An Historical Outline

Continued from node 5991

Operation “Peace for Galilee”

Violence was at this time growing in Lebanon, which was poised to become the scene of a brutal proxy war between Israel and Syria—and both power against the Palestinians. Under a system put in place by the French Mandate, the majority of parliament seats and government posts went to the country’s Maronite Christians, reflecting their majority in the population. But in the 1960s, the demographics had changed, and the new Muslim majority demanded their fair share of power. However, divided by various sects—Shi’ite, Sunni and Druze—the Muslims were not able to launch a united front. This made Lebanon ripe for foreign intrigues. A civil war in 1958 foreshadowed a much longer, bloodier and more chaotic one that broke out in 1975. And the presence of the PLO in Lebanon would draw foreign powers into the conflict. (Mackey, p. 113-127)

In 1976, Syria sent troops into Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley and much of the rest of the country’s east in a bid to impose order. Syria initially backs Christian Phalange militias due to mutual enmity for the PLO, with whose leadership Syria’s Hafez Assad had developed a bitter rivalry. A joint Syrian-Phalange siege of Tal el-Zaatar refugee camp that summer left up to 6,000 Palestinians dead by some estimates—mostly combatants, but also civilians. Thousands of camp residents were left homeless. (Palestine: Information with Provenance; Herzog, p. 363)

Israel, despite its own state of official hostility with Syria, also began backing Christian militias in Lebanon—the Phalange in the north, and the South Lebanese Army (SLA) in the border zone. Bashir Gemayal, the political boss of the Phalange, was openly groomed by Israel for Lebanon’s presidency. Defense Minister Ariel Sharon called Israel’s relationship with the Phalange a “political-strategic alliance.” There was a certain historical irony to this, given that the Phalange openly emulated European fascism. The militia had been founded in 1936 after an inspirational trip to Nazi Germany by family patriarch Pierre Gemayal, Bashir’s father. (Mackey, p. 50-1; Morris, 2001, p. 502-5; Herzog, 339)

In September 1977, the IDF even made an incursion to fight alongside Christian forces against the PLO at Tel a Sharifa, in the south. Prime Minister Menachem Begin warned that Christians faced “genocide” at the hands of the Palestinians and Lebanon’s Muslims. Intermittent Israeli air-strikes on PLO targets in Lebanon followed for months. (Morris, 2001, p. 502-5; Herzog, 339)

As Israel became the new patron the Christians, Syria switched sides, and began backing the Shi’ite militias and political organizations—first Amal, and later its rival Hezbollah (into which Amal would eventually be absorbed). The stage was set for multi-sided proxy war. (Mackey, p. 242-50)

In March 1978, Israel launched a major military intervention in Lebanon, dubbed “Operation Litani,” after that month’s Haifa bus hijacking incident. The UN passed Security Council Resolution 425, calling for Israel to withdraw, its place to be taken by a new international force, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Officially, Israel complied. But in reality, Israel’s Christian proxies established what Tel Aviv called a “Security Zone” some six miles deep along the border, while UNIFIL held a second strip between this zone and the Litani River. Contrary to the terms of Resolution 425, the IDF had more or less free access within the “Security Zone.” (Morris, 2001, p. 502)

On June 7, 1981, in an air-raid dubbed “Operation Babylon,” Israeli F-16 warplanes attacked and destroyed the French-built Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq. Tel Aviv said the attack was justified by the need to prevent Iraq from developing nuclear weapons capability. Baghdad insisted the reactor was intended for peaceful purposes. (BBC News, “On This Day“)

In July 1981, Israeli warplanes struck targets in southern Lebanon after a period of relative peace; this sparked retaliatory Palestinian attacks, which in turn elicited further Israeli air-strikes, claiming hundreds of lives. (Chomsky, p. 193)

Throughout early 1982, Israel carried out periodic military maneuvers in southern Lebanon together with the SLA, including much live gunfire; Lebanese fishing boats were sunk in Lebanese territorial waters, and Lebanese airspace was repeatedly violated. The UN protested the exercises as “intensive, excessive, and provocative.” (Chomsky, p. 195)

In May 1982, Sharon received a “green light” for a full-scale invasion of Lebanon from US Secretary of State Alexander Haig, although the facts of what was said at their meeting are disputed. The Abu Nidal organization’s June 3 assassination of Shlomo Argov, Israel’s ambassador in London, provided the pretext. In making the case for the invasion to his cabinet, Begin again invoked the Nazi genocide: “Believe me, the alternative to this is Treblinka, and we have decided there will not be another Treblinka.” Amos Oz wrote in an open letter to Begin: “But Mr. Prime Minister… Hitler died 37 years ago… Hitler is not hiding in Nabatiya, Sidon, or Beirut.” Dr. Shlomo Schmalzman, a death camp survivor, held a hunger strike at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, to protest Begin’s exploitation of the Holocaust to justify the Lebanon invasion. (Morris, 2001, p. 513-5)

Widely ignored in world media coverage was the fact that the PLO leadership were themselves on Abu Nidal’s “hit list”—as the British authorities immediately made clear upon their initial investigation of Argov’s assassination. The PLO’s insistence that it had nothing to do with the assassination was nonetheless rejected by the Israeli government. The Iraq-based Abu Nidal did not even have an office in Lebanon. (Chomsky, p. 196-7)

The campaign began June 4 with air-strikes on Bierut as well as PLO targets in the south. The PLO predictably responded by shelling northern Israel. Begin then launched a full ground invasion, dubbed “Operation Peace for Galilee.” In a letter to US President Ronald Reagan, he said the aim was to push the PLO back 40 kilometers from the border. But by June 13, Israeli troops had reached Beirut, some 100 kilometers north of the border, and occupied the city’s airport. Throughout the summer, Beirut came under heavy shelling, and IDF forces briefly clashed with Syrian troops in the Bekaa Valley. (Morris, 2001, p. 516, 520-1, Herzog, p. 344-5; Chomsky, p. 197)

On the march to Beirut, Israeli forces attacked Palestinian refugee camps, such as Rashidiyeh south of Tyre, whose 9,000 inhabitants were forced to flee as many of their homes were reduced to rubble. All teen-aged and adult males were detained by the IDF, held blind-folded and bound in military camps that were hastily erected. (Chomsky, p. 217)

In the initial air-strikes on Beirut in June, a children’s hospital at the Sabra refugee camp was hit, Lebanese television reported, and a cameraman said he saw “many children” lying dead inside the Bourj al-Barajneh camp. At least two Beirut hospitals were struck, and at the city’s Islamic Home for Invalids “the corridors were streaked with blood.” In areas of the city they subsequently seized, Israeli troops erected detainment camps and rounded up thousands more Palestinians. (Chomsky, p. 224-5, 233-5)

Late June saw the turning point for the PLO. Following pitched battles, the IDF drove PLO defenders from two key strongholds: Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp—the “Palestinian Stalingrad”—and the old Crusader castle of Beaufort. (Kimmerling, p. 89)

The US vetoed a June 26 UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the hostilities. Israel pressed the offensive. IDF air-strikes on Beirut escalated in August, with the destruction of an orphanage making world headlines—and prompted Reagan to telephone Begin. On Aug. 12—known as “Black Thursday”—Israel launched a seven-hour uninterrupted air raid on the city, claiming some 300, mostly civilian lives. The city was left without water or electricity. (Chomsky, p. 198, 225; Morris, 2001, p. 357; Kimmerling, p. 91)

In a letter to Reagan justifying the assault, Begin portrayed himself as marching to “Berlin” to defeat “Hitler”—a rhetorical excess protested by Labor Party foreign affairs chief Abba Eban as a “macabre fantasy.” (Chomsky, p. 227)

With Beirut under assault, it became clear that the war aims had changed—or that a propaganda facade had been dropped. As commentator Yoel Marcus wrote in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz: “Behind the official excuse of ‘we shall not tolerate shelling or terrorist actions’ lies a strategic view which holds that the physical annihilation of the PLO has to be achieved.” (Ha’aretz, March 26, 1982, quoted in Chomsky, p. 199)

Lacking support from the Arab world for indefinite resistance, the PLO finally agreed to evacuate Lebanon. With US envoy Philip Habib serving as intermediary, arrangements were offered to the Israelis. Ironically, the “Black Thursday” bombardment took place the day after the Israeli cabinet agreed to accept the evacuation plan. (Kimmerling, p. 91)

Some 14,000 PLO fighters and followers of the rival Syrian-backed Palestinian Liberation Army were evacuated by Multinational Force composed of US Marines and French and Italian troops. Several Arab countries took in the evacuees, with Arafat, Fatah and PLO leadership establishing their new headquarters in Tunisia. In the Habib Agreement that secured the PLO’s evacuation, Israel agreed to a ceasefire, although not a withdrawal from Lebanon. The evacuation was completed by September. (Chomsky, p. 341; Morris, 2001, p. 537; Herzog, p. 352; Kimmerling, p. 91)

