Thursday, November 29, 2012

Internal Communications: You Get What You Pay For

A colleague of mine once said that Internal Communications is the "neglected stepchild" of the communications profession and over the years it is easy to figure out why.

There is absolutely no glory in it.

Internal Communications isn't glitzy. It's not about press, or social media, or trade shows. You don't get interviewed on TV. It's not multimedia.

It's about talking to your people. Sort of like - here we go - keeping the family together!

And we know how much fun Thanksgiving Dinner is when you've got all those old dynamics swirling around.

I did not even know there was such a thing as Internal Communications until I came to work for The Brand Consultancy, where they did something called "Internal Branding."

Basically, this was training the employees to operate in accordance with the mission/vision/values espoused by the brand.

Early on I realized that training did not work. Because people are not morons (largely), they are thinking adults and they will resist being robotized at all costs.

It is absolutely amazing that one even has to articulate this but if you think about the bubble in which most executives operate you can start to see what the issue is.

Most executives operate too far from the frontline to see their employees as people. Rather they see themselves, in an exaggerated form, and then their external audiences.

The staff matters, but in sort of a distant way. Like marble chess pieces. You care about them and don't want them to crack, but you don't really see a beating heart inside.

In any case. Not every executive is like that of course. I have been privileged to meet and work for several who have an unbelievable level of sympathy and empathy for their employees.

One of these served at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, where I worked when I first joined the Federal Government.

This individual spent all his time - and I mean all his time - concerned with the welfare of the employees. Teaching people to treat each other better. Proving to them that "the pie gets bigger." I do not know what his motivation was, only that it was during this time that I had permission to do a whole lot of things. For example:

* We audio-casted an internal meeting about an upcoming reorganization to the field - this was a big deal around 2003

* We transformed the employee publication into a photo-centric glossy in which the employees were the focus - it was People Magazine just for them

* In the publication we "advertised" internal services that were already available for free

One thing I did not get to implement was a prototype publication online where we had an Amazon-style rating system for the articles, so people could give an article four stars for "great" or one star for "horrible." I guess they thought it would hurt people's feelings, that they were not ready. They were probably right.

When I think about the projects I've done that went very far, versus the ones that did not, each and every time there was an executive sponsor who either believed in the work or trusted me to run with it.

That is the thing with Internal Communications. You have to trust the person in charge. They are, in a sense, the professional parent to the workforce, the person they go to cry to when they're getting beaten up at school.

I have seen this function work and not work. I've seen people get their heads handed to them because they made a mistake and it embarrassed someone.

Internal Communications is not child's play. It is very serious and very important work and it will only get more so.

You've got to trust the people you pay to execute on it for you, if you want to get results.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Solve The Problem: Symptom vs. Cause

The other day someone told me that they didn't care much about the outcome of the election because "nothing changes anyway." The only thing that bothered them though was the "policy of killing babies."

OK, the abortion debate. I wasn't going to ruin a good conversation by responding the way I wanted to: "You must be out of your mind."

Because factually speaking an abortion is not killing a baby but rather preventing a fetus from becoming one.

Also when one considers that globally women are far from free to control their reproductive lives (let's work on child slavery/"marriage" shall we?), and the poor life prospects of unwanted children, it seems sort of farcical to insist in fetal rights vs. all other human considerations.

I agree that abortion is a problem. But if you want to solve it look to the causes (rape, incest, peer pressure, poverty, absent parent, etc.), rather than focusing exclusively on the symptom (unwanted pregnancy).

At work there is a tendency to focus on the symptom, the immediate and visible problem, rather than the cause. Most "crises" can be traced to factors that are intangible, invisible, difficult to measure, non-obvious and slippery. Strong leadership, management, teamwork etc. are not things you can "see" but their effects can be observed in how the organization is run.

A great doctor treats the whole person - body, mind and spirit. S/he asks questions that range widely across your life, not to intrude but to get at what is going on. Because a single illness can cause multiple symptoms that are seemingly unrelated.

Similarly when you assess a situation it is helpful to back away from the symptom itself and look at the context around it. It is there that you will find the cause. And once you have the cause you can begin to identify workable solutions.

In medicine this is easier than in organizations and social life of course. But it can be done even at the individual level. Simply refuse to perpetuate the dysfunctional behavior. Act normal. You being a voice of reason despite pressure to fold and become a "zombie" can have incredible ripple effects.

Good luck!

P.S. All opinions, as always are my own. Not a political endorsement or non-endorsement.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Women and Men Do Shop Differently: 5 Observations

The other day my daughter said to me, "Feminism is just fine, but men and women are not the same." She is an aspiring neuropsychologist and given any social situation, where I see the group dynamics she sees a brain chemical. 

From a sociological perspective there are a lot of reasons why gender differences exist and a lot of uses to which groups put them. From a marketing (or outreach) perspective what matters are the patterns. Here are a few that I see:

1) Expressed vs. Implied: Marketing to men has to be tangible - auditory, visual, kinetic (hear it, see it, move it) versus to women merely a suggestion is enough and even preferable. Another way of putting this is that women are engaged with the story around a product while men are engaged with the idea that the product itself approaches perfection.

2) Status: Men buy things to compete with other men and they think of it as "acquiring," so there is a certain level of permanency. Women will buy virtually anything if they think it makes them look good. For women, the competition is self-oriented - between themselves as they imagine they are, versus as they imagine they once were or could be.

3) Delegation: If men could get away with never setting foot inside most retail environments they would, because they see shopping as feminine. So they prefer either to automate the process (e.g. shopping online) or to let the women take care of it. Versus women see shopping as a "quest" for the right thing which hopefully ends in a "Victory." 

4) Time: For women, shopping is a destination, an activity, a hobby, and a release and so they lose all concept of time once they enter a store. Versus men believe that time spent shopping is time wasted. 

5) Guilt: Both women and men feel guilty about spending money. Both justify the guilt in some way. Women tell themselves they are shopping to take care of someone (even if it's themselves) versus men justify purchases based on whether it enhances their prospects for survival - not just literally but in the abstract sense, e.g. survival at work.

At the end of the day men and women may purchase the same things. Literally - clothing, perfume, even tattoos can be unisex. But the mode of taking in information that drives a purchase, and the motivations for handing over the money, do seem to differ. A very interesting topic of study.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Listerine and the Business of Shame

Image via Kilmer House, a blog dedicated to the story of Johnson & Johnson and its employees. Frederick Barnett Kilmer, for whom the blog is named, was J&J's first scientific director. The blog is written by J&J corporate communications. This is a great example of corporate branding best practice.

