Monday, April 20, 1998 Published at 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
The road to Oslo
Yitzhak Rabin: "There is a time for war, and there is a time for peace"
The former BBC Middle East correspondent, Tim Llewellyn, looks back at the history of Israel.
After the Gulf war, the United States tried to reshape Middle Eastern politics. With great effort the American government organised the first-ever effective Israel-Arab-Palestinian dialogue. The negotiations, based on the concept of "land for peace", were launched at Madrid in October 1991, and involved Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians.
Concentrating on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Israel at last recognised the PLO and gradually allowed the organisation's members and leadership to return to - some of - the occupied territories.
The agreements envisaged an interim period of Israeli withdrawals and redeployments from and in the territories and limited autonomy for the Palestinians, in return for peace and an end to Palestinian claims on Israel proper.
However, the decisive questions of the status of Jerusalem and its Arab population, the settlements, the refugees and Israel's borders were put off until the interim period was over, towards the end of the decade.
Israel's negotiations with the Syrians and Lebanese collapsed nearly two years ago. Only Jordan and Israel have made peace, albeit, like the Israeli treaty with Egypt, most of the Arab population is cool towards the treaty.
The future of Israel
Israel is an advanced, prosperous, industrialised Western-style implant in the Middle East, decades ahead of its neighbours in technological and military prowess.
It has its own military-industrial complex, has highly developed computer, construction and textile industries, and is the world's second-largest exporter of cut and polished diamonds.
Israel's biggest dangers are internal. There is growing Palestinian resentment and frustration inside Israel and the occupied territories, which could soon lead to unprecedented bloodshed.
For Israelis, May 15, 1998, is not a straightforward 'Happy 50th Birthday'.
The History of Israel
Part 1: The return of the Jews to the promised land
Part 2: The birth of Israel
Part 3: Israel builds a nation
Part 4: Israel in war and peace
Part 5: Israel and the PLO
Part 6: The Intifada
Part 7: The road to Oslo