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From the historic Oslo accord of 1993 through the next seven years of negotiations, an overview of how the peace talks -- aiming for a final resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- were constantly threatened, and ultimately undone, by the dynamics of politics and violence. [Note: This timeline is drawn primarily from FRONTLINE's report, "Shattered Dreams of Peace."]

Sept. 13, 1993

Oslo peace accord signed; core issues to be resolved later

photo of clinton, rabin & arafat

The historic Oslo accord is signed at the White House. Palestinians and Israelis agree to recognize the other's right to exist: "It is time to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict" and "strive to live in peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security and achieve a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace." Soon Israel begins its promised withdrawal from lands occupied since the 1967 war; Jericho and Gaza are transferred to the Palestinians. Yasser Arafat -- Israel's implacable enemy for 30 years -- returns from exile to establish the Palestinian Authority. The parties agree that the most sensitive "final status" issues -- permanent borders, Jewish settlements, Palestinian refugees, and Jerusalem -- will be addressed later.

Oct. 14, 1994

Nobel Peace Prize awarded

photo of rabin & arafat

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and Yasser Arafat are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their roles in the Oslo accord.

Sept. 28, 1995

Oslo II signed

In Washington, D.C., Rabin and Arafat sign the Oslo II agreement, which provides for Palestinian self-rule in parts of the West Bank and also sets the framework for Palestinian elections. Under Oslo II, the West Bank is divided into three areas: Area A, which is under exclusive Palestinian control; Area B, where Palestinians have civilian control and Israelis control security; and Area C, which is controlled exclusively by Israel. The following week, the agreement is ratified by a slim margin in the Knesset, where Rabin faces harsh criticism from those in the conservative Likud Party.

Nov. 4, 1995

Rabin assassinated

Following a peace rally in Tel Aviv, Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by a Jewish extremist. He is succeeded by Peres.

Dec. 8, 1995

Israel to withdraw from major Palestinian cities

Arafat and Peres meet to reaffirm their commitment to the Oslo accords. Israel would release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. By the end of the month, Israel has also withdrawn its troops from an additional five major Palestinian cities.

Within the Israeli opposition, these concessions are seen as a dangerous strategic mistake. And while many Palestinians rejoice, some -- including those in the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas, which gained power among Palestinians by controlling the mosques and providing food and education to the poor -- oppose any compromise with Israel.

Jan. 20, 1996

Palestinian Authority holds first elections

Palestinian elections are held as required by the Oslo accord. Hamas, protesting peace negotiations with Israel, calls for a boycott of the elections. But Palestinians endorse the peace process by giving Arafat an overwhelming victory.

Feb. 25 - March 4, 1996

Suicide attacks kill dozens; Palestinian security forces arrest thousands

Several weeks after Israel assassinates Hamas' chief bomb-maker, Hamas retaliates. Three suicide attacks in eight days leave 46 dead and hundreds wounded. Then, on March 4, 1996, a fourth suicide bomber explodes himself, this time in a Tel Aviv mall. Thirteen people are killed and 157 more wounded; the dead are all under 17 years old. Arafat orders his security forces to move against the Islamic militants and some 2,000 people are arrested. The peace process -- and its principle advocate, Shimon Peres -- comes under increasing attack.

March 13, 1996

"Summit of Peacemakers" convenes at Sharm el-Sheik

photo of a great many world leaders

Israeli opposition to the peace process coalesces around Benjamin Netanyahu, the new leader of the Likud Party who is poised to challenge Peres and his Labor Party in the upcoming election. Fearing Peres' defeat and the demise of the peace process, Egypt and the United States convene world leaders in the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheik. They call it the Summit of Peacemakers and hope to influence the Israeli electorate to support Peres.

April 11-18, 1996

Hezbollah-Israel clash; Israel accidentally bombs U.N. compound

Violence erupts along Israel's northern border. Hezbollah, the radical Shiite movement based in Lebanon that shares Hamas' disdain for the peace process, fires missiles into Israeli villages and towns, prompting Israel to launch a massive bombardment of Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon. A week later, in a case of mistaken targeting, Israeli artillery hits a United Nations compound near the village of Kana, where civilians have sought shelter from the attacks. More than 100 are killed.