Marketing, as an industry, trades on shame. Subsistence happens on one level, admittedly not cheap but not nearly as expensive as the stuff you are routinely offered to buy. Or the stuff you don't need, but that marketers invent, convincing you along the way that you must have it ("creating a market.")

It is a paradox that shame is universal, and yet we universally seem to have trouble talking about it. Maybe that's because of the nature of shame. It's designed to keep people in line - nothing more and nothing less.

Shame is a spiritual theme. In the Garden of Eden, the Biblical story goes, Adam and Eve felt shame when they sinned against G-d. There was nobody there to make them feel that way - they just did.

Shame is enforced by the group against the individual. It's a way of keeping the powerful in power. The targeted person - who may or may not have done anything wrong - is marginalized, punished, laughed at, silenced.

Usually there are interlocking forces around shame as a tool. So you learn in religious school about what G-d supposedly wants, and then there are people in power who enforce those rules and enforce themselves as the keepers of them.

It occurs to me often that organized religion creates more problems than it solves because of the way it shames people. Honestly I think there would be peace in the Middle East right now if religion were not a factor among the negotiating parties. Because too often it defines any compromise as shameful.

Shame makes us take on debt we could otherwise avoid. It makes us fight with people we otherwise have no bone to pick with. It drives us to shame other people, just to relieve our own agony and despair. Shame makes us try to compensate for our own insecurities by becoming overachievers. And overachievers run a lot of races that don't matter, distracting them from more important priorities that don't come with an award attached.

Listerine makes it sound simple to get rid of shame: Just rinse with antiseptic and you'll be fine.

The problem is that only works temporarily.

In real life the answer is not that simple, but here are some thoughts:

1. Probably the first thing is to admit your own shame, even if only to yourself. Whatever it is, stop spending a lot of energy fighting it or directing your energy to temporary fixes. Preferably, write it down. Once you look at it on a piece of paper, that scary monster loses a lot of its bite. Like the movie says, you can "burn after reading."

2. The second is to look to a third party for validation. Even if you just go on the Internet - it is pretty big and I guarantee you, whatever you are going through, no matter how strange or minor it may seem, someone else is going through it as well.

3.The third is to gain support from a community. Online, offline, close friends, acquaintances, formal or informal support network - you name it. The last time I went to Panera an elderly man looked at my computer and then lifted his hands and said, "I couldn't ever use that thing, even if I wanted to." He was surrounded by other elderly people who laughed and said the same. That's support.

4. The fourth is to take concrete action steps to eliminate the impact of shame on your life. Are you living beyond your means to prove you're not lesser than anyone else? Working in a career you hate? Those are good places to start. Everything is subject to change - you just have to take that first step.

5. The fifth is to offer your support to other people. It doesn't have to be that they are the same as you. You don't even have to know what their problems are. But as you give your support to others, you get support back from the Universe. It works that way.

All this is not to say that marketing is bad. I find that it gives me tremendous joy. I love advertising of any kind. The sight of new products gives me joy. It's fun to take them apart in terms of marketing strategy, and it's fun to actually buy them.

But shame as a motivator isn't fun. It isn't necessary and it doesn't really propel you anywhere, in your career or in life. Like I read somewhere the other day - just be who you are. You have no other choice, anyway.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

10 Rules of Marketing To Low-Context Cultures

Yesterday I wrote about reaching customers from high-context cultures, where meaning is transmitted implicitly. But what if your audience is low-context? What does that mean, anyway?
  • High-context means they have a strong shared understanding in terms of values and the meaning behind communication. Examples include culturally homogeneous immigrant groups and also specialized work groups who speak in terms nobody else understands.
  • Low-context means they have less shared understanding and diverse identities and need to have things articulated clearly in ways that span cultures. A prime example is the United States of America as a mass audience, as the identities of its citizens varies dramatically from place to place.
When you are marketing to a low-context culture:

1) Emphasize one primary language. The global language of business is still English.

2) Put diverse-looking people in your marketing copy. It's about appealing to a broad base and showing how anyone can fit in.

3) Focus on mass advertising, not word-of-mouth as for high-context cultures (should have included this in the last post).

4) Artificially create a new community out of whole cloth. Do not apologize for this, just do it boldly. When you join the Army, buy a Harley, or visit Disneyland you join a created community. 

5) Use a lot of words. What's the storyline? Explain it, tell it as if it were real. Think narrative - like American Girl dolls.

6) Think about shiny, glossy, artificial textures. High-context cultures want authenticity (for example, marble and wood). Low-context cultures want the sense of starting something new and clean (e.g. plastic).

7) Emphasize consistency rather than excellence, because normally low-context cultures have to accommodate a high volume of potential members. McDonald's french fries might or might not be the best in the world, but you know that no matter who you are, you'll get the same ones every time. 

8) Focus on speed, innovation, imagination, breaking the rules. Low-context cultures are not bound by convention and seek products and services that reinforce that identity.

9) Talk to newcomers. Low-context cultures are very much about recruitment and welcoming people into the fold without question. If you watch Joel Osteen's show every week, for example, he tells the viewer to visit Lakewood Church, where they will be made to feel "right at home." There is a reason for this - low-context cultures thrive on diversity and newness.

10) Emphasize equal opportunity rather than being a "status brand." Low-context cultures are populated by people who seek a different kind of community with invented rules. Normally they are very into equality rather than declarations of status, because that is how heterogeneous communities stay harmonious despite a high volume of people each seeking their own interests. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

7 Rules of Marketing To High-Context Cultures

Over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to observe Russian, Korean, Hasidic Jewish, Muslim, and Hispanic consumers in their natural habitats (e.g. going about regular life).

Speaking very broadly, one thing all of these groups have in common is that they are high-context. Meaning, they have a broad base of shared understanding. It doesn't take a lot of communicating for them to transmit meaning to one another.

Marketing to high-context cultures can be challenging if you don't understand the culture, or if you're used to a communication environment where things are spelled out very clearly.

Here are 7 things I've observed that may prove helpful no matter what audience you're dealing with:

1) Communicate in their native language. The native language is not only a technicality of words and their meaning. Culture is imbued in it. For example, some languages can be gender-neutral and others cannot. Beliefs about gender and gender roles are imbued in language. When you trespass on these (even inadvertently) you turn off the customer.

2) Be represented by members of the community. High-context cultures operate within a tightly knit community in which the rules are very intricate. The rules are based on values that hold the community together. There is normally a perception that outside influences are dangerous and must be carefully moderated so that the community's influence is not subverted or diluted. Therefore, it is only members of the community who can make an outside product or service acceptable. Also, members of the community can tell you when you are doing something offensive without realizing it.