On Sept. 14 Bashir Gemayal, the Israel-backed president-elect, was killed by an assassin’s bomb in Beirut. The following day, Israeli forces and Phalangists occupied West Beirut, the site of several Palestinian refugee camps—in violation of the Habib Agreement. After a visit to the zone, Israeli military intelligence chief Rafael (“Rafi”) Eitan warned Defense Minister Ariel Sharon that the Phalange “are obsessed with the idea of revenge” and were planning a “relentless slaughter.” Nonetheless, Begin reportedly told US envoy Morris Draper that the IDF had allowed the Phalangists into the West Beirut refugee camps “in order to prevent bloodshed and acts of revenge.” (Chomsky, p. 355, 360; Morris, 2001, p. 543)

On the evening of Sept. 16, some 150 Phalangists entered the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The camps were surrounded by IDF troops, who fired flares to light the Phalangists’ way. The Israeli forces under Brig. Gen. Amos Yaron also monitored the Phalangists’ radio communications as they explicitly discussed rounding up women and children in the camp—and issued only one perfunctory order not to harm civilians, as the mass killing began. Hundreds were killed, and many raped, as the Phalangists moved form house to house. Mutilations and other atrocities were carried out. The killings went on until Sept. 18, when the Phalange withdrew from the camps. The Lebanese army secured the camps the following day, at Israeli behest. Estimates of death toll vary between 700 (the official Israeli figure) to 3,500. (Morris, 2001, p. 544-5; Complaint against Ariel Sharon in Belgian courts by survivors, 2007, online at Electronic Intifada)

As word got out of what had happened, there was an immediate outcry, both internationally and within Israel. Energy Minister Yitzhak Berman stepped down from the cabinet in support of demands for a judicial inquiry. Some 400,000 protesters—a full 10% of Israel’s population—gathered in one Tel Aviv rally to demand an official investigation. At the end of September, Begin caved in to the pressure and assigned a commission to investigate the massacre. The Kahan Commission—named for Israel’s supreme court president Yitzhak Kahan—returned its finding in February 1983, attributing to the IDF and Israel indirect responsibility for the massacre. While Brig. Gen. Yaron was cleared, Ariel Sharon was found to share in the responsibility, and resigned as Minister of Defense—although he remained in the cabinet as “minister without portfolio.” (Morris, 2001, p. 548; Dowty, p. 129; TrialWatch)

Sharon and Yaron would also face charges in the Beligan courts in 2003, in a case brought by Palestinian survivors of the massacre. The Belgian courts ultimately ruled that they had no jurisdiction in the case. (TrialWatch)

Israel also withdrew from Beirut in the immediate wake of the massacre, under intense pressure form Washington. But the war did not abate. A suicide bombing in October killed 241 US Marines stationed in Beirut as part of the Multinational Force in Lebanon (MNF), which had been sent in after the Israeli invasion in response to the escalation of violence. The Shi’ite militias Amal and Hezbollah, backed by Syria, harried Israeli forces. It was not until June 1985 that the IDF withdrew to the Security Zone—which now came under direct Israeli occupation. (Morris, 2001, p. 552-7, Dowty, p. 129)

Between 1982 and 1985, Israel suffered some 650 dead in Lebanon. A reliable count of Lebanese and Palestinian dead was estimated by Lebanon’s government at some 20,000—overwhelmingly civilians. (Morris, 2001, p. 558)

The multi-sided war in Lebanon would continue for another five years. In December 1985, Syria brokered a deal under which the old French-imposed political system was overturned to give the Muslims a greater share of power. But it wasn’t until 1990 that the last of the militias laid down their arms—although Hezbollah did not surrender its weapons. Israel maintained its “Security Zone” in the south, and Syria continued to occupy the Bekaa Valley. (Mackey, p. 255, 274)

De Facto Greater Israel

This era, despite the Lebanon nightmare, saw the first signs of a retreat from the rejectionist principles of the PLO charter. Arab leaders proposed the Fahd Plan of 1981 and Fez Plan of 1982—named for the king of Saudi Arabia and Morocco’s second city, respectively. These were accepted by the PLO, and essentially called for a de facto two-state solution. As a face-saving measure, there was no explicit recognition in these plans of Israel’s right to exist, but they called for Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza—not throughout historic Palestine. There was less enthusiasm for the 1982 Reagan Plan put forth by Washington, which called for “self-government” on the West Bank “in association with Jordan,” but did not assign a role to the PLO and explicitly rejected “establishment of an independent Palestinian state.” In any case, all these plans were rejected by the PLO’s hardline factions (PFLP, PLFLP-GC, DFLP, etc.)—and by Israel. (Chomsky, p. 342; Dowty, p. 130)

On March 1, 1980, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 465, calling on Israel to dismantle its settlements—including in East Jerusalem. But just two days later—after protests from the Israel Lobby in Washington—the Reagan administration retracted its vote for the resolution, calling it a “mistake” and “failure of communication.” The resolution was rescinded. (McDowall, p. 51)

Deputy speaker of the Knesset Meir Cohen said in 1983 “that Israel had made a grave mistake by not expelling 200,000 to 300,000 Arabs from the West Bank.” (Chomsky, p. 116)

World media coverage of the Palestinians at this time focused foremost on spectacular terrorist attacks, which continued. In October 1985, the Abu Abbas faction of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean; elderly Jewish-American tourist Leon Klinghoffer was shot in the head and dumped overboard in his wheelchair. His name became a household word around the world. The same week, Alex Odeh, a US citizen of Palestinian descent who was the West Coast director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, was murdered in Southern California by a bomb that the FBI determined had been planted the Jewish Defense League, a far-right militant Zionist organization. He had apparently been targeted because of a TV interview he had given the night before in which he condemned the Achille Lauro attack and terrorism in general, but defended Arafat, saying that the PLO was not involved in the action. Odeh’s death was virtually ignored by the world media. (Gerner, p. 160)

There were by then 650,000 Palestinian inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, 900,000 of the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), and 130,000 of East Jerusalem. The Israelis could point to concrete benefits the occupation had brought. Roads had improved (largely due to Israeli security concerns), electrification via the Israeli grid had brought power to Gaza (which was largely dark before 1967), and access to Israeli hospitals meant better health care. Jobs in Israel meant better earnings. But at the same time, large and growing pockets of abject poverty persisted, especially in Gaza. The Strip had one of the highest population densities in the world at 1,600 per square kilometer. Homes in the overcrowded camps still lacked plumbing, and sewage ran in the streets. On the West Bank, conditions were less dire—but the stark contrast with the relative opulence of the Israeli settlers was a constant source of humiliation. The West Bank’s water reserves were diverted to settlements and to Israel proper—leaving Palestinian farmlands drier each year. On average, West Bank settlers used 12 times more water than local Palestinians. The amount of irrigated Palestinian land in the West Bank declined by 30% between 1967 and 1987. (Morris, 2001, p. 564-5)

The 1982 Karp Report—prepared by the Israeli Attorney General’s office, and declassified two years later—found that security and police forces were reluctant to investigate or prosecute instances of settler violence against Palestinians, and engaged in a “conspiracy of silence.” (Gerner, p. 78)

After the Sinai settlements were removed as Israel withdrew from the peninsula in 1982, the new strategy was to emphasize intensive settlement of the Gaza Strip. By 1985, 12 new settlements had been established in the Strip. (Gerner, p. 81)

Settlement of the Occupied Territories continued under the National Unity Government that was brokered following the tied elections of July 1984. Under this arrangement, Labor’s Shimon Peres ruled from 1984 to 1986, followed by Likud’s Yitzhak Shamir through 1988. Labor’s Yitzhak Rabin served as defense minister throughout. Although few new settlements were established in this period, the population of existing settlements swelled. (Morris, 2001, p. 567)

The geography of the West Bank settlements followed three axes: along the Jordan River, separating the West Bank from Jordan; along the Green Line, separating the West Bank from Arabs within Israel; and encircling the major Palestinian towns (Nablus, Ramallah, etc.); separating the West Bank Palestinians from each other. (Gerner, p. 82)

By the mid-1980s, there were 150,000 Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories, mostly around Jerusalem and areas within commuting distance of the coastal plain. (McDowall, p. 214)

Ominous talk of “transfer” continued to persist in Israeli political discourse. Rehavim Ze’evi of the far-right Moledet (“Motherland”) Party spoke openly of “voluntary transfer” in “air-conditioned buses.” But such voices were also raised from within the government. In 1987 Deputy Defense Minister Michael Dekel publicly called for the transfer of Palestinians to Jordan. In 1982, cabinet minister Mordechai Zippori told settlers near Nabuls: “Don’t worry about the demographic density of the Arabs. When I was born in Petach Tikva, we were entirely surrounded by Arab villages. They have all since disappeared.” Another minister, Yosef Shapira of the National Religious Party, proposed offering $20,000 to any Palestinians who agreed to emigrate. In 1987, Ariel Sharon, then industry and trade minister, moved into an apartment in East Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter—a move protested by the the mufti of Jerusalem as “dangerous and infuriating.” (Morris, 2001, p. 567-8)