Israeli Arabs, fervent supporters of Peres and his Labor Party, are now outraged and turn against him, calling for a boycott of the upcoming election.

May 29, 1996

Netanyahu narrowly defeats Peres

photo of a netanyahu victory

Since Israeli Arabs constitute 20 percent of Israel's population, their boycott of the election helps elect Netanyahu: He defeats Peres by a mere one-half of 1 percent. At 47, he becomes Israel's youngest prime minister.

Sept. 4, 1996

Tense first meeting between Arafat and Netanyahu

Arafat and Netanyahu meet at the Erez border crossing between Gaza and Israel. The meeting between the two men is fraught with tension, but their handshake, though largely ceremonial, is still a symbol of hope.

Sept. 24, 1996

Netanyahu opens tunnel along Western Wall in Jerusalem; violent protests erupt

In an area extremely sensitive to both Muslims and Jews -- where the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount sits above the Western Wall -- Netanyahu changes the status quo and opens an ancient tunnel that runs along the wall. Netanyahu's security advisers had warned him against opening the tunnel, fearing that the move was too provocative.

Palestinian radicals are quick to exploit the situation and organize demonstrations. The Israeli army fires upon the demonstrators and for the first time since the Oslo accord was signed, the Palestinian police use their guns against the Israeli army. Netanyahu gives the order to move Israel's tank forces into striking positions. The violence leaves 59 Palestinians and 16 Israelis dead. Hundreds more are wounded on both sides before Palestinian and Israeli security forces cooperate to bring an end to the fighting.

Oct. 1-2, 1996

Arafat, Netanyahu attend summit in Washington, D.C.

In an attempt to prevent further violence and restart negotiations, Arafat and Netanyahu are summoned to Washington by U.S. President Bill Clinton. Clinton also asks King Hussein of Jordan to join the talks. By the end of the summit, Netanyahu and Arafat agree to resume talks on further implementation of the Oslo accords.

Jan. 15, 1997

Israel to withdraw from Hebron

After four months of difficult negotiations, Israel agrees to withdraw from Hebron, leaving behind only a small enclave of Jewish settlers. Now Arafat's Palestinian Authority controls all of the major cities in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians cheer the withdrawal, but Jewish settlers feel betrayed by Netanyahu.

March 18, 1997

Construction begins on Jewish settlement near Jerusalem

photo of construction work

Three weeks after Netanyahu gives the green light, construction begins on a settlement on a contested hill near Jerusalem. Although Jewish settlements were not mentioned specifically in the Oslo accords, Rabin had promised that no additional ones would be built. Tensions are high.

March 21, 1997

Suicide bomber strikes Tel Aviv

In Tel Aviv, a suicide bomber explodes himself in a packed café.

July 30, 1997

Two suicide attacks kill 16 in Jerusalem

Two suicide attacks rip through Jerusalem's main market within 10 minutes of each other. Sixteen are killed and hundreds are wounded. In response, Israel limits access in and out of Palestinian territories and enforces a strict curfew.

Sept. 4, 1997

Three suicide attacks in Jerusalem; Netanyahu blocks land transfers to Palestinians

Three more suicide bombers strike at the heart of Jerusalem. Five Israelis are killed and more than 200 wounded. Netanyahu declares that no more land will be handed over to the Palestinians as long as terror continues.

Sept. 10-12, 1997

Albright visits Israel amidst unrest

To try to contain the growing crisis, the new U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, is dispatched to the area. It is her first trip to Israel.

Sept. 14, 1997

Jewish settlers occupy houses in Arab sections of Jerusalem

Netanyahu allows Jewish settlers to occupy houses within Arab sections of Jerusalem, once again changing the status quo. Palestinians demonstrating against Jewish settlers are joined by groups of Israelis who oppose Netanyahu's policies.

Oct. 15-23, 1998

Summit at Wye River Plantation in Maryland

photo of the working group at wye

The U.S. calls this meeting in another attempt to revive the peace process. At first, the two sides are mired in disagreements. But after Clinton pushes a marathon 21-hour session, both Palestinians and Israelis agree to what becomes known as the Wye River Memorandum.