3) Package the product in ways that remind them of "home." Home is a very broad term. It means the place where you were born, raised, feel most yourself. So for example in Miami, the architecture that appeals to the Russian community is very ornate. There is also an emphasis on the concept of the spa, the baths, the capacity of salt to cleanse and detoxify. In Maryland, I observed Korean people congregating in a nature preserve, collecting water from the creek, and marveling at the various local creatures with what seemed like incredible joy.

4) Treat the group as a consumer - do not focus on the individual. As mentioned above, high-context cultures are very tightly knit and somewhat defensive against the larger society. They survive by operating as a group. They think collectively. They have more permeable boundaries between the person and the family, and family and community. It is believed that the individual has a responsibility to the group equal to or greater than the responsibility to fulfill oneself - in fact this is normally seen as selfish. Focus on the group.

5) Don't judge. Marketing is about catering to what the customer wants. If you can't respect their values, do not market to them.

6) Be authentic. Members of high-context cultural groups love America, they love the brand it represents in their minds, they love the idea of freedom and the melting pot and education and opportunity. This may sound contradictory to catering to the values of the group, but it's not. It's about understanding that for high-context groups, there are very clear demarcations between "who they are" and what "buying American" represents, and they are happy to do so at times. The subtlety is in navigating the breach or the gulf between the two worlds.

7) Focus on technology. Technology is a culturally agnostic freedom tool. It brings access to information, freedom from the grip of the "elders" and the hold the community has on you, it is power.  People from high-context immigrant cultures love technology, they understand what it can do for them as individuals in terms of empowerment and they take every opportunity to learn it and obtain it. If you can market technology to the immigrant community in a way that is accessible - i.e. affordable and where the utility is clear, and with reliable service - you have a huge advantage.

Tips on Winning (and Keeping) the Business - Mobile Apps

This question was posed on Quora: "What should agencies care about regarding mobile apps for brands - winning awards or getting downloads?" 

Here is my response:

I. Winning the business
Clients want apps that 

1) Look cool 

2) Are better than the app they saw that made them decide to get an app 

3) Are EZ to use 

4) Load fast 

5) Drive brand awareness. 

Awards = irrelevant as are # of downloads (this happens after they pay). 

II. Winning and keeping clients, general advice
1) Be easy to work with

2) Talk in simple terms not techy 

3) Provide a few tables/pie charts showing how competitors have benefited from a similar app. Nobody wants to be behind the curve.

III. Keeping the business
Show results. 

With an app, the best way to show results is to offer some useful capability for free, that also relates to the brand message. This is marketing, sales and branding all at the same time.

Apps like these get people to download and use. To build awareness of the app, integrate on sites and perhaps in other apps where the target goes anyway - drawing new prospects in.

So for example if you are promoting a boutique hotel, create an app that geonavigates people to local hotspots and gives them a discount for scanning w/ the smartphone upon arrival.

Branding As A Tool For Cultural Understanding

Today for the first time I actually read the Hamas charter, which you can find pretty easily online. It struck me that the writing was clear and logically consistent with their anti-Israel rhetoric and violence.

It struck me that most people have probably not actually read the document. If they did they would see that peace agreements are not in keeping with their brand.

A mistake we make when we think about things is to get our biases mixed up with our brains.

Personally I am Jewish, somewhat secular and embrace the Western "live and let live" worldview: "Who am I to judge?" "It's all good." All of these factors introduce bias.

At the same time I have enough cognitive independence to know that if an organization issues a brand promise and then lives up to it, they probably mean what they say.

The Western secular mind does not easily comprehend a culture so different as Hamas. But you can if you use the language of branding.

Their vision is a greater Palestine as part of a pan-Arab nation that lives according to Islamic law.

Their mission is to wage war against those who get in the way, and in particular to
purge the land of any semblance of a Jewish nation.

Zionism, as a brand is incompatible with Hamas. Zionism says that there is a democratic and independent state called Israel. It is a place where everyone may practice or not practice as they wish. It is a place of diversity and tolerance. And it is a place with a distinctly Jewish identity.

To respect all sides in a matter of disagreement one has to acknowledge the reality of each. The reality is that Zionism and Hamas are opposing brands. The charter if Hamas makes it so.

I unfortunately do not have the answer to the Middle East crisis. But I do have a clearer grasp of the dimensions of the problem. That, to me feels like progress.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Aligning The Big 5: Knowledge Mgmt., PR, Corp. Comm., Internal Marketing & The Visual Brand

Think of the modern economy as a funnel.
  • Services sits at the very top and captures nearly everyone. No matter what you actually do, you get employed and stay employed based on the quality of your relationships with others.
  • Knowledge represents fewer people, but captures many.  If you are a technical or subject matter expert of any kind you fit into this category. 
  • Manufacturing includes still fewer and captures some. These are people who actually produce goods for the rest of us.
Now think of where you sit in relationship to this funnel:
  • Frontline workers deal directly with the public and can fall into any of the categories above.
  • Support personnel support the frontline and make sure they are equipped to get the job done.
This article is for support personnel in the communications field. We're not doing a good enough job of taking care of the frontline - and that includes the public. Because a key challenge faced by frontline workers today (internal customers), as well as the public confronting the organization, is the lack of an "easy" button. Wherever they go they are confronted with discombobulated systems - a Tower of Babble - set up to speak languages that may or may not be useful to them.

We see this very clearly with respect to 5 related fields that rarely talk to one another: knowledge management, public relations, corporate communications, internal marketing, and the visual brand. All of them deal with the collection and distribution of information; rarely do they work hand-in-hand. If you think about the ecosystem of information you can see the need for integration on the customer's behalf. It's our job to support them by:
  • Harnessing knowledge: Collect information and return it back to employees in an organized way
  • Supporting the growth of internal social networks: Enable a culture that is warm, welcoming and closely knit to promote employee engagement
  • Providing digestible and relevant information: Corporate communications
  • Explaining what we do to outside parties, including the media: Make it easy for public relations specialists within the organization to promote its achievements, provide clear and comprehensive status information, and explain missteps
  • Implementing a consistent visual identity: The visual brand tells our customers when we are speaking; it is a mark of authenticity that they count on when dealing with us.
The challenge we need to think through right now - ideally, supported by IT is aligning all of the above fields. If we can integrate information without putting an extra burden on the frontline worker, we should be able to increase their productivity and our own effectiveness at the same time. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Packaging, Packaging, Packaging: 7 Tips

Recently I did a micro-experiment in marketing for work. Basically I'm helping with a charity drive and to that end ran a small "mystery gift" event. I took dollar-store gifts, wrapped them, put a bow on them and "sold" them for a contribution of the donor's choice. The following observed behaviors taught me a great deal about the importance of packaging:

1) First brand, then color: When people did not know what was inside the box, they looked at the box itself. They picked wrapping paper with Snoopy on it versus other brightly colored papers. The black wrapping paper iwth a design was the leaset popular.

