State of Israel
President-elect: Reuven Rivlin (2014)
Prime Minister: Benjamin Netanyahu (2009)
Land area: 7,849 sq mi (20,329 sq km); total area: 8,019 sq mi (20,770 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 7,821,850 (growth rate: 1.46%); birth rate: 18.44/1000; infant mortality rate: 3.98/1000; life expectancy: 81.28
Capital and largest city (2009 est.): Jerusalem, 791,000 Note: Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, but the U.S., like nearly all other countries, maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv.
Other large cities: Tel Aviv-Yafo 3.381 million; Haifa 1.054 million
Monetary unit: Shekel
National name: Medinat Yisra’el
Current government officials
Languages: Hebrew (official), Arabic, English
Ethnicity/race: Jewish 75.1% (of which Israel-born 73.6%, Europe/America/Oceania-born 17.9%, Africa-born 5.2%, Asia-born 3.2%), non-Jewish 24.9% (mostly Arab) (2012 est.)
Religions: Jewish 75.1%, Muslim 17.4%, Christian 2%, Druze 1.6%, other 3.9% (2012 est.)
National Holiday: Independence Day, April or May 14
Literacy rate: 97% (2004 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2014 est.): $273.2 billion; per capita $36,200. Real growth rate: 3.3%. Inflation: 3.9%. Unemployment: 1.7%. Arable land: 13.68%. Agriculture: citrus, vegetables, cotton; beef, poultry, dairy products. Labor force: 3.493 million; agriculture 1.65%; industry 18.1%; services 80.3% (2012). Industries: high-technology projects (including aviation, communications, computer-aided design and manufactures, medical electronics, fiber optics), wood and paper products, potash and phosphates, food, beverages, and tobacco, caustic soda, cement, construction, metals products, chemical products, plastics, diamond cutting, textiles, footwear. Natural resources: timber, potash, copper ore, natural gas, phosphate rock, magnesium bromide, clays, sand. Exports: $62.32 billion (2012 est.): machinery and equipment, software, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals, textiles and apparel. Imports: $67.03 billion (2013 est.): raw materials, military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, fuels, grain, consumer goods. Major trading partners: U.S., Belgium, Hong Kong, Germany, Switzerland, UK, China (2006).
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 3.594 million (2012); mobile cellular 9.225 million (2012). Broadcast media: state broadcasting network, operated by the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), broadcasts on 2 channels, one in Hebrew and the other in Arabic; 5 commercial channels including a channel broadcasting in Russian, a channel broadcasting Knesset proceedings, and a music channel supervised by a public body; multi-channel satellite and cable TV packages provide access to foreign channels; IBA broadcasts on 8 radio networks with multiple repeaters and Israel Defense Forces Radio broadcasts over multiple stations; about 15 privately owned radio stations; overall more than 100 stations and repeater stations (2008). Internet hosts: 2.483 million (2012). Internet users: 4.525 million (2009).
Transportation: Railways: total: 975 km (2008). Roadways: total: 18,566 km; paved: 18,566 km (including 449 km of expressways) (2011). Ports and terminals: Ashdod, Elat (Eilat), Hadera, Haifa. Airports: 47 (2013).
International disputes: West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement – permanent status to be determined through further negotiation; Israel continues construction of a “seam line” separation barrier along parts of the Green Line and within the West Bank; Israel announced its intention to pull out Israeli settlers and withdraw from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern West Bank in 2005; Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied (Lebanon claims the Shab’a Farms area of Golan Heights); since 1948, about 350 peacekeepers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) headquartered in Jerusalem monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating, and assist other UN personnel in the region.
Major sources and definitions
Israel, slightly larger than Massachusetts, lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Egypt on the west, Syria and Jordan on the east, and Lebanon on the north. Its maritime plain is extremely fertile. The southern Negev region, which comprises almost half the total area, is largely a desert. The Jordan, the only important river, flows from the north through Lake Hule (Waters of Merom) and Lake Kinneret (also called Sea of Galilee or Sea of Tiberias), finally entering the Dead Sea 1,349 ft (411 m) below sea levelthe world’s lowest land elevation.
Palestine, considered a holy land by Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and homeland of the modern state of Israel, was known as Canaan to the ancient Hebrews. Palestine’s name derives from the Philistines, a people who occupied the southern coastal part of the country in the 12th century B.C.
A Hebrew kingdom established in 1000 B.C. was later split into the kingdoms of Judah and Israel; they were subsequently invaded by Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, and Alexander the Great of Macedonia. By A.D. 135, few Jews were left in Palestine; most lived in the scattered and tenacious communities of the Diaspora, communities formed outside Palestine after the Babylonian exile. Palestine became a center of Christian pilgrimage after the emperor Constantine converted to that faith. The Arabs took Palestine from the Byzantine empire in 634640. Interrupted only by Christian Crusaders, Muslims ruled Palestine until the 20th century. During World War I, British forces defeated the Turks in Palestine and governed the area under a League of Nations mandate from 1923.
As part of the 19th-century Zionist movement, Jews had begun settling in Palestine as early as 1820. This effort to establish a Jewish homeland received British approval in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. During the 1930s, Jews persecuted by the Hitler regime poured into Palestine. The postwar acknowledgment of the HolocaustHitler’s genocide of 6 million Jewsincreased international interest in and sympathy for the cause of Zionism. However, Arabs in Palestine and surrounding countries bitterly opposed prewar and postwar proposals to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish sectors. The British mandate to govern Palestine ended after the war, and, in 1947, the UN voted to partition Palestine. When the British officially withdrew on May 14, 1948, the Jewish National Council proclaimed the State of Israel.
U.S. recognition came within hours. The next day, Arab forces from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq invaded the new nation. By the cease-fire on Jan. 7, 1949, Israel had increased its original territory by 50%, taking western Galilee, a broad corridor through central Palestine to Jerusalem, and part of modern Jerusalem. Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion became Israel’s first president and prime minister. The new government was admitted to the UN on May 11, 1949.
The next clash with Arab neighbors came when Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956 and barred Israeli shipping. Coordinating with an Anglo-French force, Israeli troops seized the Gaza Strip and drove through the Sinai to the east bank of the Suez Canal, but withdrew under U.S. and UN pressure. In the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel made simultaneous air attacks against Syrian, Jordanian, and Egyptian air bases, totally defeating the Arabs. Expanding its territory by 200%, Israel at the cease-fire held the Golan Heights, the West Bank of the Jordan River, Jerusalem’s Old City, and all of the Sinai and the east bank of the Suez Canal.
In the face of Israeli reluctance even to discuss the return of occupied territories, the fourth Arab-Israeli war erupted on Oct. 6, 1973, with a surprise Egyptian and Syrian assault on the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur. Initial Arab gains were reversed when a cease-fire took effect two weeks later, but Israel suffered heavy losses.
A dramatic breakthrough in the tortuous history of Mideast peace efforts occurred on Nov. 9, 1977, when Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat declared his willingness to talk about reconciliation. Prime Minister Menachem Begin, on Nov. 15, extended an invitation to the Egyptian leader to address the Knesset in Jerusalem. Sadat’s arrival in Israel four days later raised worldwide hopes, but an agreement between Egypt and Israel was long in coming. On March 14, 1979, the Knesset approved a final peace treaty, and 12 days later, Begin and Sadat signed the document, together with President Jimmy Carter, in a White House ceremony. Israel began its withdrawal from the Sinai, which it had annexed from Egypt, on May 25.
Although Israel withdrew its last settlers from the Sinai in April 1982, the fragile Mideast peace was shattered on June 9, 1982, by a massive Israeli assault on southern Lebanon, where the Palestinian Liberation Organization was entrenched. The PLO had long plagued Israelis with acts of terrorism. Israel destroyed PLO strongholds in Tyre and Sidon and reached the suburbs of Beirut on June 10. A U.S.-mediated accord between Lebanon and Israel, signed on May 17, 1983, provided for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. Israel eventually withdrew its troops from the Beirut area but kept them in southern Lebanon, where occasional skirmishes would continue. Lebanon, under pressure from Syria, canceled the accord in March 1984.
A continual source of tension has been the relationship between the Jews and the Palestinians living within Israeli territories. Most Arabs fled the region when the state of Israel was declared, but those who remain now make up almost one-fifth of the population of Israel. They are about two-thirds Muslim, as well as Christian and Druze. Palestinians living on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip fomented the riots begun in 1987, known as the intifada. Violence heightened as Israeli police cracked down and Palestinians retaliated. Continuing Jewish settlement of lands designated for Palestinians has added to the unrest.
In 1988, the leader of the PLO, Yasir Arafat, reversed decades of PLO polemic by acknowledging Israel’s right to exist. He stated his willingness to enter negotiations to create a Palestinian political entity that would coexist with the Israeli state.
In 1991, Israel was struck by Iraqi missiles during the Persian Gulf War. The Israelis did not retaliate in order to preserve the international coalition against Iraq. In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin became prime minister. He halted the disputed Israeli settlement of the occupied territories.
Highly secretive talks in Norway resulted in the landmark Oslo Accord between the PLO and the Israeli government in 1993. The accord stipulated a five-year plan in which Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would gradually become self-governing. Arafat became president of the new Palestinian Authority. In 1994, Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan; Israel still has no formal agreement with Syria or Lebanon.
On Nov. 4, 1995, Prime Minister Rabin was slain by a Jewish extremist, jeopardizing the tentative progress toward peace. Shimon Peres succeeded him until May 1996 elections for the Knesset gave Israel a new hard-line prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by a razor-thin margin. Netanyahu reversed or stymied much of the Oslo Accord, contending that it offered too many quick concessions and jeopardized Israelis’ safety.
Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in 1997 were repeatedly undermined by both sides. Although the Hebron Accord was signed in January, calling for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Hebron, the construction of new Jewish settlements on the West Bank in March profoundly upset progress toward peace.
Terrorism erupted again in 1997 when radical Hamas suicide bombers claimed the lives of more than 20 Israeli civilians. Netanyahu, accusing Palestinian Authority president Arafat of lax security, retaliated with draconian sanctions against Palestinians working in Israel, including the withholding of millions of dollars in tax revenue, a blatant violation of the Oslo Accord. Netanyahu also persisted in authorizing right-wing Israelis to build new settlements in mostly Arab East Jerusalem. Arafat, meanwhile, seemed unwilling or unable to curb the violence of Arab extremist.
An Oct. 1998 summit at Wye Mills, Md., generated the first real progress in the stymied Middle East peace talks in 19 months, with Netanyahu and Arafat settling several important interim issues called for by the 1993 Oslo Accord. The peace agreement, however, began unraveling almost immediately. By the end of April 1999, Israel had made 41 air raids on Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. The guerrillas were fighting against Israeli troops and their allies, the South Lebanon Army militia, who occupied a security zone set up in 1985 to guard Israel’s borders. Public pressure in Israel to withdraw the troops grew.
Labor Party leader Ehud Barak won the 1999 election and announced that he planned not only to pursue peace with the Palestinians, but to establish relations with Syria and end the low-grade war in southern Lebanon with the Iranian-armed Hezbollah guerrillas. In Dec. 1999, Israeli-Syrian talks resumed after a nearly four-year hiatus. By Jan. 2000, however, talks had broken down over Syria’s demand for a detailed discussion of the return of all of the Golan Heights. In Feb., new Hezbollah attacks on Israeli troops in southern Lebanon led to Israel’s retaliatory bombing as well as Barak’s decision to pull out of Lebanon. Israeli troops pulled out of Lebanon on May 24, 2000, after 18 consecutive years of occupation.
Peace talks in July 2000 at Camp David between Barak and Arafat ended unsuccessfully, despite President Clinton’s strongest effortsthe status of Jerusalem was the primary sticking point. In September, Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon visited the compound called Temple Mount by Jews and Haram al-Sharif by Muslims, a fiercely contested site that is sacred to both faiths. The visit set off the worst bloodshed in years, with the deaths of around 400 people, mostly Palestinians. The violence (dubbed the Al-Aksa intifada) and the stalled peace process fueled growing concerns about Israeli security, paving the way for hard-liner Sharon’s stunning landslide victory over Barak in Feb. 2001. Attacks on both sides continued at an alarming rate. Palestinians carried out some of the most horrific suicide bombings and terrorist attacks in years (Hamas and the Al-Aksa Martyr Brigade claimed responsibility for the majority of them), killing Israeli civilians at cafs, bus stops, and supermarkets. In retaliation, Israel unleashed bombing raids on Palestinian territory and sent troops and tanks to occupy West Bank and Gaza cities.
In 2003, in an attempt to restart the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Israel and the United States resolved to circumvent Arafat, whom Sharon called irrelevant and an obstacle. Under U.S. pressure, Arafat reluctantly appointed a prime minister in April, who was to replace him in negotiating the peace process, Mahmoud Abbas, formerly Arafat’s second-in-command. On May 1, the Quartet (the U.S., UN, EU, and Russia) unfurled the road map for peace, which envisioned the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005. Although Sharon publicly acknowledged the need for a Palestinian state and Abbas committed himself to ending Palestinian violence, by fall 2003, it became clear that the road map led to a dead end as Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians continued, and Israel stepped up its targeted killings of Palestinian militants. Sharon also persisted in building the highly controversial security barrier dividing Israeli and Palestinian areas.
In May 2004, the UN Security Council condemned Israel’s attack on the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, the largest Israeli military operation in Gaza in decades. In July, in response to a ruling by Israel’s supreme court about the construction of the West Bank barrier, Israel revised the route so that it did not cut into Palestinian land. The UN estimated that the original route would have taken almost 15% of West Bank territory for Israel.
Yasir Arafat’s death in Nov. 2004 significantly altered the political landscape. Mahmoud Abbas was easily elected the Palestinian president in Jan. 2005, and at a summit in February, Abbas and Sharon agreed to an unequivocal cease-fire. A continued threat to this cease-fire were Palestinian militant groups, over whom Abbas had little control.
On Aug. 15, the withdrawal of some 8,000 Israeli settlers began. The evacuation involved 21 Gaza settlements as well as 4 of the more isolated of the West Bank’s 120 settlements. The majority of Israelis supported Prime Minister Ariel Sharons unilateral planwhich he pushed through the Knesset in Oct. 2004viewing it as Israel’s just and humane response toward the Palestinians as well as a significant step toward real security for Israelis. But tens of thousands on the right protested that Sharon, an architect of the settlement movement, had become the agent of Gaza’s dismantlement.
While Sharon was lauded for what has arguably been the most significant step in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process since the Oslo Accord, the prime ministers unstated motives in conceding Gaza were generally assumed to be the strengthening of Israel’s hold on the West Bank.
Israel’s political parties underwent a seismic shift in late Nov. 2005. The Labor Party elected left-leaning Amir Peretz as their new leader, a defeat for long time leader Shimon Peres. Shortly thereafter, Prime Minister Sharon quit the Likud Partya party he helped foundand formed the new, more centrist Kadima (Forward) Party. The Likud Party had largely disapproved of the Gaza withdrawal Sharon sponsored, and he faced increasing discontent from the more right-wing members of the Likud Party. Former prime minister and hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu became Likud’s new leader.
In Jan. 2006, Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke that left him critically ill and unable to govern. Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert became acting prime minister, and in general elections on March 28, Olmert’s Kadima Party won the largest number of seats. In May, he formed a coalition between the Kadima, Labor, ultra-orthodox Shas, and Pensioners parties.
Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon died on Jan. 11, 2014. The official cause of death was heart failure, although Sharon had been in a coma since suffering from the stroke in Jan. 2006.
Israeli-Palestinian relations were thrown into further turmoil when the militant Hamas Party won an unexpected landslide victory in the January Palestinian parliamentary elections. Although Hamas had been in a cease-fire with Israel for more than a year the party continued to call for Israel’s destruction and refused to renounce violence.
In April 2006, Hamas fired rockets into Israeli territory, effectively ending the cease-fire between them. After Hamas militants killed two Israeli soldiers and kidnapped another on June 25, Israel launched air strikes and sent ground troops into Gaza, destroying its only power plant and three bridges. Fighting continued over the summer, with Hamas firing rockets into Israel, and Israeli troops reoccupying Gaza.
