As U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, a new Gulf war was averted in February 1998 by skillful diplomacy backed up by firmness and force. Without President Clinton's determination to use force if necessary, Saddam Hussein might not have agreed to U.N. inspection of his weapons and weapon sites.
Unlike in 1991, in 1998, Arab, Russian, French and Chinese opposition to a U.s. military option left Britain as almost the only ally of America. The most telling change, seven years after the Gulf War, was the refusal of Saudi Arabia, Washington's traditional ally in the Arab world, to allow Saudi-based U.s. planes to be used against Iraq, or to let American troops use Saudi military facilities. Most Arab states, led by Egypt, a staunch ally of the United States in 1991, set out to convince Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions. This view was shared by Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, who had openly sided with Saddam Hussein in 1991. Paradoxically, the PLO's increasing isolation in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War and Arafat's weakened position, along with the demise of the Soviet Union, probably paved the way for his pragmatic reassessment of his future relations with Israel.
In the final analysis, both in 1991 and 1998, Washington was calling the shots. For the past five decades, in one way or another, the United States of America has been playing a key role in the Middle East. In retrospect,
there was no major development in the decades-long Israeli-Arab conflict in which Washington was not eventually intensively involved, even when the Americans were on the sidelines at first. Indeed, Washington has come a long way from the traditionally pro-Arab position of the U.S. State Department in the forties and fifties, to the developing support of Israel from the mid-sixties and eventually to the position of major mediator, assuming the role of "honest broker" between Israel and the Arab side for the past 25 years.
America's role as the major and actually only effective mediator has become more pronounced in the nineties, following the demise of the Soviet Union as a superpower. But, even prior to that, the more pragmatic and moderate leaders of the Arab world had come to realize that only America could have a real impact on Israel's decisions and "deliver" some significant concessions, although Washington's ability to exert relentless pressure on Israel had and still does have its limits.
However, to judge from previous experience, in the final analysis, only the U.S. will be able to negotiate the kind of compromise and mutual concessions which will be necessary in order to complete the peace process. Such a process must achieve mutual recognition between the PLO-Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel, with a lasting, permanent-status solution that will also accord statehood to the Palestinians. The resumption and possible conclusion of peace talks between Syria and Israel, if and when these should be broached again in earnest, is also impossible without the United States.
In order to appreciate these basic assumptions, it will be helpful to remind ourselves of some of the more important events and chapters in the recent political history of the Israeli-Arab conflict, so that we can learn a lesson from Washington's changing roles and attitudes towards the Middle East during the past half century.

From the 1940s

• Prior to the U.N. General Assembly vote on November 29, 1947, on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, the American State Department, which voted for the resolution, was not prepared to help mobilize important votes of other U.N. member-states in order to attain the necessary two-thirds majority. Only the personal intervention of President Harry Truman could overcome the influence of the State Department's strong pro-Arab lobby so that, in the end, 33 states voted for the partition, 13 against, while 10 abstained .
• In December 1947, the U.S.A. declared a total embargo on arms shipments to the Middle East, as heavy fighting between Jews and Arabs broke out one day after the U.N. vote for partition, which was fiercely opposed by the Arab side.
• On January 19, 1948, the State Department Policy Planning Staff, headed by George Kennan, recommended that no further U.S. initiative should be taken in implementing or aiding the U.N. partition resolution. Since the Arabs would not cooperate, and a Jewish state would not survive without outside help, the issue of Palestine should be returned to the U.N. General Assembly with a recommendation that it investigate the alternative of a trusteeship.
• At a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on March 19, 1948, U.s.
• Ambassador Warren Austin called for the suspension of the partition implementation, in view of the ongoing fighting, and for a temporary U.N. trusteeship in Palestine. President Truman was taken by complete surprise and embarrassed by Austin's statement, as only one day before, on March 18, he had a secret meeting with the Zionist leader Chaim Weizman, reassuring him that the U.S.A. still favored partition. The president felt that the State Department people had deliberately undermined him.
• On April 23, 1948, Truman sent another personal message to Weizman, assuring him that, if the trusteeship proposal would not be adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, the U.S. would recognize the Jewish state when it was established.
