Overall Chronology

Overall Chronology

IX. The First Intifada And The Beginning Of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations
9 December 1987 to 19 January 1993

Children Demonstration Throught the Streets of al-Mazra‘a al-Sharqiyya

February 1988
The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive, Joss Dray Photographs

The period 1987–93 witnessed the outbreak of the first intifada, which caused a major shift in both Israeli and Palestinian thinking about the conflict and its peaceful resolution. The 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait that led to an American-led war against Iraq in early 1991 also dramatically shifted the regional balance of power, as did the collapse of the Eastern bloc in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. One result of all of this was the beginning of the first face-to-face Arab-Israeli talks since the Camp David Accords of 1979.

The first intifada broke out on 9 December 1987, when an Israeli truck struck and killed several Palestinians in Gaza. Wide-scale protests broke out, and Israeli occupation forces soon faced a massive civil insurrection that quickly spread to the West Bank. Israeli forces responded to rock-throwing crowds of young men with beatings, curfews, mass detentions, and deadly force, but they failed to halt the protests. Local committees sprang up in towns and villages throughout the West Bank and Gaza, both to maintain popular support for the intifada and to provide social services. Civil disobedience, including strikes, boycotts of Israeli products, and refusal to pay Israeli taxes, spread and became an additional dimension of the mass resistance to Israeli occupation.

The intifada and the scale of popular support for it came as a surprise and were initially spontaneous. In retrospect,  they represented the climax of a build-up in civil society activism, strikes, demonstrations, and mounting mobilization against Israeli practices in the occupied territories, especially during the preceding twelve months. As the intifada stretched into 1988 and then 1989, it became clear to Israel that its traditional methods for controlling the Palestinians in the occupied territories no longer worked. The Israeli public became increasingly aware of the financial and strategic costs of ruling a rebellious population. For the PLO, the spontaneity of the intifada revealed two things: first, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, suffering under direct Israeli military occupation, could no longer be counted on to wait patiently for the PLO to come to their rescue from outside the homeland. Second, a new generation of relatively independent leaders had arisen in the territories, ideologically tied to the PLO and coordinating with it rather than subject to its direct orders.

The year 1988 was pivotal for the intifada and the PLO. On 8 January, a coordinating committee for the intifada called the Unified National Leadership of the Uprising  (UNLU) issued its first communiqué. The initial committee consisted of members of Fatah and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Several days later, a representative from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) joined, followed; in March by the Palestine Communist Party. This secretive four-person body sought to direct the intifada through its periodic statements. The UNLU coordinated policies with PLO leaders in Tunisia, particularly high-level Fatah leader Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad). Israel believed him to be responsible for guiding the intifada and dispatched commandos who assassinated him in Sidi Bu Sa‛id, Tunisia, on 16 April 1988.

The start of the intifada witnessed also a shift in the Gaza Muslim Brotherhood and the emergence of its armed wing directed against Israel. On 14 December 1987 a communiqué announced the establishment of an “Islamic Resistance Movement” (to be known later on under the acronym Hamas).  The group formally declared its affiliation with the Brotherhood in February 1988 and issued its charter, which called for the total liberation of all Palestine and rejecting negotiations, in August. Hamas operated outside of the PLO and represented a challenge to the PLO. In October 1988, Hamas agreed to work with the UNLU, although it did not formally join it. Hamas issued its own communiqués calling for strike days different from those called for by the UNLU.

Diplomatically, the intifada prompted major changes regionally and internationally. It revealed the depth of pro-PLO sympathy in the West Bank. Accordingly, Jordan’s King Hussein formally cut all administrative ties with the West Bank on 31 July 1988, essentially giving up on having the territory return to Jordanian control and conceding responsibility for it to the PLO. On 15 November 1988, the Palestine National Council, meeting in Algiers, declared the independence of a Palestinian state, on the basis of UN General Assembly Resolution 181. At the same time, it issued another document stating its acceptance of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. On 14 December, after Arafat reaffirming his rejection of terrorism, the U.S. government announced for the first time that it would begin a dialogue with the PLO. However, it cut off this dialogue on 20 June 1990 following a failed raid on Israel by a guerrilla group from the Iraqi-backed Palestine Liberation Front.

With the intifada still underway, Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait on 2 August 1990. The PLO supported the initiative presented by the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein on 12 August, linking the solution of the Gulf crisis with that of Arab-Israeli conflict. Various PLO figures offered different opinions about the occupation and, later, about the American-led attack on Iraq that began in January 1991. On the whole, however, the world perceived the PLO as supportive of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states cut precipitously their financial support. The “revenge” expulsion of several hundred thousand Palestinian residents of Kuwait after the country’s liberation worsened the situation further. Arafat suffered another blow during the Gulf Crisis when Palestinian leader Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) was assassinated in Tunis by a Palestinian, on 14 January 1991.

