Return to the main pageA Timeline of U.S. Policy Toward Palestine

This timeline chronicles some of the major events and legislation that have influenced the United States’ bilateral relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people. It also highlights milestones in the history of U.S. engagement on Israel-Palestine peacemaking.

The fragile and tentative nature of the U.S.-PLO relationship began with secret talks in the 1980s and culminated in the very public closure of the PLO’s mission to the United States in 2018. Along with the U.S. Executive Branch, Congress has played and continues to play a critical role in defining the conditions and parameters for diplomatic ties as well as for a peace acceptable to the United States. Whether full diplomatic relations—including the return of a PLO representative to Washington—are possible depends as much on Congress as it does on the president.

Influencing Event
Current
Current With Amendments
Expired
Executive Action
1983

1983–1984

Secret talks are held between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and officials from president Ronald Reagan’s administration

1985

August 8, 1985

U.S. Congress codifies policy prohibiting negotiations with the PLO

1987

December 9, 1987

An Israeli military truck strikes and kills Palestinian day laborers, sparking the first Palestinian uprising

December 27, 1987

Anti-Terrorism Act labels the PLO a terrorist organization

1990

February 16, 1990

Foreign Relations Authorization Act prohibits U.S. funds for the United Nations or any of its agencies that accord the PLO the same standing as a member state

November 29, 1990

Immigration Act of 1990 amends immigration laws to assume that officials and spokespersons of the PLO are engaged in terrorism and are therefore excludable

1993

September 13, 1993

Oslo Accords are signed by Israel and the PLO, launching negotiations

October 28, 1993

Middle East Peace Facilitation Act (MEPFA) grants the president the flexibility to suspend provisions preventing the PLO from operating in the United States (expired in 1997)

1994

1994

The PLO opens a representative office in Washington

April 30, 1994

Foreign Relations Authorization Act prohibits U.S. funds for the United Nations or any affiliated organizations that grant membership to an organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood

1995

1995

Oslo peace process continues

1988–1995

A series of federal cases call into question the use of secret evidence to deport or deny immigration benefits to persons—mainly Arabs and Palestinians—because of their political associations and advocacy

1993–1995

World Trade Center and the Oklahoma City federal building are bombed, fueling concerns about terrorism

November 8, 1995

Jerusalem Embassy Act calls for relocating the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by 1999

1996

April 24, 1996

Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act amends immigration laws to make officials and spokespersons of designated foreign terrorist organizations excludable

1997

1997

U.S. State Department designates certain PLO factions and other Palestinian groups as foreign terrorists

November 26, 1997

Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act grants the president the authority to suspend restrictions on PLO operations in the United States, replacing the MEPFA

2000

September 28, 2000

Israeli prime minister candidate Ariel Sharon enters the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem with Israeli soldiers and police, trigging the second Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories

2002

September 30, 2002

Foreign Relations Authorization Act allows the Secretary of State to make PLO and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials ineligible for a visa unless a waiver is granted

2006

January 2006

Hamas wins Palestinian Legislative Council elections

December 21, 2006

Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act prohibits U.S. assistance to any Palestinian unity government with Hamas or Hamas-controlled institutions unless Hamas recognizes Israel, renounces political violence, and affirms agreements signed by the PLO and Israel

2011

October 31, 2011

Palestine joins the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a member state

October 31, 2011

U.S. cuts funding to UNESCO because of its vote to admit the State of Palestine as a member

December 23, 2011

Consolidated Appropriations Act mandates a cut-off in all U.S. economic aid to the PA if the PLO takes action at the UN to obtain full membership and/or joins specialized agencies, unless a waiver is granted

2014

2009–2014

Following military assaults on Gaza, concerns grow that Palestinian leaders may initiate war crimes investigations against Israeli officials

January 7, 2014

Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 places additional limitations on Palestinians initiating or supporting an International Criminal Court (ICC)-authorized investigation of Israeli nationals for crimes against Palestinians, including a cut-off of all economic aid without possibility of a waiver

April 2014

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks end after Israel refuses to release last tranche of Palestinian prisoners pursuant to conditions for U.S. sponsored talks

December 16, 2014

Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act requires a dollar-for-dollar reduction in economic aid to the PA in the amount spent on welfare payments to prisoners and the families of those killed during acts of political violence

2016

December 28, 2016

Outgoing U.S. secretary of state John Kerry sets out an additional parameter for Israeli-Palestinian peace: recognition of Israel as a state for Jewish people

2017

December 6, 2017

U.S. president Donald Trump recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announces plans to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

2018

February 22, 2018

Sokolow v. PLO/PA, involving liability for terrorism in Israel, comes before the U.S. Supreme Court

March 23, 2018

Consolidated Appropriations Act includes the Taylor Force Act, which mandates the cut-off of all economic aid that “directly benefits” the PA until it and the PLO end the welfare payment system for families of prisoners and those killed during acts of political violence, in favor of a strictly needs-based system

April 2, 2018

U.S. Supreme Court denies the petition for review of Sokolow v. PA/PLO, leaving intact the appellate court’s decision that there is no basis for it to exercise personal jurisdiction over the entities

July 19, 2018

Israeli Knesset passes Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People, enshrining with quasi-constitutional authority that only Jews have a right to self-determination in areas Israel asserts as comprising its state

September 10, 2018

U.S. orders closure of the PLO office in Washington due to the PLO’s refusal to engage with the White House on its Middle East peace plan

October 3, 2018

Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) requires any entity receiving U.S. foreign assistance to accept civil liability for acts of terrorism committed abroad

December 26, 2018

Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah sends notice of the PA’s intention to no longer accept U.S. assistance

2019

March 4, 2019

U.S. merges consulate in Jerusalem serving as its de facto mission to Palestinians with the U.S. embassy to Israel

December 11, 2019

Executive Order on Combating Anti-Semitism calls for treating anti-Semitism as a prohibited category of discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and requires federal agencies to consider certain criticism of Israel as evidence of discriminatory intent

December 20, 2019

Further Consolidated Appropriations Act includes the Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act (PSJVTA), which amends the ATCA by replacing acceptance of U.S. aid as a trigger for consent to personal jurisdiction with PLO/PA official presence/activity in the United States and/or continuing social welfare payments to prisoners and their families

2020

January 28, 2020

Trump administration unveils Peace to Prosperity plan, which allowed for at least 30 percent of the West Bank to be annexed to Israel with limited autonomy for Palestinians in West Bank enclaves

April 27, 2020

U.S. Supreme Court orders the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to revisit its decision dismissing Sokolow v. PLO/PA in light of passage of the PSJVTA

December 24, 2020

Trump administration orders all products from Area C (60 percent of the occupied West Bank) to be marked as “Made in Israel” or “Product of Israel” for customs purposes

2021

March 3, 2021

ICC opens investigation into war crimes committed by both Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, drawing criticism from the United States, which opposes the court’s acceptance of jurisdiction over Israeli officials

April 7, 2021

Administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announces the resumption of some bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza and $150 million in humanitarian assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

 

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