• On May 12, 1948, President Truman convened a White House meeting to advise on the recognition of Israel. Secretary of State George Marshall argued strongly against and told Truman that he would vote against him in the presidential elections later that year if he were to recognize Israel. Special Counsel Clark Clifford was in favor and carried the day.
• Warren Austin and the entire U.S. delegation to the U.N. threatened to resign when President Truman announced the recognition of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, only several hours after David Ben-Gurion proclaimed its establishment in Tel Aviv.
• Ralph Bunche, a senior American diplomat, was appointed as acting U.N. mediator in September 1948, following the assassination in Jerusalem of Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden by Jewish terrorists.
• During February, March and July 1949, Ralph Bunche succeeded in concluding armistice agreements between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
• In May 1949, Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations.
• In the same month, President Truman expressed "deep disappointment" at Israel's failure to show flexibility on the Palestinian refugee problem at the meeting of the Palestine Conciliation Commission (PCC) in Lausanne, Switzerland. Truman warned that the U.S. might reconsider its attitude toward Israel. The U.S. was a member of the PCC, together with France and Turkey.
• On December 9, 1949, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the internationalization of Jerusalem. Following this decision, Israel's Prime Minister Ben-Gurion proclaimed on December 13, 1949, that "Jerusalem was Israel's only and eternal capital," but the holy places would be supervised by the UN. Most countries, including the U.S.A., refused to move their embassies to Jerusalem.

The 1950s

• In May 1950, the U.S., Britain and France issued a Tripartite Declaration, expressing their opposition to the use of force between Israel and its Arab neighbors and guaranteeing the existing armistice lines.
• Israeli-Soviet relations worsened considerably in June 1950, after Israel joined the 45 nations, led by the U.S.A., who voted for UN sanctions against North Korea, in response to its invasion of South Korea. The Soviet press called Israel a "satellite of Western imperialism."
• Following a meeting of Ben-Gurion with Truman in Washington, Moscow's Pravda asserted, in May 1951, that the visit of Israeli ministers to the U.S.A. was the "culmination of the transformation of Israel into an American colony."
• In July 1951, King Abdallah of Jordan was assassinated and one year later the officers' revolution, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, deposed King Farouk of Egypt.
• Through contacts of U.S. mediator Robert Anderson, Egypt proposed, in March 1953, border adjustments to Israel that would provide Egypt with a land link to Jordan through the southern Negev. Israel also was to pay compensation to Palestinian refugees. Initially, Israel agreed in principle to negotiate, on condition that the Arab boycott would be lifted and the Suez Canal blockade ended.
• In June 1953, US. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles outlined the Middle East policy of President Eisenhower's Administration, after having toured the region:
• The U.S.A. would adhere to a principle of exact neutrality so as to win the respect of both the Arabs and Israelis and favor direct negotiations to establish peace; Jerusalem should be internationalized, but there should be "some political status in Jerusalem for Israel and Jordan"; some Arab refugees should be resettled within Israel, but most in Arab countries.
• Israel moved its Foreign Ministry to Jerusalem in July 1953, having delayed the move for over two years because of American pressure.
• Eric Johnston, President Eisenhower's personal envoy, began his water mediation mission in September 1953, to urge a plan for the joint Arab and Israeli use of the Jordan River water resources. The mediation failed.
• Border clashes along the Jordanian and Egyptian armistice lines with Israel and infiltration into Israel of fedayeen continued throughout this period. In
• December 1954. U.S. diplomats stationed in the Middle East defined u.s. policy for the region: a) complete and strict impartiality between the Arab states and Israel; b) friendship for all Middle Eastern countries; c) support of these countries in their efforts to create strong and stable governments; d) reaffirmation of the Tripartite Declaration of 1950; and e) support of the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization.
• The U.N. Security Council adopted a U.S.-British-French resolution, condemning Israel for the massive retaliation attack against Egyptian military headquarters in Gaza in February 1955.