2) Shaking the package: I hadn't seen this one before but at least three people actually picked the various packages up and shook them to determine what could be inside. (Two of them were right.)

3) Irregular shape: People tended to pick up the odd, irregularly shaped packages versus the simple, symmetrical ones.

4) Relationship marketing: Sales picked up when I engaged with the "customers" rather than just sitting back and letting them choose something. They liked having a conversation about what could be inside, how they could use it, what the purpose of the event was, etc.

5) Everyone wants a deal: All the gifts were relatively worthless, but I told every customer that I would give them a special "deal," or that certain gifts were better than others, and that very much moved the merchandise.

6) Pay-what-you-want: The policy of letting people pay what they wanted yielded twice the value of the outlay for the gifts.

7) But you must pay: If it's not clear - either from the signage or from the collection pot or from the conversation - that you must pay something, people will walk off with something.

Celebrate Religion, Increase Productivity

This is a discussion point I wrote on the subject of whether it's OK to be religious at work (at GovLoop):
My focus is communication to enhance the functioning of an organization and to that end I think it is possible and important to encourage people to bring their whole selves to work.
Religion, faith, spirituality are critical aspects of diversity. When we stifle that, we disengage the workforce in a significant way. When we celebrate it in ways that don't threaten, we show that we are truly committed to intellectual diversity as well rather than the groupthink that keeps us dysfunctional at times.
For example: Imagine if we celebrated wearing religious attire at work rather than the Western suit. I know Jewish people who do not wear the headcovering (kippa) because they don't want to be "marked" or discriminated against and imagine it is similar for those of other faiths.
Another example: Imagine if we set aside prayer rooms so that people who pray multiple times a day can do that without significantly interfering with their work. I am aware of an agency that does this. It can also be used for meditation. (Just like there are lactation rooms.)
A third example: Imagine if we held cultural food celebrations so that we could learn more about faith in the context of nationality and ethnicity. I just learned about a food called "shabich" in Israel that is the most popular street food around. It is derived from the Sabbath breakfast food of Iraqi Jews (fried eggplant and hardboiled eggs) and stuffed in a pita (because everything in Israel is stuffed in a pita). I learned from this same article that falafel and hummus are originally Arab foods (see here). Considering what is going on in the Middle East it is nice to know that Israelis and Arabs (and Jews and Muslims) are in fact very similar in many ways. Cultural knowledge brings understanding and in a larger sense, peace.
A fourth example, a bit more complicated but I think necessary, has to do with helping people of faith to adapt to workplaces where the norms directly conflict with religion, and in turn helping supervisors to understand the implications of faith for some of their employees. (Example - the ultra-Orthodox Jewish practice not to shake hands with someone of the opposite sex; for those who are not familiar with it, refusal to shake hands can seem like an insult.)
Unfortunately much policy and practice seems to be driven by fear, stagnation or simply a lack of time due to more pressing operational matters. But think about it - we take the time to recruit people, we pay for training, we depend on them to work together on critical projects, and so much of our institutional knowledge is invested in their brains. Their hearts as well should be engaged in the community that supports the mission. 
To that end I agree with Facebook's philosophy as expressed in this letter to investors:
"We hope to strengthen how people relate to each other....Personal relationships are the fundamental unit of our society. Relationships are how we discover new ideas, understand our world and ultimately derive long-term happiness."
This is very much about intelligent investment in human encouraging physical fitness we cut down on sick time later on; by encouraging and celebrating spiritual self-expression (again, as long as it does not impinge on the rights of others) we cut down on disengagement and improve morale and therefore productivity. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The #1 Stupid Thing Organizations Do To Mess Up Their Brand - via Mark Morris, The Brand Consultancy

I asked for comments on this article in Fast Company at my group Brand Masters. My former boss Mark Morris, Founder and Senior Strategist at The Brand Consultancy, said the following. It's very well said and I appreciate that he provided me with permission to share it publicly:
"The most common thing organizations do to mess up their brands is not knowing what their brand is. It lives somewhere out there with their customers but everyone internal to the organization makes up their own version of what it stands for, what promise it makes and how that promise is kept. Great organizations bring their customers voice into every decision they make. We say "they have breakfast with their customers." A ongoing dialogue in every channel available and practical. In essence, they speak in the voice of their customer."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 10 simple steps

Short version.

1) Jews persecuted

2) Decide to survive by establishing homeland somewhere safer, historically Jewish

3) Buy formerly Jewish land back from Arabs/Turks

4) In the process offend Arabs

5) Arabs respond with terrorist attacks and Nazi alliance

6) New Palestinian identity created as propaganda tool

7) Arabs throw Jews out from other Arab lands or force them to run away, stealing property in the process

8) Same Arab lands deny entry to Palestinians, creating nation of suffering refugees

9) Jewish state infinitely rejected on principle

10) Mind-bending propaganda causes Jews to believe they are the oppressors rather than the victims of anti-Semitism.


The longer version - from Wikipedia.


[edit]Ottoman era

Tensions between the Jews and Arabs started to emerge after the 1880s, when immigration of European Jews increased with the development of the Zionist movement. This immigration increased the Jewish communities in Palestine by the acquisition of land from Ottoman and individual Arab landholders, known as effendis, and establishment of agricultural settlements in the historic lands of Judea and Israel, which were then part of the Ottoman Empire.[1] At the time, Arab Palestinians lived an almost feudal existence on the effendis' land.[2] The population in 1880 of Palestine west of the Jordan River was estimated at "under 590,000, of whom 96 percent were Arabs (Muslim or Christian); roughly 4 percent of the population was Jewish".[3] Michael B. Oren has written that about 300,000 Arabs eventually moved into Palestine from other Arab countries to benefit from the economic opportunities created by the Zionists, who were more skilled with modern technology and building urban institutions.[4] Howard M. Sachar published a similar analysis of the demographic data on Arabs in Palestine and gave similar reasons for the population growth.[5] However, the first Statistician General of Israel, Roberto Bachi, and demographer Justin McCarthy contend that the total Arab immigration was very much lower.[6][7] McCarthy also argued that the increase in Muslim population had little or nothing to do with Jewish immigration.[7]

