Important Faces
Important Places
Historic Time Line

Middle East Time Line
by Julia Goldman

Early 12th century B.C.
A group of people called the Philistines settle along the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Another group called the Hebrews also live in the land. The two groups battle each other often during 150 years of Philistine rule. The region comes to be called "land of the Philistines," or Palestine.

1020 B.C. to 1914 A.D.
Over the centuries, numerous groups rule over Palestine: Hebrews, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Seleucids, Romans, Muslim Arabs, Christians, Mamelukes from Egypt, and Ottomans from present-day Turkey. The land, and especially the city of Jerusalem, is home to many places of the three monotheistic religions, or religions that believe in one God: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jews regard it as "the Promised Land," a divine gift to their biblical ancestors, and the site of their Temple. For Christians, it is the birthplace of Jesus and the place where events in his life occurred. Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from a sacred location in Jerusalem.

Late 1880s
As anti-Jewish feeling grows in Europe, people around the world increase the fight for a Jewish homeland in the region where the ancient Hebrews lived. They name their movement Zionism based on the biblical name for the city of Jerusalem. Many European Jews begin to move to Palestine, where they live among a population of Arab Muslims, Jews, and Arab Christians.

1917 to 1930s
In 1917, the Ottoman Empire is defeated in World War I, and Britain gains control of Palestine. The British support the idea of a "national home" for Jews in Palestine, but also promise Arab leaders they can have their own independent state there. In 1920, Arabs in Palestine begin to riot, and clashes break out between Arabs and Jews.

1935 to 1947
More and more European Jews come to Palestine to escape anti-Jewish activities and killings by the Nazis during World War II (1938–1945). Arabs oppose Jewish claims to Palestine, at times violently. In 1947 the newly formed United Nations votes to divide Palestine into two states: an Arab state and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem as an international city. The Jews in Palestine accept the plan, but the Arabs reject it.

At midnight on May 14, 1948, Israel is declared an independent state, with its borders based on the 1947 UN plan. The next day, the surrounding Arab nations-Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia—attack the new state. By the time the fighting ends in January 1949, Israel has expanded its territory by nearly a third, with Jerusalem split between Jordan and Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who fled to neighboring Arab states are unable to return to land held by Israel.

An official of the new Jewish State of Israel waves a signed document which proclaims the establishment of the new nation in 1948. Looking on is Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. Israel was proclaimed as a new nation a moment after midnight, Palestine time, May 15, as Great Britain ended her 25-year mandate over the Holy Land.

Photo: AP/Wide World

Egypt takes control of the Suez Canal and blocks Israel's access to this important waterway, which allows ships to pass from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean through the Gulf of Suez. In response, Israel invades Egyptian territory in the Sinai Peninsula with help from France and Great Britain. Following a cease-fire, troops from the UN take over control of the area.

A number of Palestinian groups join together as the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to represent displaced Palestinians and demand a Palestinian homeland. The PLO elects Yasir Arafat as its chairman in 1969. Arafat is a leader of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (al-Fatah in Arabic), a major Palestinian group that he helped found in 1959.

When Egypt, Syria, and Jordan begin to ready their troops for war, Israel responds by striking first. After six days of fighting, the Six-Day War ends with Israel taking the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and territory on the West Bank of the Jordan River, including the Old City of Jerusalem, from Jordan. As a result, more than 1.5 million Arabs find themselves living under Israeli control.

Based in Jordan, the PLO increases its terrorist activities, including civilian raids and airplane hijackings, against Israel and Western countries that support Israel. Jordan also comes into conflict with the PLO, and in 1971, Jordanian troops force the Palestinian organization out of the country. The PLO relocates to Lebanon. In 1972, a group associated with the PLO kills 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich.

Egypt and Syria together try to reclaim the territory they lost in 1967. With the support of other Arab states, they attack Israel during the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. Caught by surprise, Israel eventually pushes its neighbors back.

President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt makes a surprise visit to Israel, and the two countries begin to hold peace talks. In 1979, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin meet with U.S. President Jimmy Carter and sign a peace treaty at Camp David in Maryland. As part of the agreement, Egypt recognizes Israel's right to exist, and Israel promises to return the Sinai Peninsula. Sadat is assassinated in Egypt in 1981.
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (left), President Jimmy Carter (center), and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin clasp hands on the north lawn of the White House after signing a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979. Sadat and Begin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for accomplishing peace negotiations in 1978.

Photo: AP/Wide World

Israel withdraws from the Sinai Peninsula. A few weeks later, Israeli planes begin bombing Beirut and southern Lebanon, in an effort to end PLO raids from there into Israel. After 10 weeks of fighting—including the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in refugee camps, the PLO agrees to leave Beirut and moves its headquarters to Tunisia. Israel withdraws its troops to a small strip of land in southern Lebanon.

Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Jerusalem riot against Israeli control. Israel sends its army troops to stop the protests, which come to be known as the Intifada, or "uprising." In 1988, Arafat and the PLO formally renounce terrorism and recognize Israel's right to exist.

