Discover more from Future of Jewish
Palestinian history doesn’t reflect so positively on the Palestinian cause.
To predominantly put the onus on Israel for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is completely ignorant and inflammatory.
Future of Jewish is the ultimate newsletter by and for people passionate about Judaism and Israel. Subscribe to get the best of Judaism and Israel delivered to you.
Editor’s Note: In light of the situation in Israel — where we are based — we are making Future of Jewish FREE for the coming days. If you wish to support our critical mission to responsibly defend the Jewish People and Israel during this unprecedented time in our history, you can do so via the following options:
You can also listen to this essay instead of reading if you prefer:
These days, so many people are chiming in about the Palestinians, but very few actually know about their history.
For it’s their history that can help all of us better understand the current Israel-Hamas war, as well as its geopolitical implications on the Middle East, North Africa, and elsewhere.
To claim that there is no such thing as the Palestinians is plainly ignorant and inflammatory. They exist now and they’ve existed in different iterations for quite some time.
Yet, it’s their history that shows just how much Palestinians, and their supporters, are responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, including but certainly not limited to the present situation.
Make no mistake: Israel’s side of the coin is also responsible for the past and current situations. And the perplexing Palestinian history does not automatically excuse Israel of any of its mistakes or missteps.
But, to predominantly put the onus on Israel for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is completely ignorant and inflammatory.
Let’s take a deeper dive:
Palestine has undergone many demographic and religious upheavals throughout history. During the second millennium BCE, it was inhabited by the Canaanites, Semitic-speaking peoples who practiced the Canaanite religion.
The Israelites emerged later as a separate ethno-religious group in the region. Jews eventually formed the majority of the population in Palestine during classical antiquity, however the Jewish population in Jerusalem and its surroundings in Judea dwindled and never fully recovered as a result of the Jewish-Roman Wars.
In the centuries that followed, the region experienced political and economic unrest, mass conversions to Christianity (and subsequent Christianization of the Roman Empire), and the religious persecution of minorities.
The emigration of Jews and the immigration of Christians — as well as the conversion of pagans, Jews, and Samaritans — contributed to a Christian majority forming in Late Roman and Byzantine Palestine.
In the seventh century, the Arab Rashiduns conquered the Muslim conquest of the Levant; they were later succeeded by other Arabic-speaking Muslim dynasties, including the Umayyads, Abbasids, and the Fatimids. Over the following several centuries, the population of Palestine drastically decreased, from an estimated one million during the Roman and Byzantine periods, to about 300,000 by the early Ottoman period (the early 16th century).
Over time, much of the existing population adopted Arab culture and language and converted to Islam. Hence, the region was not originally Arab — its Arabization was a consequence of the gradual inclusion of Palestine within the rapidly expanding Islamic Caliphates established by Arabian tribes and their local allies.
The settlement of Arabs before and after the Muslim conquest is thought to have played a role in accelerating the Islamization process. Some scholars suggest that by the arrival of the Crusaders, Palestine was already overwhelmingly Muslim, while others claim that it was only after the Crusades that the Christians lost their majority, and that the process of mass Islamization took place much later, perhaps during the Mamluk period (from the mid-13th to early 16th centuries).
For several centuries during the Ottoman period, the population in Palestine declined and fluctuated between 150,000 and 250,000 inhabitants, and it was only in the 19th century that a rapid population growth began to occur — aided by the immigration of Egyptians and Algerians in the first half of the 19th century, and the subsequent immigration of Algerians, Bosnians, and Circassians during the second half of the century.
The timing and causes behind the emergence of a distinctively Palestinian national consciousness among the Arabs of Palestine are matters of scholarly disagreement. Some argue that it can be traced as far back as the peasants’ revolt in Palestine in 1834 (or even as early as the 17th century).
This revolt was precipitated by heavy demands for conscripts. The local leaders and urban notables were unhappy about the loss of traditional privileges, while the peasants were well aware that conscription was little more than a death sentence. Starting in May 1834 the rebels took many cities — among them Jerusalem, Hebron, and Nablus — but the rebels were defeated in August of that year, in Hebron.