In the wake of the Gulf War and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. President George H. W. Bush decided to reward the Arab coalition against Iraq and to use the United States’ newfound influence in the region to try to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict diplomatically. U.S. Secretary of State James Baker made a number of trips to the Middle East to lay the basis for a peace conference that would involve Israel, the Arab states, and non-PLO Palestinians. In the spring and summer of 1991, a weakened  PLO authorized a group of Palestinian figures in the West Bank and Gaza to meet with Baker. The latter devised a formula, acceptable by Israel, whereby Palestinian negotiators, though implicitly appointed by the PLO, would be part of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation to negotiate a five-year self-government arrangement for the West Bank and Gaza. On 30 October 1991, the Madrid Conference opened under the sponsorship of the United States and the Soviet Union (then only two months away from dissolving).  

The Madrid Conference and the successive rounds of negotiations that were held in Washington during the following months led to improving the Palestinian image in the world and strengthening Palestinian identity. Thus, in January 1992, the Palestinian delegates practically split away from the Jordanian delegation and began separate bilateral talks with the Israelis. Their ties and identification with the PLO leadership became more and more visible. However, in terms of negotiation issues, the gap continued to be wide between their demands and Israel’s positions, even after Labor’s electoral victory with Yitzhak Rabin in June 1992. The deportation of more than 400 Islamic militants to South Lebanon in December was a reminder that much more than the Madrid terms of reference was needed to open the road toward a serious solution of the Palestine question. In January 1993 a secret negotiation channel was opened that led in Summer 1993 to an accord, but not necessarily one that would set the stage for a satisfactory solution.



Selected Bibliography

Ashrawi, Hanan. This Side of Peace: A Personal Account. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Hallaj, Muhammad. “Taking Sides: Palestinians and the Gulf Crisis.Journal of Palestine Studies 20, no.3 (Spring 1991): 41–47.

Lockman, Zachary, and Joel Beinin, eds. Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising against Israeli Occupation. Washington, DC: Middle East Research and Information Project, 1989.

Mansour, Camille. The Palestinian-Israeli Peace Negotiations: An Overview and Assessment: October 1991–January 1993. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1993.

Peretz, Don. Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990.

Schiff, Ze’ev and Ehud Ya’ari. Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising—Israel’s Third Front. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.

Tamari, Salim. “The Palestinian Movement in Transition: Historical Reversals and the Uprising.Journal of Palestine Studies 20, no.2 (Winter 1991): 57–70.