In early July, Israel was involved in war on a second frontwhich was soon to overshadow the fighting in Gazaafter Hezbollah fighters entered Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers. In response, Israel launched a major military attack, bombing the Lebanese airport and other major infrastructures, as well as parts of southern Lebanon. Hezbollah, led by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, retaliated by launching hundreds of rockets and missiles into Israel. After a week of fighting, Israel made it clear that its offensive in Lebanon would continue until Hezbollah was routed. Although much of the international community demanded a cease-fire, the United States supported Israel’s plan to continue the fighting until Hezbollah was drained of its military power. Hezbollah was thought to have at least 12,000 rockets and missiles, most supplied by Iran, and proved a much more formidable foe than Israel anticipated.
An Israeli opinion poll after the first two weeks of fighting indicated that 81% of Israelis supported the continued attack on Lebanon, and 58% wanted the offensive to continue until Hezbollah was destroyed. The UN brokered a tenuous cease-fire on August 14. About 1,150 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 150 Israelis, the majority of them soldiers, died in the 34 days of fighting.
A commission that investigated 2006’s war between Israel and Lebanon released a scathing report in April 2007, saying Prime Minister Olmert was responsible for “a severe failure in exercising judgment, responsibility, and prudence.” It also said that Olmert rushed to war without an adequate plan. Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former army chief Dan Halutz were also rebuked in the report. Olmert resisted calls for his resignation and survived a no-confidence vote in parliament.
Former prime minister Ehud Barak returned to politics in June, having been elected head of the Labor Party. He defeated Knesset member Ami Ayalon. In addition, Shimon Peres, of the Kadima Party, was elected president in June. The presidency is a mostly ceremonial post.
Israeli jets fired on targets deep inside Syria in Sept. 2007. American and Israeli intelligence analysts later said that Israel had attacked a partially built nuclear reactor. Several officials wondered aloud if North Korea had played a role in the development of the nuclear plant. Syria denied that any such facilities exist and protested to the United Nations, calling the attack a “violation of sovereignty.”
At a Middle East peace conference in November hosted by the U.S. in Annapolis, Md., Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas agreed to work together to broker a peace treaty. “We agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements, a joint statement said. We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations, and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008. Officials from 49 countries attended the conference.
In Jan. 2008, the Winograd Commission released its final report on Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. It called the operation a “large and serious” failure and criticized the country’s leadership for failing to have an exit strategy in place before the invasion began. Prime Minister Olmert was spared somewhat, as the commission said that in ordering the invasion, he was acting in “the interest of the state of Israel.”
Prime Minister Olmert faced legal difficultiesagain beginning in May 2008, when he faced accusations that he accepted hundreds of thousands dollars in bribes from a New York businessman. Olmert said the funds were campaign contributions. The businessman, Morris Talansky, testified in May that he gave Olmert about $150,000, mostly in cash, over 13 years. Talansky said the money was for election campaigns and personal expenses and did not expect Olmert to reciprocate in any way. Olmert has faced similar investigations in the past but deftly survived the scandals.
For the first time in eight years, Israel and Syria returned to the bargaining table in May 2008. Israel hopes an agreement will distance Iran from Syria and diminish some sway Iran holds over the Middle East, and Syria wants to regain control over the Golan Heights, which was taken by Israel in 1967.
After years of almost daily exchanges of rocket fire between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, signed an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire in June. The fragile agreement held for most of the remainder of 2008. Israel continued its yearlong blockade of Gaza, however, and the humanitarian and economic crisis in Gaza intensified.
Olmert resigned in September, as expected, after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was elected head of Kadima, the main party in the governing coalition. She was not able to form a new majority coalition, however.
While Palestinian and Israeli officials continued their dialogue throughout 2008, a final peace deal remained out of reach amid the growing rift between Fatah, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas. In addition, Israel’s continued development of settlements in the occupied West Bank further stalled the process. In late December 2008, days after the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas expired, Hamas began launching rocket attacks into Israel, which retaliated with airstrikes that killed about 300 people. Israel targeted Hamas bases, training camps, and missile storage facilities. Egypt sealed its border with Gaza, angering Palestinians who were attempting to flee the attacks and seeking medical attention. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the goal of the operation was not intended to reoccupy Gaza, but to restore normal life and quiet to residents of the south of Israel.
After more than a week of intense airstrikes, Israeli troops crossed the border into Gaza, launching a ground war against Hamas. Israeli aircraft continued to attack suspected Hamas fighters, weapons stockpiles, rocket-firing positions, and smuggling tunnels. After several weeks of fighting, more than 1,300 Gazans and about a dozen Israelis had been killed.
In September, Richard Goldstone, a South African jurist, released a UN-backed report on the conflict in Gaza. The report accused both the Israeli military and Palestinian fighters of war crimes, alleging that both had targeted civilians. Goldstone, however, reserved much of his criticism for Israel, saying its incursion was a “deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population.” Israel denounced the report as “deeply flawed, one-sided and prejudiced.” The United States also said it was “unbalanced and biased,” and the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution that called the report “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.”
Goldstone recommended that both Israel and the Palestinians launch independent investigations into the conflict. If they refused, Goldstone recommended that the Security Council then refer both to the International Criminal Court. The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution in October that endorsed the report and its recommendation regarding the investigations. In November, the UN General Assembly passed a similar resolution. Both Israel and the U.S. said continued action on the report could further derail the peace process.
Parliamentary elections in Feb. 2009 produced inconclusive results. The centrist Kadima party, led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, won 28 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, the most of any party. Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud took 27. The Labor Party fared poorly, garnering only 13 seats, behind the far-right party, Yisrael Beitenu, which took 15. Netanyahu, who became prime minister in April, formed a coalition government with Yisrael Beiteinu, led by Avigdor Lieberman, who was named foreign minister, and the Labor Party led by Barak, who became defense minister.
As a gesture of good will, compromise, and a fresh attempt at peace talks between Israel and Palestine, U.S. vice president Joe Biden traveled to Israel in March 2010 to begin indirect negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Soon after Biden arrived, however, it was announced that 1,600 houses would be built for Jewish settlers on the Eastern tip of Jerusalem, a section of the city Palestinians saw as part of their future capital. Biden immediately condemned the plan. Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized for the timing, but refused to rescind the decision.
Just two weeks later, Netanyahu traveled to the United States to meet with President Barack Obama; their encounter was unusually secretive and specific discussions were not widely released. Obama was reportedly trying to force Netanyahu into making concessions, specifically to freeze the Jewish settlement-building plan in East Jerusalem. Obama insisted that Jerusalem and other larger issues of contention between Israel and Palestine be discussed in “proximity talks” and that eventual negotiations would have to include steps to build Palestinian confidence, such as releasing Palestinian prisoners and dismantling Israeli military road blocks. Netanyahu complained that his allies would rebel against him if such steps were promised. Obama emphasized that the two countries would have to resolve their issues themselves; the U.S. could only help in the discussion, not solve their problems for them.
In late May 2010, an activist group, Free Gaza Now, and a Turkish humanitarian organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi, sent a flotilla of aid to Gaza, a violation of a blockade that Israel and Egypt imposed on Gaza in 2007. The move was an apparent attempt to further politicize the blockade. In the early hours of May 31, Israeli commandos boarded one of the ships, and there are conflicting accounts of what happened next. The Israelis say the commandos were attacked with clubs, rods, and knives, and that they fired upon the activists in retaliation; the activists say the commandos opened fire when they landed on deck. Nine activists were killed in the conflict. Israel’s use of force on civilians was widely criticized as provocative and prompted leaders throughout the world to question the effectiveness of the blockade it has thus far failed to weaken Hamas but has had a punitive effect on the citizens of Gaza. Israel did in fact ease the blockade in June, allowing building materials and other essentials goods to be brought into Gaza.
Direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians resumed in September 2010. They hit a potentially deal-breaking snag early in the talks when Netanyahu allowed the 10-month moratorium on settlement construction to expire, and bulldozers were put to work almost immediately. Abbas, however, kept hopes for peace alive by saying he’d consult with other members of the Arab League before walking away from the table. Weeks passed with no progress, and as the impasse dragged on, the U.S. stepped in and offered to sell Israel 20 F-35 stealth airplanes and veto any anti-Israel resolutions put to a vote at the UN in exchange for a 90-day extension of the freeze. Netanyahu seemed open to the compromise, but failed to get the backing of his cabinet. The U.S. abandoned its pursuit of a deal in December, when it became clear that little would be accomplished in 90 days even if the deal were reached. At the same time, the U.S. declared that this round of negotiations had ended in failure.
In Jan. 2011, Ehud Barak, Israel’s minister of defense and Labor party leader, quit his party to set up a new party called Independence. Four other members of parliament left with him. The remaining eight Labor party members moved to the opposition, shrinking Netanyahu’s coalition from 74 seats to 66 in the 120-seat parliament. Netanyahu insisted that the shift made his coalition stronger because members became more ideologically aligned. However, the opposition became stronger, too, which may be a sign that peace negotiations with the Palestinians can be revived.
On May 19, 2011, attempting to capitalize on the season of change in the Arab world, President Obama declared that the borders demarcated before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war should be the basis of a Mideast peace deal between Israel and Palestine. He also said that the borders should be adjusted to account for Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Obama’s speech came a day before a scheduled meeting with Netanyahu in Washington. The Israeli government protested immediately, saying that a return to the pre-1967 borders would leave Israel “indefensible,” which Netanyahu reiterate during his meeting with Obama. However, Netanyahu maintained that Israel is open to negotiations.
On July 30, 2011, 150,000 people protested in streets across the country, including in Jerusalem. It was one of the largest demonstrations in Israel’s history and the biggest protest ever over economic and social issues. Protests started earlier in the month over rising housing costs, organized largely by a Facebook-driven campaign by young people, much like the social media campaigns that aided change in Egypt and other nations in the region. With much of the region knee-deep in political unrests, and no peace plan with Palestine in sight, protestors have grown tired of setting aside domestic issues for the sake of the nation’s security. While increasing housing costs were a catalyst, protestors were also reacting to a growing sense of frustration over the fact that the country’s soaring wealth remains in the hands of a few people, while the average Israeli struggles to cover basic expenses.
On July 31, 2011, the director general of the finance minister resigned over the protests. Although none of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition parties have pulled out, the protests could have an impact on the government, particularly in reviving the defeated left. Left wing parties could swing the power back in their direction with the public focused on social issues rather than settlements in the West Bank and a two-state solution with Palestine. Those latter two issues still put the left wing at odds with the majority in Israel.
As protests continued throughout August 2011, Israel announced a plan to build a 1,600-unit apartment complex in Ramat Shlomo, an area of East Jerusalem. The Interior Ministry also said that it would soon approve another 2,700 housing units in Ramat Shlomo, part of the area that Israel annexed after capturing it from Jordan. The announcement threatened the United States effort to renew the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The new housing plans angered the Palestinians and came a month before the Palestinian Authority was scheduled to go before the United Nations General Assembly to declare statehood. Israeli groups opposed to housing construction on land conquered in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War were also angered. These opposition groups accused the Israeli government of exploiting the country’s housing shortage, which has led to high rent costs and recent mass protests.
Tensions flared between Israel and Egypt in August 2011, when militants attacked the Israeli resort town of Eilat, on the Egypt-Israel border. Eight Israelis were killed and 30 were wounded. Six Egyptian border guards were also killed in the shootings. Israeli authorities blamed the attacks on the Popular Resistance Committees, a group that has worked with Hamas and said they believed the attackers crossed into Israel from Egypt. Egypt in turn blamed Israel for the deaths. Israel responded with several airstrikes on Gaza, killing the Popular Resistance Committee’s commander, among others. Egyptian officials denied that the attackers crossed through. Hamas also denied Israel’s accusations.
The cross-border attacks threatened the decades of peace between Israel and Egypt. Meanwhile, Palestinian militants fired several rockets into Israel from Gaza, killing one civilian and wounding six others. Hamas, which controls Gaza, took credit for the rockets fired into Israel.
In Sept. 2011, thousands of protestors attacked the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, demolishing a protective wall while Egyptian security forces watched. Two dozen protestors broke into the offices and threw documents into the street. The Israeli flag was ripped down. When riot police attempted to stop the attack, protesters fought back with Molotov cocktails and stones. At least two protestors died in the attack and at least 1,200 were injured. The attack in Egypt came just one week after Turkey expels Israel’s ambassador.
On Sept. 23, 2011, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas officially requested a bid for statehood at the UN Security Council. The request came after months of failed European and U.S. efforts to bring Israel and Palestine back to the negotiating table. The Palestinian Authority requested a Security Council vote to gain statehood as a full member of the UN rather than going to the General Assembly. One of the reasons for this was that the General Assembly could only give the Palestinian Authority non-member observer status at the UN, a lesser degree of statehood. In addition, the European states in the General Assembly made it clear that they would support the proposal if the Palestinians dropped their demand that Israel halt settlement construction. The Palestinians have long insisted that Israel cease the settlement construction and deemed the condition unacceptable. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority preferred to take its case to the Security Council even though the U.S. has vowed to veto the request.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the United Nation’s General Assembly hours after Abbas filed the bid for statehood. Netanyahu disagreed with the Palestinian’s proposal for statehood through the UN, urging Abbas to return to negotiating directly with Israel instead. “The truth is the Palestinians want a state without peace,” he said.
The following year, on Nov. 29, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly approved an upgrade from the Palestinian Authority’s current observer status to that of a non-member state. The vote came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke to the General Assembly and asked for a “birth certificate” for his country. Of the 193 nations in the General Assembly, 138 voted in favor of the upgrade in status. While the vote was a victory for Palestine, it was a diplomatic setback for the U.S. and Israel. Having the title of “non-member observer state” would allow Palestine access to international organizations such as the International Criminal Court (ICC). If it joined the ICC, Palestine could file complaints of war crimes against Israel.
In response to the UN vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would not transfer about $100 million in much-needed tax revenue owed to the struggling Palestinian Authority and would resume plans to build 3,000-unit settlement in an area that divides the north and the south parts of the West Bank, thereby denying the Palestinians any chance for having a contiguous state.
In Dec. 2012, Israel defied growing opposition from the international community by forging ahead with the building of new settlements. Israel’s Housing Ministry approved various new settlements throughout the last month of 2012. Construction on them began immediately. With the exception of the United States, every member of the UN Security Council condemned the construction, concerned that the move threatened the peace process with Palestine.
On Oct. 18, 2011, Gilad Shalit, a 25-year-old Israeli soldier, was released after being held for more than five years by Hamas, a militant Palestinian group. In a deal brokered by Egypt, Shalit was exchanged for 1,000 jailed Palestinians, some of whom were convicted planners or perpetrators of deadly terrorist attacks. After the swap, Hamas called for its members to capture more Israel soldiers to exchange them for the remaining 5,000 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails.
Still many saw the exchange as a sign of hope. Shalit’s release had become a national obsession in Israel. He had been held in Gaza since Palestinian militants kidnapped him during a cross-border raid in 2006. In a televised address following Shalit’s release, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Today we are all united in joy and in pain.” Shalit was the first captured Israeli soldier to be returned home alive in 26 years.
In Jan. 2012, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Jordan. Seen as an effort to try to revive peace talks, it was the first time the two sides had met in over a year. On Jan. 25, 2012, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the discussions had ended without any significant progress.
Also in Jan., Iran blamed Israel and the United States for the death of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a nuclear scientist. A bomber on a motorcycle killed Roshan in Tehran during the morning commute, according to Iranian media. It was the fourth attack on an Iranian nuclear specialist in two years. Immediately following the attack, Iran accused the U.S. and Israel. The United States responded by denying any responsibility and condemning the attack. Tension between Israel and Iran intensified in Febrary, when Israeli officials accused Iran of being involved in multiple attacks against Israelis in Georgia and India.
In a speech on May 6, 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for early elections. The speech was in response to unrest among his coalition as well as his opponents. The official reason for early elections was the upcoming expiration of the Tal Law, which exempts ultra-Orthodox Jews from Israeli Army service. However, some election analysts believed that Netanyahu wanted to act swiftly while his Likud Party was polling strongly.
