The War of Independence (1947-1949)
Arab opposition to an Israeli state began after the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which supported the idea of a Jewish national homeland. In the 1920s there were anti-Zionist riots in Palestine, because the British mandate government allowed thousands of Jews to immigrate to Palestine from all over the world. The Palestinian Arabs were not hostile to this idea and British, wanting to retain Arab friendship and their own oil supplies, limited Jewish immigration to 10,000 a year. This happened in 1939. After The Second World War many Jewish refugees from Hitler`s Europe were looking for a place to settle down. In the 1945 the USA forced Britain to admit 100,000 of them into Palestine, but the British refused, not wanting to offend the Arabs. However, the Jews were determined to fight for their national home. They began a terrorist campaign against Arabs and British. The most spectacular incident of this campaign was the blowing up of the King David Hotel in 1946, the British headquarters in Jerusalem, when 91 people lost their lives. As a response the British arrested Jewish leaders and turning back ships. The British, still not recovered from The Second World War, were not able to cope. Ernest Bevin, the Foreign Secretary, invited the United Nations to deal with this problem.
In November 1947 the UN voted to partition Palestine, setting approximately half of it to form an independent Jewish state. In the beggining of 1948, the British abandoned the mandate and withdrew their troops, though fighting was already taking place between Jews and Arabs, who were angry of losing half of Palestine. In Tel Aviv on May 14 the Provisional State Council, formerly the National Council, "representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the World Zionist Movement," proclaimed the "establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called Medinat Israel (the State of Israel) open to the immigration of Jews from all the countries of their dispersion." During the night of May 14-15, Tel Aviv was bombarded by Egyption airplanes. The regular attacks of five neighboring Arab states armies invaded the new state of Israel. From the north, east and south came the armies of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan and Egypt. These countries joined the Palestinian and other Arab guerrillas who had been fighting against the Jewish forces since November 1947. The war now became an international conflict, the first Arab-Israeli War, which lasted for more than 13 months. The UN played an important role in bringing the fighting to an end. Israeli success was due to their own resistance and to the fact that Arabs were poorly equipped. Israel paid a heavy price: 4,000 soldiers and 2,000 civilians were killed. The financial cost was also heavy.
The Jewish state, however, was now a definite fact. It held an area of almost 8,000 square miles compared with some 6,200 square miles granted within the boundaries as drawn up in the Partition Plan. The Jewish terrorists slaughtered the entire population of an Arab village, nearly a million Arabs fled into Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria where they lived in poor camps. Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan. Although the USA, Great Britain and France guaranteed Israel`s frontiers, the Arab states did not regard the situation as permanent. Series of bilateral agreements concluded between Israel and Egypt (Rhodes, February1949), Lebanon (Rosh HaNikra, March 1949), Jordan (Rhodes, April 1949), and Syria (Mahanayim, July 1949).
In each case the negotiations were terminated by the formal signature of a General Armistice Agreement, which included:
• Israel was left with the entire Negev, down to the border with Sinai.
• Egypt retained control of the Gaza Strip, but otherwise withdrew behind its previous frontier lines.
• Israeli forces withdrew from areas occupied in Lebanon, and the Demarcation Line followed the previous frontier.
• Jordan was left in control of the thickly populated hill country of Judea and Samaria (called the "West Bank" after its annexation by Transjordan), including the Old City of Jerusalem.
• Syrian armed forces withdrew to the Syria-Palestine international frontier.
The Suez War (Operation Kadesh, 1956)
During the 1950s there was considerable tension between Israel and Egypt. Egypt under President Nasser, had become a leader in the Arab world. Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in 1954 after the overthrow of the unpopular King Farouk. There were several causes of the war:1) President Nasser was in favour of Arab unity and independence including the liberation of Palestne from the Jews.2) President Nasser organised guerrilla bands called Fedayeen (meaning self-sacrificers or suicide fighters). It were Palestinian Arab terrorist groups which sabotaged and murdered the Israeli civilian population. The Fedayeen operated from bases located in and controlled by Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. 3) President Nasser organised a blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba, which led to the Israel port of Eilat. 4) President Nasser insisted that Great Britain evacuate her base at Suez (the agreement signed in 1936 allowing her to keep the base expired in 1956), sent aid to the Algerian Arabs in their struggle against France, prodded the other Arab states into opposing the British-sponsored Baghdad Pact and forced King Hussein of Jordan to dismiss his British chief of staff.5) In September 1955 Nasser signed an arms deal with Czechoslovakia for Russian fighters, bombers and tanks. The Soviet experts went to train the Egyptian army.6)
The Americans saw this act as a Russian try to move into the Middle East. The USA cancelled a 56 million-dollars-grant towards the building of a dam at Aswan in July 1956. The USA intended to force Nasser to abandon his new links with the communists.7) President Nasser immediately nationalised the Suez Canal. He intended to use its revenues to finance the dam. He promised compensation to the share-owners, a majority of whom were British and French citizens. British Prime Minister Anthony Eden thought that Nasser wanted to form a united Arabia under Egyptian control and communist influence, which could cut off Europe`s oil supplies.8) Secret negotiations took place between Britain, France and Israel. They agreed on a joint attack on Egypt. The British and French hoped to bring down President Nasser. The Israelis wanted to stop fedayeen terror and open the Gulf of Aqaba. The war began with an Israeli invasion of Egypt on 29 October. In a quick, sweeping operation of 100 hours, under the leadership of then Chief of the General Staff, Moshe Dayan, the entire Sinai peninsula fell into Israeli hands, 231 soldiers being killed.