[edit]British Mandate (1920-1948)

1918. Emir Feisal I and Chaim Weizmann(left, also wearing Arab outfit)
During the time of the British Mandate, the Balfour Declaration, signed in 1917, stated that the government of Great Britain supported the establishment of a "Jewish national home" in Palestine. This exacerbated tensions between the Arabs living in Mandate Palestine and the Jews who emigrated there during the Ottoman period. Signed in January 1919, the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement promoted Arab-Jewish cooperation on the development of a Jewish National Homeland in Palestine and an Arab nation in a large part of the Middle East, though this event had little to no effect on the conflict.[8]
In 1920, the San Remo conference largely endorsed the 1916 Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Agreement, allocating to Britain the area of present day Jordan, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and Iraq, while France received Syria and Lebanon. In 1922, theLeague of Nations formally established the British Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan, at least partially fulfilling Britain's commitments from the 1915-1916 Hussein-McMahon Correspondence by assigning all of the land east of the Jordan River to the Emirate of Jordan, ruled by Hashemite King Abdullah but closely dependent on Britain, leaving the remainder west of the Jordan as the League of Nations British mandate of Palestine. While the British had made promises to give both Arabs and Jews land, the British claimed they had never promised to give either side all of the land. Rising tensions had given way to violence, such as the Riots in Palestine of 1920, and Jaffa riots of 1921. To assuage the Arabs, and due to British inability to control Arab violence in the British Mandate any other way, the semi-autonomous Arab Emirate of Transjordan was created in all Palestinian territory east of the Jordan river (roughly 77% of the mandate).
The conflicting forces of Arab nationalism and the Zionist movement created a situation which the British could neither resolve nor extricate themselves from. Pogroms in Russia and the Ukraine as well as Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany created a new urgency in the Zionist movement to create a Jewish state, and the evident intentions of the Zionists provoked increasingly fierce Arab resistance and attacks against the Jewish population (most notably in the preceding 1929 Hebron massacre, the activities of the Black Hand, and during the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine). The British-appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husayni, led opposition to the idea of turning part of Palestine into a Jewish state.[4] He objected to any form of Jewish homeland on what he regarded as Arab land and organized attacks against Jews, initially with British support.[9][4]
In search for help in expelling British forces from Palestine, thus removing the enforcer of the Zionist enterprise, the Grand Mufti sought alliance with the Axis Powers. The response of the British government was to banish the Mufti (where he spent much of World War II in Germany and helped form a Muslim SS division in the Balkans), curb Jewish immigration, and reinforce its police force. The Jewish leadership (Yishuv) "adopted a policy of restraint (havlaga) and static defense in response to Arab attacks"[10] and criticized the British for "what they regarded as Britain's retreat from the Balfour Declaration and its conciliation of Arab violence."[4] It was at this time that critics of this policy broke away from the Hagana (the self-defense organization of the Yishuv) and created the more right-wing militant Irgun, which would later be led by Menachem Begin in 1943. For a list of Irgun attacks on Palestinian civilians and policemen during this period, see List of Irgun attacks during the 1930s.
A British Royal Commission of Inquiry that came to be known as the Peel Commission was established in 1936. In its 1937 report, it proposed a two-state solution that gave the Arabs control over all of the Negev, much of the present-day West Bank, and Gaza and gave the Jews control over Tel AvivHaifa, present-day northern Israel, and surrounding areas. The British were to maintain control over JaffaJerusalemBethlehem, and surrounding areas. The Jews were bitterly divided over the Peel Commission,[11] but they ultimately accepted the principle of partition.[12] The Arabs, however, rejected it while demanding "an end to Jewish immigration and land sales to Jews, calling for independence of Palestine as an independent Arab state."[8]
Jewish violence against the British Mandate continued to mount throughout the 1940s, with attacks by the Irgun, assassination of British Mandate officials by the Lehi, and the 1946King David Hotel bombing.
As of 1947 the population was reported as 1,845,000, consisting of 608,000 Jews and 1,237,000 Arabs and others.[13]

[edit]War of 1948

The 1947 UN Partition Plan offered to both sides of the conflict before the 1948 war. The Jews accepted the plan while the Arabs rejected it.
The 1948 Arab-Israeli War, known as the "Israeli War of Independence" by Israelis or "al-Nakba" (The Disaster) by Arabs, 1948–1949, began after the November 1947 UN Partition Plan, which proposed the establishment of Arab and Jewish states in Palestine. The Arabs had rejected the plan while the Jews had accepted it. By March 1948 however, the United States was actively seeking a temporary UN approved trusteeship rather than immediate partition, known as the Truman trusteeship proposal.[14] The Jewish leadership rejected this.[15] By now, both Jewish[16] and Arab[17][18] militias had begun campaigns to control territory inside and outside the designated borders, and an open war between the two populations emerged.
JordanianEgyptianSyrianLebaneseIraqi and Saudi troops invaded Palestine subsequent to the British withdrawal and the declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. Israel, the US[citation needed], the Soviet Union[citation needed], and UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie[citation needed] called this illegal aggression, while China broadly backed the Arab claims. The Arab states proclaimed their aim of a "United State of Palestine"[19] in place of Israel and an Arab state. They considered the UN Plan to be invalid because it was opposed by Palestine's Arab majority, and claimed that the British withdrawal led to an absence of legal authority, making it necessary for them to protect Arab lives and property.[20] About two thirds of Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from the territories which came under Jewish control; the rest became Arab citizens of Israel. Practically all of the much smaller number of Jews in the territories captured by the Arabs, for example theOld City of Jerusalem, also fled or were expelled. The official United Nations estimate was that 711,000[21] Arabs became refugees during the fighting.

May 15 - June 10
The fighting ended with signing of the several Armistice Agreements in 1949 between Israel and its warring neighbors (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria), which formalized Israeli control of the area allotted to the Jewish state plus just over half of the area allotted to the Arab state. The Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan until June 1967 when they were seized by Israel during the Six-Day War.

[edit]Aftermath of the 1948 war

Map comparing the borders of the 1947 partition plan and the armistice of 1949.
Boundaries defined in the UN partition plan of 1947:
  Area assigned for a Jewish state;
    Area assigned for an Arab state;
    Corpus separatum of Jerusalem (neither Jewish nor Arab).