Meanwhile, others argue that Palestinian national consciousness did not emerge until after the Mandatory Palestine period (between 1920 and 1948). According to legal historian Assaf Likhovski, the prevailing view is that Palestinian identity originated in the early decades of the 20th century. At this time, an embryonic desire among Palestinians for self-government ensued, in the face of generalized fears that Zionism would lead to a Jewish state and the dispossession of the Arab majority.
The term “Palestinian” was first introduced by Khalīl Beidas in a translation of a Russian work on the Holy Land into Arabic in 1898. After that, its usage gradually spread so that, by 1908, with the loosening of censorship controls under late Ottoman rule, a number of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish correspondents writing for newspapers began to use the term with great frequency in referring to the “Palestinian people,” “Palestinians,” the “sons of Palestine,” or to “Palestinian society.”
By the early 20th century, strong opposition to Zionism and evidence of a burgeoning nationalistic Palestinian identity is found in the content of Arabic-language newspapers in Palestine.
Filasteen, an Arabic-language newspaper, initially focused its critique of Zionism around the failure of the Ottoman administration to control Jewish immigration and the large influx of foreigners, later exploring the impact of Jewish land-purchases on Palestinian peasants, expressing growing concern over land dispossession and its implications for the society at large.
Historian Rashid Khalidi’s 1997 book, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness, is considered a “foundational text” on the subject. Noting that Palestinian identity has never been an exclusive one, with “Arabism, religion, and local loyalties” playing an important role, Khalidi cautions against the efforts of some extreme advocates of Palestinian nationalism to “anachronistically” read back into history a nationalist consciousness that is in fact “relatively modern.”
Khalidi argues that the modern national identity of Palestinians has its roots in nationalist discourses that emerged among the peoples of the Ottoman empire in the late 19th century, which sharpened following the demarcation of modern nation-state boundaries in the Middle East after World War I.
Khalidi also states that, although the challenge posed by Zionism played a role in shaping this identity, that “it is a serious mistake to suggest that Palestinian identity emerged mainly as a response to Zionism.”
Historian James L. Gelvin argued that Palestinian nationalism was a direct reaction to Zionism. In his book, The Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War, he states that “Palestinian nationalism emerged during the interwar period in response to Zionist immigration and settlement.”
Still, Gelvin clarified that this does not make the Palestinian identity any less legitimate.
“The fact that Palestinian nationalism developed later than Zionism and indeed in response to it does not in any way diminish the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism or make it less valid than Zionism,” he wrote. “All nationalisms arise in opposition to some ‘other.’ Why else would there be the need to specify who you are? And all nationalisms are defined by what they oppose.”
David Seddon, a British academic, wrote that “the creation of Palestinian identity in its contemporary sense was formed essentially during the 1960s, with the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization.”
However, he added that “the existence of a population with a recognizably similar name (‘the Philistines’) in Biblical times suggests a degree of continuity over a long historical period (much as ‘the Israelites’ of the Bible suggest a long historical continuity in the same region).”
Tamir Sorek, a sociologist, contended that, “Although a distinct Palestinian identity can be traced back at least to the middle of the nineteenth century, or even to the seventeenth century, it was not until after World War I that a broad range of optional political affiliations became relevant for the Arabs of Palestine.”
Israeli historian Efraim Karsh takes the view that the Palestinian identity did not develop until after the 1967 war, because the Palestinian exodus/expulsion had fractured society so greatly that it was impossible to piece together a national identity.
British Mandatory Palestine
In 1919, the idea of a unique Palestinian state distinct from its Arab neighbors was at first rejected by Palestinian representatives. The First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations that year, which met for the purpose of selecting a Palestinian Arab representative for the Paris Peace Conference, adopted the following resolution:
“We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds.”
Indeed, Palestine was administered by the Ottoman Empire until World War I, and then overseen by the British Mandatory authorities starting in 1917. It was then that the first Palestinian nationalist organizations emerged, along with two political factions. al-Muntada al-Adabi, dominated by the Nashashibi family, militated for the promotion of the Arabic language and culture, for the defense of Islamic values, and for an independent Syria and Palestine. In Damascus, al-Nadi al-Arabi, dominated by the Husayni family, defended the same values.
During the British Mandate, Article 22 of The Covenant of the League of Nations conferred an international legal status upon the territories and people which had ceased to be under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire as part of a “sacred trust of civilization.”