Two days after the call for early elections, Netanyahu formed a unity government with Shaul Mofaz, the newly elected chief of Kadima, the opposition party. The new coalition gave Netanyahu a very large legislative majority and ended the need for early elections. Mofaz was made deputy prime minister under the terms of the agreement. Some saw the new coalition as a way for Netanyahu to gain even more political power. Former Kadima chief, Tzipi Livni, joined a protest against the alliance. A week earlier, after losing her position as both leader of the opposition and chief of the Kadima Party, Livni resigned from Parliament, saying she was not “willing to sell the country to the ultra-Orthodox in order to form a government.”
The new unity coalition turned out to be short-lived. In July 2012, Kadima left the coalition. Kadima chief Mofaz said his party pulled out due to irreconcilable differences with Netanyahu over the pending universal draft law.
In Aug. 2012, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that while economic sanctions have hurt Iran, they have not slowed progress on the country’s nuclear program. In fact, the report found that Iran’s nuclear program had progressed even faster than anticipated. The report validated Netanyahu’s suspicion that Iran’s nuclear program has continued to move at full speed despite the sanctions and diplomatic isolation imposed on Iran by an international community. The agency’s report also confirmed that three-quarters of nuclear centrifuges needed for an underground site had been installed.
The report brought out the differences between Israel and the United States on the issue of how to deal with Iran. The main disagreement between the two countries has been how much time it would take Iran to complete its production of nuclear weapons. Even within Israel there were signs of disagreement. On Sept. 27, 2012, Netanyahu spoke about the issue at the United Nations. “The relevant question is not when Iran will get the bomb. It is at what stage can we stop Iran from getting the bomb,” he said. A few days later, Netanyahu calmed fears that a preemptive attack was imminent in an address to the UN General Assembly. He said he believed Iran would not have the technology to enrich uranium until at least the spring of 2013 and therefore there was time for diplomacy to deter Iran’s nuclear program.
On Oct. 9, 2012, Netanyahu once again called for early parliamentary election, saying the lack of cooperation with his coalition partners made it impossible to pass a budget with severe cuts. He ordered them for January 2013, eight months ahead of schedule. He said the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party would run with his conservative Likud Party on a joint ticket. Netanyahu’s political rivals warned that the alliance of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu was exactly the kind of extremism that Israel didn’t need.
On Nov. 14, 2012, Israel launched one of its biggest attacks on Gaza since the invasion four years ago and hit at least 20 targets. One of those targets was Hamas military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari. He was killed while traveling through Gaza in a car. Al-Jabari was the most senior official killed by the Israelis since its invasion in 2008. The airstrikes were in response to recent repeated rocket attacks by Palestinian militants located in Gaza.
By Nov. 16, 2012, according to officials in Gaza, 19 people had been killed from the Israeli airstrikes. Hesham Qandil, Egypt’s prime minister, showed his country’s support by visiting Gaza. However, his presence did not stop the fighting. Heavy rocket fire continued from Gaza while the Israeli military called in 16,000 army reservists. For the second time since 2008, Israel prepared for a potential ground invasion.
Throughout mid-Nov. 2012, Israel continued to target members of Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza while Hamas launched several hundred rockets, some hitting Tel Aviv. Egypt, while a staunch supporter of Hamas, attempted to broker a peace agreement between Hamas and Israel to prevent the conflict from further destabilizing the region. Finally on November 21, Egypt’s foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that a cease-fire had been signed. Both sides agreed to end hostilities toward each other and Israel said it would open Gaza border crossings, allowing the flow of products and people into Gaza, potentially lifting the 5-year blockade that has caused much hardship to those living in the region.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was elected to a third term in January 2013, but the election was not the expected landslide. Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu won 31 seats, followed by Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party, with 19 seats. Tzipi Livni’s newly formed Hatnua (the Movement) party won six seats, as did Meretz, a pro-peace party. Netanyahu formed a coalition with Yesh Atid, Hatnua, and the Jewish Home party, which supports settlement building. He appointed Livni as justice minister and asked her to lead Israel’s peace talks with Palestine. Lapid was named finance minister.
In mid-March 2013, President Obama visited Israel. During the visit, he helped negotiate a reconciliation between Israel and Turkey. Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed sincere regret to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, for the commando raid in 2010 on a Turkish ship that killed nine people. Israel also offered compensation for the incident. Erdogan accepted Israel’s apology. After the apology, both countries announced that they would reinstate ambassadors and completely restore diplomatic relations.
In early May 2013, Israel ordered two airstrikes on Damascus. The first happened on May 3, and the second two days later. Israeli officials maintained that the airstrikes were not meant as a way for Israel to become involved in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Instead, the strikes focused on military warehouses in an effort to prevent Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite militia group with strong ties to Iran, from getting more weapons.
On Aug. 14, 2013, Israelis and Palestinians began peace talks in Jerusalem. Expectations were low going into the talks, the third attempt to negotiate since 2000, and nearly five years since the last attempt. The talks began just hours after Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners. The prisoner release was an attempt on Israel’s part to bring Palestine back to the negotiating table. Israel said the prisoner release would be the first of four. Palestinian officials expressed concern about Israel’s ongoing settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, land that would be part of an official Palestinian state.
Israel: Geography, History, Politics, and More
Efraim Karsh is director of the Mediterranean Studies Programme at King’s College, University of London, and editor of the quarterly journal Israel Affairs.
One of the reasons I gave up political history was that it is very difficult not to direct it towards the future, towards your idea of what ought to happen. And that somehow distorts your view of what has happened.
As Israel edges toward peace with the Palestinians, old, highly controversial, and seemingly defunct issues are back on the table, such as the legal status of Jerusalem and the question of the Palestinian refugees. The refugees and their present rights inspire two very different approaches. The Israeli view, based on an assessment of the 1947-49 period that ascribes primary responsibility for the Palestinian tragedy to an extremist and short-sighted leadership, sees Palestinian wounds as primarily self-inflicted and so not in need of compensation. In contrast, Palestinian spokesmen justify their “right of return” to the territory that is now part of the State of Israel (or an alternative compensation) by presenting themselves as victims of Jewish aggression in the late 1940s.
Ironically, it is a group of Israelis who have given the Palestinian argument its intellectual firepower. Starting in 1987, an array of self-styled “new historians” has sought to debunk what it claims is a distorted “Zionist narrative.” How valid is this sustained assault on the received version of Israel’s early history? This question has real political importance, for the answer is bound to affect the course of Israeli-Palestinian efforts at making peace.
THE NEW HISTORIANS AND THEIR CRITICS
Simha Flapan, the left-wing political activist and editor of New Outlook who inaugurated the assault on alleged “Zionist myths,” made no bones about his political motivations in rewriting Israeli history, presenting his book as an attempt to “undermine the propaganda structures that have so long obstructed the growth of the peace forces in my country.”1 But soon after, a group of Israeli academics and journalists gave this approach a scholarly imprimatur, calling it the “new history.”2 Its foremost spokesmen include Avi Shlaim of Oxford University, Benny Morris of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Ilan Papp of Haifa University. Other prominent adherents include Tom Segev of the Ha’aretz newspaper, Benjamin Beit Hallahmi of Haifa University, and researchers Uri Milstein and Yosi Amitai.
Above all, the new history signifies a set of beliefs: that Zionism was at best an aggressive and expansionist national movement and at worst an offshoot of European imperialism;3 and that it was responsible for the Palestinian tragedy, the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict, and even the Middle East’s violent history.
In an attempt to prove that the Jewish State was born in sin, the new historians concentrate on the war of 1947-49 (in Israeli parlance, the War of Independence). Deriding alternative interpretations as “old” or “mobilized,” they dismiss the notion of a hostile Arab world’s seeking to destroy the Jewish state at birth as but a Zionist myth. They insist that when the Jewish Agency accepted the U.N. Resolution of November 1947 (partitioning Mandatory Palestine into Arab and Jewish states), it was less than sincere.
It is obviously a major service to all concerned to take a hard look at the past and, without political intent, to debunk old myths. Is that what the new historians have done? I shall argue that, quite the contrary, they fashion their research to suit contemporary political agendas; worse, they systematically distort the archival evidence to invent an Israeli history in an image of their own making. These are strong words; the following pages shall establish their accuracy.
A number of scholars have already done outstanding work showing the faults of the new history. Itamar Rabinovich (of Tel Aviv University, currently Israel’s ambassador to the United States) has debunked the claim by Shlaim and Papp that Israel’s recalcitrance explains the failure to make peace at the end of the 1947-49 war.4 Avraham Sela (of the Hebrew University) has discredited Shlaim’s allegation that Israel and Transjordan agreed in advance of that war to limit their war operations so as to avoid an all-out confrontation between their forces.5 Shabtai Teveth (David Ben-Gurion’s foremost biographer) has challenged Morris’s account of the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem.6 Robert Satloff (of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy) has shown, on the basis of his own research in the Jordanian national archives in Amman, the existence of hundreds of relevant government files readily available to foreign scholars,7 thereby demolishing the new historians’ claim that “the archives of the Arab Governments are closed to researchers, and that historians interested in writing about the Israeli-Arab conflict perforce must rely mainly on Israeli and Western archives”8 — and with it, the justification for their almost exclusive reliance on Israeli and Western sources.
This article addresses a different question. The previous critics have looked mostly at issues of politics or sources; we shall concentrate on the accuracy of documentation by these self-styled champions of truth and morality. By looking at three central theses of the new historians, our research reveals a completely different picture from the one that new historians themselves have painted. But first, let us examine whether the alleged newness of this self-styled group is justified.
The new historians claim to provide factual revelations about the origins of the Israeli-Arab conflict. According to Shlaim, “the new historiography is written with access to the official Israeli and Western documents, whereas the earlier writers had no access, or only partial access, to the official documents.”9
The earlier writers may not have had access to an abundance of newly declassified documents, which became available in the 1980s, but recent “old historians,” such as Rabinovich and Sela, have made no less use of them than their “new” counterparts, and they came up with very different conclusions. Which leads to the self-evident realization that it is not the availability of new documents that distinguishes the new historians from their opponents but the interpretation they give to this source material.
Further, much of the fresh information claimed by the new historians turns out to be old indeed. Consider Shlaim’s major thesis about secret contacts between the Zionist movement and King `Abdallah of Transjordan. He claims that “it is striking to observe how great is the contrast between accounts of this period written without access to the official documents and an account such as this one, based on documentary evidence.”10 Quite the contrary, it is striking to see how little our understanding has changed following the release of state documents. Shlaim himself concedes that the information “that there was traffic between these two parties has been widely known for some time and the two meetings between Golda Meir [acting head of the Jewish Agency’s political department] and King `Abdullah in November 1947, and May 1948 have even been featured in popular films.”11 Indeed, not only was the general gist of the `Abdallah-Meir conversations common knowledge by 1960,12 but most of the early writers had access to then-classified official documents. Dan Kurzman’s 1970 account of that meeting is a near verbatim narration of the report prepared by the Jewish Agency’s political department adviser on Arab affairs, Ezra Danin.13 Shlaim also relies on Danin’s report, adding nothing new to Kurzman’s revelations.
Much of the fresh information claimed by the new historians turns out to be old indeed. . . .
. . . As for new interpretations, some are indeed new, but only because they are flat wrong.
Similarly, Shlaim places great stress on a February 1948 meeting between the prime minister of Transjordan, Tawfiq Abu’l-Huda, and the foreign secretary of Great Britain, Ernest Bevin, claiming the latter at that time blessed an alleged Hashemite-Jewish agreement to divide Palestine. But this meeting was already known in 1957, when Sir John Bagot Glubb, the former commander of the Arab Legion, wrote his memoirs,14 and most early works on the Arab-Israeli conflict used this information.15
Morris’s foremost self-laudatory “revelation” concerns the expulsion of Arabs from certain places by Israeli forces, at times through the use of violence. This was made known decades earlier in such works as Jon and David Kimche’s Both Sides of the Hill; Rony Gabbay’s A Political Study of the Arab-Israeli Conflict; and Nadav Safran’s From War to War.16
Eager to debunk the perception of the 1947-49 war as a heroic struggle of the few against the many, the new historians have pointed to an approximate numerical parity on the battlefield.17 Yet this too was well known: school-children could find it in historical atlases, university students in academic books.18 Ben-Gurion’s autobiographical account of Israel’s history, published nearly two decades before the new historians made their debut on the public stage, contains illuminating data on the Arab-Israeli military balance; his edited war diaries, published by the Ministry of Defense Press in 1983, give a detailed breakdown of the Israeli order of battle: no attempt at a cover-up here.19
As for new interpretations, some are indeed new, but only because they are flat wrong. Ilan Papp has gone so far as to argue that the outcome of the 1947-49 war had been predetermined in the political and diplomatic corridors of power “long before even one shot had been fired.”20 To which, one can only say that the State of Israel paid a high price indeed to effect this predetermined outcome: the war’s six thousand fatalities represented 1 percent of Israel’s total Jewish population, a higher human toll than that suffered by Great Britain in World War II.21 Further, Israel’s battlefield losses during the war were about the same as those of the Palestinians; and given that its population was roughly half the latter’s size, Israel lost proportionately twice the percentage of the Palestinians.22
Other interpretations ring truer, but only because they are old and familiar. Shlaim concedes that his charge of Jordanian-Israeli collusion is not a new one but was made decades before him.23 In fact, this conspiracy theory has been quite pervasive. In Arab historiography of an anti-Hashemite caste, “the collusion myth became the crux of an historical indictment against the king for betraying the Arab national cause in Palestine.”24 On the Israeli side, both left- and right-wingers have levelled this same criticism at the government’s conduct of the 1947-49 war. Shlaim has hardly broken new ground.
Shlaim’s main claim to novelty lies in his challenging “the conventional view of the Arab-Israeli conflict as a simple bipolar affair in which a monolithic and implacably hostile Arab world is pitted against the Jews.”25 But this “conventional view” does not exist. Even such passionately pro-Israel feature films on the 1947-49 war as Exodus and Cast a Giant Shadow do not portray “a monolithic and implacably hostile Arab world pitted against the Jews,” but show divided Arab communities in which some leaders would rather not fight the Jews and others would cooperate with the Jews against their Arab “brothers.” And what applies to popular movies applies all the more to scholarly writings. Not one of the studies by the “old historians” subscribes to the stereotypical approach attached to them by Shlaim.
The same applies to Morris. His claim that “what happened in Palestine/Israel over 1947-9 was so complex and varied . . . that a single-cause explanation of the exodus from most sites is untenable”26 echoes not only Aharon Cohen’s and Rony Gabbay’s conclusions of thirty years earlier27 but also the standard explanation of the Palestinian exodus by such “official Zionist” writers as Joseph Schechtman: “This mass flight of the Palestinian Arabs is a phenomenon for which no single explanation suffices. Behind it lies a complex of apparently contradictory factors.”28
Even the claim to novelty is not new! Aharon Klieman, the quintessential “old historian,” wrote in his study of Hashemite-Zionist relations, published just two years before Shlaim’s book, that “it has been a commonplace to present the Palestine or the Arab-Israeli conflict in all its historical stages as a simple bilateral conflict. . . . It is a mistake to present the Arab side to the equation as a monolithic bloc. The `Arab camp’ has always been divided and at war with itself.”29
At times, the new historians themselves realize they are recycling old ideas. For example, Shlaim acknowledged that their arguments were foreshadowed by such writers as Gabbay, Israel Baer, Gabriel Cohen, and Meir Pail.30 In all, the new historians have neither ventured to territory unknown to earlier generations of scholars, nor made major factual discoveries, nor provided truly original interpretations, let alone developed novel historical methodologies or approaches. They have used precisely the same research methods and source-material as those whose work they disdain — the only difference between these two groups being the interpretation given to their findings. Let us now turn to the accuracy of those interpretations.
I. PUSHING OUT THE ARABS
The new historians make three main claims about the Zionist movement in the late 1940s: it secretly intended to expel the Palestinians, it conspired with King `Abdallah to dispossess the Palestinians of their patrimony, and it won British support for this joint effort. Are these accusations accurate?
Morris writes that “from the mid-1930s most of the Yishuv’s leaders, including Ben-Gurion, wanted to establish a Jewish state without an Arab minority, or with as small an Arab minority as possible, and supported a `transfer solution’ to this minority problem.”31 He argues that the transfer idea “had a basis in mainstream Jewish thinking, if not actual planning, from the late 1930s and 1940s.”32 But Morris, the new historian who has made the greatest effort to prove this thesis, devotes a mere five pages to this subject. He fails to prove his claim.