Armistice Demarcation Lines of 1949:
    Arab territory from 1949 to 1967;
      Israel in the 1949 armistice lines.
The 630,000-700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from the areas that became Israel were not allowed to return to their homes, and took up residence in refugee camps in surrounding countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and the area that was later to be known as the Gaza Strip; they were usually not allowed to leave refugee camps and mix with the local Arab society either, leaving the Palestinian refugee problem unsolved even today. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was established to alleviate their condition.[8]
After the war, "[t]he Arab states insisted on two main demands", neither of which were accepted by Israel: 1. Israel should withdraw to the borders of the UN Partition Plan — Israel argued "that the new borders—which could be changed, under consent only—had been established as a result of war, and because the UN blueprint took no account of defense needs and was militarily untenable, there was no going back to that blueprint."[8] 2. ThePalestinian refugees deserved a full right of return back into Israel — Israel argued that this was "out of the question, not only because they were hostile to the Jewish state, but they would also fundamentally alter the Jewish character of the state."[8]
Over the next two decades after the 1948 war ended, between 700,000 and 900,000 Jews fled the Arab countries they were living in, in many cases owing to anti-Jewish sentiment, expulsion (in the case of Egypt), or, in the case of Iraq, legal oppression but also quite often to promises of a better life from Israel; of this number, two-thirds ended up in refugee camps in Israel, while the remainder migrated to France, the United States and otherWestern or Latin American countries. The Jewish refugee camps in Israel were evacuated with time and the refugees were eventually integrated in the Jewish Israeli society (which in fact consisted almost entirely of refugees from Arab and European states). Israel argued that this and the Palestinian exodus represented a population exchange between Arab nations and the Jewish nation.[8]
For the nineteen years from the end of the Mandate until the Six-Day WarJordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. In 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank, but this annexation was recognized only by the United Kingdom. Both territories were conquered (but not annexed) from Jordan and Egypt by Israel in the Six-Day War. Neither Jordan nor Egypt allowed the creation of a Palestinian state in these territories. The effect this had on Israel during this period "were frequent border clashes ... terror and sabotage acts by individuals and small groups of Palestinian Arabs."[8]

[edit]War of 1956

The 1956 Suez War was a joint Israeli-British-French operation, in which Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula and British and French forces landed at the port of Suez, ostensibly to separate the warring parties, though the real motivation of Great Britain and France was to protect the interests of investors in those countries who were affected by Egyptian President Nasser's decision to nationalize the Suez Canal. Israel justified its invasion of Egypt as an attempt to stop attacks (see the Fedayeen) upon Israeli civilians, and to restore Israeli shipping rights through the Straits of Tiran, which Egypt claimed was within its territorial waters. The invading forces agreed to withdraw under U.S. and international pressure, and Israel withdrew from the Sinai as well, in return for the installation of United Nations Emergency Forces and guarantees of Israeli freedom of shipment. The canal was left in Egyptian (rather than British and French) hands.

[edit]Between 1956 and 1967

This period saw the rise of Nasserism; the founding of the United Arab Republic in 1958 and its collapse in 1961; Syrian plans for the diversion of water from the Jordan River; continued fedayeen raids, mostly from Syria and Jordan, and Israeli reprisals; and the increasing alignment of the Arab states with the Soviet Union, who became their largest arms supplier.
In 1964, the PLO was established by mostly Palestinian refugees mostly from Jordan.[8] The Article 24 of the Palestinian National Charter of 1964[1] stated: "This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or in the Himmah Area."

[edit]War of 1967

The background from which erupted the Six-Day War was caused by an erroneous information given to Nasser from the Soviet intelligence services that Israel was amassing troops near the Israeli-Syrian border. The state of conflict was also very tense after increased conflicts between Israel and Syria and Israel and Jordan - i.e. the Samu incident.
The fighting in the Six-Day War of 1967 began with a strike by Israel against Egypt and Syria following the breakdown of international diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis begun by the Egyptian closure of the Straits of Tiran on May 21–22, 1967 (thus "blocking all shipping to and from Eilat ... a casus belli" according to a possible interpretation of international law),[8]expulsion of UNEF peacekeeping forces (UNEF II) from the Sinai Peninsula, and stationing of 100,000 Egyptian troops at the peninsula. The Israeli army had a potential strength, including the not fully mobilized reserves, of 264,000 troops. Surprise Israeli air strikes destroyed the entire Egyptian air force while it was still on the ground. A subsequent ground invasion into Egyptian territory led to Israel's conquest of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. In spite of Israel's request to Jordan to desist from attacking it, Jordan along with Syria began to shell Israeli targets. In addition, Hussein, reluctant at first, sent ineffective bomber strikes because of Nasser's requests and affirmation of a sound Egyptian victory. With the rapid and rather unexpected success on the Egyptian front, Israel decided to attack and successfully captured the West Bank from Jordan on June 7, and the Golan Heights from Syria on June 9.

[edit]UN Resolution 242 and peace proposals

Following the Six-Day War, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 242 which proposed a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The resolution was accepted by Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, but rejected by Syria until 1972-1973 and the Yom Kippur War. To this day, Resolution 242 remains controversial due to conflicting interpretations over how much territory Israel would be required to withdraw from in order conform with the resolution. Also, after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank following the war, Palestinian nationalism substantially increased. Armed resistance was encouraged from within the newly occupied territories and from the Arab nations that lost in the war.[8]
U.S. Secretary of State William P. Rogers proposed the Rogers Plan, which called for a 90-day cease-fire, a military standstill zone on each side of the Suez Canal, and an effort to reach agreement in the framework of UN Resolution 242.[22] The Egyptian government accepted the Rogers Plan even before Anwar Sadat became president. Israel refused to enter negotiations with Egypt based on the Rogers peace plan. No breakthrough occurred even after President Sadat in 1972 surprised everyone by suddenly expelling Soviet advisers from Egypt and again signaled to the United States government his willingness to negotiate.[23]

[edit]War of 1967-1970

The War of Attrition was a limited war fought between Egypt and Israel from 1967 to 1970. It was initiated by Egypt to damage Israel's morale and economy after its victory in the Six-Day War.[24] The war ended with a cease-fire signed between the countries in 1970 with frontiers at the same place as when the war started

[edit]Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon

[edit]War of 1973

When the cease-fire came into effect, Israel had lost ground on the east side of the Suez Canal to Egypt (shown in red) but gained ground west of the canal and in the Golan Heights (shown in gray/brown)
The 1973 Yom Kippur War began when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise joint attack, on the Jewish day of fasting, in the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. The Egyptians and Syrians advanced during the first 24–48 hours, after which momentum began to swing in Israel's favor. By the second week of the war, the Syrians had been pushed entirely out of the Golan Heights. In the Sinai to the south, the Israelis had struck at the "hinge" between two invading Egyptian armies, crossed the Suez Canal (where the old cease-fireline had been), and cut off an entire Egyptian army just as a United Nations cease-fire came into effect. During this time, the United States airlifted military supplies to Israel while the Soviet Union airlifted military supplies to Egypt.[8]
Israeli troops eventually withdrew from the west of the Canal and the Egyptians kept their positions on a narrow strip on the east allowing them to re-open the Suez Canal and claim victory.[25] According to The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East (ed. Sela, 2002), Israel clearly had the military victory over both Syria and Egypt, but it suffered a large blow to morale as well as substantial human casualties. The outcome of the Yom Kippur War set the stage for "a new phase in Israeli-Egyptian relations" ending ultimately in the signing of the Camp David Accords.[8]

[edit]South Lebanon

[edit]Operation Litani of 1978

Operation Litani was the official name of Israel's 1978 invasion of Lebanon up to the Litani river. The invasion was a military success, asPLO forces were pushed north of the river. However, international outcry led to the creation of the UNIFIL peacekeeping force and a partial Israeli retreat.

