Peace talks slowed after
the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by an Israeli
radical in 1995. After several interim agreements and lengthy discussions
about Israeli withdrawals, Gaza City, Ramallah, Hebron and other key
cities shifted from Israeli control to the Palestinian Authority. But
after a first round of moves, talks bogged down in 1997 and 1998.
Finally, after repeated delays,
the United States brokered an agreement between Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netenyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to reopen peace
talks in October of 1998. The Wye River Memorandum, as it was called,
set the parameters for an Israeli pullout of more territory in addition
to moves by Palestinian officials to ensure the security of Israel.
Wye also laid the groundwork for discussions about the formal creation
of a Palestinian state and other so-called "final status"
issues, such as who controls Jerusalem, the ancient capital claimed
by both sides.
With the election of Labour
Party leader Ehud Barak in May 1999, the peace talks moved into high
gear. Barak quickly moved to expedite a new accord. His government accepted
the idea of a Palestinian state and outlined a strategy generally known
as "land for peace" -- that is, giving the Palestinian Authority
more territory in exchange for sustained security.
Barak also opened negotiations
with Syria and finished the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
All the moves were part of a concerted effort to end the Arab-Israeli
violence and show positive progress on the Palestinian issue.
In March of 2000, a series
of negotiations opened outside Washington to find a framework for the
final status peace talks. The meetings culminated in Camp David in July
between Arafat and Barak. As a self-imposed deadline of Sept. 13, 2000
hung over the discussions, U.S. efforts to broker a deal finally failed.
At the talks, Barak offered
the most sweeping peace plan ever put forward by the Israeli government.
Arafat, while moving forward on several issues, did not accept the plan.
In a series of reports based on unnamed U.S. sources, American officials
blamed Arafat for the talks failure.
A month later, a visit by
hard-line Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
sparked days of protests. The violence spread and intensified as Palestinians
vented anger at the continued presence of Israel in areas they claim
as their own and the lack of progress in the peace talks.
By mid-October 2000, the
United States and Egypt organized a meeting to discuss an end to the
latest violence and a possible resumption of peace talks. Although Presidents
Clinton and Hosni Mubarak persuaded Arafat and Barak to attend, the
talks yielded no progress and failed to end the violence. The next month,
President Clinton asked former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell to head an
international panel to examine the violence and propose a solution.
As the Palestinian protests
continued and daily clashes intensified, Prime Minister Barak was defeated
by conservative Sharon in February of 2001. All of Israel's major political
parties, including Barak's Labour Party, joined Sharon to form a unity
government. Violence continued throughout the region with hundreds of
Palestinians and Israelis killed.
In May 2001, Mitchell issued
his report saying the actions of both Israel and Palestinian authorities
sparked the violence that had raged for eight months. The report also
outlined a multi-step process for the violence to end and talks to reopen.
Both Israelis and Palestinians were loathe to endorse the report, saying
they did not trust the other side would uphold its part of the deal.
The "road map"
to peace, drafted by the European Union, Russia, United Nations and
United States -- a group known as the Quartet, helped restart peace
talks between the Israelis and Palestinians in the summer of 2002.
The plan called for both sides to take steps
toward creating Israeli and Palestinian states that peacefully coexist.
The road map mandated that Palestinian leader
Yasser Arafat appoint a prime minister to help foster better relations
within the Middle East. Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, was
installed in that position on April 29, 2003.
Following Abbas' induction, a four-way summit
was held in Aqaba, Jordan on June 4 to formally inaugurate the peace
plan. In a controversial move, King Abdullah played host to President
Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas.
Although both sides pledged to work toward peace,
less than two months later, prospects of peace dissolved into a new
level of bloodshed.
Sharon announced in December 2003 a disengagement
plan involving the evacuation of many settlements in the West Bank and
Then, on Nov. 11, 2004, Arafat died, making Abbas
the chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Abbas was later
elected president of the Palestinian Authority in January 2005. The
Quartet was hopeful about Abbas' succession, viewing him as a moderate
negotiator with Israel.
"The only way is the choice of peace. It
is impossible to liberate Palestine with the use of weapons because
the balance of power is not with us," Abbas told CNN at the time.
Sharon and Abbas met in Jerusalem in June 2005
to discuss the settlement evacuation plan.
Israel began its disengagement from the Gaza
Strip and the West Bank on Aug. 15, 2005. Israeli troops removed all
of its civilian and military presence in the Gaza Strip (21 Jewish settlements)
and four settlements in the West Bank.
On Jan. 4, 2006, Sharon suffered a massive stroke
and fell into a coma. Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took over in
With Sharon still comatose, the Palestinian militant
group Hamas won a surprising landslide victory in parliamentary election
on Jan. 25. Hamas garnered 76 seats in the 132-seat Parliament, crushing
the ruling Fatah Party which had governed parliament for more than 40
Hamas has been designated as a terrorist group
by the United States, Israel and the EU. The unexpected win startled
the international community and put peace prospects again in doubt.
The EU and the Bush administration announced
that they would not deal with the Hamas government unless it recognized
an Israeli state, renounced violence and accepted previous agreements
between Israel and the Palestinians.
"I don't see how we can be a partner in
peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform,"
President Bush said in a news conference at the White House on Jan.
Hamas responded that it would not recognize Israel
unless the Jewish state pulls back to its 1967 borders. Western nations
and Israel have severed funds to the Palestinians until they recognize
On March 28, 2006, the Kadima Party, founded
by Sharon, won the Israeli election. Olmert was sworn in as Israeli
prime minister on May 4. He has said he would concede some occupied
territory to create a Palestinian state, but refused to withdraw Israel
back to its pre-1967 borders.