The modern Israeli-Palestinian peace process began with the Oslo Accords in 1993 after a series of secret meetings between negotiators in Oslo, Norway. This marked the first time Israel met face-to-face with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). A broad framework for the future peace process, the Oslo Accords were signed at a public ceremony in Washington, DC with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and US President Bill Clinton.
The Accords allowed for the creation of an interim Palestinian government, which would self-govern in large swaths of the West Bank and Gaza, and the withdrawal of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) from parts of these territories. The arrangement was expected to last for five years, during which time a permanent peace agreement would be decided upon. Importantly, the Accords created three distinct areas in the West Bank- Area A, under the control of Palestinian security and civil authority, makes up 18% of the land; Area B, under control of Israeli security and Palestinian civil authority, makes up 21% of the land; and Area C, under Israeli security and civil authority, makes up 61% of the land.
The Israeli and Palestinian populations were optimistic about peace for the first time, however there was strong dissent in both populations from those on the right. This dissent turned violent in 1995 when Prime Minister Rabin was shot and killed by Yigal Amir, a religious Zionist and strong opponent of withdrawal from Palestinian territory, at a rally in support of the Oslo Accords. A right-wing government under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu took power and came to an agreement with Chairman Arafat known as the Wye Memorandum in 1998.
Wye River Memorandum and Implementation
The Wye River Memorandum required Israel to pull out of 13% of the West Bank and hand sovereignty over to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and release 750 Palestinian prisoners. The Palestinians were required to actively combat terrorism by arresting those involved in terror attacks, putting an end to incitement, and collecting illegal weapons and explosives. Both sides agreed to cooperate on security and the economy.
Israel handed 2% of land over to Palestinian civil control (with Israeli military control) and 7.1% for full Palestinian control. The withdrawal was scheduled to happen in phases with a timetable requiring that each side meet their obligations before moving on to the next stage in the process. The Israelis did not see Palestinian obligations being met, and the process of implementation stalled.
Camp David Summit and the Clinton Parameters
In 2000, President Clinton invited PM Barak and Chairman Arafat to final-status negotiations at Camp David. Though the talks ultimately failed, the "Clinton Parameters" that resulted from it remain the standard bearer of any future peace agreement because both sides agreed to the parameters "with some reservations".
According to the parameters, Jerusalem would be divided according to ethnic lines, with the Palestinians controlling most of East Jerusalem and Israeli controlling most of West Jerusalem. Israel would retain sovereignty over the Western Wall and "symbolic ownership" of the Temple Mount. The Palestinians would receive sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Furthermore, the Palestinian state would be comprised of 94-96% of the West Bank and Gaza, with Israel annexing the remaining land which houses around 80% of settlers. Israel would then cede 1-3% of their land in exchange for the settlements. Palestinian refugees would be welcomed into the borders of the Palestinian state, and an international commission would be set up to determine their compensation. A small amount of refugees would be allowed to resettle in Israel, while some would be resettled in third-party countries. The Palestinian state would be non-militarized with sovereignty over its airspace, while the Israeli military would remain a presence in locations throughout the Jordan Valley. The parameters required that this agreement would bring an end of claims regarding all final status issues.
The Palestinians ultimately rejected the peace deal and the Second Intifada was launched in late 2000. PM Barak and Chairman Arafat tried to reach an agreement again in Taba, but ultimately failed as the violence of the Second Intifada turned the Israeli and Palestinian people against further negotiations or peace deals.
International Peace Plans
Arab Peace Initiative
The Arab Peace Initiative was proposed in 2002 at the Beirut Summit of the Arab League by then-Crown Prince, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The Initiative is very simple and phrased in 5 points.
I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.
II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.
III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:
I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.
II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
Though some Israelis have welcomed this effort by the Arab League to bring about peace, ultimately the Initiative has been viewed as a non-starter by Israel because it does not allow for negotiations but rather a dictation of terms. As such the Initiative has not been officially recognized by Israel.
The roadmap for peace proposed by the "Quartet" (United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations) was originally drafted in 2002, with the goal of ending the conflict by as early as 2005. It consisted of three goal-driven phases, with the end-goal being the creation of a Palestinian state, with democratic reforms and non-violent principles, and a cessation of Israeli settlement building and acceptance of the Palestinian state.
The roadmap did lead to the Palestinians holding their first national election, however the results (with Hamas in charge of the Parliament) lead to international boycotts. Despite the release of 100 prisoners by Israel and the elections held by the Palestinians, the roadmap did not stop Palestinian terror attacks during the Second Intifada or Israeli settlement building. However, the roadmap is still considered one of the most useful tools the international arena has for ending the conflict, and it was used as the basis for the peace talks between Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and President Abbas in 2006.
The "Disengagement Plan", hatched by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2003 and implemented in 2005, was to resettle all Israelis living in the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the West Bank, as well as remove an Israeli military presence from the Gaza Strip. Israeli citizens were given the chance to voluntarily vacate their homes, but many ideological settlers had to be forcibly removed. The evacuated homes were then razed, leaving behind the infrastructure there to be used by the Palestinian residents.
Following the withdrawal, Palestinian mobs began to ransack what remained of the settlements, destroying the greenhouses and other forms of infrastructure. Hamas won the Palestinian elections, but after a bloody fight between Palestinian factions, Fatah continued to rule the West Bank and Hamas took charge of Gaza, using it as a staging ground for rocket attacks against Israeli citizens. Israel maintains control of Gaza's borders and airspace.
Evacuees were offered compensation to rebuild their lives within Israel proper, however the government is widely seen as having failed to implement its compensation plans effectively, leaving as many as 70% of families without permanent housing as of 2010. Many former settlers found it difficult to find work within Israel and lost their livelihoods in the evacuation.
Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence
In an effort to bypass the prolonged impasse in the peace process, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas went to the United Nations (UN) to ratify a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence (UDI) in late 2011. The UDI called for the Palestinian state to be created within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and admitted as a full member of the UN. The Israeli and United States governments spoke out against this move, warning that such unilateral actions will undermine the peace process. Germany and Canada also said they would not vote in its favor.
In order for a state to gain UN membership, it must first receive admission from the Security Council. Under threat of an American veto, it has not yet been put to a vote. If it had been passed, the US and Israel would have withheld much needed funds from the PA, and the Palestinians would have full access to the international court system. Both sides warned that violence would likely ensue if the measure passed.