Harsh reprisals by the occupation forces for attacks on Israelis were common—including village curfews that sometimes lasted days, brutal searches in which homes were ransacked, and thousands of arbitrary detainments—often without trial, often for weeks or months, and often in harsh conditions. Interrogations frequently involved torture. The Ansar Camp, established first in the Gaza Strip and later moved to the Negev, was the most notorious of a series of detainment camps and prisons established by Israel for such purposes. (Morris, 2001, p. 568)

In August 1985, Israel imposed its “Iron Fist” policy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, reviving the practice of summary detainment deportation of suspected militants or their sympathizers for the first time since the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war. In a series of sweeps over six months, more than 100 Palestinians were rounded up and placed in administrative detention—including at least four journalists for Arabic-language newspapers in East Jerusalem and West Bank cities. Among the more prominent Palestinian journalists detained under military orders was Akram Haniyeh, editor of the daily al-Shaab, who was arrested at his home in Ramallah in November 1986, on suspicion of being a “senior organizer” for Fatah. After 55 days in detention, he was ordered deported and placed on a flight to Zurch. (CPJ, p. 14, 146-48, 154)

The 1945 Emergency Regulations were used to impose censorship even on Arab newspapers within Israel that allegedly encouraged terrorism. Israeli military orders barred the importation of newspapers into the Occupied Territories without a permit from the occupation authorities, and imposed burdensome licensing on the West Bank’s local newspapers. Even those which were tolerated were required to print unaltered and without reimbursement all announcements by the military authorities. (CPJ, p. 52-60)

Control of the press within Israel and the Occupied Territories alike was tightened by the so-called Tamir Law of 1980, an amendment to the 1948 Prevention of Terrorism Act making it illegal to publish “praise or sympathy for” designated terrorist organizations, including the PLO and its factions. Violation was punishable by three years imprisonment. Newspapers were ordered closed for attempting to evade the censors. (CPJ, p. 97, 111)

Even the Jewish director of a pro-Palestinian dissident group based in West Jerusalem, Michael Warshavsky of the Alternative Information Center, was imprisoned for one month in 1987 for violating the Tamir Law. His crime was reprinting a pamphlet on the use of torture on the West Bank produced by a youth organization said to be a front for the PFLP. (CPJ, p. 117-9)

Ironically, the Palestinian press was meanwhile the evident target of Jewish terrorists. The offices of the East Jerusalem newspapers—most prominently al-Fajr—were repeatedly vandalized, and even firebombed. In 1986, a follower of the far-right Kach movement (founded by Brooklyn-born Meir Kahane, who had led the militant Jewish Defense League in the US) was given a prison term in Israel for attacks including the firebombing of al-Fajr. But in most of the attacks on the newspapers, there were no arrests. (CPJ, p. 134-8)

Conflict with the settlers in the Occupied Territories was increasing. The settlements were typically heavily armed, each accumulating thousands of small arms, for the most part legally owned and licensed. But while the Palestinian inhabitants of the Territories were under military law, the settlers were considered to be under Israeli civil law. Any Palestinian seeking to bring charges against a settler was obliged to do so through the Israeli court system—a step few were willing to take, viewing it as a legitimization of this dual system. (DataBase Project, p. 28)

On Nov. 10, 1986, a Palestinian schoolgirl was shot dead by a Jewish settler near Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip after his car was stoned. This led to a series of clashes in which two more schoolgirls were shot and wounded by settlers and an Israeli civilian was stabbed to death. Curfews were imposed in the Strip and hundreds were detained. (Morris, 2001, p. 571-2)

In May 1987, riots broke out between Israeli troops and stone-throwing followers of Fatah’s youth wing, Shabiba, at the Balata refugee camp outside Nablus on the West Bank. A curfew was imposed and the camp came under heavy military occupation. (Morris, 2001, p. 572-3)

On June 24, 1987, Israeli Arabs held a widely observed one-day strike demanding both civil rights for themselves and a complete withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, establishment of an independent Palestinian state under the PLO, and right of return or compensation for refugees. (McDowall, p. 238)

That same year, former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti described pessimistically the situation in what was becoming a de facto Greater Israel:

The Second Israeli Republic [post-1967] is a bi-national entity with a rigid, hierarchical social structure based on ethnicity. Three-and-a-half million Jewish Israelis hold total monopoly over governmental resources, control the economy, for the upper stratum and determine the educational and national values and objectives of the republic.

The two million Palestinians divide into Israeli Palestinians and the Palestinians in the territories. Though the former are citizens of the republic, their citizenship does not assure them equality in the law…

The remaining one-and-a-half million Palestinians…are deprived of all political rights, ostensibly because they are under military occupation, though even their rights under international conventions governing military occupations are not assured, since the government of the republic does not recognize the application of these conventions to the territories… [Gerner, p. 76-7]

The First Intifada

In a development that was anticipated by neither Israel nor the PLO, on Dec. 8, 1987, a general uprising broke out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Dubbed the “Intifada,” Arabic for “shaking off,” its weapons were largely stones—not guns and bombs. Often violent but unarmed protests broke out across the Occupied Territories. Three days into the rebellion, Rashad al-Shawa, the former mayor of Gaza City, offered this explanation:

One can expect such events after 20 years of harsh occupation. People have lost all hope. They are completely frustrated. They don’t know what to do… They have lost all hope that Israel will ever give them rights. They feel the Arab states are incapable of achieving anything. They feel that the PLO…failed to achieve anything… What has happened is an expression of the frustration and the pain over the continuing Israeli occupation. [Morris, 2001, p. 561-2]

It was a traffic accident that provided the spark for the uprising. An IDF armored transport collided with a line of cars filled with Palestinian workers from the Jibaya refugee camp, waiting at the military checkpoint at the north end of the Gaza Strip to go to construction sites in Israel. Four workers were killed and seven more seriously injured. A rumor that the driver had hit the vans intentionally in retaliation for the murder of an Israeli days earlier swept through the Occupied Territories. On Dec. 9, thousands poured into the streets of Jibalya and other Gaza camps for the funerals, chanting calls for jihad (holy war). The following day, Jibalya residents took to the streets again and set up roadblocks, repulsing Israeli armored vehicles with barrages of hurled stones. Troops finally fired on the crowds, wounding several and killing a 17-year-old boy. (Gerner, p. 97; Morris, 2001, p. 573)

Within hours, the uprising had spread to the Gaza Strip’s other refugee camps, and soon after to camps on the West Bank. In a few days, it had spread beyond the camps to virtually every town in the Occupied Territories. Hundreds and then thousands filled the streets, hurling stones, burning tires and erecting barricades. (Morris, 2001, p. 574)

Rioting went on continuously for 12 days, the clashes often culminating in IDF troops firing into the crowds. Funerals of slain protesters—declared “martyrs”—turned into new protests. Photos from those early days show Palestinian youth baring their chests to Israeli soldiers and challenging them to shoot them down. (Morris, 2001, p. 574)

The networks that animated the Intifada were the emerging structures of civil society which had emerged over the past 20 years—sometimes with Israeli tolerance, sometimes in spite of Israeli intolerance. Seven universities had opened in the West Bank and Gaza (where there had been none before 1967); student committees, trade unions, professional associations, newspapers and charities had flourished even in the atmosphere of hardship. Income and consumption levels had increased considerably in the West Bank and Gaza under Israeli occupation—but this was largely due to Palestinians finding work across the Green Line in Israel, or even in the Gulf States, from where they sent remittances home. There was little economic development within the Occupied Territories. In the absence of much of an “official” economy, neighborhood and village self-help efforts had emerged. These especially were the foundation for the local “popular committees” that sprung up in 1987—explicitly echoing the National Committees that had formed in the uprisings and resistance struggles of the ’30s and ’40s. (DataBase Project, p. 48; Morris, 2001, p. 563; Dowty, p. 134)

While the various PLO factions had their organizers on the ground in these committees—Fatah’s youth wing, the Shabiba was particularly influential—they were controlled from below, not above. They were locally autonomous and not under the PLO’s command. Alongside the PLO factions, the Islamic Association, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, was also a growing power in local organizing—thanks largely to the efforts Sheikh Ahmad Ismail Hassan Yassin, the Association’s Gaza-based patriarch (and a veteran of Israel’s prisons on weapons charges). Islamic Jihad, a smaller network founded in Gaza, was also instrumental in radicalizing the Muslim movement in the Occupied Territories. (Morris, 2001, p. 563-4, 570)