• As the cycle of violence and mediation efforts continued, John Foster Dulles in August 1955 proposed yet another U.S.-sponsored program to put an end to the war between Israel and the Arab states. In a speech, approved by President Eisenhower, Dulles outlined the following points: agreement on borders; international guarantee of these borders sponsored by the U.N., with American participation through formal treaty obligations; an international loan, with heavy U.S. participation, to enable Israel to pay compensation to Arab refugees; and u.s. aid to help create more arable land where the refugees would reside.
• Citing the Israeli attack in Gaza, President Nasser announced in September 1955 a massive Czech arms deal under Soviet sponsorship, in exchange for In December 1955, the U.S.A. and Britain nevertheless gave Egypt assurances of financial aid for the construction of the Aswan Dam through the International Bank. Negotiations for a $200-million loan began and Egypt accepted the offer, rejecting the Soviet proposal.
• In January 1956, the U.N. Security Council again unanimously adopted a U.S.-British-French resolution, condemning Israel for its December attack on Syrian positions near the Sea of Galilee.
• Former President Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt and labor leader Walter Reuter urged Washington to provide defensive arms to Israel to protect itself from the introduction of Communist arms to Arab countries.
• In February 1956, Foster Dulles advised Congress that if Israel lost the arms race with the Arabs, Israel's security would be assured by the U.N.
• A last effort to resolve the Egyptian-Israeli conflict was made by President Eisenhower, as he selected former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Anderson to secretly mediate directly between Ben-Gurion and Nasser.
• The U.S.A. made it known that it would not object to the sale of arms to Israel by France and Britain, while Washington continued to defer action on Israel's requests for U.S. arms. Alarmed at the shift in the Middle East power balance, Dulles requested Canada in April 1956 to provide Israel with a squadron of American-licensed jet fighters.
• Britain withdrew its last troops from Egypt in June 1956, ending 74 years of military occupation.
• In July 1956, Secretary of State Dulles announced that the U.S.A. had withdrawn its offer to finance the construction of Egypt's Aswan Dam, due to Egypt's increasingly friendly relations with the Soviet Union. One week later, Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal. The canal revenue would finance the dam's construction. Britain and France regarded this act by Egypt as a threat to world peace.
• In August 1956, Dulles warned Britain's Prime Minister Anthony Eden that the U.S.A. opposed armed intervention in the Suez Canal crisis. Undeterred, the British and French assembled military teams to prepare for landings in Egypt to regain the Suez Canal.
• On October 29, 1956, Israel launched the Sinai Campaign against Egypt, in collusion with France and Britain. One week later, President Eisenhower sent an ultimatum to David Ben-Gurion, demanding Israel's immediate withdrawal from Sinai and warning that Israel should not count on U.S. aid in the event of a Soviet-assisted attack. U.S.S.R. President Nikolai Bulganin threatened that Israel's action put in question its very existence as a state. Ben-Gurion withdrew from Sinai.

The 1960s

• Dulles never forgave Israel's collusion with the French and British, behind the back of the Americans, and even an Israeli prime minister of Ben¬Gurion's stature had to wait until March 1960 before he could again visit
• Washington for a first meeting with Eisenhower, during his last year in office.
• In 1960, Dulles's successor, Christian Herter, agreed to lift partially the American arms embargo of December 1947 and to allow Israel to purchase certain defensive weapons, such as Hawk anti-aircraft missiles. That agreement was implemented two years later by President John Kennedy .
• A marked improvement in U.S.-Israeli relations began in 1964 at the Texas ranch meeting of President L.B. Johnson with Ben-Gurion's successor, Levi Eshkol. There, it was agreed for the first time that Israel could count on getting American military aid, including modem fighter aircraft and tanks,
• After 11 years of relative calm, a new confrontation between Israel and Egypt loomed during the critical days of May 1967, when President Nasser demanded the withdrawal from Sinai to the Gaza Strip of the U.N. Emergency Forces - UNEF - which had been a buffer between Egyptian and Israeli troops since the 1956 Sinai Campaign. At the height of the crisis, President Johnson led Israel to understand that, as an independent state, it could make its own decisions regarding Egypt's blocking of the Strait of Tiran and the military threat in Sinai.