First, the lion’s share of his “evidence” comes from a mere three meetings of the Jewish Agency Executive (JAE) during June 7-12, 1938. Five days in the life of a national movement can scarcely provide proof of longstanding trends or ideologies, especially since these meetings were called to respond to specific ad hoc issues. Moreover, Morris has painted a totally false picture of the actual proceedings of these meetings. Contrary to his claim that the meetings “debated at length various aspects of the transfer idea,”33 the issue was discussed only in the last meeting, and even then as but one element in the overall balance of risks and opportunities attending Britain’s suggested partition rather than as a concrete policy option. The other two meetings did not discuss the subject at all.34
Secondly, Morris virtually ignores that the idea of transfer was forced on the Zionist agenda by the British (in the recommendations of the 1937 Peel Royal Commission on Palestine) rather than being self-generated.35 He downplays the commission’s recommendation of transfer, creates the false impression that the Zionists thrust this idea on a reluctant British Mandatory power (rather than vice versa), and misleadingly suggests that Zionist interest in transfer long outlived the Peel Commission.36
Thirdly, and most important, Morris systematically falsifies evidence, to the point that there is scarcely a single document he relies on without twisting and misleading, either by a creative rewriting of the original text, by taking words out of context, or by truncating texts and thereby distorting their meaning. For example, Morris finds an alleged Zionist interest in the idea of transfer lasting up to the outbreak of the 1948 war. Yes, Morris concedes, Ben-Gurion in a July 1947 testimony to the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) “went out of his way to reject the 1945 British Labour Party platform `International Post-war Settlement’ which supported the encouragement of the movement of the Palestine Arabs to the neighboring countries to make room for Jews.”37 But he insinuates that Ben-Gurion was insincere; in his heart of hearts, he subscribed to the transfer idea at the beginning of the 1947-49 war. Becoming a mind-reader, Morris discerns the transfer in a Ben-Gurion speech in December 1947:
There was no explicit mention of the collective transfer idea.
However, there was perhaps a hint of the idea in Ben-Gurion’s speech to Mapai’s supporters four days after the UN Partition resolution, just as Arab-Jewish hostilities were getting under way. Ben-Gurion starkly outlined the emergent Jewish State’s main problem — its prospective population of 520,000 Jews and 350,000 Arabs. Including Jerusalem, the state would have a population of about one million, 40% of which would be non-Jews. “This fact must be viewed in all its clarity and sharpness. With such a [population] composition, there cannot even be complete certainty that the government will be held by a Jewish majority. . . . There can be no stable and strong Jewish state so long as it has a Jewish majority of only 60%.” The Yishuv’s situation and fate, he went on, compelled the adoption of “a new approach . . . new habits of mind” to “suit our new future. We must think like a state.”38
Morris creates the impression here that Ben-Gurion believed only transfer would resolve the problem of a substantial Arab minority in the Jewish State.
Is this mind-reading of Ben-Gurion correct? Was there really a hint of the transfer idea in his speech? Here is the text from which Morris draws his citation:
We have been confronted with a new destiny — we are about to become masters of our own fate. This requires a new approach to all our questions of life. We must reexamine all our habits of mind, all our systems of operation to see to what extent they suit our new future. We must think in terms of a state, in terms of independence, in terms of full responsibility for ourselves — and for others.39
This original text suggests that Morris has distorted the evidence in three ways.
First, Morris omits Ben-Gurion’s statement that there can be no stable and strong Jewish state so long as the Jewish majority “consists of only 600,000 Jews.” He distorts Ben-Gurion’s intention by narrowing the picture to a preoccupation with the 60-40 percent ratio, when its real scope was a concern about the absolute size of the Jewish population.
Secondly, Morris creates the impression that Ben-Gurion’s call for a “new approach . . . new habits of mind” applied to the Arab minority problem, implicitly referring to transfer. In fact, it applied to the challenges attending the transition from a community under colonial domination to national self-determination.
Thirdly, he omits Ben-Gurion’s statement on the need to take “full responsibility for ourselves — and for others.” Who are these others but the non-Jewish minority of the Jewish State?
Worse, Morris chooses to rely on a secondary source rather than consult the primary document; and for good reason, for an examination of the original would easily dispel the cloud of innuendo with which Morris surrounded Ben-Gurion’s speech:
. . . There can be no stable and strong Jewish state so long as it has a Jewish majority of only 60 percent, and so long as this majority consists of only 600,000 Jews.
From here stems the first and principal conclusion. The creation of the state is not the formal implementation process discussed by the UN General Assembly. . . . To ensure not only the establishment of the Jewish State but its existence and destiny as well — we must bring a million-and-a-half Jews to the country and root them there. It is only when there will be at least two millions Jews in the country — that the state will be truly established.40
This speech contains not a hint of the transfer idea. Ben-Gurion’s long-term solution to the 60-40 percent ratio between the Jewish majority and non-Jewish minority is clear and unequivocal: mass Jewish immigration.
As for the position of the Arabs in the Jewish State, Ben-Gurion could not be clearer:
Ben-Gurion envisaged Jewish-Arab relations in the prospective Jewish State not based on the transfer of the Arab population but as a true partnership among equal citizens; not “fortress Israel,” a besieged European island in an ocean of Arab hostility, but a Jewish-Arab alliance.
These passages make it clear that Benny Morris has truncated, twisted, and distorted Ben-Gurion’s vision of Jewish-Arab relations and the Zionist position on the question of transfer. All this is especially strange given that Morris contends that the historian “must remain honour-bound to gather and present his facts accurately.”42
II. COLLUSION ACROSS THE JORDAN
Shlaim traces Israel’s and Transjordan’s alleged collusion to a secret meeting on November 17, 1947, in which King `Abdallah and Golda Meir agreed supposedly to frustrate the impending U.N. Resolution on Palestine and instead divide Palestine between themselves. He writes that
Is there any evidence for this alleged conspiracy? No, none at all. First, a careful examination of the two documents used to substantiate the claim of collusion — reports by Ezra Danin and Eliyahu Sasson, two Zionist officials — proves that Meir implacably opposed any agreement that would violate the U.N. partition resolution passed twelve days later. In no way did she consent to the Transjordan annexation of Arab areas of Palestine. Rather, Meir made it eminently clear that:
* Any Zionist-Hashemite arrangement would have to be compatible with the U.N. resolution. In Danin’s words: “We explained that our matter was being discussed at the UN, that we hoped that it would be decided there to establish two states, one Jewish and one Arab, and that we wished to speak now about an agreement with him [i.e., `Abdallah] based on these resolutions.”44 In Sasson’s words: “Replied we prepared [to] give every assistance within [the] frame [of the] UN Charter.”45
* The sole purpose of Transjordan’s intervention in post-Mandatory Palestine would be, in Meir’s words, “to maintain law and order and to preserve peace until the UN could establish a government in that area,”46 namely, a short-lived law-enforcement operation aimed at facilitating the establishment of a legitimate Palestinian government. Indeed, even `Abdallah did not expect the meeting to produce any concrete agreement. In Danin’s words: “At the end he reiterated that concrete matters could be discussed only after the UN had passed its resolution, and said that we must meet again immediately afterwards.”47
Secondly, Meir’s account of her conversation with `Abdallah — strangely omitted in this context by Shlaim (though he cites it elsewhere in his study) — further confirms that Mandatory Palestine was not divided on November 17, 1947.
For our part we told him then that we could not promise to help his incursion into the country [i.e., Mandatory Palestine], since we would be obliged to observe the UN Resolution which, as we already reckoned at the time, would provide for the establishment of two states in Palestine. Hence, we could not — so we said — give active support to the violation of this resolution.48
Thirdly, Shlaim’s thesis is predicated on the idea of a single diplomatic encounter’s profoundly affecting the course of history. He navely subscribes to the notion that a critical decision about the making of war and peace or the division of foreign lands is made in the course of a single conversation, without consultations or extended bargaining. This account reflects a complete lack of understanding about the nature of foreign policymaking in general and of the Zionist decision-making process in particular.
Fourthly, as mere acting head of the Jewish Agency’s political department, Meir was in no position to commit her movement to a binding deal with King `Abdallah, especially since that deal would run counter to the Jewish Agency’s simultaneous efforts to win a U.N. resolution on partition. All she could do was try to convince `Abdallah not to oppose the impending U.N. partition resolution violently and give him the gist of Zionist thinking.
Fifthly, Meir’s conversation with `Abdallah was never discussed by the Jewish Agency Executive, the Yishuv’s effective government. The Yishuv’s military operations during the 1947-49 war show not a trace of the alleged deal in either their planning or their execution. Quite the contrary, the Zionist leadership remained deeply suspicious of `Abdallah’s expansionist ambitions up to May 1948.
Lastly, while the Jewish Agency unquestionably preferred `Abdallah to his Palestinian rival, the Jerusalem mufti Hajj Amin al-Husayni, this preference did not lead the agency to preclude the possibility of a Palestinian state. As late as December 1948 (or more than a year after `Abdallah and Meir had allegedly divided Palestine), Ben-Gurion stated his preference for an independent Palestinian state to Transjordan’s annexing the Arab parts of Mandatory Palestine. “An Arab State in Western Palestine is less dangerous than a state that is tied to Transjordan, and tomorrow — probably to Iraq,” he told his advisers. “Why should we vainly antagonize the Russians? Why should we do this [i.e., agree to Transjordan’s annexation of Western Palestine] against the [wishes of the] rest of the Arab states?”49
In short, not only did the Zionist movement not collude with King `Abdallah to divide Mandatory Palestine between themselves but it was reconciled to the advent of a Palestinian state. `Abdallah was the one who was violently opposed to such an eventuality and who caused it to fail by seizing the bulk of the territory the United Nations had allocated to the Palestinians.
III. COLLUSION WITH GREAT BRITAIN
Shlaim writes that “Britain knew and approved of this secret Hashemite-Zionist agreement to divide up Palestine between themselves, not along the lines of the U.N. partition plan.”50 This alleged British blessing was given in the above-noted conversation between Bevin and Abu’l-Huda, in which the foreign secretary gave the Transjordanian prime minister
This thesis is fundamentally flawed. True, the British were resigned to Transjordan’s military foray into post-Mandatory Palestine, but this was not out of a wish to protect Jewish interests. Rather, it was directed against those interests: Israel was intended to be the victim of the Transjordanian intervention — not its beneficiary.
* Contrary to Shlaim’s claim, the British government did not know of a Hashemite-Zionist agreement to divide up Palestine, both because this agreement did not exist and because `Abdallah kept London in the dark about his contacts with the Jewish Agency. The influential British ambassador to Amman, Sir Alec Kirkbride, was not aware of the secret Meir-`Abdallah meeting until well after the event.52 How then could the British bless a Hashemite-Zionist deal?
* Glubb’s memoirs alone indicate that Bevin gave Abu’l-Huda a green light to invade while warning him, “do not go and invade the areas allotted to the Jews.”53 In contrast, declassified British documents unequivocally show that Bevin neither encouraged Abu’l-Huda to invade the Arab parts of Palestine as “the obvious thing to do,” as claimed by Glubb, nor warned him off invading the Jewish areas. Bevin said only that he “would study the statements which his Excellency had made.”54 Shlaim’s choosing an old and partisan account over a newly released official document suggests a desperate attempt to prove the existence of such a warning.
* The British archives are bursting with evidence that the foreign secretary and his advisers cared not at all whether `Abdallah transgressed Jewish territory; they only wanted to be sure he did not implicate Britain in an embarrassing international situation. Shortly after the Bevin-Abu’l-Huda meeting, Bernard Burrows, head of the Eastern department, wrote (with Bevin’s approval) that
More important, on May 7, 1948, a week before the all-Arab attack on Israel, Burrows suggested to the Foreign Office intimate to King `Abdallah that “we could in practice presumably not object to Arab Legion occupation of the Nejeb [i.e., Negev].”56 In other words, not only was the Foreign Office not opposed to Transjordan’s occupation of the Jewish State’s territory but it encouraged `Abdallah to go in and occupy about half of it.
* Having grudgingly recognized their inability to prevent the partition of Palestine, British officialdom wished to see a far smaller and weaker Jewish state than that envisaged by the U.N. partition resolution and did its utmost to bring about such an eventuality. Limitations of space do not allow a presentation of the overwhelming documentary evidence of British efforts to cut Israel “down to size” and stunt its population growth through the prevention of future Jewish immigration.57 Suffice to say that British policymakers sought to forestall an Israeli-Transjordanian peace agreement unless it detached the Negev from the Israeli state.
Recently declassified documents in Israeli and Western archives fail to confirm the picture of the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict painted by the new historians. The self-styled new historiography is really a “distortiography.” It is anything but new: much of what it presents is old and much of the new is distortion. The “new historians” are neither new nor true historians but rather partisans seeking to give academic respectability to longstanding misconceptions and prejudice on the Arab-Israeli conflict. To borrow the words of the eminent British historian E.H. Carr, what the new historians are doing is to “write propaganda or historical fiction, and merely use facts of the past to embroider a kind of writing which has nothing to do with history.”58
Returning to political issues of today: the Palestinian claim to national self-determination stands on its own and does not need buttressing from historical falsification. Quite the contrary, fabricating an Israeli history to cater to interests of the moment does great disservice not only to historical truth but also to the Palestinians that the new historians seek to champion. Instead, they should heed Albert Hourani’s advice. Securing the future means coming to terms with one’s past, however painful that might be, not denying it.
1 The Birth of Israel: Myths and Reality (New York: Pantheon, 1987), p. 4; see also pp. 10 and 233. 2 The new historians make much of their relatively young age: “Most of them, born around 1948, have matured in a more open, doubting, and self-critical Israel than the pre-1967, pre-1973, and pre-Lebanon War Israel of the old historians.” Of course, biological age indicates little about outlook. The opponents of the new historians also matured “in a more open, doubting, and self-critical Israel,” many of them belonging to the same age group and having lived in the same milieu as the new historians. Moreover, some new historians are older than the “old” historians, especially Flapan, who was born in 1911 and thus precisely a member of that generation that “had lived through 1948 as highly committed adult participants in the epic, glorious rebirth of the Jewish commonwealth” and that was consequently derided by the new historians as being “unable to separate their lives from the events they later recounted, unable to distance themselves from and regard impartially the facts and processes through which they had lived.” Benny Morris, 1948 and After: Israel and the Palestinians (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), p. 7. 3 Avi Shlaim writes: “At the time of the Basle Congress, Palestine was under the control of the Ottoman Turks. It was inhabited by nearly half a million Arabs and some 50,000 Jews. . . . But, in keeping with the spirit of the age of European imperialism, the Jews did not allow these local realities to stand in the way of their own national aspirations.” Avi Shlaim, Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 2. Ilan Papp has been far more outspoken in articulating Zionism as a brand of Western colonialism that “gained control over a land that is not theirs at the end of the nineteenth century.” See, for example, “Damning the Historical Forgery,” Kol Ha-ir, Oct. 6, 1995, p. 61.