Local Intifada leaders took to covering their faces with kaffiyas—traditional Arab headscarves, a symbol of Palestinian resistance since the ’30s—both to prevent identification and protect against tear gas. Fatah followers wore black-and-white kaffiyas; Islamists wore green-and-white, and leftists (PFLP, DFLP, etc.) wore red-and-white. In the West Bank, a United National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU, also called the Unified National Command) emerged to coordinate the local “popular committees.” (Morris, 2001, p. 574)

One of the first decisions of the UNLU was to extend the rebellion to East Jerusalem, which exploded into riots on Dec. 19. The IDF did not succeed in retaking some districts until February. (Morris, 2001, p. 575)

Although the Fatah adherents in the UNLU maintained contact with the PLO leadership in Tunis, and received some funds from the PLO, Arafat never succeeded in achieving a position of command over the Intifada. Indeed, almost as soon as the uprising began, Sheikh Yassin joined with other fundamentalist leaders to establish the Islamic Resistance Movement—known by its Arabic acronym, Hamas. This quickly rose as a serious rival to Fatah in influence over the popular committees. It was Hamas leaflets that first began using the term “Intifada.” Hamas leader Sheikh Ibrahim al-Quqa called the Intifada “a phase, and a prelude to a more serious process of getting rid of the Zionist presence in this land.” Hamas propaganda rejected any accommodation with Israel, and called for liberating Palestine “to the last grain of sand.” Hamas’ founding Covenant also included rhetoric drawn from European anti-Semitism and cited the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion—which had served as a propaganda both for the Russian pogroms and for Hitler. (Morris, 2001, p. 573, 577-9)

Despite such hardline politics, the UNLU took a conscious decision not to resort to armed struggle, and barred use of firearms in the Intifada. Explained the DFLP’s Naif Hawatmeh: “We wanted to prevent a situation in which the occupying authorities would lose self-control and carry our massacres.” The use of stones against an armed occupation force served as effective propaganda—”with the Palestinians cast as David to Israel’s Goliath,” in historian Benny Morris’ words. The tactic of setting Israeli fields and orchards alight, widespread in 1988, was abandoned the following year due to concerns that it was eroding sympathy for the Palestinians abroad and on the Israeli left. (Morris, 2001, p. 580-1)

Much of the Intifada consisted of nonviolent passive resistance—including a boycott of Israeli goods, an emphasis on achieving local self-sufficiency through agriculture, and the building of parallel self-governing institutions. Dr. Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian-American resident of the West Bank, had been advocating a model of non-cooperation since 1984. In May 1988, he was deported back to the US. But by then his ideas had taken root. (Morris, 2001, p. 581)

Palestinian businesses stopped paying taxes, and hundreds of Palestinian municipal police in the Occupied Territories responded to a call from the UNLU to resign. (One who refused was shot dead in Jericho.) Yet, in the new atmosphere of national purpose and unity, the crime rate actually declined. (Morris, 2001, p. 582)

The Intifada convinced Jordan’s King Hussein that it was time to withdraw any remaining claim to the West Bank. On July 31, 1988, he officially disavowed Jordanian sovereignty over the territory—”in deference to the will of the PLO.” (Dowty, p. 132; Morris, 2001, p. 605)

On Oct. 8, 1990, Palestinian youth on the Temple Mount began throwing stones at police below who were guarding Jewish worshipers gathered for the Sukkoth holy day. When police used tear gas against the youth, the fighting escalated and the police were forced to retreat. When the youth then began to stone the worshipers, police returned in force—this time firing live ammunition. Nineteen Palestinians, aged 15 to 63, were killed in what became known as the Temple Mount Massacre. Another some 100 were wounded; 34 Israelis—police and civilians—were slightly injured. (Morris, 2001, p. 585)

Israeli responses to the Intifada included policies of shooting to kill, shooting to injure, curfews, village closures (in which residents could leave their homes but not the town), mass arrests, beatings, torture. Defense Minister Rabin ordered the “beatings policy” in 1988, which led to the death or permanent disabling of several Palestinians in IDF custody. Rabin let slip to a TV interviewer that he had ordered troops to “break bones” (although he later denied that this meant beatings were to be used as punishment). Shabiba and other popular organizations were ordered banned. All proved fruitless at stemming the tide of rebellion. (Al-Haq, p. 288; Morris, 2001, p. 587-9)

A series of detainment centers were established for those arrested In the West Bank and Gaza—located both within the Occupied Territories and in Israel. The most notoriously harsh and overcrowded was the Ansar III camp at remote Ketsyot in the Negev Desert. Thusly named because this was the camp’s third location, Ansar III opened in March 1988. In the desert environment, extremes of heat and cold in the day and night caused much suffering; the water supply was inadequate, as was medical attention for the resultant health problems. The remote location compounded with bureaucratic obstacles kept the detainees isolated from family and legal counsel. Solitary confinement and beatings were routine. Israeli human rights attorneys brought litigation over conditions at the prison camp, resulting in an advisory committee being set up to review the facility. But the court ruled that deporting detainees from the Occupied Territories to the remote camp within Israel was not a violation of international law. (Al-Haq, p. 235-8)

Under military orders, detainees in the Occupied Territories could be held for 18 days without coming before a court—compared to 48 hours under Israeli law. The Landau Commission, appointed by the Israeli government to investigate claims of torture of Palestinian detainees, found that the constant denial in court by Shin Bet agents of methods used to extract information from suspects amounted to systematic perjury. The Commission found that Shin Bet agents used physical assault, blackmail and threats; it stopped just short of using the word “torture,” opting instead for the euphemistic “physical pressure.” (Al-Haq, p. 208)

There were also targeted assassinations—as when a Shin Bet squad shot dead an unarmed young Palestinian in the middle of a soccer match in Tulkarm in March 1992. Military intelligence established semi-official units with names like Shimshon (Hebrew for “Samson”), which carried out discrete killings of militants, according to press accounts in Israel (denied by the IDF). (Morris, 2001, p. 592-3; al-Haq, p. 31)

UNRWA and other humanitarian agencies repeatedly reported instances of Israeli troops interfering with their efforts to evacuate the wounded to hospitals—in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. Medical personnel were also routinely barred from villages and towns under curfew. Medical workers were also attacked, as when an ambulance driver was pulled out of his vehicle and beaten by Israeli soldiers near the Balata refugee camp in December 1987. (Al-Haq, p. 62, 65, 67)

Israeli settlers also responded to the Intifada with armed violence, shooting several Palestinian youths over the course of the uprising. Shortly after the uprising began, the settlers of Kiryat Arba and Hebron passed a resolution containing guidelines for “legitimate self-defense” against stone-throwers. A second, and more honest resolution was passed in November 1988 by the “Council of Settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza,” calling for settlers to fire on stone-throwers even when their lives were not threatened. (Al-Haq, p. 108-9)

The Intifada saw a series of violent clashes between Palestinians and settlers—most notoriously at Eilon Moreh, part of the Gush Emunim settlement bloc, where a group of Israeli high school students on a hike with an armed settler escort were confronted by stone-throwing youth; several were killed or seriously injured on both sides in the ensuing confrontation. (Morris, 2001, p. 583)

Under a “collective punishment” policy, villages were sealed off to the outside world for weeks, and had their electricity cut. Homes of suspected militants were ordered demolished. Independent Palestinian press agencies that reported on the uprising and repression were ordered closed. Human rights monitors from the UN and independent organizations were repeatedly barred from the Occupied Territories. (Al-Haq, p. 133, 176, 180; Morris, 2001, p. 592-3)

The pretext of homes being “illegally built” was used to punish whole villages for their support of the uprising—or to effect simple land-grabs. In October 1988, the Bedouin hamlet of Qisan near Bethlehem was almost completely obliterated as the military demolished 30 houses and sheds that Israeli authorities said were on land requisitioned by the armed forces. The demolition came after most of the hamlet’s remaining lands were confiscated for the expansion of a modern Israeli settlement. (DataBase Project, p. 32)

Reprisals were taken against Palestinian agriculture, with crops, olive trees, and greenhouses bulldozed at many villages. The pretext was frequently used that stone-throwers could take cover in cultivated fields or behind trees. (Al-Haq, p. 253)

Schools were ordered closed as a measure against the Intifada. When children held a sit-down demonstration at their school in Qalqiliya to protest its closure in July 1988, soldiers stormed the school building, firing tear gas and rubber bullets, leaving several students injured. (Al-Haq, p. 267)

Reviving a tactic from the aftermath of the 1967 war, there were also deportations. The largest deportation came in December 1992, when 415 Hamas sympathists were rounded up and dumped across the Lebanese border just north of the Security Zone.—where they camped out for a year before being allowed to return following an Israeli High Court of Justice ruling in their favor. (Morris, 2001, p. 592-3)

