Frequently Asked Questions
|When did Israel become a state, and why? |
On May 14, 1948, the Jewish state of Israel declared its independence. Jewish
claims to the historic region of Israel go back to biblical times, when
Jewish kingdoms ruled the area. Roman conquerors later forced most Jews to flee.
By A.D. 800, the land had come under Arab rule.
Most of the Arab people who lived in Israel were Muslims (people who follow
the religion of Islam). But Jewish people never forgot their homeland and
dreamed of returning some day.
to read the Jewish History Timeline
For many years, a small number of Jews and Arabs lived in Israel side by
side. Then, in the late 1800s, Jews began moving to Israel to build a Jewish
homeland. After World War II (1939-1945) when Nazi Germany murdered more than 6
million Jews, pressure to establish a Jewish state grew. In 1947, the United
Nations (UN) voted to divide Israel into two states: Arab and Jewish. The
Jews accepted the plan, while Arabs rejected it. Fighting broke out immediately
|How many wars have Israel and Arabs fought since Israel became a state?|
The day after Israel declared statehood, Arab countries attacked Israel, but the
Israelis won the war. The war created more than 1 million refugees, both Jews
and Arabs. The Arab states refused to recognize Israel and three more wars broke
out—in 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982. During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel captured
large areas of Arab territory: the West Bank of East Jerusalem from Jordan, the
Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria.
When the fighting ended, more than 2 million Arabs lived under Israeli rule. In
1982, Israel initiated its first offensive strike against the Palestinians in
|What is the PLO?|
PLO stands for Palestine Liberation Organization. Founded in 1964, it is the
political body that represents the Arab population of Palestine. The PLO's chief
goal is to establish an independent state in Palestine for these Arabs. Since
the 1960s, PLO guerrilla groups have staged attacks against Israel. Israel, in
turn, has attacked PLO bases. The PLO also includes associations of doctors,
lawyers, women, teachers, and students. After the 1967 Six-Day War, the PLO
developed educational and social service organizations for Palestinians, mainly
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Yasser Arafat became chairman of the PLO in
|Why did the U.S. sponsor peace talks between Israelis and the Palestinians at
Camp David, Maryland, this summer? |
U.S. former President Bill Clinton wanted to negotiate a peace agreement because
violence in the region causes instability throughout the world. Most of the
world's supply of oil is shipped from the Middle East. If oil could not be
shipped out of the region because of violence and war, the economy of many
countries would be severely hurt.
During his last seven years as President, Clinton had worked hard to build a
lasting peace in the Middle East. Clinton wanted to negotiate a permanent peace
agreement before he leaves office in January.
|Why did the peace talks collapse?|
Israeli and Palestinian leaders could not agree over the future status of
Jerusalem, a city which both sides claim as their capital. Jerusalem is home to
many of the most sacred places of worship for Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Israel has ruled all of Jerusalem since the 1967 Six-Day War. The Israeli Prime
Minister at the time, Ehud Barak, insisted on sovereignty (official rule) over
the entire city. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat wanted Jerusalem
to be under Palestinian rule. Neither side could agree on a