• With the outbreak of war on June 5, 1967, Israel's attempts to ask King Hussein to stay out of the fighting failed. As a result of Israel's victory, it has for over three decades ruled over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, against the will of the Palestinian people. After the June 1967 war and the adoption of U.N. Resolution 242, which demanded Israel's withdrawal from occupied territories, President Johnson nevertheless declared clearly that the U.S.A. would vouch for Israel's security, but not for its conquests.
• President Richard Nixon's first secretary of state William Rogers became known for his "Rogers Plan "of 1969, which demanded that Israel return most of the occupied territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip), except for "minor border modifications." Such ideas were total anathema to Prime Minister Golda Meir's government, which also rejected any negotiations with the Palestinians, or their recognition.
• The 1970s
• In August 1970, the American "Rogers Initiative" achieved an effective cease-fire along the Suez Canal, ending the War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt that had lasted nearly three years and caused heavy casualties on both sides. Washington was alarmed by Egypt's Soviet-manned air defense. Prime Minister Golda Meir refused mediation proposals made by U.N. Middle East mediator Gunnar Jarring.
• September 1970, "Black September," saw heavy clashes between King Hussein's Arab Legion and Palestinian fighters in Jordan. President Nixon denounced Syria's attempted intervention in support of the Palestinians.
• The subsequent Arab reconciliation summit meeting in Cairo was marred by the sudden death of President Nasser, replaced by Anwar Sadat since Vice President Ali Sabry was considered to be too sympathetic to the Soviet Union. The Arab summit conference decided that all the Palestinian fighters and their families must leave Jordan and move to Lebanon.
• In May 1971, William Rogers and Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco launched the first U.S. "shuttle diplomacy" between Cairo and Jerusalem, in support of a unilateral withdrawal by Israel from the Suez Canal frontline that would be linked to the clearing of the Suez Canal and the rebuilding of the Egyptian towns along the canal. The idea, which in all likelihood could have averted the 1973 war, was rejected by Golda Meir.
• With the outbreak of war on October 6, 1973, Henry Kissinger, Nixon's second secretary of state, saw that Egypt's and Syria's surprise attacks against Israel could become an important trump card for the enhancement of Washington's role in the Middle East conflict. To prove the point, Kissinger deliberately hesitated several days before he agreed to a massive airlift of badly needed arms to make up for Israel's enormous losses of equipment during the first days of the war.
• When Israeli military advances towards Suez City continued beyond the October 22, 1973, cease-fire, President Nixon declared a nuclear alert to deter any possible Soviet intervention. But after an effective cease-fire had taken hold on October 24, and Egypt's Third Army was totally encircled by Israeli troops, Kissinger put heavy pressure on Golda Meir to allow immediate food and water supplies for the Egyptian troops.
• November 8, 1973, should go down in Middle Eastern history as the turning point in Egypt's attitude towards Washington and the assumption of a major American Middle East mediating role. At a tete-a-tete meeting on that day between the Egyptian president and the U.S. secretary of state, Kissinger was able to convince Sadat that only Washington could get Israel to give up occupied territory, while the Soviet Union could only help in waging more wars.
• This meeting paved the way for Kissinger's tireless "shuttle diplomacy" between Egypt, Syria and Israel during January and May 1974 to achieve the first phase of military disengagement. It followed the December 1973 Geneva Middle East Peace Conference which took place under joint U.S.-Soviet chairmanship.
• Washington's two-pronged policy towards Israel, combining "friendly persuasion" with outright pressure, if needed, had its classic expression in 1975, when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was determined to achieve a second-phase withdrawal of Israeli troops in Sinai, a promise he had made to President Sadat. The negotiations reached a deadlock and, subsequently, President Ford declared a "reassessment" of U.S. policy
• towards Israel, which meant suspending temporarily most military and economic aid projects,
• In May 1975, 76 U.S., senators of the then-99 members of the Senate wrote to President Ford, rejecting the administration's attempts to blame Israel for the breakdown of the disengagement talks and opposing the withholding of U.S. aid to Israel.