The deportations policy was actually justified by a 1945 emergency measure imposed by the British, and upheld by Israel’s High Court of Justice as legitimate—despite being contrary to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, 1949. (Morris, 2001, p. 593)

Israeli leaders admitted that they were restrained from more repressive measures still by international opinion. IDF Chief of Staff Dan Shomron said the Intifada could be put down if “transfer, starvation and genocide were applied—but none of these methods is acceptable to the State of Israel.” (Morris, 2001, p. 587)

In December 1987, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 605, invoking the Geneva Conventions to condemn Israeli human rights violations in the Occupied Territories. The US did not use its veto power. (Morris, 2001, p. 602; Avalon Project, Yale Law School)

But Israel continued to maintain that it was not bound by the Geneva Conventions in the Occupied Territories—on the dubious basis that the West Bank and Gaza Strip were under disputed sovereignty before the occupation. Israel’s official position was that the Geneva Conventions were not applicable de jure in the Occupied Territories, but that it conformed to their humanitarian provisions on a de facto basis. (Al-Haq, p. 61)

Some Israelis were put on trial for excess committed in the Intifada. Col. Yehuda Meir was demoted to private after a military court convicted him of ordering subordinates to break the limbs of captive Palestinians—despite his defense that he was following orders. Four members of the IDF’s Givati Brigade A were convicted of “brutal maltreatment” but cleared of manslaughter after a stone-thrower they detained at Jibalya refugee camp in August 1988 died in their custody after being beaten. (Morris, 2001, p. 600)

Some 200 soldiers, mostly reservists, refused to serve in the Occupied Territories during the Intifada, and instead served short prison terms. (Morris, 2001, p. 601)

The pro-transfer Moledet Party won Knesset seats for the first time in 1988. An opinion poll indicated nearly half Israel’s electorate favored some kind of transfer solution. The right relentlessly baited the IDF as “soft on the Arabs.” (Morris, 2001, p. 598, 601)

The Intifada years also saw a slight return to the PLO-Israel “war of the spooks.” In April 1988, after a PLO squad crossed from the Sinai and hijacked a bus in the Negev, an Israel commando team raided the home of Arafat’s deputy, Khalil al-Wazir, in Tunis, and shot him dead in front of his family. (Morris, 2001, p. 593)

But the groundwork was being laid for Palestinian sovereignty and, despite appearances, an historic compromise with Israel. On Nov. 15, 1988, the Palestine National Council—the PLO’s Tunis-based parliament—met in Algiers and approved a “declaration of independence.” It did not delineate boundaries, but spoke of the need to “end the occupation”—rather than to destroy Israel. It was taken as formal if implicit acceptance of a two-state solution. (Morris, 2001, p. 605; Usher, p. 3; Electronic Intifada)

At a Geneva press conference in December, Arafat declared: “We completely renounce all types of terrorism, including individual, collective and state.” He added that the PNC had accepted UN resolutions 242 and 338 “as a basis for negotiations with Israel within the context of an international conference.” This meant official acceptance of a two-state solution. In May 1989, he told French interviewers that the rejectionist 1964 Palestine National Charter was caduc (null and void). (Morris, 2001, p. 608; Dowty, p. 138)

With the Cold War drawing to a close on the global stage, new political spaces were opeinng around the world, and Palestine was no exception. A new Palestinian leadership was emerging, for the first time including women and civic activists rather than armed militants—most notably Hanan Ashrawi, a professor of English at Bir Zeir University. (Morris, 2001, p. 597)

Despite these unprecedented signs of hope, the final years of the Intifada also showed the potential for far worse. In March 1990, the National Unity Government collapsed and a Likud-led coalition returned to power (with Yitzhak Shamir staying on as prime minister). Internecine violence gripped the Palestinian movement—secular nationalists versus Islamists, and vigilante justice against those suspected of Israeli collaboration. In 1991, some 100 Palestinians were killed by Israelis and 150 by fellow Palestinians. The PLO’s public support for Saddam Hussein in that year’s Persian Gulf war—even as he rained some 40 Scud missiles on Israel—cost the Palestinians much in international sympathy. (Morris, 2001, p. 612)

There was internal dissent to the PLO’s pro-Saddam position. When Arafat’s deputy, Abu Iyad (Salah Khalaf), called on the PLO to condemn Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, he was assassinated—on the probable orders of Abu Nidal. But amid the media spectacle of Operation Desert Storm, the world paid little note. (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 20, 2002)

Also largely invisible to the outside world were the harsh measures Israel imposed in the Occupied Territories during Desert Storm. A state of emergency and full curfew were declared, allowing residents to lave their homes for only two or three hours a day. These measures were gradually eased in some Palestinian towns and villages, but remained in place in the refugee camps throughout January and February of 1991. The pass system—which mandated that Palestinians obtain a special permit to cross the Green Line or enter East Jerusalem—was enforced strictly. (Gerner, p. 130)

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, between December 1987 and the end of the Intifada in late 1993, 1,095 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces, and another 48 by Israeli civilians (mostly settlers). Some Palestinians counts are higher; the IDF’s is lower. By most estimates, some 25% of the Palestinian dead were youths aged 16 or younger; many were not yet in their teens. More than 18,000 Palestinians had been placed in administrative detention for periods varying from six months to years. At least 145 Palestinian homes had been razed or welded shut by military decree. Some 200 Israelis—mostly soldiers but also civilians—were killed in the Intifada, and perhaps 500 Palestinians killed by fellow Palestinians in cases of vigilantism. (Al-Haq, p. 133; “Fatalities in the First Intifada,” B’Tselem website; Morris, 2001, p. 596; Gerner, p. 101)

Historic Compromise

In the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, US President George Bush announced to Congress, “The time has come to put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.” He made a new effort to broker peace, culminating in that October’s Madrid Conference. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the conference that brought together negotiators from Israel, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation which included both PLO and non-PLO representatives. (Morris, 2001, p. 613-4)

Simultaneously, Israeli efforts at the UN to overturn General Assembly Resolution 3379—that declaring Zionism to be a “form of racism”—were finally bearing fruit. Resolution 3379 was formally rescinded by General Assembly Resolution 4686 on Dec. 16 by a vote of 111 to 25 and 13 abstentions. It was only General Assembly resolution to ever be rescinded. (Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information—IPCRI; Norwich Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

The going at Madrid was rough. The spokesperson for the Palestinian delegation, Hanan Ashrawi, protested Israel’s “evasive tactics.” Meanwhile, Hamas propaganda denounced the “conference of surrender.” (Morris, 2001, p. 615)

Nonetheless, when the Palestinian delegation returned from the Madrid talks, the masses defied a closure of Jericho to celebrate in the streets—and actually handed out flowers and olive branches to Israeli troops. Sometimes celebrations ended in confrontations with scared and confused IDF soldiers; clashes, deportations, curfews and house demolitions would also continue well into 1993. (Morris, 2001, p. 594)

But the Israeli elections of July 1992, which returned Labor and Yitzhak Rabin to power, seemed to confirm the new direction. Even Syria’s hardline Hafez Assad spoke of the need for a “peace of the brave”—a phrase taken from De Gaulle’s name for the French peace deal with the Algerians 30 years earlier. (Morris, 2001, p. 615)

That same month, street battles between Hamas and Fatah supporters in Gaza left three dead and some 100 injured. (Usher, p. 5)

The US began imposing conditions on aid for the first time. To obtain US loan guarantees, Rabin agreed to a partial freeze on new settlements, halting work on some 7,000 units, mostly still in the planning stage. However, the freeze did not apply what the Israeli state called “security settlements”—those located in the 51% of the West Bank considered strategic to Israel’s security, including East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. (Gerner, p. 147)

It would later be revealed that the more meaningful negotiations were going on in secret. This quiet peace process began unofficially with Hanan Ashrawi organizing meetings with Haifa University professor Yair Hirschfeld and PLO officials. January 1993, Israel’s Knesset repealed the law barring Israeli-PLO contacts, facilitating a dialogue which was not officially acknowledged. Following secret meetings in Oslo, Norway, a “declaration of principles” was issued, calling for “devolution” of power to a “Palestinian entity” in the Occupied Territories, beginning with Gaza. Terms on the future nature of this entity were left intentionally vague, and East Jerusalem was not included. (Morris, 2001, p. 616-7, 21)

At this same time, as noted, the policy of round-ups and deportations continued. In March 1993, Rabin “indefinitely” closed off the Occupied Territories, depriving some 190,000 Palestinians of access to their jobs inside the Green Line. July 1993 also saw Israeli air-strikes against Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon, in response to attacks on IDF troops in the Security Zone. Rabin pledged to “fight terrorism as if there was no peace process and pursue the peace process as if there was no terrorism.” (Morris, 2001, p. 617; Usher, p. 6)

