Overview: History of Israel: 1980-2000

Israeli-Palestinian relations dominate the headlines.


By the time 1980 rolled around, Israel, had endured four wars and had just signed its first peace agreement with one of its Arab neighbors, in a deal with Egypt in 1979.Yitzhak Rabin Bill Clinton Yassir Arafat Oslo Accords Peace Israel Palestine PLO White House

But the 1980s were anything but peaceful for the State of Israel.

War with Lebanon

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), formed in 1964 and based in Lebanon after being ousted from Jordan, was routinely making guerilla attacks into northern Israel. In response, in 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, getting as far as Beirut, and eventually driving the PLO out of Lebanon, forcing them to Tunisia.

Israel scored an initial victory, but many came to see Israel‘s actions as an overall failure. First and foremost, Israel (and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, especially) suffered international condemnation for allowing a massacre in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila by the hands of some Lebanese Christians. Also, while the PLO was severely weakened, the war left a power vacuum in Lebanon that was filled by Syria, which quickly stepped in to control its neighbor.


In 1987, riots broke out in the Gaza Strip after a civilian Israeli truck driver accidentally crashed into the Jabaliya refugee camp, killing four. Supported and funded by the PLO in Tunisia, rioting spread to the West Bank. The Israeli army tried to stop the rioting but to no avail. Known as First Intifada, the rioting and protests spread throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories, with some of the heaviest violence occurring in Jerusalem. The Intifida did not officially end until 1993.

In the aftermath of the Intifada, the Palestinians appeared ready to soften their views toward Israel and the Israelis started looking towards the PLO as a potential partner in peace. After a devastating uprising, both sides looked ready to come to the negotiation table, even with very little trust of the other side.

In 1988, Yasser Arafat, chairman of the PLO and the organizer of past terrorist attacks on Israelis, announced he would accept an Israeli state next to a Palestinian one. He hoped that his renunciation of terror and his acceptance of Israel would legitimize the PLO in the eyes of the United States and the world community, leading to an eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.

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