A reserve brigade negotiated the difficult desert terrain and captured Sharm e-Sheikh at the southernmost tip of the Sinai peninsula. The British and French bombed Egyptian airfields and landed at the northern end of the Suez Canal. The fighting was halted by the UN after several days. The UNEF (United Nations Emergency Force) was sent to supervise the cease-fire in the Canal zone. USA and USSR supported the UN resolution forcing the three invading countries to leave Egypt and Gaza strip. By the end of 1956, their forces withdrew from Egypt, but Israel refused to leave Gaza until early 1957. This happened only after the United States had promised to help resolve the conflict and keep the Straits of Tiran open. When UN troops moved in in order to control the frontier between Egypt and Israel, Britain, France and Israel withdrew their own ones.
The Six-Day War (June 1967)
The year 1967 began with a prediction that it would not bring war. Nasser had learned a lesson in 1956 and he would not start a war unless he was ready for the fight. Nasser`s relations with Jordan were notoriously bad and the coalition between Nasser and King Hussein was out of the question. In the time, Iraq had an agressive nationalist government prepared to čo-operate with Egypt. Iraq president Aref announced; "Our goal is clear – to wipe Israel off the map." Syria, Russia`s closest ally in the Middle East, lost 13 planes and it was a opening signal to the war. As a reaction, Nasser sent 100,000 troops to Sinai.
o May 15, 1967 Egyptian military forces moved into the Sinai.
o May 17, 1967 Egypt President, Nasser, demanded the withdrawal of the UN Emergency Force.
o May 22, 1967 Nasser declared the Straits of Tiran closed to Israeli shipping and to shipping bound to and from Israel.
o May 25, 1967 Iraq, Algeria and Saudia Arabia moved their troops to Israel's border. Israel`s situation seemed impossible.
o May 26, 1967 Nasser declared that this time the intention was to destroy Israel.
o May 30, 1967 Jordan signed a pact with Egypt. King Hussein flew to Egypt and signed an agreement placing his forcing under the overall Egyptian command.
o June 4, 1967 Iraq signed a similar agreement.
o June 5, 1967 the Israeli air force undertook an attack designed to destroy the Arab airforces and their airfields. King Hussein could see the flying planes on a radar screen, however he was convinced by the Egyptians that the planes were theirs. He ordered to attack Jerusalem. In less than three hours this aim was achieved. Israelis devastating air strikes destroyed most of the Egyptian air force on the ground. On the same morning, Israel southern command moved its forces in Sinai.
o June 7, 1967 the Old City of Jerusalem was taken by a Paratroop unit in hand-to-hand fighting to avoid any damage to the holy places. By the evening, the whole of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) were under Israel`s control.
o June 9, 1967 the Israeli Defense Forces attacked the Syrian army. At this time, the fighting in the south and the centre was over.
o June 10, 1967 Israeli forces had captured the Golan heights in the north, because the Syrians had been shelling Israel`s towns and villages. The Six Day War came to end with the acceptance of the cease-fire by all parties. There were diplomatic efforts to bring to an end the by-now 40 years of conflict.
In November 1967, the Security council adopted the Resolution 242. It included a right for peace and the recognition of the "right of every nation to live free from threat within secure and recognized boundaries" . However, the Arab League, in its session in the Sudan adopted a different resolution called the Three No`s: No peace, No negotiations, No recognition of Israel. The Six-Day War left Israel in possession of Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, which it took from Egypt; Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which it took from Jordan; and the Golan Heights, taken from Syria. Land under Israel's jurisdiction after the 1967 war was about four times the size of the area within its 1949 armistice frontiers. The occupied territories included an Arab population of about 1.5 million. Israel lost 777 men and 2,586 ones were wounded. On the other hand, the Arabs lost about 15,000 men.