In a September 1993 signed statement, Arafat wrote that the PLO “recognize[s] the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security,” “accepts UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338,” commits itself “to a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” and “renounces to use of terrorism and other acts of violence.” The letter also stated that the leadership would attempt to prevent all “PLO elements” from resorting to violence. (Morris, 2001, p. 621)

On Sept. 13, 1993, in a ceremony on the White House lawn overseen by President Bill Clinton, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas, with Rabin and Arafat also in attendance, signed the first Oslo peace accord—still officially dubbed the “Declaration of Principles.” The two sides called for establishment of a “Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for a “transitional period” not exceeding five years. This was to lead to a “permanent settlement” based on Resolutions 242 and 338. The Palestinian National Authority, as the new body was called, was to hold elections and establish a police force to “guarantee public order and internal security”; Israel would continue to be responsible for “defending against external threats” and for the security of Jews in the territories. (Morris, 2001, p. 622, 3)

Arafat stated he hoped the accord would “usher in an age of peace, co-existence and equal rights.” Rabin stated:

We have come from an anguished and grieving land… We have come to try to put an end to the hostilities so that our children, and our children’s children, will no longer experience the painful cost of war, violence and terror. Let me say to you, the Palestinians, we are destined to live together on the same soil in the same land… [W]e say to you today…enough of blood and tears. Enough! We have no desire for revenge. We harbor no hatred toward you. [Morris, 2001, p. 622]

The following month, the PLO Central Council voted 68-8 to endorse the Oslo process—although 25 members affiliated with the rejectionist DFLP and PFLP boycotted the vote. Palestine’s national poet Mahmoud Darwish resigned from the PLO’s Executive Committee in protest, and the respected Palestinian academic Edward Said denounced the agreement as “an embarrassment.” (Usher, p. 14)

In an exchange of letters, Arafat and Rabin established mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO, which assumed responsibility for preventing acts of violence by “all PLO elements and personnel.” The PLO also committed to drop all language from the Palestinian Nation Charter that denied Israel’s right to exist. (Dowty, p. 142)

Arafat, Rabin and Peres would jointly win the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for their effort. (

The Intifada was called off immediately after the signing. There was a sense that a real turning point had been reached. (Morris, 2001, p. 594)

However, the end of the Intifada saw the initiation of a wave of terrorist attacks by rejectionist factions—principally Hamas. This actually exacted a far higher Israeli death toll on a year-by-year basis; 162 would be killed in terror attacks between 1992 and 1996. Hamas was declared an “illegal organization” by Israel, and Sheikh Yassin was imprisoned again. Starting in 1994, Palestinian militants unleashed a wave of suicide bombings, with Islamic Jihad targeting soldiers as a matter of policy, and Hamas targeting soldiers and civilians alike. (Morris, 2001, p. 594)

On Feb. 25, 1994, a Jewish settler, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, opened fire on Muslim worshipers at Hebron’s Ibrahimiya Mosque—known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where compromise measures had been worked out to allow access to those of both faiths. Twenty-nine were killed before Goldstein was overpowered and beaten to death. IDF troops shot dead some 30 Palestinians in the riots that followed. Goldstein was glorified as a “martyr” by the Israeli far right. (Morris, 2001, p. 624; Shahak & Mezvinsky, p. 102)

On March 28, six Fatah actvists were shot to death by an IDF undercover unit in Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp. The IDF initially claimed the six were “wanted” members of the militant Fatah Hawks. But it soon became clear that they were neither Hawks nor fugitives, but actually members of a Fatah “security unit” responsible for reining in rejectionist anti-Oslo dissidents. (Usher, p. 22)

Nonetheless, the Oslo process continued. On April 29, a “Protocol on Economic Relations” was singed in Paris, calling for increased integration across the Green Line—although Israel retained the power to close the border to goods and workers at will. (Usher, p. 35-6)

On May 4, the “Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho” (also called the Cairo Agreement) was signed by Rabin and Arafat in the Egyptian capital. Arafat signed under pressure from Washington and Moscow, being unhappy with the area allotted to the PA around Jericho—and the fact that Israel was to maintain full responsibility for “external security” throughout the “interim period.” (Morris, 2001, p. 624; Usher, p. 19; text online at al-Haq)

In an evident move to appease hardliners, Arafat just days later told an audience at a mosque in South Africa that he was calling for a jihad to recover East Jerusalem, and compared the new Cairo Agreement to to the Prophet Mohammed’s 628 CE tactical pact with the Jewish Qurayish tribe, abrogated ten years later. But Rabin and Peres insisted that it was Arafat’s deeds that counted, not his words. (Morris, 2001, p. 624)

The Israeli right dissented strongly as the peace process advanced. Just before the Cairo meeting, Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “In another hour Rabin will be able to announce that in Cairo [he] established the Palestinian terrorist state.” Rafi Eitan would assail the Rabin government as “quislings.” (Morris, 2001, p. 634-5)

The IDF withdrew from Jericho and most of the Gaza Strip in mid-May, with newly formed Palestinian National Authority police taking their place. The PLO bureaucracy moved from Tunis to Gaza City, which became the Authority’s fist capital. But its real powers were heavily circumscribed. Some 35 countries pledged $3.2 billion to help establish the new Palestinian government, but only a small fraction of those funds was to actually materialize. (Morris, 2001, p. 625)

Israel also failed to put in place the promised “safe corridors” between the West Bank and the Strip, or to release all the prisoners it had committed to liberating. Israel also repeatedly postponed pledged talks on further withdrawals from West Bank towns in response to terrorist attacks. An electric fence went up on the border of the Strip. (Dolphin, p. 11; Morris, 2001, p. 627)

Even as the peace process continued, so did Hamas and Islamic Jihad attacks—and “targeted assassinations” of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders by Israel’s intelligence services, Mossad and Shin Bet. So too did periodic “closures” of the Occupied Territories by the Israeli military, supposedly in response to intelligence indicating imminent terror attacks. (Morris, 2001, p. 637-8)

Nonetheless, Hamas, which had now entered into a non-belligerence pact with Fatah, actually showed some signs of softening. As the Palestinian National Authority took control of Gaza and Jericho, Musa Abu Marzuq, head of Hamas’ political department, said he was prepared offer a hudna (ceasefire) if Israel withdrew to its 1967 borders—essentially, an offer of de facto recognition. (Usher, p. 31)

On July 1, Arafat set foot on Palestinian soil for the first time in 27 years, touring Gaza and Jericho to triumphal reception. (Usher, p. 61)

The peace process with the Palestinians made politically possible a peace deal with Jordan, which was signed by Rabin and King Hussein in October 1994. Subsequent talks with Syria, however, bogged down over the issue of the Golan Heights, which Israel flatly refused to relinquish. (Morris, 2001, p. 629, 633)

The ostensible issue in the Golan stalemate was whether “total withdrawal” meant a return to the 1967 lines (as Syria demanded) or the 1948 lines (as Israel demanded). The 1948 lines corresponded to those drawn by Britain and France in the Mandate era. Under these lines, all the Sea of Galilee was in Palestine—but the border on the northern side ran just 10 meters from the shoreline. Since it was impossible to defend 10 meters of shoreline, Syria took this strip of land after 1948—as well as a few other indefensible pockets, principally al-Hama Springs, where Syria, Israel and Jordan meet. For Israel, a return to the 1967 lines would be ex post facto legitimization of Syrian encroachment. But obviously, this was a convenient excuse to hold the entire Golan Heights—a strategic territory which Israel had unilaterally annexed by a vote of the Knesset by 1981. (Dowty, p. 148-9; Jewish Virtual Library)

As early as October 1994, there were signs of Palestinian disillusionment with Oslo. That month, Hamas announced that it had abducted an Israeli soldier and demanded the release of 200 prisoners in return for his life. Rabin publicly scolded Arafat: “You and the PNA are responsible for what happens in the territories under your control.” Arafat convened a meeting of his Higher Security Council and warned that he would not tolerate any “attempts aimed at embarrassing the PNA.” Despite such rhetoric, in the following days, PNA police rounded up some 350 Hamas “suspects” in Gaza without charge, as Israeli forces increased their roadblocks and checkpoints and shut down Gaza’s Islamic University. Arafat’s PNA came under criticism as an Israeli surrogate force. (The soldier and his abductors were killed in an Israeli “rescue” mission, and a Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up on a crowded Tel Aviv bus in retaliation.) (Usher, p. 69-70)

In November, the PNA’s repression of an Islamist demonstration in Gaza led to running street battles in the city, leaving 13 dead and 200 wounded—the highest toll in a single day in Gaza in 27 years of occupation. (Usher, p. 70-1)

Many recalled what Rabin had stated upon the PNA’s creation a year earlier:

I prefer the Palestinians to cope with the problem of enforcing order in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians will be better at it than we were because they will allow no appeals to the Supreme Court and will prevent the Israeli Association of Civil Rights from criticizing the conditions there by denying access to the area. They will rule by their own methods, freeing, and this is most important, the Israeli army soldiers from having to do what they will. [Usher, p. 71-2]