• In September 1975, only six months after Rabin's clash with Kissinger over the second-phase troop withdrawal in Sinai, Israel relented and agreed at last to give up the strategic Mitla and Gidi passes and to return the Abu Rodeis oil fields to Egypt. Sadat allowed Israel, for the first time in 15 years, to ship non-military goods through the Suez Canal. Israel and Egypt also agreed to refrain from using force to resolve conflicts and to reach a peace agreement by means of negotiations called for by U.N. Resolution 338.
• In an unpublished bilateral U.s.-Israeli memorandum of agreement, Washington pledged to meet Israel's requirements for military and economic aid and to support its right to free passage through the Strait of Tiran at the southern outlet of the Red Sea. Washington committed itself not to recognize or negotiate with the PLO as long as it did not accept Israel's right to exist and refrained from terror.
• In the May 1977 elections, Israel's Labor party was ousted from power for the first time in 29 years and right-wing leader Menachem Begin became prime minister.
• President Jimmy Carter agreed with the Soviet Union in October 1977 to reconvene the Geneva Middle East Peace Conference no later than December that year. Bringing back the Soviet Union into the Middle East conflict this way, behind the back of the main protagonists, was also much to Sadat's dislike. Speaking before Egypt's People's Assembly on November 9, 1977, with Arafat in the audience, Sadat declared to everybody's surprise that he would be ready to do everything to achieve peace, even addressing Israel's Knesset in Jerusalem, if that could prevent the wounding of even one Egyptian soldier or officer.
• An official letter of invitation by Begin was sent to Sadat, through the good offices of Samuel Lewis, then U.S. ambassador in Israel, making possible Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem on November 19, 1977. In the negotiations, it soon became evident that Begin was prepared to make far-reaching concessions to Sadat concerning the Sinai, even to give up the entire territory, in order to keep "Judea and Samaria."
• Before long, the Americans were called upon to intervene in Egyptian-¬Israeli negotiations. At a meeting between presidents Carter and Sadat in Aswan, Egypt, in January 1978, they both adopted a text drafted by Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Atherton that would recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their right to participate in the determination of their future. This became known as the "Aswan Formula."
• President Carter convened an unprecedented 13-day summit conference at Camp David in September 1978, with Sadat, Begin and their top advisers. The Camp David Accords of September 17, 1978, affirmed U.N. resolutions 242 and 338, promised autonomy and an elected self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza after a transitional period, with final-status negotiations starting after two years. Egypt and Israel were to sign within three months. This led to a phased evacuation of Israeli bases and settlements from Sinai.
• In October 1978, Egyptian-Israeli negotiations began at Blair House in Washington to hammer out a detailed peace treaty. President Carter and his top Middle East advisers were involved in the negotiations at every step. When Begin resumed establishing new settlements in December 1978, Carter criticized him for reneging on his commitment to delay doing so.
• President Carter himself had to embark on a Jerusalem-Cairo shuttle early in March 1979 to remove the last hurdles that were blocking completion of the peace treaty. On March 26, 1979, the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed at a festive ceremony on the White House lawn.

The 1980s

• Repeated meetings of the Egyptian-Israeli autonomy committee over the next two years failed to make meaningful progress that could eventually persuade the Palestinians to accept the scheme as a first step.
• In 1981, following heavy clashes and exchanges of shelling and bombardments between Israeli troops and Palestinians in northern Israel and South Lebanon, special U.S. envoy Philip Habib succeeded in negotiating a cease-fire agreement between Begin's government and the PLO which held for nearly one year. It was the first such agreement with the PLO and an Israeli government, although it was negotiated indirectly by an American mediator .
• At the end of 1981, U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon signed an unprecedented mutual defense memorandum in Washington, based on Sharon's concept that the southern Negev and parts of Sinai could serve as a stock-piling and staging ground for the U.S.A. in its effort to contain Soviet expansion in Africa and to deal with any crisis in the Persian Gulf. Arab protests were answered with the explanation that the memorandum was directed only against the Soviet Union and not against the Arab states. After several weeks, Washington suspended the memorandum .
