Six maps define the borders of Israel and the Palestinian territories
The political geography of Israel and the Palestinian territories has been changing for over a century. British imperial control, wars, Jewish settlements and Israeli occupation have greatly reduced the land area of the Palestinian people, while Israel has expanded its footprint. Both Palestinians and Israelis see the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea as their own, and Christians, Jews and Muslims all consider parts of the land to be holy.
Here are the factors that have reshaped the map of the Middle East’s most contested region over the past hundred years:
[The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: A chronology]
Map of British and French mandates around modern-day Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank
Map of the 1947 UN plan
Military line map 1949
British control and involvement
In 1917, during the First World War, Britain issued what is known as the Balfour Declaration, supporting the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, a Muslim-majority area with small Christian and Jewish populations. This declaration would be a key part of the British mandate over Palestine. Jewish immigration to Palestine began to increase.
After the war, the League of Nations – the forerunner of the United Nations – gave Britain administrative power over the region. In the decades that followed, large numbers of Jewish refugees came from Europe as many fled Nazi persecution under Hitler and, during World War II, the Holocaust. The Jewish population of Palestine increased from 10 percent in 1917 to 30 percent in 1947 under the British Mandate. The majority of the Palestinian population organized a revolt, fearing that they would be exterminated.
1947 United Nations partition plan
In 1947, when the British Mandate ended, the United Nations came it is proposed to divide Palestine into a Jewish state and a smaller Palestinian state. Jerusalem – a holy site for Jews, Christians and Muslims – would be placed under an international trusteeship system. Palestinians rejected the proposal, which would have left them with less than half of their land and forced many from their homes. Zionist militias attacked Palestinian towns, forcing thousands to flee.
1948 Israel’s independence and the Palestinian movement
The state of Israel declared independence in 1948, triggering the first Arab-Israeli war. It ended with Israel’s victory in 1949.
As a result of the conflict, 700,000 Palestinians were displaced, which Palestinians and those who sympathized with them recognized as the Nakba, or the catastrophe.
Then the area was divided into three parts. The 1949 military line, or “Green Line,” formed the borders of Israel, the West Bank (the area west of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip. Until 1967, Egypt retained control of Gaza and Jordan retained control of the West Bank.
1967, 1973 wars
In 1967, another Arab-Israeli war ended with an Israeli victory. Israel defeated Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and took over Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
In 1973, a coalition of Arab nations, led by Egypt and Syria, launched a spectacularly coordinated attack on Israel in what became known as the Yom Kippur War. The Arab coalition gained some ground but was eventually driven back by an offensive against Israel. In 1978, the Camp David agreement laid the foundation for a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, as a result of which Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in several stages, ending in 1982.
Developments in the 1980s
In 1980, Israel passed the “Jerusalem Law,” formalizing the annexation of East Jerusalem and declaring all of Jerusalem the capital of Israel. The United Nations said that this move violated international law and that the city’s status can only be determined through a negotiation process between Israelis and Palestinians. (In a reversal of long-standing US policy, the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.)
Israel remained in the Golan Heights after the 1967 war and annexed it in 1981, although the move is not internationally recognized. Israel invaded southern Lebanon in 1982 and occupied the area until 2000.
The West Bank and Gaza
In 1993, the first of the Oslo accords was signed and eventually led to limited self-determination for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In 1994, the West Bank was officially separated from Jordan as part of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty.
Today more than half a million Jewish settlers live in the West Bank on land that was once seen by the leaders of the Oslo talks as part of a future Palestinian state. Israel has full control over 60 percent of the area, with some roads that only Israelis can use and checkpoints that restrict Palestinian movements.
Israel pulled troops out of Gaza in 2005 after years of international pressure and contained Palestinian protests, including two uprisings. When the militant group Hamas came to power in 2007, Israel severely restricted the blockade that was also implemented by Egypt.