On Sept. 24, 1995, the principle interim agreement that became known as Oslo II was finalized in Taba, Egypt, and signed four days later in Washington by Rabin, Peres and Arafat. Officially the “Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” it provided for elections in the territories of a Palestinian Authority Council and Executive. It also divided the West Bank into three zones: Area A, comprising the towns and cities evacuated by the IDF, would be under Palestinian Authority (hereafter PA) control; Area B, containing most Arab towns and villages, and some 68% of the Palestinian population, would be under PA administration but still with an an Israeli military presence; and Area C, covering sparsely inhabited “state lands” and most Jewish settlements, would remain under both Israeli administrative and military control, although the PA would assume responsibility for education and other civil services for the Arab population. (Morris, 2001, p. 627-8; Palestine Facts)

Areas A and B together comprised just 27% of the West Bank’s territory, but together with lands allotted to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza this placed 98% of Arab population outside Jerusalem under PA jurisdiction. (Dowty, p. 146)

In November, Peace Now, the Labor Party and Meretz held 100,000-strong rally in Tel Aviv’s Kings of Israel square in support of the peace process, with Rabin and Peres presiding. As the rally ended, Rabin was shot twice in the back by a far-right Jewish militant, Yigal Amir, a 27-year-old law student at Israel’s religious university, Bar-Ilan. Rabin died shortly upon his arrival at the hospital. Amir, immediately arrested, told his interrogators his aim was to halt the peace process and the cession of parts of what he considered to be the Land of Israel. Shimon Peres became prime minister. (Morris, 2001, p. 635)

It emerged that Amir belonged to an extremist group called Eyal (for Jewish Fighting Organization). It further emerged that the head of Eyal, Avishai Raviv, has been a paid Shin Bet informant for at least two years. Raviv would later be charged with failing to inform authorities of the assassination plan. He was also charged with conspiracy and “support for a terrorist organization.” (New York Times, April 26, 1999)

In the final weeks of 1995, the IDF withdrew from the West Bank’s main towns (excluding Hebron)—Jenin, Qalqilya, Tulkarm, Nablus, Ramallah and Bethlehem. PA police moved in. On Jan. 20, 1996, Palestinian elections were held. Arafat was overwhelmingly elected to the executive post, and his Fatah followers filled 50 of the 80 Legislative Council seats. The PA established its capital at Ramallah. (Morris, 2001, p. 629; Dowty, p. 146)

By the end of 1995, Israel had established limited diplomatic relations with four Arab states (in addition to Egypt and Jordan): Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania and Oman. Nearly all non-Arab Muslim states recognized Israel. Altogether, 155 nations recognized Israel—up from just 68 a decade earlier. (Dowty, p. 149)

But with another wave of suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in February and March 1996, Peres announced postponement of Israel’s scheduled withdrawal from Hebron. (Morris, 2001, p. 629)

Israeli public opinion was clearly swayed by the suicide bombings. On Feb. 25, after a Hamas suicide bomber blew up a bus in West Jerusalem, killing 25, right-wing crowds gathered in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, chanting both “death to the Arabs” and “death to Peres.” (Morris, 2001, p. 638)

In early April, Hezbollah fired Katyusha rockets (of Russian make, but apparently supplied by Iran) into northern Israel in response to the death of Lebanese in Israeli shelling and skirmishes. Peres responded with “Operation Grapes of Wrath”—a massive campaign of aerial bombardment of southern Lebanon, which caused some 400,000 civilians to flee their villages for Beirut and Sidon. On April 18, one Israeli air-strike hit Kafr Kana refugee camp, then swollen with displaced civilians. Up to 100 were reported killed. (Morris, 2001, p. 639; The Forward, July 15, 2006)

Later in April, the PLO’s Palestine National Council (which now co-exited with the PA’s Legislative Council), meeting in Gaza, and voted to formally strip the Palestinian Nation Charter of language calling for the destruction of Israel. Peres announced that the Hebron withdrawal would go ahead after the Israeli elections slated for later that month. (Morris, 2001, p. 629; Dowty, p. 146)

On May 29, Bejamin Netanyahu won the election by a narrow margin. The new Likud government’s guiding document on the peace process made no mention of the outstanding provisions of Oslo II, and made only vague references to Palestinian “autonomy.” In language bordering on an overt embrace of West Bank annexation, it stated: “The government will oppose the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and will oppose the ‘right of return’ of Arab population to parts of the Land of Israel west of the Jordan.” It further stated that the government would “act to consolidate and develop the settlement enterprise.” And, a “united Jerusalem, the capital of Israel…will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty.” Netanyahu added on a June visit to Washington that the status of Jerusalem was “non-negotiable.” (Morris, 2001, p 640-1)

Netanyahu’s government, with the strong urging of Jerusalem’s Likud Mayor Ehud Olmert, in September approved construction of an “archaeological tunnel” at the Temple Mount, which was seen by Palestinians as an encroachment on the Haram al-Sharif. On Sept. 25, protests against the tunnel in East Jerusalem and Ramallah turned into riots, with Palestinians hurling rocks and Israeli police and military troops responding with tear gas and shots fired in the air. Outside Ramallah, the riots escalated into an armed clash between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian police. The fighting spread to Nablus and Bethlehem before the IDF quelled it by deploying tanks. (Morris, 2001, p. 641-2)

In early October, President Clinton called Netanyahu and Arafat to Washington in an effort to de-escalate the situation. Over the next months, both sides repeatedly met, in talks brokered by US Secretary of State Warran Christopher and his Middle East aide Dennis Ross. (Morris, 2001, p. 642)

On Jan. 1, 1997, Noam Friedman, a disturbed young soldier from the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumin, opened fire on the main thoroughfare bordering the Jewish quarter at Hebron, wounding seven Palestinians before being overpowered by Israeli soldiers. Upon his arrest he said, like Rabin’s assassin, that his aim was to halt the peace process. (Morris, 2001, p. 642)

On Jan. 12, with the talks about to break down, Jordan’s King Hussein met with both sides to urge signing of an agreement on the next phase of Israeli withdrawal. The agreement signed at midnight two days later on the Gaza-Israel border called for Israel to withdraw from 80% of Hebron, leaving the IDF in control of the settlement zones of Beit Hadassah and Tel Rumeida. Israel also agreed to a phased withdrawal from certain rural areas of the West Bank. Israel again agreed in principle to the prisoner releases, the opening of the Gaza Strip’s seaports and the safe-passage corridors between the West Bank and Gaza—but the details and timeframe for these were put off for later. (Morris, 2001, p. 643)

The partial Hebron withdrawal was carried out in the following days, and the PA raised the Palestinian flag over the city’s old British fort. But, despite a visit by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to pressure Netanyahu in September, Israel failed to carry out the withdrawals from the rural areas it has committed to. (Morris, 2001, p. 644-5)

In October 1998, Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon met with Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas at the Wye River retreat in Maryland, resulting in a new agreement signed at the White House, calling for Israel to withdraw from 13% of Area C, with most of it to be turned over to Area B, and for a further 14% to shift from B to A. Provisions called for both sides to cooperate in combatting terrorism, with the Palestinian Authority agreeing to round up “terrorist suspects” identified by Israel. (Morris, 2001, p. 646-7)

Ariel Sharon told a meeting of militants from the far-right Tsomet Party in November: “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.” (, May 2009)

On Dec. 14, Clinton made the first visit by a US president to the West Bank, where in his presence the PNC reiterated its nullification of the clauses in Palestinian Charter calling for Israel’s destruction. However, by then Netanyahu had called off the partially completed withdrawals mandated by the Wye River agreement, citing Palestinian failure to carry out the arrests of “terrorist suspects.” (Morris, 2001, p. 648-9)

In May 1999, a Labor-led coalition returned to power with the election of Ehud Barak as prime minister (although the party adopted the post-socialist moniker One Israel). In September, he signed the Sharm ash Sheikh Agreement with Arafat, and Madeleine Albright, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah II (successor to recently deceased Hussein) as witnesses. The agreement set a timetable for the next phase of West Bank withdrawals and prisoner releases. (Morris, 2001, p. 653)

Some 340 square kilometers around Jericho, Ramallah and Jenin were handed over to the Palestinians in the following months. But pressure from Barak’s right-wing coalition partners persuaded him not to hand over the villages of Anabta and Abu Dis, just outside East Jerusalem. (Morris, 2001, p. 658)

In May 2000, Israel began finally withdrawing from its “Security Zone” in southern Lebanon. In June, the UN confirmed that Israel had withdrawn back to line agreed upon by the British and French in 1923, in compliance by Security Council Resolution 425. (Morris, 2001, p. 657)

