and their descendants are killed in the process. When the conflict ends in July 1971, the PLO and thousands of Palestinians are expelled from Jordan and the West Bank. These refugees (some for a second time) end up moving, mainly to Lebanon.
1973 October: Yom Kippur War
Syria and Egypt launch a surprise attack on Israel on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. After suffering initial losses, Israel’s military repels Egypt and Syria and takes back control of the Sinai Peninsula. This battle solidifies Israel's position as the dominant military presence in the Middle East.
1978 September: Camp David Accords
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visits Jerusalem in 1977 and Egypt becomes the first Arab state to recognize Israel’s right to exist. President Jimmy Carter negotiates a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1978 at Camp David. President Carter pledged that the next step would be resolution of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. The Camp David agreement is seen as a breach of the Khartoum Resolution, and Egyptian radicals opposed to the treaty later assassinate Sadat.
1982 June: Israel Invades Southern Lebanon
In response to missiles being launched across the Lebanese border from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) led by Yassir Arafat, Israel invades Lebanon and bombs Beirut in an effort to drive the PLO out, leading to thousands of civilian deaths. Israel is successful in this effort and forces PLO leaders to relocate to Tunis. Israel eventually withdraws from Lebanon in 1985 under public pressure from newly-formed Israeli peace movements.
1987 December: First Intifada
The First Intifada or "uprising" breaks out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip involving Palestinians protesting extra-judicial killings, mass detentions, house demolitions, land confiscation and deportations. The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) responded forcefully with arrests and beatings. An estimated 1,100 Palestinians and 160 Israelis are killed. The violence lasted several years, officially ending with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
1988 December: Yasir Arafat Says PLO Recognizes Israel
PLO leader Yasir Arafat declares from a meeting in Switzerland with five American Jews that the PLO accepts the existence of the State of Israel. The statement was rejected by the Israeli and United States leadership.
1990 January: Israel Bombed During Gulf War
Saddam Hussein attempts to draw Israel into the war by launching Scud missiles at Israel. At the request of the US, Israel does not respond.
1991 December: Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The fall of the Soviet Union allows tens of thousands of Russian Jews to immigrate to Israel.
1993 August-September: Oslo Accords Negotiated
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and Palestinian President Yassir Arafat finalize their negotiations in Oslo, Norway. This event was the first official time high-ranking members of the two groups had met with each other to discuss their relationship.
1993 September: Israel-PLO Letters of Recognition
This is a set of three letters (one from Yassir Arafat to Yitzak Rabin, one from Arafat to Norway’s foreign minister, Johan Jorgen Holst, and one from Yitzak Rabin to Yassir Arafat) clarifying the "Declarations of Principles" discussed in Olso and signed later that month in Washington DC. In these letters Arafat recognized the right of Israel to exist, and Rabin recognized the PLO as the official representative of the Palestinian people.
1993 September: Oslo Accords Signed
Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and Palestinian President Yassir Arafat sign a "Declaration of Principals" on the White House lawn on September 13. This is seen by many as the official end of the First Intifada. Rabin's assassination by a right-wing Israeli two years later derailed the Oslo initiatives. Though settlement expansion was to slow and eventually cease during this process, it actually continued to expand. This led to increased tension between the parties and became a major point of contention in the continuing peace process.
1994 October: Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty
Israel and Jordan sign an official peace treaty normalizing relations and trade, formally ending the state of war which existed between them since 1948.
2000 July: Camp David Summit
President Clinton invites Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yassir Arafat to Camp David to work out a peace deal. Initially, optimism is high that a settlement can be reached but ultimately the talks break down over disagreements about the borders of a Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and guarantees for Israel’s security.
2000 September: al-Aqsa/Second Intifada Begins
The Second Intifada is launched around the time that Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visits the Al-Aqsa mosque (part of the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem with hundreds of IDF soldiers. The second is much more violent than the first, with suicide bombing and collective punishment becoming more frequent types of attack and response. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem by April 2008 there were 1,053 Israeli and 4,789 Palestinian casualties.
2002 March: Security Council calls for two-state solution
The United Nations Security Council adopts Resolution 1397 “Affirming a vision of a region where two States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders.”
2003 April: Quartet’s Roadmap for Peace Released
This peace plan was formulated from statements made by President George W. Bush in June of 2002 and was backed by the "Quartet": United States, Russia, European Union and the United Nations. It was an attempt to layout a specific, phased framework for bringing the conflict to a peaceful and just resolution.
2004 April: Bush Letter to Israeli President Ariel Sharon
After a visit in Washington with Israeli President Ariel Sharon, President Bush sends a letter to President Sharon that reverses generations of US policy by acknowledging that "new realities on the ground" may lead to Israel keeping some occupied territories: “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
2004 November: Death of Palestinian President Yassir Arafat
Yassir Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority and long-time leader of the PLO, dies of pneumonia. In January 2005 Mahmoud Abbas is elected as the new Palestinian President.
2004 June - 2005 September: Gaza Disengagement Plan
After decades of support for expanding settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon implements a plan to unilaterally disengage from four small Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the settlers in the Gaza Strip. This is completed in September 2005, although Israel continues to restrict movement of basic goods and services and persons by maintaining control of exit and entry points into the Gaza Strip. While 8000 settlers are evacuated from the Gaza Strip, 12,000 settlers are added to the West Bank at the same time.