• In February 1982, following troop concentrations near the Lebanese border,
• President Ronald Reagan warned Prime Minister Begin against an attack on Lebanon.
• In June 1982, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon launched Israel's controversial war in Lebanon. Following massive Israeli bombardments of West Beirut, President Reagan issued stern warnings to Begin not to enter West Beirut, otherwise Washington would have to reconsider its policy towards Israel.
• Over 240 U.S, Marines were killed in Beirut in a suicide bombing attack and in another such attack the U.S, Embassy building was destroyed.
• At the beginning of September 1982, President Reagan published an American Middle East peace plan in Washington. Reagan's initiative was rejected by Begin as soon as it was formally submitted by Ambassador Lewis.
• On September 1, 1982, an evacuation of Palestinian fighters by sea from West Beirut was negotiated by special U.S. envoy Philip Habib. The Israelis permitted Christian Phalangists to enter and attack two Palestinian camps in West Beirut, massacring hundreds of men, women and children. Sharon was forced to quit the Defense Ministry.
• Begin resigned in September 1983, apparently depressed at the way the war in Lebanon had developed. After the 1984 Israeli elections, a national unity government was formed. In 1985, the Israelis left Lebanon, except for the so-called "Security Zone" which was to remain a cause of friction in the years to come. One of Labor's main conditions for joining the national unity government was a commitment to launch a new peace initiative, thought to be possible only with the active involvement of Egypt and the U.S.
• On December 9, 1987, the Intifada broke out in the Gaza Strip, in the wake of a traffic accident in which four Palestinians from the Jabaliya refugee camp were killed by an Israeli truck. It spread quickly to the West Bank. The uprising of the Palestinian people against the occupation brought about a radical change in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
• In July 1988, King Hussein renounced Jordan's legal and administrative ties to the West Bank, thereby surrendering his claims to the Israeli-occupied territory to the PLO.
• In December 1988, one year after the Intifada broke out, there was a major shift in Washington's policy towards the PLO, as President Reagan and Secretary of State George Schulz gave the green light for a "substantive dialogue" with the PLO. This was facilitated by a pre¬coordinated statement by PLO Chairman Arafat in Geneva on December 14, 1988, in which he recognized Israel's right to exist and committed himself to peace negotiations on the basis of U.N. resolutions 242 and 338, and rejected terrorism. In a message to Prime Minister Shamir, explaining the U.S. decision to open a dialogue with the PLO, President Reagan stated that "nothing in this decision should be construed as weakening the United States commitment to Israel's security."
• The annual top-level Israeli intelligence report to the cabinet in February 1989 concluded that Israel had no choice but to talk to the PLO in an effort to end the Intifada. There were no other serious leaders, and the PLO had moved toward moderation, the report said.
• In promoting negotiations, the administration of President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker could not at first make much progress in 1989, and tried to maintain a somewhat evenhanded policy, favoring an Israel-PLO dialogue. But Washington continued to oppose a Palestinian state and reaffirmed its total and unwavering commitment to Israel's security. A statement by Baker in March 1989, after his meeting in Washington with Foreign Minister Arens, followed a typical two-pronged U.S. approach: "We can and must find a way to move ahead toward a solution that addresses both Israel's legitimate security needs and the legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people."
• In their first contact with the Bush Administration in March 1989, PLO officials in Tunis rejected a U.S. request to reduce violence in the West Bank and Gaza. Nevertheless, the State Department permitted three PLO members to attend a conference on the Middle East in New York, obtaining a waiver of the 1974 law prohibiting entry into the U.S.A. of members of groups that advocate violence. This move was meant to encourage Israeli-PLO contacts, as several left-wing Knesset members attended the same conference.
• Disappointed at the lack of Israel's response to various American proposals, Baker at one point announced the White House phone number, where he or President Bush could be reached, should the Israeli government have something to tell him.
