Palestinian Statehood Timeline

Palestinian Statehood
Milestones on the road
by Borgna Brunner

1974 1988 1991 1993 1994 1995 1996 1998 1999
November 13
Yasir Arafat addresses the United Nations General Assembly— the first representative of a stateless organization to do so. His presence is highly controversial since much of world opinion considers him a terrorist bent on Israel's annihilation. Following his historic address, the U.N. grants the PLO observer status and formally supports the Palestinians' right to "sovereignty and national independence."
November 15
The PLO proclaims the "State of Palestine" on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. By the end of the year, the government-in-exile is recognized by more than 70 nations.
December 13
In a special United Nations session in Geneva (the U.S. would not allow him to speak at U.N. headquarters in New York), Arafat reverses decades of PLO polemic by renouncing terrorism and acknowledging Israel's right to exist. Although his declaration opens the door to diplomatic negotiations, it unfortunately has little effect on Palestinian terrorism, which continues, to a greater or lesser degree, throughout the next decade.
October 30 – November 1
The Madrid Conference becomes the first face-to-face negotiation between Israel and all Arab parties involved in the Middle East conflict.
After months of secret negotions, the Oslo Accord is drawn up, a phased exchange of land for peace between Israel and the P.L.O.
September 10
Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin exchange letters of mutual recognition, which include the voiding of those portions of the PLO national charter denying Israel's right to exist.
September 13
Arafat and Rabin shake hands on the White House lawn, agreeing to the Declaration of Principles, which include the gradual self-government by Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza over a period of five years. During this five-year period, Israel and the Palestinians agree to negotiate a permanent peace treaty.
May 4
The Gaza-Jericho agreement is signed in Cairo, which delineates the first stage of redeployment agreed to in the Oslo Accord. Israel begins withdrawing its forces from most of the Gaza Strip and Jericho.
The 1994 Nobel Prize for Peace is jointly awarded to Yasir Arafat, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin "for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East."
November 4
Prime Minister Rabin is assassinated by a Jewish extremist, jeopardizing the tenuous progress toward peace.
January 20
Arafat is elected leader of the Palestinian Authority.
About three-fourths of Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza turn out, with Arafat garnering 88% of the vote.
May 31
Benjamin Netanyahu is elected Israel's prime minister on a conservative Likud ticket. He stalls or reverses much of the Oslo agreement, contending it offers too many concessions too fast and jeopardizes Israeli's safety.
October 23
The Wye Mills summit generates the first real progress in the stymied Middle East peace talks in 19 months. Arafat and Netanyahu settle several important interim issues called for by the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. But several highly sensitive subjects—Palestinian statehood, the drawing of borders, and the status of Jerusalem—go unbroached, although only six months remain before the Oslo Accord deadline of May 4, 1999. If significant progress is not made by then, Arafat threatens to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state.
April 27
The Palestinian Central Council convenes in a special session and decides against declaring Palestinian statehood the following week. May 4 marks the end of the five-year transitional period stipulated in the Oslo accords, which was to have resulted in a final peace accord. To have made such a declaration within weeks of the Israeli election (May 17) undoubtedly would have provoked Israeli hard-liners and increased Netanyahu's chances of reelection, lessening the chance of an Israeli government committed to resuming the peace talks.