[edit]War of 1982

The 1982 Lebanon War began when Israel attacked Lebanon, justified by Israel as an attempt to remove the Fatah militants led byYasser Arafat from Southern Lebanon (where they had established, during the country's civil war, a semi-independent enclave used to launch attacks on Israel). The invasion was widely criticized both in and outside Israel, especially after the Israeli-backed PhalangistChristian militia's Sabra and Shatila massacre, and ultimately led to the death of roughly 1,000 Palestinians. Although through the war, Israel succeeded in exiling the PLO military personnel, including Arafat to Tunisia, it became entangled with various local Muslim militias (particularly Hezbollah), which fought to end the Israeli occupation.

[edit]Conflict with Hizbullah (1982-2000)

By 1985, Israel retreated from all but a narrow stretch of Lebanese territory designated by Israel as the Israeli Security ZoneUN Security Council Resolution 425 (calling on Israel to completely withdraw from Lebanon) was not completely fulfilled until 16 June 2000.[2] Despite UN Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1583Hezbollah continues to have a military wing.

[edit]Intifada of 1987-1993

The First Intifada, 1987–1993, began as an uprising of Palestinians, particularly the young, against the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the failure of the PLO to achieve any kind of meaningful diplomatic solution to the Palestinian issue. The exiled PLO leadership in Tunisia quickly assumed a role in the intifada, but the uprising also brought a rise in the importance of Palestinian national and Islamic movements, and helped lead to the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988. The intifada was started by a group of young Palestinians who began throwing rocks at the Israeli occupying forces in Jabalia (Gaza Strip) in December 1987. In May 1989, the government of Yitzhak Shamir, theprime minister of Israel at the time, "suggested that violence cease, and that elections should be held in the West Bank and Gaza for a political delegation with whom Israel would come to terms regarding the implementation of Palestinian interim self-governing authority in these areas."[8] These elections never materialized. The Intifada ended with the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the signing of the Oslo Accords by Israel and the PLO in 1993.

[edit]Gulf War of 1990-1991

The Gulf War, 1990–1991, began with the Iraqi invasion and annexation of Kuwait and did not initially involve direct military engagement with Israel.[citation needed] An international coalition led by the United States which included Arab forces was assembled to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. To draw Israel into the confrontation and thereby make it difficullt for Arab regimes to remain in the coalition, Iraq launched 39 Scud missiles on Israeli cities and on Israel's nuclear facilities near Dimona.[8] However, under strong pressure from the US, which feared direct Israeli involvement would threaten the unity of the coalition, Israel did not retaliate against Iraq and the multinational coalition ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait. During the war, the PLO and King Hussein of Jordan supported Iraq's invasion of Kuwait (Yasser Arafat had received $100 million from Saddam Hussein[citation needed]).
The defeat of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War "was a devastating blow to ... the Palestinians."[26] Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other Persian Gulf Arab monarchies then expelled just under 400,000 Palestinian refugees ([3]) and withdrew their financial support from the Palestinian cause due to the Palestinians' support of Saddam Hussein. It was this political environment that allowed for the PLO to begin talks with the United States and Israel.

[edit]Oslo peace process (1993-2000)

In September 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles (DOP) which "shaped the principles for a prospective process of the establishment of a five-year interim self-governing authority" in the Palestinian territories.[8] In May 1994, the first stage of the DOP was implemented, Arafat arrived in the Gaza Strip, and financial aid started pouring in from the parts of the Western world and Japan. Unfortunately, "the new trend in Israeli-Palestinian relations also entailed a wave of violence by religious fanatics."[8] In September 1996, after the opening of some ancient tunnels near the Temple Mount, a small wave of violence occurred. This frightened many Israelis into believing that "the new reality created by the Oslo Agreements, namely the presence of an armed police force of approximately 30,000 Palestinians, ... could easily shift from cooperation to hostility."[8]
In October 1998, Arafat and then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed the Wye Memorandum which "called for the implementation of Israel's first and second redeployments according to the DOP in three phases."[8] Shortly after, Netanyahu's government fell and the Labor Party (under Ehud Barak) won control of the Knesset. Barak's election campaign was mostly geared toward a lasting peace in the Middle East by further implementation of the Wye Memorandum and the Oslo Accord.

[edit]Intifada of 2000

The al-Aqsa Intifada, or Second Intifada, began in late September 2000, around the time Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon and a large contingent of armed bodyguards visited theTemple Mount/Al-Haram As-Sharif complex in Jerusalem and declared the area as an eternal Israeli territory. Widespread riots and attacks broke out among Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel in Jerusalem and many major Israeli cities, and spread throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority (PA) involvement in the Intifada was handled by the Tanzim (Organization), which was the secret armed branch of Arafat's Fatah party within the PLO. In January 2002, the "PA's direct involvement in the Intifada was confirmed ... when the IDF intercepted a cargo ship in the Red Sea carrying tons of rockets, mortars, and other weapons and ammunition from Iran, earmarked for smuggling into PA [Palestinian Authority] areas."[8] In March 2002, just prior to the Arab Peace Initiativesuicide bombings committed by Palestinians against Israeli civilians "intensified ... in buses, restaurants, coffee shops, and other public places in Israel."[8] An Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, estimated the death toll to be 3,396 Palestinians and 994 Israelis,[4] although this number is criticized for not showing the whole picture, and not differentiating between combatants and civilians (suicide bombers, for example, are counted in that death toll).[citation needed] The Intifada also created "heavy economic losses to both sides" of the conflict.[8]