• In April 1989, under pressure by his Labor party coalition partners, Prime Minister Shamir presented an Israeli peace plan, at a meeting with President Bush in Washington. It proposed to hold "free democratic elections to select representatives to negotiate with Israel to establish a self-governing administration in the West Bank and Gaza." Bush expressed support for the plan, but it was rejected by Arafat, who insisted on U.N. supervised elections. Shamir rejected PLO involvement or that of Palestinian representatives from East Jerusalem, such as Faisal Husseini.
• After persistent prodding by Washington, the PLO agreed to the holding of such elections under American and Egyptian supervision, on condition that East Jerusalem Palestinian residents would also vote and that Israel accept the principle of exchanging land for peace. Direct contacts with the PLO, three years before Oslo, were still anathema to Israel, including to Labor party leaders Rabin and Peres.
• A meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Shamir in Washington in November 1989 failed to break the deadlock, while Bush expressed concern about Israel's methods of suppressing the Intifada. Earlier, Baker accused Shamir of hampering peace efforts with "unhelpful" statements.
• In a characteristic "balancing act," the U.S.A. also threatened in November 1989 to suspend all financial support for the U.N. should the General Assembly recognize the PLO as the "Provisional Government of Palestine." The U.S.A. also condemned as "objectionable" a proposal to channel U.N. food aid in the West Bank and Gaza through the PLO.
• In December 1989, Vice President Dan Quayle formally committed the Bush Administration to repealing U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3379, which defined Zionism as "a form of racism and racial discrimination."

The 1990s

• Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in July 1990 and the Gulf War of January-February 1991 changed the Middle East scene entirely. President Bush, in an address to Congress in March 1991, described the change in stating, "The Gulf War has illustrated that geography cannot grant security and that a comprehensive peace must be grounded in U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and in the principle of territory for peace. The time has come to put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict," Bush urged.
• Keeping a promise to their Arab Gulf War coalition partners, Baker's untiring diplomacy succeeded in bringing Shamir, who then headed a narrow rightist coalition, to the international peace conference table in Madrid in October 1991, with the Syrians and with Faisal Husseini representing the Palestinians in a so-called joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, to help Shamir save face. It was an open secret that, already during the first night after the festive conference opening by King Juan Carlos of Spain, and by presidents Bush and Gorbachev, the Palestinian delegation members flew with a Spanish government plane to Tunis for consultations with PLO Chairman Arafat. The actual negotiations made no real progress.
• Following Shamir's defeat in the May 1992 elections, the newly elected Prime Minister Rabin realized that Faisal Husseini and his colleagues could not negotiate in earnest without Arafat's consent and that King Hussein, as well, could only come to terms with Israel if there were a realistic negotiating pattern with the Palestinians. Thus, the eventual way to Oslo and the PLO was open in the mind of Israel's new leadership, under Rabin and Peres.
• Paradoxically, during the first year of Prime Minister Rabin's government, Israeli-Palestinian tension increased between July 1992 and July 1993. Norway's Social-Democratic government had assumed the secret mediating role between Israel and the PLO in 1993, after Sweden's Socialists had lost the elections to the Conservatives, who had little contact with the Palestinians.
• In December 1992, Rabin's government decided to deport 450 Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists to Lebanon, following the kidnapping and killing of an Israeli Border Policeman. President Bush condemned the deportation and threatened to reconsider continued American support of Israel, if the deportees were not returned. Rabin agreed after several months to return the deportees, most of whom rejoined the ranks of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
• During July 1993, while the secret negotiations near Oslo between Israel and the PLO were nearing their successful conclusion, tension along the Israeli-Lebanese border escalated to a near-war situation. Washington urged the Israeli government to act with restraint. But, following a series of Katyusha shellings on Israeli towns and villages in the north, Rabin launched, on July 25, 1993, massive artillery and air force attacks all over South Lebanon, called "Operation Accountability." Tens of thousands of Lebanese villagers and town residents fled to the north. Following intensive mediation efforts, a cease-fire was reached on July 31, 1993.
