|International Law and the
The episode of Palestinian-Israeli violence that began
in 2000 and continues today is the latest in a long cycle.
After the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which began in
1987, Israeli and Palestinian teams began secret negotiations near
Oslo, Norway. They culminated in 1993, when Israeli Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization leader
Yasser Arafat signed a historic
Declaration of Principles, causing much optimism that peace might
take root. Several issues -- control of Jerusalem; the right of return
for Palestinian refugees; Israeli settlements in the Occupied
West Bank and
Gaza Strip ); and borders -- were left to be discussed later in
so-called final status talks.
Several positive developments followed, including the partial
withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Occupied Territories, elections
to the Palestinian Council and the presidency of the
Palestinian Authority, the
release of some prisoners and the establishment of a functioning
administration in the areas under Palestinian self-rule.
But trust between the two sides, having reached a peak when Rabin and
Arafat signed the declaration, disintegrated. Each side failed to
fulfill some of its commitments. Israel, for instance, continued to
allow its citizens to build settlements in the Occupied Territories,
and Arafat failed to remove articles of the
Palestinian Charter calling for Israelís destruction.
In 2000, during talks in the United States, Israeli Prime Minister
Barak and U.S. President Bill Clinton launched an all-out push for
a final settlement with Arafat, who had become president of the
Palestinian Authority. Two weeks of talks failed to produce solutions
on control of Jerusalem or the right of return of Palestinian
In the uncertainty of the ensuing impasse,
Sharon, then leader of the opposition Likud party, toured the area
around the al-Aqsa mosque, a major Muslim holy site in Jerusalem.
Sharon's critics saw it as a highly provocative move. Palestinian
demonstrations followed, quickly developing into what became known as
the al-Aqsa intifada. Since it began, Israeli forces have reoccupied
much of the territory that had been ceded to Palestinian control, and
numerous suicide attacks by militant Palestinian factions have
targeted Israeli civilians. Yasser Arafat says that he does not
control these groups, but his critics say he sanctions their attacks.
For more background, see the BBCís
timeline of events since 1897, a
overview from the United Nations, or a
history of Israel
from Israelís Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
|MAJOR DOCUMENTS IN CHRONOLOGICAL
Numerous declarations, international
agreements, treaties and U.N. resolutions pertain to the
The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was the first major declaration
by a world power, Great Britain, in favor of a Jewish "national
home" in what was known as Palestine.
- U.N. General Assembly
Resolution 181(II) (November 29, 1947) provided for the
partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state, with
international status for Jerusalem.
- U.N. General Assembly
Resolution 194 (III) (December 11, 1948) affirms the right of
Palestinians to return to their original homes and lands, and to
receive compensation for any losses incurred, as well as the right
of resettlement for those Palestinian refugees choosing not to
return, and compensation for their losses.
- Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.
The Fourth Geneva Convention Concerning the Protection of Civilian
Persons in Time of War (August 12, 1949) imposes an obligation
on an occupying power to protect the civilian population. This is
specified in Articles 47 to 78. In accordance with Article 1, the
international community has a duty to take steps to secure
- U.N. Security Council
Resolution 242 (November 22, 1967) calls on Israel to withdraw
from territories it occupied in the 1967 conflict.
- U.N. Security Council
Resolution 338 (October 22, 1973) calls for a ceasefire in the
1973 conflict and for the implementation of U.N. Security Council
- On September 9, 1993, Israel and the Palestine Liberation
Organization recognized one another in an
letters between Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat.
- On September 13, 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and
the Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat
Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements.
Wye River Memorandum of October 23, 1998, set out steps to
facilitate implementation of the Interim Agreement on the West Bank
and Gaza Strip (from September 28, 1995) and other related
|OTHER DOCUMENT RESOURCES
history in maps from the BBC.
the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International
Israelís Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Eyal Benvenisti & Eyal Zamir,
Private Claims to Property Rights in the Future Israeli-Palestinian
Settlement, 89 A.J.I.L. 295 (1995).
- Hiram E. Chodosh, Special
Introduction: Shaky Pillars: An Introduction to Commentaries on the
Legal Foundations for Peace and Prosperity in the Middle East,
32 Case W. Res. J. Int'l L. 181 (2000).
- Anthony D'Amato,
Legal Boundaries of Israel in International Law, Jurist -
The Legal Education Network (April 8, 2001).
- Richard Falk,
International Law and the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Middle East
Report 217 (Winter 2000).
- Allan Gerson, Trustee-Occupant:
The Legal Status of Israel's Presence in the West Bank, 14 14
Harv. Intíl L.J. 1 (1973).
- Ruth Levush,
A Guide to the
Israeli Legal System, Law Library Resource Xchange, (January 15,
- John Quigley,
of Law in a Palestinian-Israeli Accommodation, 31 Case W.
Res. J. Intíl L. (1999).
- Adam Roberts, Prolonged Military
Occupation: The Israeli-Occupied Territories Since 1967, 84
A.J.I.L. 44 (1990).
- Yoav Tadmor, Comment: The
Palestinian Refugees of 1948: The Right to Compensation and Return,
8 Temp. Int'l & Comp. L.J. 403 (1994).
- Human Rights, Self-Determination
and Political Change in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
(Stephen Bowen ed., The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1997).
William V. O'Brien, Law and Morality in Israel's War with the PLO
(London: Routledge, 1991).
- Palestine and International Law:
Essays on Politics and Economic (Sanford R. Silverburg, ed.,
Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Co, Inc., 2002). Amos Shapira
& Mala Tabory, New Political Entities in Public and Private
International Law: With Special Reference to the Palestinian Entity
(The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1999).
- Geoffrey R. Watson, The Oslo
Accords: International Law and the Israeli-Palestinian Peace
Agreements (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).
November 17, 2002; Last updated Dec 15, 2006.