And Article 7 of the League of Nations Mandate required the establishment of a new, separate, Palestinian nationality for the inhabitants. This meant that Palestinians did not become British citizens, and that Palestine was not annexed into the British dominions.
The Mandate document divided the population into Jewish and non-Jewish, and Britain, the Mandatory Power, considered the Palestinian population to be composed of religious, not national, groups. Consequently, government censuses in 1922 and 1931 would categorize Palestinians confessionally as Muslims, Christians, and Jews, with the category of Arab absent.
After the British general, Louis Bols, read out the Balfour Declaration — a public statement issued by the British government in 1917 during the First World War, announcing its support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine — some 1,500 Palestinians demonstrated in the streets of Jerusalem in 1920.
A month later, during the 1920 Nebi Musa riots, the protests against British rule and Jewish immigration became violent, and Bols banned all demonstrations. In 1921, however, further anti-Jewish riots broke out in Jaffa and dozens of Arabs and Jews were killed in the confrontations.
After the 1920 Nebi Musa riots, the San Remo conference, and the failure of the King of Iraq to establish the Kingdom of Greater Syria, a distinctive form of Palestinian Arab nationalism took root. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the French conquest of Syria, coupled with the British conquest and administration of Palestine, the formerly pan-Syrianist mayor of Jerusalem, Musa Qasim Pasha al-Husayni, said “Now, after the recent events in Damascus, we have to effect a complete change in our plans here. Southern Syria no longer exists. We must defend Palestine.”
Conflict between Palestinian nationalists and various types of pan-Arabists continued during the British Mandate, but the latter became increasingly marginalized. Two prominent leaders of the Palestinian nationalists were Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, appointed by the British, and Izz ad-Din al-Qassam.
After the killing of sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam by the British in 1935, his followers initiated the 1936-39 Arab revolt in Palestine, which began with a general strike in Jaffa, as well as attacks on Jewish and British installations in Nablus. The Arab Higher Committee called for a nationwide general strike, non-payment of taxes, and the closure of municipal governments, and demanded an end to Jewish immigration and a ban of the sale of land to Jews.
By the end of 1936, the movement had become a national revolt, and resistance grew during 1937 and 1938. In response, the British declared martial law, dissolved the Arab High Committee and arrested officials from the Supreme Muslim Council who were behind the revolt.
In November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Partition Plan, which divided the mandate of Palestine into two states: one majority Arab and one majority Jewish. The Palestinian Arabs rejected the plan and attacked Jewish civilian areas and paramilitary targets. Following Israel’s declaration of independence in May 1948, five Arab armies (Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Transjordan) came to the Palestinian Arabs’ aid by attacking the newly founded State of Israel.
Some sources contend that this war caused the depopulation of more than 400 towns and villages, and the creation of hundreds of thousands of refugees. More than 400 villages had been razed, and more than 45,000 buildings, 120 schools, 1,200 mosques, and 65 holy shrines, many with a long history, were destroyed by Israeli forces.
In addition, Palestinians lost from 1.5-to-2 million acres of land, an estimated 150,000 urban and rural homes, and 23,000 commercial structures, such as shops and offices. Recent estimates of the cost to Palestinians in property confiscations by Israel from 1948 onwards has concluded that Palestinians have suffered a net $300-billion loss in assets.
After the Israelis emerged victorious, the West Bank was ruled by Jordan, and the Gaza Strip by Egypt, with both countries continuing to administer these areas until Israel overtook them in the 1967 Six-Day War. And Israel took control of much of the territory that would have been allocated to the Arab state had the Palestinian Arabs accepted the UN partition plan.
Post-Founding of the State of Israel
Between 1948 and 1967, the Jordanians and other Arab countries hosting Arab refugees from Israel essentially silenced any expression of Palestinian identity, and these Arab countries occupied their lands until the Six-Day War in 1967.
The formal annexation of the West Bank by Jordan in 1950, and the subsequent granting of its Palestinian residents Jordanian citizenship, further stunted the growth of a Palestinian national identity by integrating them into Jordanian society.
At the Jericho Conference on December 1st, 1948, some 2,000 Palestinian delegates supported a resolution calling for “the unification of Palestine and Transjordan as a step toward full Arab unity.” During what historian Rashid Khalidi terms the “lost years” that followed, Palestinians lacked a center of gravity, divided as they were between these countries and others such as Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere.