In July, Barak and Arafat met at Camp David with Clinton officiating. Breaking with an Israeli taboo, Barak agreed to at least discuss dividing Jerusalem. But stances on the fate of the walled Old City with its sacred sites proved irreconcilable. Both sides rejected Clinton’s proposal that the Old City be divided, with the Temple Mount to be placed under UN oversight. Barak also refused to consider any return of Palestinian refugees to their former lands within the Green Line. (Morris, 2001, p. 659, 664)

Contrary to widespread media portrayals, the proposal brought to the table by Tel Aviv did not call for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 border. Israel would have withdrawn completely only from the Gaza Strip. It would annex strategic sections of the West Bank—while retaining “security control” over other parts—that would have made it impossible for the Palestinians to travel or trade freely within their own state. Israel was also to have kept “security control” for an indefinite period of time over the Jordan Valley. Yet Arafat was widely portrayed in the western media as having walked away from a “generous offer.” (Extra!, July/Aug. 2002)

Additionally, although no new settlements had been built, the growth of existing settlements had nearly doubled the settler population of the Occupied Territories since Oslo II—evidence in Palestinian eyes that Israel was expanding its presence in order to make impossible a viable Palestinian state with contiguous territory. (Dowty, p. 153)

The Second Intifada

On Sept. 28, 2000, Ariel Sharon, now Likud party leader and a Knesset member, made a visit to the Temple Mount compound, accompanied by a large contingent of police. Prime Minister Barak apparently gave a “green light” for the visit, and there was no law to prevent a Member of the Knesset from visiting the site, as long he did no engage in provocative behavior. Sharon spent some 25 minutes strolling the grounds with his police detail; he did not approach the mosques. (Morris, 2001, p. 660)

But given Sharon’s controversial background, and recent Arab fears of Israeli encroachment on the Haram al-Sharif, his presence was predictably taken as a provocation. Riots erupted in East Jerusalem, with Palestinian youth throwing stones at police near the temple compound. The following day, a Friday, saw more violence as thousands left the compound after Muslim prayers. Israeli police entering the compound were met with hurled stones—and responded with rubber-coated (and also possibly live) ammunition, killing at least four Palestinians and wounding more than 100. The rioting spread throughout Jerusalem, and, the following day, throughout the West Bank and Gaza. The PA radio and TV stations called for an uprising, with rhetoric of “marching on Jerusalem.” The second Intifada—also known as the al-Aqsa Intifada—had begun. (Morris, 2001, p. 660)

Rioting spread to the Arab districts of Jaffa, Acre and Nazareth, as well as the Galilee and Bedouin villages in the Negev. Several were killed when police used tear gas and rubber bullets. (Morris, 2001, p. 661)

The level of insurgent violence was quickly higher than in the first Intifada, with snipers often backing the waves of youth that hurled stones and Molotov cocktails. This time, there was no longer a significant Israeli military presence in the Palestinian towns and camps, so the violence was directed at settlers on the roads, and the civilian population of Israel. (Morris, 2001, p. 664; Kimmerling, p. 135)

There was extensive vandalism to the Jewish sacred site of Joseph’s Tomb at Nablus and Rachel’s Tomb at Bethlehem, as well as the ancient synagogue at Jericho. The PA later apologized for these attacks, and repaired the damage to the sites. (Morris, 2001, p. 664)

The controversial death of Muhammad Jamal al-Durrah, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy shot in the crossfire between the IDF and Palestinian militants in Gaza in the early days of the uprising as his father vainly tried to shelter him, became an international icon of the conflict’s brutality. On Oct. 7, the UN Security Council voted in Resolution 6934 to “condemn the excessive use of force against Palestinians.” The United States abstained. (Morris, 2001, p. 665; Security Council press release, Oct. 7, 2000)

As the new Intifada escalated to an armed uprising, a network of Palestinian militias linked to the significant factions (Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad) was rapidly organized. Fatah’s armed wing, the Tanzim, and Arafat’s personal security unit, Force 17, began to assume leadership, coordinating ambushes and attacks on Israeli forces. There was debate within Israeli and Western intelligence agencies as to whether Arafat was actually directing the Intifada or “riding the tiger,” attempting to stay in the saddle as events took on a life of their own. (Morris, 2001, p. 666; Kimmerling, p. 135)

In any case, Israel stepped up its campaign of targeted assassinations of Fatah and Tanzim militants thought to be directing the violence—whether by air-strikes on the vehicles or such tricks of spycraft as exploding telephones (as in the famous case of Fatah activist Samih Malaba). In the prior, there were, of course, often by-standers killed as “collateral damage.” (Morris, 2001, p. 667)

The accuracy of Israeli intelligence in these strikes sparked much paranoia within the Palestinian ranks about collaborators and informants. Purges and assassinations of suspected traitors followed, to corrosive effect. (Morris, 2001, p. 668)

In response to international pressure, the Israelis refrained from cutting off electricity or water to the Occupied Territories, or from sending the military into the PA-ruled Area A. The Israeli right, of course, complained the government was preventing the IDF from “crushing the Intifada.” Nonetheless, the first four months of the Second Intifada left about 350 Palestinians dead and thousands injured, and over 50 Israelis dead and several hundred injured. (Morris, 2001, p. 669)

In mid-October, Clinton and Mubarak convened a summit at Sharm ash Sheikh, with Arafat, Barak and Jordan’s King Abdullah attending. Both sides agreed in principle to work to stop the violence, but Barak and Arafat failed to actually sign an agreement, or even shake hands. (Morris, 2001, p. 669)

In December, Clinton submitted a series of proposals calling for a handover of “94-96%” to Palestinian sovereignty, and recognition of refugees’ “right of return.” Barak accepted this in principle, while insisting that “right of return” meant refugees could be repatriated to the West Bank and Gaza Strip—not Israel. The status of Jerusalem was of course another sticking point. (Morris, 2001, p. 670-1)

Both sides met for a final round of talks at Taba in the Sinai in January 2001. Israel for the first time agreed to broach Palestinian control over Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods. With these now ringed and intertwined with Jewish settlements, a rigid boundary between the zones would be nearly impossible, so a proposal for making Jerusalem an “open city” were also broached. The talks were suspended inconclusively on Jan. 27. (Morris, 2001, p. 671; Dowty, p. 188-9)

The following day, Arafat spoke harshly at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, accusing Israel of a “policy of economic strangulations, closures and siege, as well as starvation and collective punishment… a savage and barbaric war, as well as a blatant and fascist military aggression against our Palestinian people.” Barak responded by declaring the talks over. (Morris, 2001, p. 671; Palestine Facts)

Ariel Sharon won the Israeli elections the following month, the centrist vote swayed to the right by Palestinian violence. With 62.4% of the vote to Barak’s 37.6%, Sharon’s was the most decisive win in Israeli history. He had essentially ridden a crisis of his own creation into power. (Morris, 2001, p. 673)

Faisal al-Husseini, a Fatah leader and nephew of the former Mufti of Jerusalem, similarly roused Israeli ire with a Beirut speech that June, in which he asserted “our eyes will continue to aspire to the strategic goal, namely, to Palestine from the river to the sea.” (Dowty, p. 159; Jewish Virtual Library)

Changing demographics continued to pose a long-term dilemma to Israel’s paradoxical position as a self-declared Jewish state occupying Arab lands. When Israel took the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Jews constituted a 64% majority in what had been Mandatory Palestine (Israel and the Occupied Territories). At the end of 2003, there were an estimated 5.2 million Jews and 5 million Arabs in the same area, reducing the Jewish majority to 51%. The settler population of 230,000 in the Occupied Territories was offset by just two years’ natural increase in the Palestinian population. Even within the Green Line, Israel’s Jewish majority was only 74%, if non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union and foreign workers were added to the Arab and Druze population. (Dowty, p. 174)

Israel still had no formal constitution, despite a requirement stipulated by UN Resolution 181, a Knesset committee assigned the task of drawing one up producing no results. Instead, 11 “Basic Laws” had been passed since 1992 dealing with fundamental rights. (Davis, p. 67)

But many of Israel’s Arab leaders asserted that freedom of religion, and especially the state’s responsibility to protect religion sites, were violated. The old mosque in Ayn Hud of Haifa district had been transformed into a restaurant and bar; the central mosque in Beersheba now serves as the city museum; the Tel Aviv Hilton hotel and adjacent Independence Park were built on a Muslim cemetery, as were the Jerusalem Plaza hotel and that city’s Independence Park. (Davis, p. 67)

The former Deir Yassin, site of the notorious 1948 massacre, was now Qiryat Har Nof (Township of the Scenic Mountain), a suburban mostly Orthodox Jewish settlement, and a part of the greater Jerusalem metropolitan area. (Davis, p. 23)

The original Palestinian refugee population of some 700,000 had meanwhile swelled to over 4 million refugees registered by UNRWA at the end of 2003. (Dowty, p. 194)

Continued at node 9091.