Overall Chronology
E.g., 2020/08/14
E.g., 2020/08/14
Event Date Subject
Start of the Intifada in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank 9 December 1987
First Communiqué of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) 14 December 1987
General Assembly Resolutions 42/210, 42/229 and 42/230 17 December 1987 - 23 March 1988
Solidarity of Israel's Palestinians with the Intifada 21 December 1987
Security Council Resolution S/RES/605 22 December 1987
Non-Armed Intifada 3 January 1988 - 13 February 1988
Security Council Resolutions S/RES/607 and S/RES/608 4 January 1988 - 14 January 1988
Unified National Leadership of the Uprising 8 January 1988
The Palestinians' 14 Demands 14 January 1988
Israel's Policy of "Beating" 19 January 1988 - 27 January 1988
Resumption of Diplomatic Activity 30 January 1988 - 10 February 1988
Draft Security Council Resolutions S/19466, S/19780, S/20463, S/20677, and S/20945/Rev.1 1 February 1988 - 7 November 1989
One-Month Closure of Academic Institutions in the West Bank 2 February 1988
2nd Visit of US Secretary George Shultz to the Region; Statement to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza 25 February 1988 - 26 February 1988
US Secretary of State Shultz Negotiations Plan 4 March 1988
The Intifada and the Israeli Response in Another Stage in the Confrontation 11 March 1988 - 29 March 1988
3rd Visit of US Secretary of State Shultz to the Region 3 April 1988 - 8 April 1988
Assassination of Khalil al-Wazir in Tunis 16 April 1988
4th Visit of US Secretary of State Shultz to the Region 3 June 1988 - 7 June 1988
Extraordinary Arab Summit in Algiers 7 June 1988 - 9 June 1988
Another Round of Releasing and Detaining Faisal Husseini 9 June 1988 - 31 July 1988
Jordan Severs Ties with the West Bank 28 July 1988 - 4 August 1988
The Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) Issues Its Charter 18 August 1988
Elections in Israel 1 November 1988
19th Palestine National Council Meets in Algiers and Proclaims the Palestinian State 12 November 1988 - 15 November 1988
The Intifada First Year Balance Sheet 9 December 1988
General Assembly Resolution 43/160 9 December 1988
Arafat addresses the UN General Assembly 13 December 1988 - 14 December 1988
Start of US-PLO Dialogue 14 December 1988
General Assembly Resolution 43/177 15 December 1988
Tougher Israeli Measures Against the Intifada 17 January 1989
US-PLO Official Meeting Takes Place in Carthage, Tunisia 22 March 1989
Israel Proposes Elections in the West Bank and Gaza 30 March 1989
PLO Central Council Meeting Is Held in Tunis 31 March 1989 - 2 April 1989
Yasir Arafat Makes First Official Visit to Paris 2 May 1989 - 4 May 1989
Resurgence of Intifada, Worsening of Repression 3 May 1989 - 16 May 1989
Israel's "Peace Initiative" 14 May 1989
The PLO Executive Committee Rejects Israel's Peace Initiative 15 May 1989
Ahmad Yasin Arrested 19 May 1989
Egypt Proposes a Ten-Point Plan for Palestinian Elections 1 July 1989 - 30 September 1989
US-PLO Official Meeting in Tunis 14 August 1989
Israel Deports Five Palestinians 27 August 1989
Security Council Resolution S/RES/641 30 August 1989
Mass Emigration of Soviet Jews to Israel Is Triggered 1 October 1989 - 14 January 1990
The Baker Five-Point Plan 10 October 1989
Responses to the Baker Five-Point Plan 16 October 1989 - 18 December 1989
Draft General Assembly Resolution A/44/L.50 6 December 1989
US Voices Dissatisfaction with Israel 23 February 1990 - 3 March 1990
Israel's National Unity Government Collapses 13 March 1990 - 11 June 1990
The Issue of Hamas's Participation in the Palestine National Council 7 April 1990
Rishon LeZion (Uyun Qara) Killings 20 May 1990
Draft Security Council Resolution S/21326 31 May 1990
Dial 1-202-456-1414 13 June 1990
The US Administration Suspends Dialogue with the PLO 20 June 1990
Iraqi Forces Invade Kuwait 2 August 1990
Palestinian Response to the Invasion of Kuwait 3 August 1990 - 17 January 1991
Haram al-Sharif Killings 8 October 1990
Security Council Resolutions S/RES/672 and S/RES/673 12 October 1990 - 24 October 1990
Statement of the President of the Security Council S/22027 20 December 1990
Security Council Resolution S/RES/681 20 December 1990
Assassination of Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) 14 January 1991
The Gulf War 17 January 1991 - 28 February 1991
President Bush Outlines US Goals Following the Gulf War 6 March 1991
Secretary Baker First Stage Diplomacy 9 March 1991 - 22 May 1991
Secretary Baker Second Stage Diplomacy 1 June 1991 - 18 October 1991
Intifada Statistics 30 July 1991
US-Soviet Joint Statement on the Middle East, Moscow 31 July 1991
20th Palestine National Council Is Held in Algiers 23 September 1991 - 28 September 1991
US Letters of Assurances 15 October 1991 - 18 October 1991
PLO Central Council Meeting Is Held in Tunis 17 October 1991
US-Soviet Invitation to the Madrid Peace Conference 18 October 1991
Madrid Conference 30 October 1991 - 2 November 1991
1st Negotiation Round, Madrid 3 November 1991
2nd Negotiation Round, Washington 10 December 1991 - 18 December 1991
General Assembly Resolution 46/86 16 December 1991
Israel Announces Deportation of Palestinians 2 January 1992
Security Council Resolution S/RES/726 6 January 1992
3rd Negotiation Round, Washington 13 January 1992 - 16 January 1992
Conference on Multilateral Peace Talks, Moscow 28 January 1992 - 29 January 1992
4th Negotiation Round, Washington 24 February 1992 - 4 March 1992
Arafat Survives a Plane Crash in Libya 7 April 1992 - 8 April 1992
5th Negotiation Round, Washington 27 April 1992 - 30 April 1992
Multilateral Talks 11 May 1992 - 13 May 1992
Assassination of Atef Bseiso in Paris 8 June 1992
Elections in Israel 23 June 1992
32nd Zionist Congress Is Held in Jerusalem 26 July 1992 - 30 July 1992
6th Negotiation Round, 1st Stage, Washington 24 August 1992 - 3 September 1992
6th Negotiation Round, 2nd Stage, Washington 14 September 1992 - 24 September 1992
A Coalition of 10 Palestinian Organizations Opposed to Negotiations Is Formed in Damascus 16 September 1992
7th Negotiation Round, Washington 21 October 1992 - 20 November 1992
Multilateral Talks 29 October 1992 - 12 November 1992
8th Negotiation Round, Washington 7 December 1992 - 16 December 1992
Israel Deports 415 Palestinians to South Lebanon 13 December 1992 - 16 December 1992
Security Council Resolution S/RES/799 18 December 1992
Bilateral Negotiation Round Delayed 11 January 1993