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Changing Borders

Two peoples-Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs-claim the same homeland in the Middle East. This timeline explains how its borders have changed over the last century.

November 14, 2005
Map: Jim McMahon
Map: Jim McMahon

The modern-day state (nation) of Israel was born in 1948. Now, 57 years later, its borders are still in dispute. Both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs claim the same land.

The Palestinians demand an independent state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with Jerusalem as its capital.

Since 1948, the area has been beset by four wars and continued violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Efforts to bring about a lasting peace have failed. In recent years, Palestinian militants have used street violence to protest Israeli settlements on land assigned to Arabs by the United Nations Partition (division) Plan of 1947. In return, Israel has attacked the homes of suspected terrorists and built a wall to keep others out.

In 2005, the Israeli Parliament approved a plan by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to remove all Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip, and four from the West Bank, by the end of 2005. Israelis abandoned those settlements in August (see "Trouble in Gaza,"). The future of the majority of settlements in the West Bank remains in doubt.

1922

Until its defeat in World War I (1914-1918), the Turkish Ottoman Empire had controlled Palestine and much of the Middle East for centuries. In exchange for Arab support in the war, Britain offered to back Arab demands for independence after the war. At the same time, Britain promised to support the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.After World War I, the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate (authority) to rule Palestine. Arabs protested as a growing number of Jews settled in Palestine to escape persecution, especially in Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

1947

Demands for a Jewish state grew after 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis in World War II (1939-1945). But Palestinian Arabs also called on Britain to keep its promises to them. In 1947, the United Nations proposed a partition that would split Palestine into two independent states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Jews in Palestine agreed to the plan. The Arabs rejected it.

On May 14, 1948, Israel proclaimed itself an independent Jewish state. Armies from neighboring Arab countries-including Egypt, Syria, and Jordan (then known as Transjordan)-attacked Israel, but Israel won the war.

1967

Israel gained territory after defeating Arab armies in the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli War. War broke out again in 1956,1967, and 1973.

During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan. Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in 1979. After Israeli settlers moved into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Arab protests led to violence. Agreements in 1993 and 2003 called for Israel to give land to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. But these plans broke down when violence continued.

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