In the 1950s, a new generation of Palestinian nationalist groups and movements began to organize clandestinely, stepping out onto the public stage in the 1960s. The traditional Palestinian elite who had dominated negotiations with the British and the Jews in the Mandate, and who were largely held responsible for the loss of Palestine, were replaced by these new movements whose recruits generally came from poor to middle-class backgrounds, and were often students or recent graduates of universities in Cairo, Beirut, and Damascus.
The potency of the pan-Arabist ideology put forward by Gamal Abdel Nasser —popular among Palestinians for whom Arabism was already an important component of their identity, tended to obscure the identities of the separate Arab states it subsumed.
Earlier, in 1956, regional tensions over the Straits of Tiran escalated in what became known as the Suez Crisis, when Israel invaded Egypt over the Egyptian closure of maritime passageways to Israeli shipping. This ultimately resulted in the re-opening of the Straits of Tiran to Israel, as well as the deployment of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) along the Egypt-Israel border.
In the months prior to the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967, tensions again became dangerously heightened: Israel reiterated its post-1956 position that another Egyptian closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping would be a definite casus belli (act of war).
In 1967, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser announced that the Straits of Tiran would again be closed to Israeli vessels. He subsequently mobilized the Egyptian military into defensive lines along the border with Israel, and ordered the immediate withdrawal of all UNEF personnel.
Then, as the UNEF was in the process of leaving the zone, Israel launched a series of preemptive airstrikes against Egyptian airfields and other facilities, launching its war effort. Egyptian forces were caught by surprise, and nearly all of Egypt's military aerial assets were destroyed, giving Israel air supremacy.
Simultaneously, the Israeli military launched a ground offensive into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, as well as the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip. After some initial resistance, Nasser ordered an evacuation of the Sinai Peninsula; by the sixth day of the conflict, Israel had taken the entire Sinai Peninsula.
BY the time of the cessation of hostilities, Israel had seized Syria’s Golan Heights, the Jordanian-annexed West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip.
The displacement of civilian populations as a result of the Six-Day War would have long-term consequences; around 280,000 to 325,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from the West Bank.
However, Palestinians rallied increasingly around the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had been formed in Cairo in 1964. The group grew in popularity in the following years, especially under the nationalistic orientation of the leadership of Yasser Arafat.
Mainstream secular Palestinian nationalism was grouped together under the umbrella of the PLO, whose constituent organizations include Fattah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, among other groups who at that time believed that political violence was the only way to “liberate” Palestine.
Among Palestinians in the Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank) and Gaza Strip, a new ideological theme, known as sumud (“steadfast perseverance”), represented the Palestinian political strategy popularly adopted from 1967 onward.
As a concept closely related to the land, agriculture, and indigenousness, the ideal image of the Palestinian put forward at this time was that of the peasant (in Arabic, fellah) who stayed put on his land, refusing to leave.
A strategy more passive than that adopted by the Palestinian fedayeen (“militants”), sumud provided an important subtext to the narrative of the fighters, “in symbolizing continuity and connections with the land, with peasantry and a rural way of life,” according to Helena Lindholm Schulz and Juliane Hammer in their 2003 book, The Palestinian Diaspora: Formation of Identities and Politics of Homeland.
In 1974, the PLO was recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by the Arab nation-states, and was granted observer status as a national liberation movement by the United Nations that same year.
In a speech to the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), Israeli Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yigal Allon outlined the government’s view on this decision by the UN, saying: “No one can expect us to recognize the terrorist organization called the PLO as representing the Palestinians — because it does not. No one can expect us to negotiate with the heads of terror-gangs, who through their ideology and actions, endeavor to liquidate the State of Israel.”
In 1987, the First Intifada broke out, signifying the first Palestinian uprising against Israel and, in particular, its land capture during the 1967 Six-Day War. Followed by the PLO’s 1988 proclamation of a State of Palestine, these developments served to further reinforce the Palestinian national identity.
When Israel took over the aforementioned territories in 1967, the Muslim Brotherhood members there did not take active part in the resistance, preferring to focus on social-religious reform and on restoring Islamic values. This outlook changed in the early 1980s, and Islamic organizations became more involved in Palestinian politics.