The agreement allows for the construction of an international airport for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Israel agrees to pull back its forces from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank and to release 750 Palestinian security prisoners. (Ultimately, only half of the pull-back is finished and only 250 prisoners are released.) The Palestinian Authority agrees to combat terrorist organizations, to arrest those involved in terrorist activities, and to collect all illegal weapons and explosives. (Little or none of this is ever done.)

Dec. 12-14, 1998

Clinton visits Gaza; Palestinian National Council rescinds anti-Israel clause

In an extraordinary gesture, Clinton comes to Gaza to lend his prestige to the implementation of portions of the Wye agreements. In Clinton's presence, the Palestinian National Council takes a historic step: Its members vote to rescind the clause in the PLO Charter that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. The extremists Arafat is supposed to control stage violent protests against the recognition of Israel.

Jan. 4, 1999

Knesset rebukes Netanyahu

In Israel, the people who had brought Netanyahu into power see the handover of more territory -- as called for by Wye -- as an act of betrayal. The Knesset convenes in an extraordinary session. Over two-thirds of its members -- from all across the political spectrum -- rebuke Netanyahu and call for new elections. Opposing Netanyahu is Labor Party head Ehud Barak, a former chief of staff, Israel's most decorated military hero, and a disciple of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He runs on a platform of peace and reconciliation with the Palestinians.

May 17, 1999

Barak defeats Netanyahu in landslide

Barak wins a landslide victory, becoming Israel's 14th prime minister. While his mandate is strong, Barak wants to push quickly for a permanent agreement, skipping the interim Israeli redeployments called for in the Wye accords. He envisions a two-state solution that will finally put an end to the conflict.

July 11, 1999

Barak, Arafat meet; no agreement on redeployment

Barak flies to the Erez crossing on the Israel-Gaza border for his first official meeting with the Palestinian leadership. The Palestinians expect to obtain a commitment from Barak to immediately implement the long-delayed Israeli redeployment. Barak dismisses the idea and the talks disintegrate.

Sept. 3-5, 1999

Sharm El-Sheikh Memorandum

After five weeks of talks between the two principal negotiators -- Saeb Erekat for the Palestinians; Gilead Sher for Israel -- the two sides agree on a bold framework and timetable for the final peace agreement. It is signed by Arafat and Barak. The Palestinian and Israeli delegations assemble in Egypt at Sharm el-Sheik to celebrate the fruits of the negotiators' efforts. As a confidence-building measure, Israel agrees to release 350 security prisoners in two phases. The Palestinians agree to enforce the existing security understandings.

November 1999

Negotiations resume; Palestinians chafe at Israelis' West Bank proposal

Land and the settlements -- still expanding under Barak -- become the main issues when negotiations resume. Questions remain over the 180,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza and how much land Israel will cede to the Palestinians. The Palestinians are outraged by the Israeli proposal, saying that it would cut the West Bank in three parts and allow Israel to continue the settlements.

Not long after, secret negotiations in Stockholm deal with another contentious issue -- the Palestinian refugees. Three million displaced people demand the right to return, a number roughly equal to half of the population of Israel. Their return would alter the nature of the Jewish state.

May 24, 2000

Israel withdraws from southern Lebanon after 22 years

Barak fulfills a campaign promise and ends Israel's 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon. Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim fundamentalist militia that had been fighting the Israeli army in Lebanon for years, sees Israel's flight as a massive victory. Many Palestinians now believe they, too, can achieve their aims by fighting rather than negotiating.

In Israel, Barak is under fire for his withdrawal from Lebanon and for being ineffectual with the Palestinians. He urges Clinton to hold a summit to resolve everything once and for all.

July 11-25, 2000

Leaders attend Camp David summit

photo of clinton, arafat and barak

The leaders head off to a hastily prepared summit at Camp David. Issues never before discussed at senior levels between Israelis and Palestinians -- Jerusalem, statehood, boundaries, refugees -- are put on the table.

To break the impasse over the West Bank, Clinton proposes a compromise: Israel would return almost all of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians; the two sides would swap small parcels of land important to each other; and they would agree to share control of Jerusalem. Barak uses Clinton's proposal as a starting point and suggests several changes. Arafat never replies and Barak then refuses to negotiate with Arafat directly.