[edit]Arab Peace Initiative of 2002

In 2002, Saudi Arabia offered a peace plan in The New York Times and at a summit meeting of the Arab League in Beirut. The plan is based on, but goes beyond UN Security Council Resolution 242 and Resolution 338. It essentially calls for full withdrawal, solution of the refugee problem through the Palestinian "right of return", a Palestinian state with its capital inEast Jerusalem in return for fully normalized relations with the whole Arab world. This proposal was the first to receive the unanimous backing of the Arab League.
In response, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said: "... the details of every peace plan must be discussed directly between Israel and the Palestinians, and to make this possible, the Palestinian Authority must put an end to terror, the horrifying expression of which we witnessed just last night in Netanya", referring to the Netanya suicide attack.[5]
In 2005, the United States Congress acknowledged that Saudi Arabia has been funding to Hamas and other Palestinian insurgency groups.[27]

[edit]Israel's Disengagement of 2005

In 2005 Israel unilaterally evacuated settlements, and military outposts from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank.
The Disengagement Plan was a proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, adopted by the government and enacted in August 2005, to remove a permanent Israeli presence from the Gaza Strip and from four Israeli settlements in the northern West Bank. The civilians were evacuated (many forcibly) and the residential buildings demolished after August 15, and the disengagement from the Gaza Strip was completed on 12 September 2005, when the last Israeli soldier left. The military disengagement from the northern West Bank was completed ten days later.

[edit]Israel-Lebanon conflict of 2006

The 2006 Israel-Lebanon crisis began on 12 July 2006, with an attack by Hezbollah on Israel. Three Israeli soldiers were killed, and two were kidnapped and taken prisoner into Lebanon. In a search and rescue operation to return the captured soldiers, a further five Israeli Defense Forces troops were killed. It marked the beginning of a new wave of clashes between Israel and Hezbollah which saw the Lebanese capital, the sole Lebanese international airport, and much of southern Lebanon attacked by the Israelis, while Lebanese militias, presumably Hezbollah, bombarded northern Israeli cities, striking as far south as the city of Haifa. The conflict killed more than a thousand people, most of whom were Lebanese civilians and Hezbollah fighters; and displaced 974,184 Lebanese[28] and 300,000-500,000 Israelis.[29][30][31] Fears were growing that the situation could deteriorate further, with the possibility of either Syria or Iran becoming involved.[32] But a ceasefire was signed, and went into effect 14 August.

[edit]Recent developments


Note: Iran is an Islamic country but not an Arab country.
In January 2007, concerns increased among Israel's leaders that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran might be planning some sort of nuclear arms buildup, which might be considered for use in opposition to Israel.[33] The Security Council voted to put sanctions on Iran for its pursuit of nuclear technology.[34] There was evidence that international sanctions were creating discontent among Iranians with Ahmadinejad's policies.[35]


Some Israeli officials asserted in January 2007 that there had been some constructive progress in unpublicized talks with Syria.[36] Syria has repeatedly requested that Israel re-commence peace negotiations with the Syrian government.[37] There is an on-going internal debate within the Israeli government regarding the seriousness of this Syrian invitation for negotiations.[citation needed] The United States demanded that Israel desist from even exploratory contacts with Syria to test whether Damascus is serious in its declared intentions to hold peace talks with Israel. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was forceful in expressing Washington's view on the matter to Israeli officials that even exploratory negotiations with Syria are not to be attempted. Israel has thus far obeyed Washington's demand to desist.[38]
In May 2008 Israel and Syria officially confirmed that negotiations are taking place with Turkey serving as a mediator.[citation needed] These negotiations are preparing the grounds for direct Israeli-Syrian negotiations that will start in the second half of 2008.[citation needed]


In Jan. 2007, thousands gathered in Lebanon in a rally to support Hezbollah, and to celebrate the resignation of Israel's top military commander, Dan Halutz.[39] However, in some Lebanese communities, Hezbollah lost popularity, for opposing Lebanon's national government.[40]

[edit]Egypt, and major Arab powers

In a meeting between Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in January 2007, the latter called on Israel to pursue peace more actively, but also stated that Egypt would seek to block the flow of illegal arms being smuggled into the Gaza Strip.[41]
During the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, Egypt granted safe haven to several Fatah officials who fled Gaza.[citation needed] Egypt also stated it would help in policing the border, and impeding the flow of illegal arms.[citation needed]


As the American situation in Iraq grew increasingly difficult in Jan. 2007, the conflict threatened to turn into a wider sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. It was feared that if the US suddenly withdrew, this might become a sectarian conflict which could divide the entire Mideast along sectarian lines. There were also concerns that this might give more power to more extremist elements, as opposed to existing pro-Western Arab governments. This issue carried deep implications for security of the Mideast region, including Israel.
On the plus side, it was hoped that Iraq, by creating a rare example of democratic processes in the Mideast, might help to spread democracy in the region.
In an effort to reassert law and order, and the strength of the national Iraqi government, President Bush stated plans in his State of the Union address, for a new security effort, using 20,000 new US troops in a "troop surge." In February 2007, a crackdown began, using US and Iraqi troops, as part of the new US security plan.[42]

[edit]Conflict with Hamas in Gaza

In January 2006, elections were held for the Palestinian Legislative CouncilHamas won these elections, and thus secured a majority of seats. Due to the nature of their Parliamentary system, this meant they also controlled the executive posts of the Palestinian Authority, including the Prime Minister's post, and the cabinet. Ismail Haniyeh became Prime Minister.Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah remained as President.
Hamas gained popular support because it appeared much more efficient and much less corrupt than Fatah. It built various institutions and social services. Hamas openly declared that it did not intend to accept any recognition of Israel. It stated it would not accept the Oslo Accords, and would not accept or recognize any negotiations with Israel.[citation needed]Throughout previous years, it had openly stated that it encouraged and organized attacks against Israel. This created a major change in previous Israeli-Palestinian interactions, which had previously been going through various periods of negotiations.
Most Western nations and international organizations did not give the Hamas lead government official recognition and responded by cutting off funds and imposing other sanctions. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President and head of Fatah, met with Khaled Mashaal, the exiled head of Hamas, in Syria, in an effort to resolve differences over the direction of the Palestinian Authority and negotiations with Israel and to try to form a unity government with Hamas. The two parties did not reach a resolution.[43]
In June 2007, Hamas took control of Gaza, violently routing the forces of Fatah. This effectively severed control of the Palestinian territories. Those in the West Bank were underFatah's control, with those in Gaza under the control of HamasMahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, dissolved the government. The fighting had numerous casualties, and gave rise to refugees, who fled to Egypt and other countries.

[edit]Abbreviated timeline

[edit]See also