The driving force behind this transformation was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a Palestinian refugee from Al-Jura. Of humble origins and quadriplegic, he persevered to become one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders in Gaza. His charisma and conviction brought him a loyal group of followers, upon whom he, as a quadriplegic, depended for everything — from feeding him, to transporting him to and from events, and to communicate his strategy to the public.
In 1984, Yassin was arrested after the Israelis found out that his group collected arms, but released in 1985 as part of a prisoner exchange. Following his release, he set up al-Majd (an acronym for Munazamat al-Jihad wa al-Da'wa), headed by former student leader Yahya Sinwar (the current leader of Hamas) and Rawhi Mushtaha, tasked with handling internal security and hunting local informants for the Israeli intelligence services.
At about the same time, he ordered former student leader Salah Shehade to set up al-Mujahidun al-Filastiniun (Palestinian fighters), but its militants were quickly rounded up by Israeli authorities and had their arms confiscated.
The idea of Hamas began to take form in late 1987, when several members of the Brotherhood convened the day after an incident in which an Israeli army truck had crashed into a car at a Gaza checkpoint, killing four Palestinian day-workers. They met at Yassin's house and decided that they too needed to react in some manner, as the protest riots sparking the First Intifada erupted.
A leaflet issued on the December 14th, 1987 — calling for resistance — is considered to mark their first public intervention, though the name Hamas itself was not used until 1988.
To many Palestinians, Hamas appeared to engage more authentically with their national expectations, since it merely provided an Islamic version of what had been the PLO’s original goals, armed struggle to liberate all of Palestine, rather than the territorial compromise the PLO acquiesced in.
Creating Hamas as an entity distinct from the Muslim Brotherhood was a matter of practicality; the Muslim Brotherhood refused to engage in violence against Israel, but without participating in the intifada, the Islamists tied to it feared they would lose support to their rivals the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the PLO. They also hoped that by keeping its militant activities separate, Israel would not interfere with its social work.
In August 1988, Hamas published the Hamas Charter, wherein it defined itself as a chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood and its desire to establish “an Islamic state throughout Palestine.” This charter also includes:
Article 7 — describes Hamas as “one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders and references a hadith (statement or endorsement of Muhammad) which states that the Day of Judgment would not come until the Muslims fight and kill the Jews
Article 8 — “Allah is Hamas’ goal, the Prophet is the model, the Qur’an its constitution, jihad its path, and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”
Article 13 — There is no negotiated settlement possible. Jihad is the only answer.
Article 17 — Declares the role of women in Islamic society to be the “maker of men”
Article 22 — Makes sweeping claims about Jewish influence and power, specifically claiming that the Jews were responsible for instigating multiple revolutions and wars, including the French Revolution, World War I, and the Russian Revolution, and that Jews control the United Nations
Article 28 — Claims that “Zionist organizations” aim to destroy society through moral corruption and eliminating Islam, and are responsible for drug trafficking and alcoholism
After the Gulf War in 1991, Kuwaiti authorities forcibly pressured nearly 200,000 Palestinians to leave Kuwait. The policy, which partly led to this exodus, was a response to the alignment of PLO leader Yasser Arafat with Saddam Hussein.
The Oslo Accords, the first Israeli-Palestinian interim peace agreement, were signed in 1993. The process was envisioned to last five years, ending in 1999, when the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area began.
The Palestinian Authority became the administrative body that governed Palestinian population centers, while Israel maintained control of the airspace, territorial waters, and border crossings (with the exception of the land border with Egypt, which is controlled by Egypt) In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip under their unilateral disengagement plan.
In 1995, current PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli politician Yossi Beilin wrote the Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement, which was meant to be the framework for a future Israeli–Palestinian peace deal.
The expiration of the five-year term of the Oslo Accords without the recognition by Israel of a Palestinian state, and without the effective termination of “the occupation” was followed by the Second Intifada in 2000, which was more violent than the first one.
Following the failures of the Second Intifada, a younger generation of Palestinians emerged on the basis of caring less about nationalist ideology and more about economic growth. This has been a source of tension between some of the Palestinian political leadership and Palestinian business professionals who desire economic cooperation with Israelis.