When Clinton returns to Camp David from a trip to Okinawa, Jerusalem is again put on the table. Arafat argues that the Jews have no claim at all to the area of the Temple Mount. On the last night of the talks, Clinton offers a new bridging proposal that covers all the issues, including the main stumbling block of East Jerusalem. But Arafat refuses any compromise over the Temple Mount and is concerned with limits on the sovereignty for the new Palestinian entity (the Clinton/Barak plan would have left the new Palestinian state with significant loss of water and good land, almost split by Israeli annexation running east from Jerusalem, and with Israel getting roughly 9 percent of the West Bank). Arafat rejects the proposal.

Arafat returns home to a hero's welcome. Calls for an uprising -- a new intifada -- are heavy in the air. Despite the official demise of the talks, Arafat and Barak approve a new series of secret meetings between the negotiators.

Sept. 25, 2000

Arafat visits Barak's private residence

Arafat visits Barak at his private residence. According to many of those present, the meeting goes well. At the end of the evening, Arafat makes a request of Barak: that Ariel Sharon, the head of Israel's right-wing party, be denied permission to visit the Temple Mount. Barak, however, cannot prevent Sharon's visit. Instead, he coordinates with the Palestinian Authority, which agrees to try to keep peace in the area.

Sept. 28, 2000

Sharon visits the Temple Mount; Al Aqsa intifada is born

The Al Aqsa intifada, or uprising, is born as a result of Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. By day's end, seven protestors are dead and 160 injured. The riots spread quickly throughout the West Bank and Gaza and engulf the Israeli Arab community as well. After a week of fighting, 50 Palestinians and five Israelis are dead.

Oct. 12, 2000

Israeli reservists killed; Israel launches massive assault

Two Israeli reservists accidentally stray into Palestinian territory and are lynched by a Palestinian mob. Israel blames the Palestinian Authority for the murders and within hours attack-helicopters destroy the police station, the site of the lynching. Israel also launches massive attacks on other targets in Gaza and the West Bank.

In Israel, Barak's policies are blamed for the rapidly deteriorating situation. Even among his staunchest supporters, many now distrust the Palestinians' intentions.

Dec. 9, 2000

Barak announces resignation

By resigning Barak obtains a window of 60 days to regain support before standing for reelection. But the violence has made his pro-negotiation stance difficult to defend.

Likud leader Sharon -- the hard-line former general whose visit to the Temple Mount sparked the intifada -- runs on a platform of security and is far ahead in the polls. Barak's only hope is to conclude a deal with the Palestinians quickly.

Jan. 21-27, 2001

Negotiations in Taba; no agreement

In a desperate attempt to reach an agreement before the election, negotiators meet in the resort town of Taba, Egypt, focusing on a new framework for an agreement that had been developed by Clinton the previous month. The new terms go further than what Israel and the U.S. had offered at Camp David. The negotiators move rapidly toward reconciling the differences in this new framework, but they run out of political time. They are unable to conclude an agreement with Clinton now out of office and Barak standing for reelection in two weeks.

Feb. 6, 2001

Sharon defeats Barak in landslide

photo of election results

Sharon is elected prime minister of Israel, defeating Barak in a landslide. Now Arafat and Sharon, two leaders who harbor deep mutual animosity and mistrust, will shape the next chapter in the tumultuous history of the Middle East.

Soon, the political process stops and the old cycle of violence and counterviolence continues. Palestinian suicide bombings become an almost daily event. Israeli retaliation leaves hundreds of Palestinians dead.

March 29, 2002

Israel launches Operation Defensive Shield

Two days after a suicide bomber explodes himself in a Netanya hotel on Passover and kills 30 people, Israel launches Operation Defensive Shield. With overwhelming force, Israeli troops reenter Palestinian cities and refugee camps, hunting down terrorists and often leaving massive destruction in their wake. In Ramallah, Israeli forces enter Arafat's compound and hold him captive and isolated for 31 days.

June 19-20, 2002

Two suicide bombings in Jerusalem; Israel begins retaking West Bank land

Two bombings kill more than two dozen Israelis in Jerusalem. Arafat denounces the attacks, saying they "have nothing to do with our national rights in legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation." Sharon announces Israel will immediately begin a policy of retaking land in the West Bank, and holding it, until the terror attacks stop.


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