NOTE: THIS IS THE SIXTH IN A SERIES OF POSTS PROVIDING A COMPREHENSIVE PALESTINE-ISRAEL TIMELINE.
PALESTINE-ISRAEL TIMELINE: 1967 – 1978
[At times today’s timeline skirts the civil war in Lebanon. This war won’t be covered in-depth, and the timeline relating to this long conflict is purposely superficial.]
1967-1975: The Suez Canal remains closed to shipping.
1967-1977: Successive Israeli governments maintain the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and launch a modest settlement policy designed to establish a Jewish presence in strategically important border areas along the Jordan River.
1968-1975: The Johnson and Nixon administrations increase the delivery of sophisticated weapons to Israel and raise the level of US economic and military assistance.
1968: The number of Palestinian refugees rises to 1.3 million. Refugees live in makeshift camps located primarily in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Gaza Strip.
1968: Israeli commandos strike Beirut International Airport.
July 1968: Arif’s Iraqi regime falls to a Ba’thist coup.
1969: Sporadic artillery exchanges erupt into full-scale combat.Nasser launches what he calls a war of attrition.
1969: Al-Fatah takes over the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) andYasir Arafat is elected chairman of the PLO executive committee. The PLO, by now, isn’t a single entity; it’s an umbrella organization under whose authority several different, often fractious, resistance groups coexist. Among the other groups, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) represent challenges to the al-Fatah/PLO mainstream position by rejecting directives and resorting to independent terrorist activities. As head of the largest group (Al-Fatah), Arafat builds coalitions that keep him as chairman of the entire organization from 1969 to his death in 2004. By emphasizing Palestinian nationalism, the Al-Fatah/PLO leadership succeeds in restoring the Palestinian dimension to the Arab-Israeli conflict and in forging a Palestinian national identity. The group refuses to endorse UN Resolution 242. Al-Fatah also affirms the necessity of armed resistance in the struggle to recover Palestine.
1969: The Lebanese government turns over the supervision of refugee camps to the PLO in exchange for the PLO’s pledge to obtain Lebanese consent for any incursions it might make into Israel. The pledge goes largely unheeded. From 1970 onward, the cycle of Palestinian raids into Israel (and Israeli retaliation in force) is a common occurrence. Israeli bombing attacks affect not only Palestinians, but also the mainly Shi’a villagers of southern Lebanon. Many of the villagers migrate to the squatter suburbs of Beirut.
1970s: The PLO transfers its organizational base to Lebanon where it joins 300,000 Palestinian refugees already present in the county and acquires the characteristics of a government in exile. The PLO begins providing social services to Palestinians, is involved in manufacturing, and undertakes diplomatic initiatives.
1970: The post-1967 concentration of guerrilla operations in Jordan is posing a direct challenge to King Hussein. Commandos are operating independently of the king’s authority, establishing their own administrative networks in the refugee camps, conducting raids into Israel that provoke Israeli reprisals, and behaving as if they are exempt from the jurisdiction of the Jordanian state.
1970: Israel is launching more than 150 air strikes a day into Egypt, sometimes against targets deep within Egypt’s territory.
Early 1970s: Palestinian groups (not all PLO) carry out a series of airliner hijackings, airport massacres, and suicide missions into Israel.
July 1970: US Secretary of State William Rogers puts together a peace plan that Egypt, Jordan, and Israel support. The plan includes a 90 day ceasefire. The ceasefire is renewed several times.
September 1970: The PFLP hijacks 4 civilian airliners and lands 3 of them in a portion of Jordan that it defines as “liberated territory.” The PFLP threatens to blow up the planes and kill the hostages if there is any attempt to interfere. The Jordanian army stands by helplessly.
September 15, 1970: In an effort to restore order, the Jordanian army begins a 10 day carnage known as Black September. The Jordanian military directs all the force at its disposal against the Palestinian presence in the country. It makes no distinction between civilians and armed guerrillas.
September 23-27, 1970: Clashes in Jordan between Palestinians and the Jordanian army prompt Nasser to offer his personal mediation of the crisis. An Arab summit meeting is convened in Cairo and works out a ceasefire acceptable to the Palestinians and to King Hussein.
September 25, 1970: A cease-fire is finally arranged. More than 3,000 Palestinians are dead.
September 28, 1970: A day after the conference (above) concludes, Nasser dies of a heart attack.
November 1970: The Syrian regime is overthrown and Hafiz al-Asad begins his long rule in Damascus.
1972: Members of the Israeli Olympic team at the Munich Olympics are taken hostage and killed during a rescue attempt. At the same time, the Israeli government conducts operations against Palestinian leaders in Europe and Beirut. The Israeli air force kills scores of people in Jordan and Lebanon during frequent raids.
1973: Three Palestinian leaders are assassinated in Beirut. Arab nationalists and Lebanese radical reformers accuse authorities of failing to deploy the Lebanese army against Israel and of using it instead to frustrate the activities of Palestinian commandos. The country is deeply divided.
October 6, 1973: Egyptian forces launch an attack across the Suez Canal in coordination with a Syrian offensive against Israeli positions on the Golan Heights.
October 22, 1973: US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko of the Soviet Union present a cease-fire agreement that Egypt, Israel, and, later, Syria accept.
1974: At an Arab summit meeting in Rabat, the PLO achieves recognition as the sole representative of the Palestinians. Later the same year, Arafat addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations and the PLO is granted observer status in the body.
1974: The PLO drops its goal of liberating all of Palestine in favor of creating a Palestinian state comprising the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This new position implies — but doesn’t directly admit — Israel’s right to exist.
January 1974: Kissinger negotiates a disengagement agreement between Egypt and Israel.
1975: France authorizes the opening of a PLO information office in Paris; most other Western governments soon do the same.
September 1975: Kissinger persuades Egypt and Israel to sign a document known as Sinai II, providing for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from western Sinai.
Mid 1970s: In Israel, a militant religious organization — Gush Emunim (the Bloc of the Faithful) — begins to establish illegal settlements on Arab-owned land. The Begin government endorses their actions and encourages other groups to settle in predominantly Arab centers. Settlement policy is used as an instrument to divide Arab society into isolated segments and to prevent the emergence of a collective Palestinian identity.
May 1977: Israel holds elections referred to as “the revolt of the Sephardim” or “Israel’s earthquake elections.” A right-of-center coalition, the Likud bloc, and its leader, Menachem Begin, are chosen to form a new government. Israel commits to a policy of retaining all of the occupied territories; it also sees the rise of a religious settlers’ movement. Begin’s strategy includes a policy of establishing Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The settlement policy is also intended to break up and isolate areas where the Arab population is heavily concentrated.
November 20, 1977: Anwar Sadat flies to Israel. Speaking before the Israeli parliament, Sadat announces Egypt’s acceptance of peace with Israel.
September 17, 1978: Menachem Begin of Israel, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and US President Jimmy Carter sign the Camp David Accords, consisting of 2 major documents. The most straightforward of them sets forth the conditions for an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. The other endorses Resolution 242 as the basis for a durable and comprehensive settlement of the Middle East conflict. The framework agreement proposes a 5-year staged plan for the achievement of Palestinian autonomy. The framework is a victory for the Israeli prime minister and a defeat for the idea of a Palestinian state.
1978: 25,000 Israeli troops invade Lebanon in an attempt to dislodge the PLO from its strongholds. UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) are installed in southern Lebanon in an attempt to provide a buffer between Israel and the PLO.