Israel became an independent state in 1947, after a UN agreement to divide Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states. But even before Israel officially became a country, Arabs and those interested in a Jewish homeland have been in conflict.
For more details on Israel’s history, check out the slideshow and videos below.
An overview of Israel's history from 1920 onward.
In an attempt to gain support while fighting Palestine's rulers, the Ottoman Empire, in World War I, Britain promised to grant statehood to both the Palestinian Arabs and the Jews. Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Britain declared that a Jewish homeland would be created within Palestine's borders as long as the other religions would be respected. The Arabs, who thought a Jewish homeland should be created outside of Palestinian borders, rejected Britain's plan.
The United Nations voted to divide Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states, but the Arab countries in the Middle East again rejected the plan. Jewish leaders declared Israel's independence in 1948, which sparked an invasion by Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq. By the end of the war, Israel controlled most of Palestine. Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their land -- eventually many of them ended up in refugee camps. The Israelis say the Palestinians left voluntarily.
In peace negotiations with Egypt, Jordan (once called Transjordan) Syria and Lebanon, Israel established its borders. Jordan retained control of the West Bank, and the city of Jerusalem was divided between both Jordan and Israel. Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip.
In 1959, Egyptian army soldier Yasser Arafat helped found the Palestine National Liberation Movement, who sought to regain territory for the Palestinian people. Ten years later Arafat was named chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, an umbrella group for Palestinian factions engaging in guerilla warfare against Israel
As the territorial disputes continued, Egypt, Jordan and Syria began mobilizing their forces against Israel. Instead, Israel launched a surprise attack. Within six days the Israelis had gained control of Jordan's West Bank, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, and Syria's Golan Heights.
In 1979 U.S. President Jimmy Carter met with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at Camp David, Maryland. The Camp David accords brought an end to the state of war that had existed between Egypt and Israel for more than 30 years. Egypt acknowledged Israel's right to exist, and Israel agreed to give up control of the Sinai Peninsula.
Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization agree to a five-year agenda for peace talks in Oslo, Norway. The peace agreement was sealed with a historic handshake between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Washington, D.C. Some of the West Bank and much of the Gaza Strip reverted back to Palestinian control.
But peace was short-lived. Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli zealot, and territorial exchange came to a halt. Palestinian leaders said Israel's construction of new housing in the West Bank violated the peace agreement, and new violence erupted in 1997. An extremist Palestinian group called Hamas claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at an outdoor market in Jerusalem that killed 15 people and wounded 170. Israel refused to continue peace talks until the terrorism ended.
In 2000 U.S. President Bill Clinton moderated a meeting between Arafat and Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, but talks ended without a resolution. The Palestinians wanted Israel to relinquish control over the land it had taken in the 1967 Six-Day War, but Israel said it would only give up part of the land.
After three years of escalating violence, a new peace plan called the "road map to peace" is adopted by Israel and Palestinian authorities. The "road map" promised to bring an end to violence in the region and set up two independent states -- Israel and Palestine -- to exist side by side in peace.
In 2005, former President Ariel Sharon moved forward with the "road map to peace," forcing thousands of Israeli settlers to abandon homes in Palestinian-run regions of the Gaza Strip. In Palestine, the national electorate ousted moderate political party Fatah, securing anti-Israeli Hamas leader, Ismail Haniya, as prime minister of the fledgling state.
In July 2006, hostilities worsened when an Israeli soldier was captured by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. In a similar attack, two more soldiers were abducted by Lebanon-based, Hezbollah, igniting a sweeping military campaign by Israel in the country's southern quarter. By Aug. 11, at least 30,000 Israeli troops were stationed in Lebanon to fend off rocket attacks by the Islamic guerilla group.
Palestinians continue to live in territory that is a part of Israel as leaders push for independence. Most agree that an independent state would give the Palestinian people a larger voice on the world stage, but many are unsure that gaining statehood would solve any of the ongoing issues.
The United States is against the bid for independence and has encouraged continued to talks to find a way to bring peace to the region.
Settlements: Israel has committed to dismantling Jewish settlements along the Gaza Strip, but has refused to end expansion in existing West Bank settlements.
Land: Palestinians demand Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Israel has offered limited control over some disputed areas.
Jerusalem: Both Israelis and Palestinians seek control of Jerusalem, which is home to Islamic and Jewish holy sites.
Refugees: Palestinian authorities want 4 million Palestinian refugees and descendants to return to lands now occupied by Israel. Israel has refused to allow the refugees, many now living in neighboring Arabic nations, back into the country.