4 Itamar Rabinovich, The Road Not Taken: Early Arab-Israeli Negotiations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991). 5 Avraham Sela, “Transjordan, Israel and the 1948 War: Myth, Historiography, and Reality,” Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 28, No. 4Oct. 1992, pp. 623-89. 6 Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 286; Shabtai Teveth, “The Palestine Arab Refugee Problem and its Origins,” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2Apr. 1990, pp. 214-49. 7 Robert Satloff’s review of Morris’s Israel’s Border Wars, in Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 31, Number 4 Oct. 1995, p. 954. 8 Benny Morris, “A Second Look at the `Missed Peace,’ or Smoothing Out History: A Review Essay,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Autumn 1994, p. 86. 9 Avi Shlaim, “The Debate about 1948,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, Aug. 1995, p. 289. See also Morris, 1948 and After, p. 7. 10 Shlaim, Collusion, p. viii. 11 Shlaim, “The Debate about 1948,” p. 296. 12 Jon Kimche and David Kimche, Both Sides of the Hill (London: Secker and Warburg, 1960), p. 60; Marie Syrkin, Golda Meir: Woman with a Cause (London: Victor Gollancz, 1964), pp. 195-202. 13 Dan Kurzman, Genesis 1948: The First Arab-Israeli War (New York: New American Library, 1972), pp. 42-44. 14 Sir John Bagot Glubb, A Soldier with the Arabs (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1957), pp. 63-66. 15 For example, Kurzman, Genesis 1948, pp. 116-17; Zeev Sharef, Three Days (London: W.H. Allen, 1962), p. 77; and Kimche and Kimche, Both Sides of the Hill, p. 39. As we shall see (on p. XX), the newly released official British documents do shed fresh light on the Bevin-Abu’l-Huda meeting but completely in the opposite direction from that claimed by Shlaim. 16 Kimche and Kimche, Both Sides of the Hill, pp. 227-28; Rony Gabbay, A Political Study of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Arab Refugee Problem (A Case Study) (Geneva: Libraire E. Droz, 1959), pp. 108-11; and Nadav Safran, From War to War: The Arab-Israeli Confrontation 1948-1967 (Indianapolis, Ind.: Pegasus, 1969), pp. 34-35. 17 Morris, 1948 and After, pp. 13-16; Shlaim, “The Debate about 1948,” pp. 294-95. 18 See, for example, Moshe Lissak, Yehuda Wallach, and Eviatar Nur, eds., Atlas Karta Le-toldot Medinat Israel: Shanim Rishonot, Tashah-Tashak (Karta Atlas of Israel: the First Years, 1948-61),(Jerusalem: Karta, 1978); Safran, From War to War, p. 30. 19 David Ben-Gurion, Medinat Israel Ha’mehudeshet, vol. 1 (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1969), pp. 70-71, 98, 102, 106, and 115; idem, Israel: A Personal History (London: New English Library, 1972), pp. 61, 90; G. Rivlin and E. Orren, eds., Yoman Ha-milhama, 3 vols. (Tel Aviv: Misrael Ha-bitahchom, Ha-hotsa’a La-or, 1983), particularly vol. 3, pp. 1013-19. 20 Ilan Papp, The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951 (London: I.B. Tauris, 1992), p. 271. 21 See, for example, Martin Gilbert, The Second World War (London: Fontana, 1990), p. 746; National Register of the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man, Statistics of Population on 29 September 1939 (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office (hereafter HMSO), 1939. 22 “Casualties in Palestine since the United Nations Decision, Period 30th November, 1947 to 3rd April, 1945,” CO 733/483/5, p. 19. 23 Shlaim, “The Debate about 1948,” p. 296. On the Jordanian side, Col. `Abdallah at-Tall, who served as a messenger between King `Abdallah and the Zionists during the armistice talks at the end of the 1947-49 war, then defected to Egypt and wrote about his experiences in Karithat Filastin: Mudhakkirat `Abdallah at-Tall, Qa’id Ma`rakat al-Quds (Cairo: Al-Qalam, 1959). On the Israeli side, Lt. Col. Israel Baer, an adviser to Ben-Gurion later convicted of spying for the Soviet Union, told about the negotiations in Bithon Israel: Etmol, ha-Yom, Mahar (Tel Aviv: Amikam, 1966). 24 Sela, “Transjordan, Israel and the 1948 War,” pp. 623-24. See also his article “Arab Historiography of the 1948 War: The Quest for Legitimacy,” in Laurence J. Silberstein, ed., New Perspectives on Israeli History (New York: New York University Press, 1991), pp. 124-54. 25 Shlaim, “The Debate about 1948,” p. 297. 26 Morris, Palestinian Refugee Problem, p. 294. 27 Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World (London: W.H. Allen, 1970), pp. 458-66; Gabbay, A Political Study, pp. 54, 85-98. 28 Joseph B. Schechtman, The Arab Refugee Problem (New York: Philosophical Library, 1952), p. 4. 29 Aharon Klieman, Du Kium Le-lo Shalom (Unpeaceful Coexistence: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians) (Tel Aviv: Ma`ariv, 1986), pp. 15-16. 30 Shlaim, “The Debate about 1948,” p. 289. And, years earlier, Arnold Toynbee, Alfred Lillienthal, Noam Chomsky, and Edward Said all used these same arguments. 31 Morris, 1948 and After, p. 17. “Yishuv” refers to the Zionist community in Palestine before the establishment of Israel. 32 Morris, Palestinian Refugee Problem, p. 24. 33 Ibid., pp. 25-26. 34 Protocols of the Jewish Agency Executive meetings of June 7, 9, and 12, 1938, Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem. 35 The Peel report suggested the partition of Mandatory Palestine into two states, Arab and Jewish; to reduce frictions between the two communities, the commission also suggested a land and population exchange, similar to that effected between Turkey and Greece after the First World War. See Palestine Royal Commission, Report, Presented by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to Parliament by Command of His Majesty, July 1937, Cmd. 5479 (London: HMSO, 1937), pp. 291-95. There being far more Arabs in the Jewish state-to-be than the other way around (225,000 vs. 1,250), Ben-Gurion and some other Zionist proponents of partition viewed this exchange (or transfer, as it came to be known) as a partial compensation for the confinement of the prospective Jewish state to a tiny fraction of the Land of Israel.
Yet they quickly dismissed this idea, as shown by the fact that not one of the 30-odd submissions the JAE made to the Palestine Partition Commission (the Woodhead Commission, 1938) suggested population exchange and transfer.
36 Morris, The Birth, pp. 27-28. 37 Ibid., p. 28. 38 Ibid. Morris traces the speech to Dec. 3, 1947, as is done in the secondary source from which he borrowed it. In the original source, however, the date given is Dec. 13, 1947. 39 Rivlin and Orren, eds., Yoman Ha-milhama, vol. I, p. 22. 40 Ben-Gurion, Ba-ma’araha, vol. IV, part 2 (Tel Aviv: Hotsa’at Mifleget Poalei Eretz Yisra’el, 1959), pp. 258-59 (emphasis added). 41 Ibid., p. 260. 42 Morris, 1948 and After, p. 47. 43 Shlaim, Collusion Across the Jordan, p. 1; idem, The Politics of Partition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. viii (this is an abridged and slightly revised edition of Collusion). Other new historians have taken up this thesis. Thus, Papp: “The common ground for the agreement was a mutual objection to the creation of a Palestinian state. . . . The Jewish Agency in particular abhorred such a possibility, asserting that the creation of a Palestinian state would perpetuate the ideological conflict in Palestine” (The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, p. 118). 44 Ezra Danin, “Siha in Abdallah, 17.11.47,” Central Zionist Archives, S25/4004. 45 Sasson to Shertok, Nov. 20, 1947, Central Zionist Archives, S25/1699. 46 Danin, “Siha in Abdallah.” 47 Ibid. 48 Golda Meir’s verbal report to the Provisional State Council on May 12, 1948, Israel State Archives, Provisional State Council: Protocols, 18 April – 13 May 1948, Jerusalem, 1978, p. 40.[Eds: the collection had an English title. Yeshivat Minhelet Ha-am, 12/5/48.] 49 Ben-Gurion, Yoman Ha-milhama, vol. III, Dec. 18, 1948, p. 885. 50 Shlaim, “The Debate,” p. 297. 51 Ibid., p. 293. 52 See, for example, Kirkbride’s telegram to Bevin dated Nov. 17, 1947, displaying total ignorance of the Abdullah-Meir meeting, which was held that very day (FO 816/89). For further evidence of British ignorance of the alleged Hashemite-Jewish deal, see a personal and secret letter from H. Beeley, Eastern Department, Foreign Office, to T.E. Bromley, Jan. 20, 1948, FO 371/68403/E1877; and Michael Wright, “Brief for Conversation with Transjordan Prime on Palestine,” Feb. 6, 1948, FO 371/6837/E1980G. 53 Glubb, A Soldier with the Arabs, p. 66. 54 Mr. Bevin to Sir Alec Kirkbride (Amman), “Conversation with the Transjordan Prime Minister,” Feb. 9, 1948, FO 371/68366/E1916/G. 55 Memorandum by Bernard Burrows, Feb. 9, 1948, FO 371/68368/E296. 56 Bernard Burrows, “Palestine After May 14,” May 7, 1948, FO 371/68854/E6778. 57 For a discussion of this issue, see Efraim Karsh, Fabricating Israeli History: “The New Historians” (London: Frank Cass, forthcoming). 58 E.H. Carr, What is History? (Harmondworth: Penguin, 1984), p. 29.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, History, Israel & Zionism, Middle East studies | Efraim Karsh | June 1996 MEQ receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free mef mailing list This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.
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Rewriting Israel’s History :: Middle East Quarterly
Dear Akhlah Friends and Family:
Sixteen years ago, I saw a need for Jewish education materials designed just for very young children that would be freely available online. A site where Jewish families who lived far from a temple or shul, or didn’t have access to a congregational cheder, could access the teaching/learning materials that would strengthen their childrens’ connection to their Jewish heritage. No advertisements, no off-site links, no subscription charges, just a place for learning the alef-bet and the Hebrew language, Judaism’s history, and all about Israel and the people who helped build her. So I began creating Akhlah’s pages, every year adding more categories, and now Akhlah has users all around the world, with more than 12,000 unique users every day.
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Akhlah, the Jewish children’s learning network
The following is a very short synopsis of the history of this conflict. We recommend that you also read the much more detailed account, “The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict.”
For centuries there was no such conflict. In the 19th century the land of Palestine was inhabited by a multicultural population approximately 86 percent Muslim, 10 percent Christian, and 4 percent Jewish living in peace.
In the late 1800s a group in Europe decided to colonize this land. Known as Zionists, they represented an extremist minority of the Jewish population. Their goal was to create a Jewish homeland, and they considered locations in Africa and the Americas, before settling on Palestine.
At first, this immigration created no problems. However, as more and more Zionists immigrated to Palestine many with the express wish of taking over the land for a Jewish state the indigenous population became increasingly alarmed. Eventually, fighting broke out, with escalating waves of violence. Hitlers rise to power, combined with Zionist activities to sabotage efforts to place Jewish refugees in western countries, led to increased Jewish immigration to Palestine, and conflict grew.
Finally, in 1947 the United Nations decided to intervene. However, rather than adhering to the principle of self-determination of peoples, in which the people themselves create their own state and system of government, the UN chose to revert to the medieval strategy whereby an outside power divides up other peoples land.
Under considerable Zionist pressure, the UN recommended giving away 55% of Palestine to a Jewish state despite the fact that this group represented only about 30% of the total population, and owned under 7% of the land.
While it is widely reported that the resulting war eventually included five Arab armies, less well known is the fact that throughout this war Zionist forces outnumbered all Arab and Palestinian combatants combined often by a factor of two to three. Moreover, Arab armies did not invade Israel virtually all battles were fought on land that was to have been the Palestinian state.
Finally, it is significant to note that Arab armies entered the conflict only after Zionist forces had committed 16 massacres, including the grisly massacre of over 100 men, women, and children at Deir Yassin. Future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, head of one of the Jewish terrorist groups, described this as splendid, and stated: As in Deir Yassin, so everywhere, we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou has chosen us for conquest. Zionist forces committed 33 massacres altogether.
By the end of the war, Israel had conquered 78 percent of Palestine; three-quarters of a million Palestinians had been made refugees; over 500 towns and villages had been obliterated; and a new map was drawn up, in which every city, river and hillock received a new, Hebrew name, as all vestiges of the Palestinian culture were to be erased. For decades Israel denied the existence of this population, former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir once saying: There were no such thing as Palestinians.
In 1967, Israel conquered still more land. Following the Six Day War, in which Israeli forces launched a highly successful surprise attack on Egypt, Israel occupied the final 22% of Palestine that had eluded it in 1948 the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since, according to international law it is inadmissible to acquire territory by war, these are occupied territories and do not belong to Israel. It also occupied parts of Egypt (since returned) and Syria (which remain under occupation).
Also during the Six Day War, Israel attacked a US Navy ship, the USS Liberty, killing and injuring over 200 American servicemen. President Lyndon Johnson recalled rescue flights, saying that he did not want to embarrass an ally. (In 2004 a high-level commission chaired by Admiral Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, found this attack to be an act of war against the United States, a fact few news media have reported.)
There are two primary issues at the core of this continuing conflict. First, there is the inevitably destabilizing effect of trying to maintain an ethnically preferential state, particularly when it is largely of foreign origin. The original population of what is now Israel was 96 percent Muslim and Christian, yet, these refugees are prohibited from returning to their homes in the self-described Jewish state (and those within Israel are subjected to systematic discrimination).
Second, Israels continued military occupation and confiscation of privately owned land in the West Bank, and control over Gaza, are extremely oppressive, with Palestinians having minimal control over their lives. Thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children are held in Israeli prisons. Few of them have had a legitimate trial; Physical abuse and torture are frequent. Palestinian borders (even internal ones) are controlled by Israeli forces. Periodically men, women, and children are strip searched; people are beaten; women in labor are prevented from reaching hospitals (at times resulting in death); food and medicine are blocked from entering Gaza, producing an escalating humanitarian crisis. Israeli forces invade almost daily, injuring, kidnapping, and sometimes killing inhabitants.
According to the Oslo peace accords of 1993, these territories were supposed to finally become a Palestinian state. However, after years of Israel continuing to confiscate land and conditions steadily worsening, the Palestinian population rebelled. (The Barak offer, widely reputed to be generous, was anything but.) This uprising, called the Intifada (Arabic for shaking off) began at the end of September 2000.
Largely due to special-interest lobbying, U.S. taxpayers give Israel an average of $8 million per day, and since its creation have given more U.S. funds to Israel than to any other nation. As Americans learn about how Israel is using our tax dollars, many are calling for an end to this expenditure.
 John W. Mulhall, CSP, America and the Founding of Israel: an Investigation of the Morality of Americas Role (Los Angeles: Deshon, 1995), 48; Mike Berry and Greg Philo, Israel and Palestine (Pluto Press, 2006) p. 1; Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD, author of Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle, includes a number of population tables in this book, which are available in his booklet, Palestinian Refugees Right to Return and Repatriation (http://ifamericansknew.org/history/ref-qumsiyeh.html); Justin McCarthy, author of The Population of Palestine: Population History and Statistics of the Late Ottoman Period and the Mandate, provides detailed information on population in the excerpt Palestines Population During The Ottoman And The British Mandate Periods. (http://www.palestineremembered.com/Acre/Palestine-Remembered/Story559.html)
 John W. Mulhall, CSP, America and the Founding of Israel: an Investigation of the Morality of Americas Role (Los Angeles: Deshon, 1995), 47-52.
 In many places Zionists manipulated local Jewish populations into going to Palestine/Israel, in some cases using subterfuge and terrorism.
Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, p. 37: Commenting, author Erskine H. Childers, wrote, one of the most massively important features of the entire Palestine struggle was that Zionism deliberately arranged that the plight of the wretched survivors of Hitlerism should be a moral argument which the West had to accept. This was done by seeing to it that Western countries did not open their doors, widely and immediately, to the inmates of the DP. (displaced persons) camps. It is incredible, that so grave and grim a campaign has received so little attention in accounts of the Palestine struggle it was a campaign that literally shaped all subsequent history. It was done by sabotaging specific Western schemes to admit Jewish DPs.
A number of authors have discuss Zionist connections with Nazis; for example:
He describes this in greater detail in his book: Ben-Gurions Scandals: How the Haganah and the Mossad Eliminated Jews:
I write this book to tell the American people, and especially the American Jews, that Jews from Islamic lands did not emigrate willingly to Israel; that, to force them to leave, Jews killed Jews; and that, to buy time to confiscate ever more Arab lands, Jews on numerous occasions rejected genuine peace initiatives from their Arab neighbors. I write about what the first prime minister of Israel called cruel Zionism. I write about it because I was a part of it.
 Qumsiyeh, Palestinian Refugees Right to Return and Repatriation (http://ifamericansknew.org/history/ref-qumsiyeh.html)
Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict; George W. Ball & Douglas B. Ball, The Passionate Attachment, on p. 29: quotes a message from future prime minister Menachem Begin, head of the Irgun Zionist terrorist group, commending them on the grisly massacre of women, children, and old men at the village of Deir Yassin: Accept my congratulations on this splendid act of conquest. Convey my regards to all the commanders and soldiers. We shake your hands. We are all proud of the excellent leadership and the fighting spirit in this great attack. We stand to attention in memory of the slain. We lovingly shake the hands of the wounded. Tell the soldiers: you have made history in Israel with your attack and your conquest. Continue thus until victory. As in Deir Yassin, so everywhere, we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou has chosen us for conquest.