Peace talks begin among Israel and several Arab nations. Palestinians also take part in the discussions, but the PLO itself is excluded. In 1992, representatives of Israel and the PLO meet in secret for nine months near Olso, Norway. These talks result in the 1993 Olso accord, an agreement that outlines Palestinian self-government. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO leader Arafat sign the peace treaty at the White House in Washington, D.C.
Then President Bill Clinton presides over ceremonies marking the signing of the 1993 peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians on the White House lawn. Shaking hands are Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) and PLO leader Yasir Arafat. Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a Jewish extremist who did not agree with the peace accord.

Photo: AP/Wide World

Violent acts by both Palestinians and Israeli citizens increase tensions in the region. Still, Israel and the PLO sign the Gaza-Jericho Pact in May, giving the Palestinians control in the Gaza Strip and the city of Jericho on the West Bank. The Palestinian governing body, called the Palestinian Authority, meets for the first time. In July, Israel's Rabin and Jordan's King Hussein sign a peace agreement after 46 years as enemies.

In September, Rabin and Arafat sign an agreement that gives Palestinians even more self-government powers in the West Bank. At a rally for peace in Israel, Rabin is assassinated by an Israeli man who believes that Jews should own and control the West Bank. Shimon Peres, an Israeli statesman who has been heavily involved in the peace process, replaces Rabin.

Palestinians hold their first-ever elections and choose Arafat to lead the Palestinian Authority. Israel also holds an election, and Benjamin Netanyahu becomes Prime Minister after promising to ensure Israeli security. Arafat and Netanyahu promise to continue to work toward peace.

Israel returns the town of Hebron in the West Bank to Palestinian control. New Jewish housing is approved for a traditionally Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem, prompting new violence. Netanyahu puts the peace process on hold, demanding that Arafat bring an end to such acts.

After a year without any progress toward peace, Netanyahu and Arafat meet for 21 hours with U.S. President Bill Clinton at Wye, Maryland. The Middle East leaders sign a deal. The Wye agreement requires Israel to turn over more land in the West Bank in exchange for Palestinian security guarantees. It sets a deadline of September 13, 2000, to complete the arrangements for peace.

Some members of Netanyahu's government turn against him because of the Wye agreement. Israel holds new elections, and Ehud Barak, Israel's most-decorated soldier, wins. Barak promises to continue to work for peace in the region. He promises to pull out his troops from southern Lebanon; he attends peace talks with Syria; and he signs an agreement with Arafat to go ahead with the peace process.

July 2000
As the September 13 deadline set in the Wye agreement nears, former President Clinton invites Barak and Arafat to a summit, or high-level meeting, at Camp David. The talks end after 15 days with no agreement. One of the most difficult issues on the table is who will control the city of Jerusalem. Israel claims the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

September-October 2000
Palestinians run for cover as the Israeli army opened fire with live bullets during clashes in the West Bank town of Ramallah Friday, October 13.

Photo: AP/Wide World

Fighting begins to escalate as the Palestinians renew their Intifada, or uprising, against the Jews. Ariel Sharon, a controversial Israeli leader, visits a Muslim holy place in Jerusalem, accompanied by a large police escort. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, large groups of angry Palestinians, including many young people, throw rocks at Israeli soldiers, who fire tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at the crowds.

October 17, 2000
President Bill Clinton works with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to bring Barak and Arafat together again. But even while they speak, street battles continue.

December 10, 2000
With his coalition on the brink of collapse, Barak resigns as Prime Minister. Barak says that he wants to seek a new mandate (vote of support) from the Israeli people.

February 6, 2001
Ariel Sharon, 73, defeats Barak in a special election for Prime Minister. Sharon gets more than 62 percent of the vote.

April 23
A Palestinian child is killed in southern Gaza—the 400th Palestinian killed since the beginning of the second Intifada.

May 15
Fifty-third anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, known to the Arabs as the nakba (catastrophe). During the celebrations, four Palestinians are killed, and more than 200 are wounded. One Israeli woman is also killed.

August 9
The worst suicide attack since the start of the Intifada kills 17 and wounds 90 in west Jerusalem.

August 29
Israel seizes several parts of the West Bank town of Beit Jalla (under Palestinian control since 1995).

September 11
Terrorist attacks in the U.S. kill more than 3,000 in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. The terrorists are identified as followers of Osama bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian operating out of Afghanistan.

January 4, 2002
Israel intercepts a boat in the Red Sea carrying 50 tons of weapons destined for the Palestinian Authority.

March 8
In bloodiest day yet, 39 people, most of them Palestinian, are killed.

March 28
"Passover Massacre." Palestinian suicide bomber detonates a bomb in a crowded hotel dining room, killing 25 and wounding more than 100 others.

March 29
Israelis storm Arafat's headquarters and launch a campaign to end Palestinian terror attacks. An 18-year-old suicide bomber kills herself and two others in a Jerusalem supermarket.

March 31
Two suicide bombings kill 17 and injure 30. In a televised address, Sharon proclaims that Israel is "at war."

April 6
President Bush calls on Sharon to withdraw Israeli troops from Palestinian settlements "without delay."

April 7
Seventeen Palestinians are killed in battle with Israeli military. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves for the Mideast on a peacekeeping mission.

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