The War of Attrition (1968-1970)
The most serious military threat came from Egypt. On April 10, 1968, Nasser declared that Egypt decided to "embark on the path of struggle and war" . In September and October, the Egyptians heavily bombarded Israeli positions on the Suez Canal. Israel built a series of bunkers and fortifications known as the "Bar Lev Line" (after the Israeli Chief of Staff). Egyptian patrols were sent across the Canal, but were repulsed with heavy losses. Israel replied with commando raids on Egyptian targets and repeated air strikes at Egyptian anti- aircraft batteries and posts. In 1970 Israel air force stepped up its attacks on the Egyptian army camps along th Nile. When the Israel Air Force began its bombing attacks against the targets in Egypt`s depth, Nasser in desperation asked the USSR to provide Egypt with Russian equipment, air and ground troops. Russia agreed. The United States start to be nervous that Russia`s direct involvement would cause a nuclear confrontation. USA and USSR agreed to end the war under the 'cease-fire stand-still' formula of the Security Council in July 1970. In the action between 15th June 1967 and 8th August 1,424 soldiers were killed. The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was ideal for the terrorist activities. Arab terrorist organisations were not successful at home, so therefore they transferred their activities abroad: kidnapping and hijacking planes and blowing them up. The terror acts grew in number and importance. One of the most specular and bloody operation of terrorists was the massacre of 11 Israeli sportsmen in Munich, at the Olympic Games of 1972.
The Yom Kippur War (October 1973)
The war was so called because it started on the holiest day in Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement (October 6). The war came as a surprise and it was the the fiercest Arab-Israeli war since the War of Independence in 1948. Egypt (ruled since 1970 by President Sadat) and Syria attacked Israel, catching Israel off guard. They were willing to regain territory lost in 1967. Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal at five points and Syrian forces attacked at two points on the Golan Heights. However, the wheel turned very quickly. Israeli troops pushed the Syrians back to the cease-fire line by October 10, despite the arrival of Iraqi troops to support the Syrians. Within the few days, the Israeli army was on the west bank of the Suez Canal, approximately 100 km from the Egyptian capital Cairo and near the airfields around the Syrian capital Damascus (within 40 kms). Egypt and Syria which had first refused a cease-fire, now accepted it, because the fighting was evenly balanced. On October 20, the US Secretary of State flew to Moscow and together with the USSR government proposed a cease-fire resolution in the UN Security Council. Four days later, the cease-fire went into effect. An important development during the war was that the Arab oil-producing states tried to bring pressure to bear on the USA and western European countries friendly to Israel by reducing oil supplies, which caused serious oil shortages especially in Europe. The producers who were well aware of the fact that the oil supplies were not unlimited began to raise oil prices. Although the Israeli army won the war, the Yom Kippur War went down in Israel`s history as a qualified failure – 2,688 soldiers fell. Too many Russian airplanes were lost. Only 100 of 265 Israeli tanks survived. The best army branch was the navy, which lost nothing and sunk 34 enemy ships. The Chief of Staff, David Elazar and his Chief of Intelligence were blamed for failing to sound the alarm in time and they had to resign.
The Peace for Galilee Operation (The Lebanon War, June 1982)
After the Six Day War, most of the terrorist activities of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) were carried out from Jordanian territory. In September 1970, there were fierce clashes between the P.L.O. and the Jordanian army. As a result the organization was expelled from Jordan. After the expulsion from Jordan, the main center for P.L.O. terror became Southern Lebanon. Lebanon was independent since 1920. It was a prosperous state, making money from banking and export. The Lebanese government was unable to prevent terrorist activities. In 1978 Palestinians guerrillas launched an air raid on Israel from their bases in Lebanon. In response, Israel sent troops to southern Lebanon to occupy a strip 6-10 km long and thus protect Israel's border (Litani Operation). In spite of the presence of the UN peace-keeping force, attacks against Israel continued.
On 6th June 1982, Israel launched a massive attack to destroy all military bases of the P.L.O. in Southern Lebanon and to free Israel northern towns and villages from constant fire. A ten-week siege of the Muslim sector of West Beirut, a P.L.O. stronghold, forced the Palestinians to accept a US- sponsored plan, whereby the P.L.O. terrorists would evacuate Beirut. Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 1985, but continued to maintain a Lebanese buffer zone north of its border. On 6th June 1982 Israel launched a full-scale invasion. By 14th June Beirut was encircled, Palestine Liberation Organization and Syrian forces were evacuated mainly to Syria. In February 1985 there was a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the country without any gain or losses. Israel maintains an occupied area called as a 'security zone' in South Lebanon and supports the South Lebanese Army Militia of Lahad. Both of them were occupying the south of Lebanon to defend Israelis from Palestinian attacks, and both carried out number of massacres against Lebanese and Palestinian people. Talks between Israel and Lebanon resulted in an agreement, drawn up by US secretary of state George Shultz, calling for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon within three months. Syria refused to acknowledge the agreement, and left some 30,000 troops, with about 7,000 PLO members, in northeast and Israel refused to withdraw its forces from the south. Meanwhile the problems in Lebanon continued.
In 1984, under pressure from Syria, President Gemayel of Lebanon abrogated the 1983 treaty with Israel , but the government of national unity in Tel Aviv continued to plan the withdrawal of its forces. Guerrilla groups of the Lebanese resistant on south of Lebanon started their resistant against the Israeli occupation since 1985 when the main important resistant group in Lebanon which is Hizbollah was founded. Most of the withdrawal was complete by June 1985 except the south of Lebanon of what so called the 'security zone'. The south of Lebanon was liberated by resistant operations when Israel withdraw on 25th May 2000. However Israel is still occupying Shebaa farms and other small areas.