 Sunday Times, June 15, 1969, quoted widely.
 Donald Neff, The Six Days War, Simon & Schuster
During the Six-Day War, Israel also attacked a US Navy ship, the USS Liberty, killing and injuring over 200 American servicemen. Many analysts believe that the fact that there were no consequences for this attack led Israeli leaders to conclude that they could commit any act of aggression without US complaint. While this attack has largely been covered up in the US media (see American Media Miss the Boat: For USA Today, Freedom of the Press Means the Right to Report It Wrong http://ifamericansknew.org/media/misslib.html, Alison Weir, CounterPunch, June 23/24, 2007), it is discussed in a number of books, including James Ennes, The Assault on the Liberty; William Gerhard, Attack on the USS Liberty; Dr. John Borne, The USS Liberty, Dissenting History vs. Official History; Stephen Green , Taking Sides: Americas Secret Relations with a Militant Israel; James Bamford, Body of Secrets; and in a recent article: New revelations in attack on American spy ship Veterans, documents suggest U.S., Israel didnt tell full story of deadly 67 incident, John Crewdson, Tribune senior correspondent, Chicago Tribune, October 2, 2007 (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-liberty_tuesoct02,0,66005.story?coll=chi_tab01_layout).
Additional information can be found at:
 See, for example, BTselem The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Absolute Prohibition: The torture and Ill-Treatment of Palestinian Detainees, May 2007, http://www.btselem.org/publications/summaries/200705_utterly_forbidden
Defence for Children International/Palestine Section, http://www.dci-palestine.org/theme/detention
Addameer, Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, http://www.addameer.org/index.php
Samidoun, Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, http://samidoun.ca/
Alison Weir’s new book Against Our Better Judgement: How the U.S. was used to create Israel brings together meticulously sourced evidence to outline the largely unknown history of U.S.-Israel relations.
Buy the book on Amazon.com.
Visit the book website for reviews, more ordering options, and upcoming author events.
Ethnic Cleansing: How Palestine Became Israel In the late 1800s a small, fanatic movement called political Zionism began in Europe. Its goal was to create a Jewish state somewhere in the world. Its leaders settled on the ancient and long-inhabited land of Palestine for the location of this state. READ MORE | FOOTNOTES
See more here:
A Synopsis of the Israel/Palestine Conflict
The history of Israel encompasses the history of the Jews in the Land of Israel, as well as the history of the modern State of Israel. The area of modern Israel is small, about the size of Wales or half the size of Costa Rica, and is located roughly on the site of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah except that these ancient kingdoms also included what is now the West Bank. It is the birthplace of the Hebrew language spoken in Israel, and of the Abrahamic religions. It contains sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Druze and Bah’ Faith.
Although coming under the sway of various empires and home to a variety of ethnicities, the Land of Israel was predominantly Jewish until the 3rd century. The area became increasingly Christian after the 3rd century and then largely Muslim some centuries following the 7th century conquest until the middle of the 20th century. It was a focal point of conflict between Christianity and Islam between 1096 and 1291, and from the end of the Crusades until the British conquest in 1917 was part of the Syrian province of first the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and then (from 1517) the Ottoman Empire.
In the late-19th century, persecution of Jews, particularly in Europe, led to the creation of the Zionist movement. Following the British conquest of Syria, the Balfour Declaration in World War I and the formation of the Mandate of Palestine, Aliyah (Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel) increased and gave rise to ArabJewish tensions, and a collision of the Arab and Jewish nationalist movements. Israeli independence in 1948 was marked by massive migration of Jews from both Europe and the Muslim countries to Israel, and of Arabs from Israel leading to the extensive ArabIsraeli conflict. About 42% of the world’s Jews live in Israel today, the largest Jewish community in the world.
Since about 1970, the United States has become the principal ally of Israel. In 1979 an uneasy EgyptIsrael Peace Treaty was signed, based on the Camp David Accords. In 1993 Israel signed Oslo I Accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization and in 1994 IsraelJordan Treaty of Peace was signed. Despite efforts to establish peace between Israel and Palestinians, many of whom live in Israel or in Israeli-occupied territories, the conflict continues to play a major role in Israeli and international political, social and economic life.
The economy of Israel was initially primarily socialist and the country dominated by social democratic parties until the 1970s. Since then the Israeli economy has gradually moved to capitalism and a free market economy, partially retaining the social welfare system.
Between 2.6 and 0.9 million years ago, at least four episodes of hominine dispersal from Africa to the Levant are known, each culturally distinct. The flint tool artifacts of these early humans have been discovered on the territory of the current state of Israel, including, at Yiron, the oldest stone tools found anywhere outside Africa. Other groups include 1.4 million years old Acheulean industry, the Bizat Ruhama group and Gesher Bnot Yaakov.
In the Carmel mountain range at el-Tabun, and Es Skhul,Neanderthal and early modern human remains were found, including the skeleton of a Neanderthal female, named Tabun I, which is regarded as one of the most important human fossils ever found. The excavation at el-Tabun produced the longest stratigraphic record in the region, spanning 600,000 or more years of human activity, from the Lower Paleolithic to the present day, representing roughly a million years of human evolution.
During the 2nd millennium BC, Canaan, part of which later became known as Israel, was dominated by Egypt from c.1550 to c. 1180.
The first record of the name Israel (as ysrr) occurs in the Merneptah stele, erected for Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah c. 1209 BCE, “Israel is laid waste and his seed is not.”William Dever sees this “Israel” in the central highlands as a cultural and probably political entity, more an ethnic group rather than an organized state.
Ancestors of the Israelites may have included Semites native to Canaan and the Sea Peoples. McNutt says, “It is probably safe to assume that sometime during Iron Age I a population began to identify itself as ‘Israelite'”, differentiating itself from the Canaanites through such markers as the prohibition of intermarriage, an emphasis on family history and genealogy, and religion.
The first use of grapheme-based writing originated in the area, probably among Canaanite peoples resident in Egypt. All modern alphabetical writing systems are descended from this writing. Written evidence of the use of Classical Hebrew exists from about 1000 BCE. It was written using the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet.
Villages had populations of up to 300 or 400, which lived by farming and herding, and were largely self-sufficient; economic interchange was prevalent. Writing was known and available for recording, even in small sites. The archaeological evidence indicates a society of village-like centres, but with more limited resources and a small population.
The Hebrew Bible describes constant warfare between the Jews and other tribes, including the Philistines, whose capital was Gaza. The Bible states that King David founded a dynasty of kings and that his son Solomon built a Temple. Yigael Yadin’s excavations at Hazor, Megiddo, Beit Shean and Gezer uncovered structures that he and others have argued date from his reign, but others, such as Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman (who agree that Solomon was a historical king), argue that they should be dated to the Omride period, more than a century after Solomon. This building is not mentioned in surviving extra-biblical accounts. Possible references to the “House of David” have been found at two sites, the Tel Dan Stele and the Mesha Stele. Both David and Solomon are widely referenced in Jewish, Christian and Islamic texts.
Around 930 BCE, the kingdom split into a southern Kingdom of Judah and a northern Kingdom of Israel.
It is possible that an alliance between Ahab of Israel and Ben Hadad II of Damascus managed to repulse the incursions of the Assyrians, with a victory at the Battle of Qarqar (854 BCE). (see the Kurkh Monoliths). However, the Kingdom of Israel was eventually destroyed by Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III around 750 BCE. The Philistine kingdom was also destroyed. The Assyrians sent most of the northern Israelite kingdom into exile, thus creating the “Lost Tribes of Israel”. The Samaritans claim to be descended from survivors of the Assyrian conquest. An Israelite revolt (724722 BCE) was crushed after the siege and capture of Samaria by the Assyrian king Sargon II. Sargon’s son, Sennacherib, tried and failed to conquer Judah. Assyrian records say he leveled 46 walled cities and besieged Jerusalem, leaving after receiving extensive tribute.
Modern scholars believe that refugees from the destruction of Israel moved to Judah during the rule of King Hezekiah (ruler from 715 – 686 BCE), greatly expanding Jerusalem and leading to construction of the Siloam Tunnel which could provide water during a siege. The refugees brought with them new religious ideas which led, under King Josiah (ruler from 641 – 619), to the writing of the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua and to the accounts of the kingship of David and Solomon in the book of Kings. The books are known as Deuteronomist and considered to be a major key step in the emergence of Monotheism in Judah. They were written at a time that Assyria was weakened by the emergence of Babylon and may be a committing to text of more ancient verbal traditions.
In 586 BCE King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon conquered Judah. According to the Hebrew Bible, he destroyed Solomon’s Temple and exiled the Jews to Babylon. The defeat was also recorded by the Babylonians (see the Babylonian Chronicles). Babylonian and Biblical sources suggest that the Judean king, Jehoiachin, switched allegiances between the Egyptians and the Babylonians and that invasion was a punishment for allying with Babylon’s principal rival, Egypt. The exiled Jews may have been restricted to the elite.
Jehoiachin was eventually released by the Babylonians (see Jehoiachin’s Rations Tablets) and according to both the Bible and the Talmud, the Judean royal family (the Davidic line) continued as head of the exile in Babylon (the Exilarch).
In 538 BCE, Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon and took over its empire. Cyrus issued a proclamation granting subjugated nations (including the people of Judah) religious freedom (for the original text see the Cyrus Cylinder). According to the Hebrew Bible 50,000 Judeans, led by Zerubabel, returned to Judah and rebuilt the temple. A second group of 5,000, led by Ezra and Nehemiah, returned to Judah in 456 BCE although non-Jews wrote to Cyrus to try to prevent their return.
Scholars believe that the final Hebrew versions of the Torah and Books of Kings date from this period, that the returning Israelites adopted an Aramaic script (also known as the Ashuri alphabet), which they brought back from Babylon; this is the current Hebrew script. The Hebrew Calendar closely resembles the Babylonian calendar and probably dates from this period.
In 333 BCE, the Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great defeated Persia and conquered the region. Sometime thereafter, the first translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, was begun in Alexandria. After Alexander’s death, his generals fought over the territory he had conquered. Judah became the frontier between the Seleucid Empire and Ptolemaic Egypt, eventually becoming part of the Seleucid Empire in 198 BCE. In the 2nd century BCE, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (ruler of the Seleucid Empire) tried to eradicate Judaism in favour of Hellenistic religion. This provoked the 174135 BCE Maccabean Revolt led by Judas Maccabeus (whose victory is celebrated in the Jewish festival of Hanukkah). The Books of the Maccabees describe the uprising and the end of Greek rule. A Jewish party called the Hasideans opposed both Hellenism and the revolt but eventually gave their support to the Maccabees. Modern interpretations see this period as a civil war between Hellenized and orthodox forms of Judaism.
The Hasmonean dynasty of (Jewish) priest-kings ruled Judea with the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes as the principal Jewish social movements. As part of the struggle against Hellenistic civilization, the Pharisee leader Simeon ben Shetach established the first schools based around meeting houses. This led to Rabbinical Judaism. Justice was administered by the Sanhedrin, which was a Rabbincal assembly and law court whose leader was known as the Nasi. The Nasi’s religious authority gradually superseded that of the Temple’s high priest (under the Hasmoneans this was the king).
In 125 BCE the Hasmonean King John Hyrcanus subjugated Edom and forcibly converted the population to Judaism. In 64 BCE the Roman general Pompey conquered Syria and intervened in the Hasmonean civil war in Jerusalem. In 47 BCE the lives of Julius Caesar and his protege Cleopatra were saved by 3,000 crack Jewish troops sent by King Hyrcanus II and commanded by Antipater, whose descendants Caesar made kings of Judea.
From 37 BCE to 6 CE, the Herodian dynasty, Jewish-Roman client kings, descended from Antipater, ruled Judea. Herod the Great considerably enlarged the temple (see Herod’s Temple), making it one of the largest religious structures in the world. Despite its fame, it was in this period that Rabbinical Judaism, led by Hillel the Elder, began to assume popular prominence over the Temple priesthood.
The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was granted special permission not to display an effigy of the emperor, becoming the only religious structure in the Roman Empire that did not do so. Special dispensation was granted for Jewish citizens of the Roman Empire to pay a tax to the temple.
Judea was made a Roman province in 6 CE. Following the next decades, though prosperous, the society suffered increasing tensions between Greco-Roman and Judean populations.
In 64 CE, the High Priest Joshua ben Gamla introduced a religious requirement for Jewish boys to learn to read from the age of 6. Over the next few hundred years this requirement became steadily more ingrained in Jewish traditions.
In 66 CE, the Jews of Judea rose in revolt against Rome, naming their new state as “Israel”. The events were described by the Jewish leader/historian Josephus, including the desperate defense of Jotapata, the siege of Jerusalem (6970 CE) and the desperate last stand at Masada under Eleazar ben Yair (7273 CE). Josephus estimated that over a million people died in the siege of Jerusalem. Jerusalem and the Temple lay in ruins. During the Jewish revolt, most Christians, at this time a sub-sect of Judaism, removed themselves from Judea. The rabbinical/Pharisee movement led by Yochanan ben Zakai, who opposed the Sadducee temple priesthood, made peace with Rome and survived. After the war Jews continued to be taxed in the Fiscus Judaicus, which was used to fund a temple to Jupiter.
From 115 to 117, Jews in Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, Mesopotamia and Lod rose in revolt against Rome. This conflict was accompanied by large-scale massacres of both Romans and Jews. Cyprus was severely depopulated and Jews banned from living there.
In 131, the Emperor Hadrian renamed Jerusalem “Aelia Capitolina” and constructed a Temple of Jupiter on the site of the former Jewish temple. Jews were banned from living in Jerusalem itself (a ban that persisted until the Arab conquest), and the Roman province, until then known as Iudaea Province, was renamed Palaestina, no other revolt led to a province being renamed. The names “Palestine” (in English) and “Filistin” (in Arabic) are derived from this. From 132 to 136, the Jewish leader Simon Bar Kokhba led another major revolt against the Romans, again renaming the country “Israel” (see Bar Kochba Revolt coinage). The Bar-Kochba revolt probably caused more trouble for the Romans than the more famous (and better documented) revolt of 70. The Christians refused to participate in the revolt and from this point the Jews regarded Christianity as a separate religion. The revolt was eventually crushed by Emperor Hadrian himself. Although uncertain, it is widely thought that during the Bar Kokhba revolt, when a rabbinical assembly decided which books could be regarded as part of the Hebrew Bible, the Jewish apocrypha were left out. A rabbi of this period, Simeon bar Yochai, is regarded as the author of the Zohar, the foundational text for Kabbalistic thought. However, modern scholars believe it was written in Medieval Spain.
After suppressing the Bar Kochba revolt, the Romans exiled the Jews of Judea, but not of Galilee and permitted a hereditary Rabbinical Patriarch (from the House of Hillel, based in Galilee) to represent the Jews in dealings with the Romans. The most famous of these was Judah haNasi who is credited with compiling the final version of the Mishnah (a massive body of Jewish religious texts interpreting the Bible) and with strengthening the educational demands of Judaism by requiring that illiterate Jews be treated as outcasts. As a result, many illiterate Jews may have converted to Christianity.
Jewish seminaries, such as those at Shefaram and Bet Shearim continued to produce scholars and the best of these became members of the Sanhedrin, which was located first at Tzippori and later at Tiberias. Before the Bar-Kochba uprising, an estimated 2/3 of the population of Gallilee and 1/3 of the coastal region were Jewish. In the Galillee, many Synagogues have been found dating from this period. However, persecution and the economic crisis that affected the Roman empire in the 3rd century led to further Jewish migration from Syria Palaestina to the more tolerant Persian Sassanid Empire, where a prosperous Jewish community with extensive seminaries existed in the area of Babylon.
