NEW YORK (Jan. 19)
The following is a time line of key events in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, with a focus on developments since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was elected.
Sept. 13, 1993 — Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat exchange a historic handshake on the White House lawn as the two sides sign the Declaration of Principles, a timetable for launching Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
May 4, 1994 — Israel and the PLO sign the Cairo Agreement for establishing self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho. Jericho comes under self-rule on May 13. Israel completes its withdrawal from Gaza on May 18.
Sept. 28, 1995 — Rabin and Arafat sign the Interim Agreement, which sets the stage for an Israeli withdrawal from six West Bank towns.
May 29, 1996 — Israelis narrowly elect Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. He takes office in June.
June 22-23, 1996 — Egypt hosts the first Arab League summit in six years to develop a united front against the new Netanyahu government’s approach to the peace process.
July 23, 1996 — Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy meets with Arafat in what is the Palestinian Authority leader’s first meeting with a senior official in the Netanyahu government.
Sept. 4, 1996 — Netanyahu and Arafat hold their first meeting. Both sides agree to discussions on redeployment from most of Hebron, the last predominantly Arab West Bank town to be turned over to the Palestinians.
Sept. 25, 1996 — Palestinian rioting erupts in response to the opening of a new entrance to an ancient tunnel alongside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. In three days of violence, 15 Israelis and 61 Palestinians are killed, most of them during exchanges of gunfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian police. Hundreds of people are wounded.
Oct. 1-2, 1996 — Netanyahu, Arafat and Jordan’s King Hussein attend an emergency summit in Washington after the previous week’s violence. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak declines to attend. The summit ends with an agreement for Israel and the Palestinians to launch intensive discussions aimed at reaching a Hebron agreement.
Oct. 7, 1996 — Negotiations regarding the Hebron redeployment begin. The ensuing three-and-a-half months of talks are marked by hopeful statements, angry recriminations and threats that the peace process may collapse.
Jan. 14-15, 1997 — Netanyahu and Arafat reach a Hebron Agreement during a late-night summit held at the Erez Crossing.
Jan. 17, 1997 — Israeli troops redeploy in the pre-dawn hours from 80 percent of Hebron, days earlier than called for in the agreement.
Jan. 19, 1997 — Arafat is greeted by thousands of cheering Palestinians when he returns to Hebron for the first time in 30 years.
Feb. 9, 1997 — Netanyahu and Arafat meet at the Erez Crossing to discuss the next stages of the peace process.
Feb. 11, 1997 — Israel releases 31 Palestinian female prisoners, among them some who had been convicted of killing Israelis. The move marked the second time, after the Hebron redeployment, that the Netanyahu government acted to fulfill clauses of the Interim Agreement.
March 18, 1997 — Israeli bulldozers begin construction work for the new Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa in southeastern Jerusalem. The move comes despite widespread international criticism, including statements from U.S. leaders that it would be best to postpone the building.
March 20, 1997 — In the first of many violent protests against the Har Homa construction, Palestinians from Bethlehem throw stones at Israeli troops guarding Rachel’s Tomb. The troops respond with tear gas and close the area to Jewish tourists.
March 21, 1997 — A Hamas suicide bomber detonates an explosion at the Cafe Apropos in central Tel Aviv, killing 3 Israelis and wounding 47 others.
March 22, 1997 — Violent demonstrations break out in Hebron (along with continuing protests in Bethlehem) to protest the Har Homa construction. Israeli soldiers respond with tear gas, rubber bullets and in some cases live ammunition after they are the target of a hail of stones thrown by angry Palestinians.
June 27, 1997 — Posters depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed as a pig are hung in Hebron, stirring angry reactions from Hebron to Tehran. Tatyana Suskin, 25, who immigrated from Russia six years before, is detained on suspicion of distributing the fliers. She is later convicted of racism and sentenced to two years in prison.
July 30, 1997 — Two suicide bombers strike in the Mahane Yehuda open-air market in Jerusalem, claiming 15 lives and wounding at least 170 others. Islamic Jihad and Hamas claim responsibility.
Aug. 20-21 1997 — Arafat holds a “national unity conference,” where he embraces political leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Sept. 4, 1997 — Three suicide bombers detonate near-simultaneous explosions at the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall in downtown Jerusalem, killing five and wounding more than 190.
Sept. 7, 1997 — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells the Cabinet that Israel will not “follow the normal course of the Interim Agreement” because of the clear “violations on the part of the Palestinian Authority.”
Sept. 10, 1997 — U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright makes her first visit to the Middle East since becoming America’s top diplomat in January. After calling for a “time-out” on Jewish settlement building, she leaves Jerusalem, saying she will not return to the region just to “tread water.” The State Department later calls for Israel to come up with a “credible” plan for further redeployment from the West Bank.
Sept. 14, 1997 — Three Jewish families move into a home in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem they rented from Dr. Irving Moskowitz, an American millionaire. In a compromise worked out Sept. 18, the families move out voluntarily, but 10 yeshiva students remain behind to maintain a Jewish presence there.
Oct. 1, 1997 — Israel frees Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin, who is flown to Jordan. Yassin was released as part of a swap for two Mossad agents held by Jordan for the attempted Sept. 25 assassination of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Amman.
Oct. 7, 1997 — Israeli and Palestinian subcommittees resume meetings after a seven-month hiatus to discuss implementing portions of the Interim Agreement – – including creating a safe passage route for Palestinians traveling between the Gaza Strip and West Bank, opening an airport and seaport in Gaza, and returning Palestinian prisoners.
Oct. 8, 1997 — Netanyahu and Arafat hold a pre-dawn meeting at the Erez Crossing.
Jan. 4, 1998 — Foreign Minister David Levy resigns from the Netanyahu government.
Jan. 13-14, 1998 — Israel’s Cabinet issues a 12-page list of conditions that the Palestinian Authority must fulfill before Israel authorizes a further redeployment in the West Bank. The Cabinet also decides to retain portions of the West Bank as “security interests,” agreeing that they would not be turned over to the Palestinians under a redeployment or in any final-status agreement.
Jan. 19, 1998 — Netanyahu begins a three-day visit to Washington.