At an international conference in Bahrain, Palestinian businessman Ashraf Jabari said, “I have no problem working with Israel. It is time to move on. The Palestinian Authority does not want peace. They told the families of the businessmen that they are wanted [by police] for participating in the Bahrain workshop.”
By early 2003, as Israel and the United States refused to negotiate with Yasser Arafat, it was thought that Mahmoud Abbas would be a candidate for the kind of leadership role envisaged by both countries. As one of the few remaining founding members of Fattah, he had some degree of credibility within the Palestinian cause, and his candidacy was bolstered by the fact that other high-profile Palestinians were for various reasons not suitable.
Abbas’ reputation as a pragmatist garnered him favor with the West and some members of the Palestinian legislature. Under international pressure, in March 2003, Arafat appointed Abbas Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority.
A struggle for power between Arafat and Abbas ensued, and Abbas’ term as prime minister was characterized by numerous conflicts between him and Arafat over the distribution of power. The United States and Israel accused Arafat of undermining Abbas and his government. Abbas hinted he would resign if not given more control over the administration.
In early September 2003, he confronted the Palestinian parliament over this issue. Abbas came into conflict with Palestinian militant groups, notably the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement and Hamas, because his pragmatic policies were opposed to their hard-line approach. Initially, he pledged not to use force against the militants in the interest of avoiding a civil war, and attempted negotiation.
This was partially successful, resulting in a pledge from the two groups to honor a unilateral Palestinian ceasefire. However, continuing violence forced Abbas to pledge a crackdown in order to uphold the Palestinian Authority’s side of the roadmap for peace. This led to a power struggle with Arafat over control of the Palestinian Security Services; Arafat refused to release control to Abbas, thus preventing him from using them on the militants.
Abbas resigned as prime minister in September 2003, citing lack of support from Israel and the United States as well as “internal incitement” against his government.
After Arafat’s death in November 2004, Abbas was seen, at least by Fattah, as his natural successor. That same month, Abbas was endorsed by Fatah’s Revolutionary Council as its preferred candidate for the presidential election, scheduled for January 2005.
In December 2004, Abbas called for an end to violence in the Second Intifada and a return to peaceful resistance. Abbas told the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that “the use of arms has been damaging and should end.” However, he refused, or was not able, to disarm Palestinian militants and use force against groups designated as terrorist organizations.
With Israeli forces arresting and restricting the movement of other candidates, Hamas’ boycott of the election, and his campaign being given 94-percent of the Palestinian electoral campaign coverage on TV, Abbas’ election was virtually ensured. In January 2005, Abbas was elected with 62-percent of the vote as President of the Palestinian National Authority.
In his speech, Abbas presented this victory to the soul of Yasser Arafat and “to our people, to our martyrs and to 11,000 prisoners.” He also called for Palestinian groups to end the use of arms against Israelis.
Despite Abbas’ call for a peaceful solution, attacks by militant groups continued after his election, in a direct challenge to his authority. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine launched a raid in Gaza in January 2005, that killed one and wounded three Israeli military personnel. That same month, Palestinians from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Hamas, and the Popular Resistance Committees launched a suicide attack on the Karni crossing, killing six Israelis.
As a result, Israel shut down the damaged terminal and broke off relations with Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, stating that Abbas must now show a gesture of peace by attempting to stop such attacks.
In February 2005, Abbas met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit, to end the Second Intifada, and they both reaffirmed their commitment to the roadmap for a peace process. Sharon also agreed to release 900 Palestinian prisoners of the 7,500 being held at the time, and to withdraw from West Bank towns.
In August 2005, Abbas announced that legislative elections, originally scheduled for July 2005, would take place in January 2006. The elections took place on January 25th, 2006, and resulted in a decisive Hamas victory.
In 2007, Hamas became the elected government in Gaza, and expelled the rival party Fattah from Gaza. This broke the Unity Government between Gaza Strip and the West Bank, creating two separate governments among the Palestinians.
In December 2009, the leadership of the Palestinian Central Council announced an indefinite extension of Abbas’ term as president. Since then, Abbas has remained president of the Fatah-controlled areas of the Palestinian territories.
Nothing much of significance has changed ever since.