Early in the 4th century, Constantinople became the capital of the East Roman Empire and Christianity was adopted as the official religion. The name Jerusalem was restored to Aelia Capitolina and it became a Christian city. Jews were still banned from living in Jerusalem, but were allowed to visit, and it is in this period that the surviving Western Wall of the temple became sacred. In 3512, another Jewish revolt in the Galilee erupted against a corrupt Roman governor. In 362, the last pagan Roman Emperor, Julian the Apostate, announced plans to rebuild the Jewish Temple. He died while fighting the Persians in 363 and the project was discontinued.
The Roman Empire split in 390 CE and the region became part of the (Christian) East Roman Empire, known as the Byzantine Empire. Byzantine Christianity was dominated by the (Greek) Orthodox Church. In the 5th century, the Western Roman Empire collapsed leading to Christian migration into the Roman province of Palaestina Prima and development of a Christian majority. Jews numbered 1015% of the population, concentrated largely in the Galilee. Judaism was the only non-Christian religion tolerated, but there were bans on Jews building new places of worship, holding public office or owning slaves. Several Samaritan Revolts erupted in this period, resulting in the decrease of Samaritan community from about a million to a near extinction. Sacred Jewish texts written in Palestine at this time are the Gemara (400), the Jerusalem Talmud (500) and the Passover Haggadah.
In 611, Sassanid Persia invaded the Byzantine Empire and, after a long siege, Khosrau II captured Jerusalem in 614, with Jewish help, including possibly the Jewish Himyarite Kingdom in Yemen. Jews were left to govern Jerusalem when the Persians took over. The Byzantine Emperor, Heraclius, promised to restore Jewish rights and received Jewish help in defeating the Persians, but he soon reneged on the agreement after reconquering Palaestina Prima, issuing an edict banning Judaism from the Byzantine Empire. (Egyptian) Coptic Christians took responsibility for this broken pledge and fasted in penance.
According to Muslim tradition, in 620 Muhammed was taken on spiritual journey from Mecca to the “farthest mosque”, whose location many consider to be the Temple Mount, returning the same night. In 634636 the Arabs conquered Palaestina Prima and renamed it Jund Filastin, ending the Byzantine ban on Jews living in Jerusalem. Over the next few centuries, Islam replaced Christianity as the dominant religion of the region.
From 636 until the beginning of the Crusades, Jund Filastin was ruled first by Medinah-based Rashidun Caliphs, then by the Damascus-based Umayyad Caliphate and after that the Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphs. In 691, Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik (685705) constructed the Dome of the Rock shrine on the Temple Mount. Jews consider it to contain the Foundation Stone (see also Holy of Holies), which is the holiest site in Judaism. A second building, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, was also erected on the Temple Mount in 705.
Between the 7th and 11th centuries, Jewish scribes, called the Masoretes and located in Galilee and Jerusalem, established the Masoretic Text, the final text of the Hebrew Bible.
In 1099, the first crusade took Jerusalem and established a Catholic kingdom, known as the Kingdom of Jerusalem. During the conquest, both Muslims and Jews were indiscriminately massacred or sold into slavery. The murder of Jews began as the Crusaders traveled across Europe and continued when they reached the Holy Land. Ashkenazi orthodox Jews still recite a prayer in memory of the death and destruction caused by the Crusades.
In 1187, the Ayyubid Sultan Saladin defeated the Crusaders in the Battle of Hattin (above Tiberias), taking Jerusalem and most of the former Kingdom of Jerusalem. Saladin’s court physician was Maimonides, whose work had an enormous influence on Judaism. Maimonides was buried in Tiberias. A Crusader state centred round Acre survived in weakened form for another century.
From 1260 to 1291 the area became the frontier between Mongol invaders (occasional Crusader allies) and the Mamluks of Egypt. The conflict impoverished the country and severely reduced the population. Sultan Qutuz of Egypt eventually defeated the Mongols in the Battle of Ain Jalut (near Ein Harod), and his successor (and assassin), Baibars, eliminated the last Crusader Kingdom of Acre in 1291, thereby ending the Crusades.
Egyptian Mamluk Sultan, Baibars (12601277), conquered the region and the Mamluks ruled it until 1517, regarding it as part of Syria. In Hebron, Baibars banned Jews from worshiping at the Cave of the Patriarchs (the second holiest site in Judaism); the ban remained in place until its conquest by Israel 700 years later.
The collapse of the Crusades was followed by increased persecution and expulsions of Jews in Europe. Expulsions began in England (1290) and were followed by France (1306). In Spain, persecution of the highly integrated and successful Jewish community began, including massacres and forced conversions. During the Black Death, many Jews were murdered after being accused of poisoning wells. The completion of the Christian reconquest of Spain led to expulsion of the Jews of Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497. These were the wealthiest and most integrated Jewish communities in Europe. Many Jews converted to Christianity, however many secretly practised Judaism and prejudice against converts (regardless of their sincerity) persisted, leading many former Jews to move to the New World (see History of the Jews in Latin America). Most of the expelled Spanish Jews moved to North Africa, Poland, to the Ottoman Empire and to the region of Bilad a-Sham, which roughly corresponds to the ancient Kingdom of Israel (united monarchy). In Italy, Jews living in the Papal States were required to live in ghettos (see Cum nimis absurdum). The last compulsory Ghetto, in Rome, was abolished in the 1880s.
Under the Mamluks, the area was a province of Bilad a-Sham (Syria). It was conquered by Turkish Sultan Selim I in 151617, becoming a part of the province of Ottoman Syria for the next four centuries, first as the Damascus Eyalet and later as the Syria Vilayet (following the Tanzimat reorganization of 1864).
From the Middle Ages on, there was small scale individual Jewish migration to the Land of Israel, which tended to increase when persecution was bad elsewhere. The Jewish population was concentrated in Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias, known in Jewish tradition as the Four Holy Cities. In the 16th century, following a wave of Spanish immigration, Safed became a centre for study of the Kabbalah. However economic decline and conflict between the Druze and the Ottomans, led to the community’s gradual decline by the mid-17th century. In 1660, a Druze revolt led to the destruction of the major Old Yishuv cities of Safed and Tiberias. In 1663 Sabbatai Zevi settled in Jerusalem, proclaiming himself to be the Jewish Messiah. He acquired a large number of followers before going to Istanbul in 1666, where the Sultan forced him to covert to Islam. In the late 18th century a local Arab sheikh Zahir al-Umar created a de facto independent Emirate in the Galilee. Ottoman attempts to subdue the Sheikh failed, but after Zahir’s death the Ottomans restored their rule in the area.
In 1799 Napoleon briefly occupied the country and planned a proclamation inviting Jews to create a state. The proclamation was shelved following his defeat at Acre. In 1831, Muhammad Ali of Egypt conquered Ottoman Syria and decided to revive and resettle much of its regions. His conscription policies led to a popular Arab revolt in 1834, resulting in major casualties for the local Arab peasants, and massacres of Christian and Jewish communities by the rebels. Following the revolt, Muhammad Pasha, the son of Muhammad Ali, expelled nearly 10,000 of the local peasants to Egypt, while bringing loyal Arab peasants from Egypt and discharged soldiers to settle the coastline of Ottoman Syria. Northern Jordan Valley was settled by his Sudanese troops.
In 1838 there was another revolt by the Druze. In 1839 Moses Montefiore met with Muhammed Pasha in Egypt and signed an agreement to establish 100-200 Jewish villages in the Damascus Eyalet of Ottoman Syria, but in 1840 the Egyptians withdrew before the deal was implemented, returning the area to Ottoman governorship. In 1844, Jews constituted the largest population group in Jerusalem and by 1890 an absolute majority in the city, but as a whole the Jewish population made up far less than 10% of the country. In 1868, the Ottomans banished the Bah’u’llh, one of the founders of the Bah’ Faith, to Acre where he is buried, and the movement subsequently established its global administrative centre in nearby Haifa. In 1874, Ottoman reforms led to the area of Jerusalem gaining special status as the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem.
During the 19th century, Jews in Western Europe were increasingly granted citizenship and equality before the law; however, in Eastern Europe, they faced growing persecution and legal restrictions, including widespread pogroms. Half the world’s Jews lived in the Russian Empire, where they were regarded as a separate national group and restricted to living in the Pale of Settlement. National groups in the Empire, such as the Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians were agitating for independence and regarded as aliens the Jews, who were usually the only non-Christian minority and spoke a distinct language (Yiddish). An independent Jewish national movement first began to emerge in the Russian Empire and the millions of Jews who were fleeing the country (mostly to the USA) carried the seeds of this nationalism wherever they went.
In 1870, an agricultural school, the Mikveh Israel, was founded near Jaffa by the Alliance Israelite Universelle, a French Jewish association. In 1878, “Russian” Jewish emigrants established the village of Petah Tikva, followed by Rishon LeZion in 1882. “Russian” Jews established the Bilu and Hovevei Zion (“Love of Zion”) movements to assist settlers and these created additional communities that, unlike the traditional Ashkenazi-Jewish communities, sought to be self-reliant rather than dependent on donations from abroad. Existing Ashkenazi-Jewish communities were concentrated in the Four Holy Cities, extremely poor and lived on donations from Europe. The new migrants avoided these communities and tended to create small agricultural settlements. In Jaffa a vibrant commercial community developed in which Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews inter-mingled. Many early migrants left due to difficulty finding work and the early settlements often remained dependent on foreign donations. Despite the difficulties, more settlements arose and the community continued to grow.
The new migration was accompanied by a revival of the Hebrew language and attracted Jews of all kinds; religious, secular, nationalists and left-wing socialists. Socialists aimed to reclaim the land by becoming peasants or workers and forming collectives. In Zionist history, the different waves of Jewish settlement are known as “aliyah”. During the First Aliyah, between 1882 and 1903, approximately 35,000 Jews moved to what is now Israel. The first wave coincided with a wave of Jewish migration and Messianism among Yemenite Jews and Bukharan Jews. By 1890, Jews were a majority in Jerusalem, although the country as a whole was populated mainly by Muslim (settled and nomad Bedouins) and Christian Arabs.
In 1896 Theodor Herzl published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), in which he asserted that the solution to growing antisemitism in Europe (the so-called “Jewish Question”) was to establish a Jewish state. In 1897, the Zionist Organisation was founded and the First Zionist Congress proclaimed its aim “to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.” However, Zionism was regarded with suspicion by the Ottoman rulers and was unable to make major progress.
Between 1904 and 1914, around 40,000 Jews settled in Southern Syria (the Second Aliyah). In 1908 the Zionist Organisation set up the Palestine Bureau (also known as the “Eretz Israel Office”) in Jaffa and began to adopt a systematic Jewish settlement policy. Migrants were mainly from Russia (which then included part of Poland), escaping persecution. The first Kibbutz, Degania, was founded by nine Russian socialists in 1909. In 1909 residents of Jaffa established the first entirely Hebrew-speaking city, Ahuzat Bayit (later renamed Tel Aviv). Hebrew newspapers and books were published, Hebrew schools, Jewish political parties and workers organizations were established.
During World War I, most Jews supported the Germans because they were fighting the Russians who were regarded as the Jews’ main enemy. In Britain, the government sought Jewish support for the war effort for a variety of reasons including an erroneous antisemitic perception of “Jewish power” over the Ottoman Empire’s Young Turks movement, and a desire to secure American Jewish support for US intervention on Britain’s behalf.
There was already sympathy for the aims of Zionism in the British government, including the Prime Minister Lloyd George. In late 1917, the British Army drove the Turks out of Southern Syria, and the British foreign minister, Lord Balfour, sent a public letter to Lord Rothschild, a leading member of his party and leader of the Jewish community. The letter subsequently became known as the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It stated that the British Government “view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. The declaration provided the British government with a pretext for claiming and governing the country. New Middle Eastern boundaries were decided by an agreement between British and French bureaucrats. The agreement gave Britain control over what parties would begin to call “Palestine”. This appellation would remain uncontroversial until the rise of Anti-Zionism in the 1940s.
A Jewish Legion composed largely of Zionist volunteers organized by Jabotinsky and Trumpeldor participated in the British invasion. It also participated in the failed Gallipoli Campaign. A Zionist spy network provided the British with details of Ottoman troops.
The British Mandate (in effect, British rule) of Palestine, including the Balfour Declaration, was confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922 and came into effect in 1923. The boundaries of Palestine initially included modern Jordan, which was removed from the territory by Churchill a few years later. Britain signed a treaty with the United States (which did not join the League of Nations) in which the United States endorsed the terms of the Mandate.
Between 1919 and 1923, another 40,000 Jews arrived in Palestine, mainly escaping the post-revolutionary chaos of Russia (Third Aliyah), as over 100,000 Jews were massacred in this period in Ukraine and Russia. Many of these immigrants became known as “pioneers” (halutzim), experienced or trained in agriculture and capable of establishing self-sustaining economies. The Jezreel Valley and the Hefer Plain marshes were drained and converted to agricultural use. Land was bought by the Jewish National Fund, a Zionist charity that collected money abroad for that purpose. A mainly socialist underground Jewish militia, Haganah (“Defense”), was established to defend outlying Jewish settlements.
The French victory over the Arab Kingdom of Syria and the Balfour Declaration led to the emergence of Palestinian Nationalism and Arab rioting in 1920 and 1921. In response, the British authorities imposed immigration quotas for Jews. Exceptions were made for Jews with over 1,000 pounds in cash (roughly 100,000 pounds at year 2000 rates) or Jewish professionals with over 500 pounds. The Jewish Agency issued the British entry permits and distributed funds donated by Jews abroad. Between 1924 and 1929, 82,000 more Jews arrived (Fourth Aliyah), fleeing antisemitism in Poland and Hungary, and because the United States Immigration Act of 1924 now kept Jews out. The new arrivals included many middle-class families who moved into towns and established small businesses and workshopsalthough lack of economic opportunities meant that approximately a quarter later left. The first electricity generator was built in Tel Aviv in 1923 under the guidance of Pinhas Rutenberg, a former Commissar of St Petersburg in Russia’s pre-Bolshevik Kerensky Government. In 1925 the Jewish Agency established the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Technion (technological university) in Haifa.
From 1928, the democratically elected Va’ad Leumi (Jewish National Council or JNC) became the main institution of the Palestine Jewish community (“Yishuv”) and included non-Zionist Jews. As the Yishuv grew, the JNC adopted more government-type functions, such as education, health care and security. With British permission, the Va’ad raised its own taxes and ran independent services for the Jewish population. From 1929 its leadership was elected by Jews from 26 countries.
In 1929 tensions grew over the Kotel (Wailing Wall), a narrow alleyway where Jews were banned from using chairs or any furniture (many of the worshipers were elderly). The Mufti claimed it was Muslim property and that the Jews were seeking control of the Temple Mount. This (and general animosity) led to the August 1929 Palestine riots. The main victims were the ancient Jewish community at Hebron, which came to an end. The riots led to right-wing Zionists establishing their own militia in 1931, the Irgun Tzvai Leumi (National Military Organization, known in Hebrew by its acronym “Etzel”).
Zionist political parties provided private education and health care: the General Zionists, the Mizrahi and the Socialist Zionists, each established independent health and education services and operated sports organizations funded by local taxes, donations and fees (the British administration did not invest in public services). During the whole interwar period, the British, appealing to the terms of the Mandate, rejected the principle of majority rule or any other measure that would give the Arab population, who formed the majority of the population, control over Palestinian territory.
In 1933, the Jewish Agency and the Nazis negotiated the Ha’avara Agreement (transfer agreement), under which 50,000 Jews would be transferred to Palestine. The Jews possessions were confiscated and in return the Nazis allowed the Ha’avara organization to purchase 14 million pounds worth of German goods for export to Palestine (which was used to compensate the immigrants). The Nazis did not normally allow Jews to leave with any money or to take more than two suitcases. The agreement was controversial and the Labour Zionist leader who negotiated the agreement, Haim Arlosoroff, was assassinated in Tel Aviv in 1933. The assassination was a long source of anger between the Zionist left and Zionist right. Arlosoroff once dated Magda Goebbels and may have been assassinated by the Nazis to hide the connection, which only emerged recently. In Palestine, Jewish immigration (and the Ha’avara goods) helped the economy to flourish. A port and oil refineries were built at Haifa and there was a growth of industrialization in the predominantly agricultural Palestinian economy.