2005 February: Sharm el-Sheikh Summit
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II come together with the aim of ending the second Intifada. At the end of the summit, both Sharon and Abbas read statements about ending violence against each other’s respective group. This is seen as the formal end of the Second Intifada.
2005 November: Founding of Kadima Party
Arial Sharon resigns as leader of the right-wing Israeli party, Likud, to form a more centrist party called Kadima. The name of this party is Hebrew for "forward." The platform of this party was a market-based economy and openness to negotiations with the Palestinians. This sends shock waves through the political world of Israel as another stalwart of the old guard of Israeli-Palestinian relations moves in a new direction.
2006 January: Arial Sharon Goes Into Coma
Following his second stroke in a month Arial Sharon goes into a coma from which he does not awake. He is declared "incapacitated" and his role as leader of the nascent Kadima Party is handed over to Ehud Olmert.
2006 January: Hamas Wins Palestinian Elections
In the legislative elections, Hamas candidates win 42.9% percent of the total vote and 74 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas leader Ismail Haniya is appointed as Prime Minster of the Palestinian Authority. Many countries around the world view Hamas as a terrorist organization and refuse to recognize the new government.
2006 January - 2007 June: Economic Sanctions Against Palestinians
With the election of Hamas, the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and UN) and Israel begin to implement sanctions against the Palestinian government, claiming that Hamas is a terrorist organization and not a legitimate political partner. These sanctions are held in place until that Battle of Gaza in which the Palestinian Territories are virtually split, with Hamas controlling Gaza and Fatah controlling the West Bank.
2006 March: Kadima Wins Knesset Elections
The newly formed Kadima party wins the most seats in the Israeli Knesset elections (29 of 120) despite the absence of its founder, Arial Sharon. Its election is seen as a real loss for the right-wing Likud party. Kadima’s leader, Ehud Olmert, forms a unity government and is declared Prime Minister.
2007 June: Battle of Gaza
After the legislative election victory by Hamas in January of 2006, the United States and Israel attempt to undermine the new democratically-elected regime by strengthening President Mahmoud Abbas and training Fatah for a ‘war’ against Hamas. This war breaks out over eight days in Gaza, resulting in Hamas forcing out Fatah and taking control of the entire Gaza Strip. It is estimated that over 550 people are wounded and at least 118 people are killed during the fighting.
2007 June: Blockade of Gaza/Loosened Restrictions of West Bank
Following the split between Fatah and Hamas, with Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt begin a blockade of Gaza in the hope of weakening the power of Hamas. At the same time restrictions on Fatah in the West Bank begin to loosen in an attempt to strengthen this groups claim to legitimate leadership. This split in how the Quartet and Israel deals with the Palestinians begins to cause internal strife within the Palestinian community as a whole.
2007 November: Annapolis Conference
Israeli representatives and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah come to the table in Annapolis, MD, with the first instance of a mutually agreed-upon two-state solution. Leaders from over 40 nations convene with the principal negotiators working within the framework of the "Roadmap to Peace" plan.
2008 December - 2009 January: Gaza War
After a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas expires, Israel launches a military offensive code-named Operation Cast Lead into Gaza in an attempt to weaken Hamas. This offensive is carried out mostly by rocket bombardment and is followed by a ground invasion in early January. After intense fighting where 13 Israelis and over 1,100 Palestinians are killed, a ceasefire is signed in mid-January. The major outcome of this is a suppressed economy in Gaza with its closed borders and a decimated infrastructure. When this is added to the lack of international funds coming into Gaza as a response to the Hamas election, the outcome is a major ongoing humanitarian crisis throughout the Gaza Strip.
2009 January: Mitchell named Special Envoy
As one of his first actions as President, Barack Obama appoints George Mitchell as his Special Envoy to the Middle East. Mitchell immediately makes visits to a number of Middle East countries as well as the West Bank.
2009 March: Netanyahu Installed As Prime Minister
Following the Knesset elections on February 10th, Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party is asked to form a coalition government. This results because, though the centrist party Kadima won one more seat than Likud, the right-wing parties won more seats over all. In March the Knesset gives Netanyahu's coalition government the vote of confidence and he is installed.
2009 May: Obama Calls for Settlement Freeze
US President Obama calls on Israel to halt settlement expansion and to enter peace talks with the Palestinians. Netanyahu is initially reluctant since such a move would counter his election campaign promise not to halt settlements. This is seen by some as the strongest statement made by a US president against an Israeli action. The move is lauded in Europe and the Middle East.
2009 November: Israel Calls for 10-Month Settlement Freeze
At the request of President Obama, Israel calls for a partial settlement freeze in the West Bank but not Jerusalem, in the hopes of reviving peace talks with the Palestinians. The Palestinian representatives do not see the partial freeze as meeting their terms for negotiations.
2010 January: Palestinian Elections Postponed
Already delayed Palestinian elections are postponed even further. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was elected in January 2005 to a four-year term. However, as Jan 2009 approached he claimed he could hold the post for another year since the executive elections, which elected him President in 2005, and legislative elections, which elected Hamas to head of parliament in 2006, should be held simultaneously according to their constitution. Previously, he had set the joint election date for January 24, 2010. During the subsequent time Hamas has not recognized Abbas as a legitimate leader. As January approached Abbas claimed elections could not be held since Hamas was not cooperating. This impasse has continued to increase the division between the two parties.