Overview: History of Israel: 1980-2000

Israeli-Palestinian relations dominate the headlines.

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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.

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.

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