• On August 30, 1993, Israel's government approved the "Gaza-Jericho First" agreement between Israel and the PLO that was negotiated in utmost secrecy in Norway. On September 9, Israel's Prime Minister Rabin and PLO Chairman Arafat signed their exchange of letters of mutual recognition in Jerusalem and in Tunis respectively. Arafat committed himself to abolishing all the clauses of the PLO Charter which called for Israel's destruction and pledged to solve the conflict by peaceful means.
• Washington's role remained central, and the bilateral Oslo Accords were signed in a solemn, historic ceremony on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, under the auspices of President Bill Clinton, as the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO. Rabin called for an "end to tears and bloodshed" and Arafat spoke of the "peace of the brave," as Clinton brought about the historic Rabin-Arafat handshake that was watched by millions all over the world.
• Washington's close involvement in the peace process continued against the background of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror activity against Israel during the last months of 1993, and Israeli right-wing protest action against the peace process.
• In February 1994, a cruel massacre in Hebron was committed by a fanatic Jewish settler, who killed 29 Palestinians at prayer in the Ibrahimi Mosque - the Tomb of the Patriarchs - followed by demonstrations and casualties which threatened to derail the entire peace process.
• During President Clinton's first term of office, his Secretary of State Warren Christopher and his Middle East team, headed by Dennis Ross, were always at hand whenever needed to bring the parties together and to resolve crises. Thus, Christopher attended the Israeli-Palestinian summit in Cairo on May 4, 1994, symbolically together with his Russian counterpart Andrei Kosyrev, in order to prepare the handing over of the Jericho and Gaza districts to the Palestinians. PLO Chairman Arafat's historic entry into Gaza took place on July I, 1994. On July 5, 1994, Arafat came to Jericho, where he presided over the first session on Palestinian soil of the Palestinian National Council.
• On July 25, 1994, President Clinton hosted another Israeli-Arab summit in Washington, where King Hussein and Prime Minister Rabin proclaimed the end of a state of belligerency between Jordan and Israel. A formal peace treaty was signed five months later, in the presence of President Clinton on October 26, 1994, just north of Aqaba and Eilat.
• After the Oslo II agreement was signed in Washington on September 28, 1995, there were violent anti-Rabin demonstrations in Israel. On November 4, 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in Tel Aviv by a Jewish religious student at the end of a mass peace rally. President Clinton was accompanied at the funeral by former presidents Carter and Bush and the entire Senate and Congress leadership.
• Repeated suicide bombing attacks in February and March 1996 weakened the position of the Labor government under Shimon Peres.
• When, in April 1996, violence erupted again in the north, Peres decided to launch another massive artillery and air force attack in South Lebanon (Grapes of Wrath). One hundred Lebanese civilians were killed at Qana. American mediators worked successfully to revive the South Lebanon "understanding" agreement of July 1993.
• Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu narrowly defeated Shimon Peres in the elections for prime minister on May 29, 1996.
• The Palestinian-Israeli peace process again came close to the abyss in September 1996, only three months after Netanyahu became prime minister, with his opening on September 23, 1996, of the Western Wall tunnel in the Old City, close to the Temple Mount in the Muslim Quarter. As Palestinians protested, Palestinian police exchanged fire with Israeli soldiers. In nearly three days of fighting, 100 Palestinians and 26 Israeli soldiers were killed and about 1,000 Palestinians wounded.
• Again the U.S.A. had to help to put out the fire and President Clinton summoned Netanyahu and Arafat to Washington for a hastily convened summit meeting that took place on October 2, 1996, with King Hussein.
• After intensive American mediation attempts by Dennis Ross, also aided by King Hussein, Netanyahu's government decided during the night of January 14-15, 1997, to hand over most parts of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority, with special security arrangements for the few hundred Jewish settlers in the town.
• During President Clinton's second term of office, Washington's direct involvement in the peace process declined. It took his new Secretary of State Madeleine Albright nearly eight months before she decided to come to the Middle East for the first time in August 1997; whereas her predecessor Warren Christopher had devoted constant efforts to trying to revive the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
• Following the Iraqi crisis at the beginning of 1998, there were signs that President Clinton would renew American efforts to revive the Palestinian-¬Israeli peace process.