Overview: History of Israel: 1980-2000

Israeli-Palestinian relations dominate the headlines.

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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.


While Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir ignored Arafat and refused to accept the legitimacy of the PLO, Shamir's successor, Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin, began negotiations with the PLO.

Initial talks between the PLO, Israel, and the United States were kept secret due to pressure by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. While they were far from reaching a peace deal, Rabin took the negotiations as a sign that Arafat could be a real partner for peace.

In 1991 Shamir had met face-to-face with Arab governments in Madrid, but Rabin's meetings, after his 1992 election, with a man considered by many Israelis to be a terrorist leader like Arafat proved much more controversial. The meetings brought up questions in Israeli society that were no longer hypothetical: How much land should be given up for peace? Could the Palestinians be trusted after six years of a violent uprising?

Oslo Accords

In 1993, with U.S. President Bill Clinton looking on, Rabin and Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn after reaching a deal, known as the Oslo Accords.

The Oslo Accords did not include a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians but did provide a road map for objectives between the two peoples. In the "Declaration of Principles," Israel agreed to a gradual withdrawal from Palestinian territories, with the PLO gaining control, as well as recognition of the PLO as the "Palestinian Authority." Issues like Jerusalem were to be discussed at a later point.

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