Between 1929 and 1938, 250,000 Jews arrived in Palestine (Fifth Aliyah). 174,000 arrived between 1933 and 1936, after which the British increasingly restricted immigration. The influx contributed to the 1933 Palestine riots. Migration was mostly from Europe and included professionals, doctors, lawyers and professors from Germany. As a consequence German architects of the Bauhaus school made Tel-Aviv the world’s only city with purely Bauhaus neighborhoods and Palestine had the highest per-capita percentage of doctors in the world.
As Fascist regimes emerged across Europe, persecution of Jews massively increased, and Jews reverted to being non-citizens deprived of civil and economic rights, subject to arbitrary persecution. Significantly antisemitic governments came to power in Poland (from 1935 the government boycotted Jews), Hungary, Romania and the Nazi created states of Croatia and Slovakia, while Germany annexed Austria and the Czech territories.
Jewish immigration and Nazi propaganda contributed to the large-scale 19361939 Arab revolt in Palestine, a largely nationalist uprising directed at ending British rule. The head of the Jewish Agency, Ben-Gurion, responded to the Arab Revolt with a policy of “Havlagah”self-restraint and a refusal to be provoked by Arab attacks in order to prevent polarization. The Etzel group broke off from the Haganah in opposition to this policy.
The British responded to the revolt with the Peel Commission (193637), a public inquiry that recommended that an exclusively Jewish territory be created in the Galilee and western coast (including the population transfer of 225,000 Arabs); the rest becoming an exclusively Arab area. The two main Jewish leaders, Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion, had convinced the Zionist Congress to approve equivocally the Peel recommendations as a basis for more negotiation. The plan was rejected outright by the Palestinian Arab leadership and they renewed the revolt, which caused the British to appease the Arabs, and to abandon the plan as unworkable.
Testifying before the Peel Commission, Weizmann said “There are in Europe 6,000,000 people … for whom the world is divided into places where they cannot live and places where they cannot enter.” In 1938, the US called an international conference to address the question of the vast numbers of Jews trying to escape Europe. Britain made its attendance contingent on Palestine being kept out of the discussion. No Jewish representatives were invited. The Nazis proposed their own solution: that the Jews of Europe be shipped to Madagascar (the Madagascar Plan).
With millions of Jews trying to leave Europe and every country in the world closed to Jewish migration, the British decided to close Palestine. The White Paper of 1939, recommended that an independent Palestine, governed jointly by Arabs and Jews, be established within 10 years. The White Paper agreed to allow 75,000 Jewish immigrants into Palestine over the period 194044, after which migration would require Arab approval. Both the Arab and Jewish leadership rejected the White Paper. In March 1940 the British High Commissioner for Palestine issued an edict banning Jews from purchasing land in 95% of Palestine. Jews now resorted to illegal immigration: (Aliyah Bet or “Ha’apalah”), often organized by the Mossad Le’aliyah Bet and the Irgun. Very few Jews managed to escape Europe between 1939 and 1945. Those caught by the British were mostly sent to Mauritius.
During the 2nd World War, the Jewish Agency worked to establish a Jewish army that would fight alongside the British forces. Churchill supported the plan but British Military and government opposition led to its rejection. The British demanded that the number of Jewish recruits match the number of Palestinian Arab recruits, but few Arabs would fight for Britain, and the Palestinian leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem, joined the Nazis in Europe.
In May 1941, the Palmach was established to defend the Yishuv against the planned Axis invasion through North Africa. The British refusal to provide arms to the Jews, even when Rommel’s forces were advancing through Egypt in June 1942 (intent on occupying Palestine) and the 1939 White Paper, led to the emergence of a Zionist leadership in Palestine that believed conflict with Britain was inevitable. Despite this, the Jewish Agency called on Palestine’s Jewish youth to volunteer for the British Army (both men and women). 30,000 Palestinian Jews and 6,000 Palestinian Arabs enlisted in the British armed forces during the war. In June 1944 the British agreed to create a Jewish Brigade that would fight in Italy.
Approximately 1.5 million Jews around the world served in every branch of the allied armies, mainly in the Soviet and U.S. armies. 200,000 Jews died serving in the Soviet army alone. Many of these war veterans later volunteered to fight for Israel or were active in its support.
A small group (about 200 activists), dedicated to resisting the British administration in Palestine, broke away from the Etzel (which advocated support for Britain during the war) and formed the “Lehi” (Stern Gang), led by Avraham Stern. In 1943, the USSR released the Revisionist Zionist leader Menachem Begin from the Gulag and he went to Palestine, taking command of the Etzel organization with a policy of increased conflict against the British. At about the same time Yitzhak Shamir escaped from the camp in Eritrea where the British were holding Lehi activists without trial, taking command of the Lehi (Stern Gang).
Jews in the Middle East were also affected by the war. Most of North Africa came under Nazi control and many Jews were used as slaves. The 1941 pro-Axis coup in Iraq was accompanied by massacres of Jews. The Jewish Agency put together plans for a last stand in the event of Rommel invading Palestine (the Nazis planned to exterminate Palestine’s Jews).
Between 1939 and 1945, the Nazis, aided by local forces, led systematic efforts to kill every person of Jewish extraction in Europe (The Holocaust), causing the deaths of approximately 6 million Jews. A quarter of those killed were children. The Polish and German Jewish communities, which played an important role in defining the pre-1945 Jewish world, mostly ceased to exist. In the United States and Palestine, Jews of European origin became disconnected from their families and roots. Sepharadi and Mizrahi Jews, who had been a minority, became a much more significant factor in the Jewish world. Those Jews who survived in central Europe, were displaced persons (refugees); an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, established to examine the Palestine issue, surveyed their ambitions and found that over 95% wanted to migrate to Palestine.
In the Zionist movement the moderate Pro-British (and British citizen) Weizmann, whose son died flying in the RAF, was undermined by Britain’s anti-Zionist policies. Leadership of the movement passed to the Jewish Agency in Palestine, now led by the anti-British Socialist-Zionist party (Mapai) and led by David Ben-Gurion. In the diaspora, U.S. Jews now dominated the Zionist movement.
The British Empire was severely weakened by the war. In the Middle East, the war had made Britain conscious of its dependence on Arab oil. British firms controlled Iraqi oil and Britain ruled Kuwait, Bahrain and the Emirates. Shortly after VE Day, the Labour Party won the general election in Britain. Although Labour Party conferences had for years called for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, the Labour government now decided to maintain the 1939 White Paper policies.
Illegal migration (Aliyah Bet) became the main form of Jewish entry into Palestine. Across Europe Bricha (“flight”), an organization of former partisans and ghetto fighters, smuggled Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe to Mediterranean ports, where small boats tried to breach the British blockade of Palestine. Meanwhile, Jews from Arab countries began moving into Palestine overland. Despite British efforts to curb immigration, during the 14 years of the Aliyah Bet, over 110,000 Jews entered Palestine. By the end of World War II, the Jewish population of Palestine had increased to 33% of the total population.
In an effort to win independence, Zionists now waged a guerrilla war against the British. The main underground Jewish militia, the Haganah, formed an alliance called the Jewish Resistance Movement with the Etzel and Stern Gang to fight the British. In June 1946, following instances of Jewish sabotage, the British launched Operation Agatha, arresting 2700 Jews, including the leadership of the Jewish Agency, whose headquarters were raided. Those arrested were held without trial.
In Poland, the Kielce Pogrom (July 1946) led to a wave of Holocaust survivors fleeing Europe for Palestine. Between 1945 and 1948, 100,000120,000 Jews left Poland. Their departure was largely organized by Zionist activists in Poland under the umbrella of the semi-clandestine organization Berihah (“Flight”).Berihah was also responsible for the organized emigration of Jews from Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, totaling 250,000 (including Poland) Holocaust survivors. The British imprisoned the Jews trying to enter Palestine in the Atlit detainee camp and Cyprus internment camps. Those held were mainly Holocaust survivors, including large numbers of children and orphans. In response to Cypriot fears that the Jews would never leave (since they lacked a state or documentation) and because the 75,000 quota established by the 1939 White Paper had never been filled, the British allowed the refugees to enter Palestine at a rate of 750 per month.
The unified Jewish resistance movement broke up in July 1946, after Etzel bombed the British Military Headquarters in the King David Hotel killing 91 people. In the days following the bombing, Tel Aviv was placed under curfew and over 120,000 Jews, nearly 20% of the Jewish population of Palestine, were questioned by the police. In the U.S., Congress criticized British handling of the situation and delayed loans that were vital to British post-war recovery. By 1947 the Labour Government was ready to refer the Palestine problem to the newly created United Nations.
On 2 April 1947, the United Kingdom requested that the question of Palestine be handled by the General Assembly. The General Assembly created a committee, United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), to report on “the question of Palestine”. In July 1947 the UNSCOP visited Palestine and met with Jewish and Zionist delegations. The Arab Higher Committee boycotted the meetings. During the visit the British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin ordered an illegal immigrant ship, the Exodus 1947, to be sent back to Europe. The migrants on the ship were forcibly removed by British troops at Hamburg.
The principal non-Zionist Orthodox Jewish (or Haredi) party, Agudat Israel, recommended to UNSCOP that a Jewish state be set up after reaching a religious status quo agreement with Ben-Gurion regarding the future Jewish state. The agreement would grant exemption to a quota of yeshiva (religious seminary) students and to all orthodox women from military service, would make the Sabbath the national weekend, promised Kosher food in government institutions and would allow them to maintain a separate education system.
The majority report of UNSCOP proposed “an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem” …, the last to be under “an International Trusteeship System”. On 29 November 1947, in Resolution 181 (II), the General Assembly adopted the majority report of UNSCOP, but with slight modifications. The Plan also called for the British to allow “substantial” Jewish migration by 1 February 1948.
Neither Britain nor the UN Security Council took any action to implement the resolution and Britain continued detaining Jews attempting to enter Palestine. Concerned that partition would severely damage Anglo-Arab relations, Britain denied UN representatives access to Palestine during the period between the adoption of Resolution 181 (II) and the termination of the British Mandate. The British withdrawal was finally completed in May 1948. However, Britain continued to hold Jews of “fighting age” and their families on Cyprus until March 1949.
The General Assembly’s vote caused joy in the Jewish community and discontent among the Arab community. Violence broke out between the sides. From January 1948, operations became increasingly militarized, with the intervention of a number of Arab Liberation Army regiments inside Palestine, each active in a variety of distinct sectors around the different coastal towns. They consolidated their presence in Galilee and Samaria.Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni came from Egypt with several hundred men of the Army of the Holy War. Having recruited a few thousand volunteers, he organized the blockade of the 100,000 Jewish residents of Jerusalem. The Yishuv tried to supply the city using convoys of up to 100 armoured vehicles, but largely failed. By March, almost all Haganah’s armoured vehicles had been destroyed, the blockade was in full operation, and hundreds of Haganah members who had tried to bring supplies into the city were killed.
Up to 100,000 Arabs, from the urban upper and middle classes in Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem, or Jewish-dominated areas, evacuated abroad or to Arab centres eastwards. This situation caused the US to withdraw their support for the Partition plan, thus encouraging the Arab League to believe that the Palestinian Arabs, reinforced by the Arab Liberation Army, could put an end to the plan for partition. The British, on the other hand, decided on 7 February 1948 to support the annexation of the Arab part of Palestine by Transjordan.
David Ben-Gurion reorganized Haganah and made conscription obligatory. Every Jewish man and woman in the country had to receive military training. Thanks to funds raised by Golda Meir from sympathisers in the United States, and Stalin’s decision to support the Zionist cause, the Jewish representatives of Palestine were able to purchase important arms in Eastern Europe.
Ben-Gurion gave Yigael Yadin the responsibility to plan for the announced intervention of the Arab states. The result of his analysis was Plan Dalet, in which Haganah passed from the defensive to the offensive. The plan sought to establish Jewish territorial continuity by conquering mixed zones. Tiberias, Haifa, Safed, Beisan, Jaffa and Acre fell, resulting in the flight of more than 250,000 Palestinian Arabs. The situation pushed the leaders of the neighbouring Arab states to intervene.
On 14 May 1948, on the day the last British forces left from Haifa, the Jewish People’s Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum and proclaimed the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.
Immediately following the declaration of the new state, both superpower leaders, U.S. President Harry S. Truman and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, recognized the new state. The Arab League members Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq refused to accept the UN partition plan and proclaimed the right of self-determination for the Arabs across the whole of Palestine. The Arab states marched their forces into what had, until the previous day, been the British Mandate for Palestine, starting the first ArabIsraeli War. The Arab states had heavy military equipment at their disposal and were initially on the offensive. On 29 May 1948, the British initiated United Nations Security Council Resolution 50 declaring an arms embargo on the region. Czechoslovakia violated the resolution supplying the Jewish state with critical military hardware to match the (mainly British) heavy equipment and planes already owned by the invading Arab states. On 11 June, a month-long UN truce was put into effect.
Following independence, the Haganah became the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The Palmach, Etzel and Lehi were required to cease independent operations and join the IDF. During the ceasefire, Etzel attempted to bring in a private arms shipment aboard a ship called “Altalena”. When they refused to hand the arms to the government, Ben-Gurion ordered that the ship be sunk. Several Etzel members were killed in the fighting.
Large numbers of Jewish immigrants, many of them World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors, now began arriving in the new state of Israel, and many joined the IDF.
After an initial loss of territory by the Jewish state and its occupation by the Arab armies, from July the tide gradually turned in the Israelis’ favour and they pushed the Arab armies out and conquered some of the territory that had been included in the proposed Arab state. At the end of November, tenuous local ceasefires were arranged between the Israelis, Syrians and Lebanese. On 1 December King Abdullah announced the union of Transjordan with Arab Palestine west of the Jordan; only Britain recognized the annexation.
Israel signed armistices with Egypt (24 February), Lebanon (23 March), Jordan (3 April) and Syria (20 July). No actual peace agreements were signed. With permanent ceasefire coming into effect, Israel’s new borders, later known as the Green Line, were established. These borders were not recognized by the Arab states as international boundaries. The IDF had overrun Galilee, Jezreel Valley, West Jerusalem, the coastal plain and the Negev. The Syrians remained in control of a strip of territory along the Sea of Galilee originally allocated to the Jewish state, the Lebanese occupied a tiny area at Rosh Hanikra, and the Egyptians retained the Gaza strip and still had some forces surrounded inside Israeli territory. Jordanian forces remained in occupation of the West Bank, where the British had stationed them before the war. Jordan annexed the areas it occupied while Egypt kept Gaza as an occupied zone.
Following the ceasefire declaration, Britain released over 2,000 Jewish detainees it was still holding in Cyprus and recognized the state of Israel. On 11 May 1949, Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations. Out of an Israeli population of 650,000, some 6,000 men and women were killed in the fighting, including 4,000 soldiers in the IDF. According to United Nations figures, 726,000 Palestinians had fled or were evicted by the Israelis between 1947 and 1949. Except in Jordan, the Palestinian refugees were settled in large refugee camps in poor, overcrowded conditions. In December 1949, the UN (in response to a British proposal) established an agency (UNRWA) to provide aid to the Palestinian refugees. It became the largest single UN agency and is the only UN agency that serves a single people.
A 120-seat parliament, the Knesset, met first in Tel Aviv then moved to Jerusalem after the 1949 ceasefire. In January 1949, Israel held its first elections. The Socialist-Zionist parties Mapai and Mapam won the most seats (46 and 19 respectively), but not an outright majority. Mapai’s leader, David Ben-Gurion, was appointed Prime Minister. The Knesset elected Chaim Weizmann as the first (largely ceremonial) President of Israel. Hebrew and Arabic were made the official languages of the new state. All governments have been coalitionsno party has ever won a majority in the Knesset. From 1948 until 1977 all governments were led by Mapai and the Alignment, predecessors of the Labour Party. In those years Labour Zionists, initially led by David Ben-Gurion, dominated Israeli politics and the economy was run on primarily socialist lines.
Within three years (1948 to 1951), immigration doubled the Jewish population of Israel and left an indelible imprint on Israeli society. Overall, 700,000 Jews settled in Israel during this period. Some 300,000 arrived from Asian and North African nations as part of the Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries. Among them, the largest group (over 100,000) was from Iraq. The rest of the immigrants were from Europe, including more than 270,000 who came from Eastern Europe, mainly Romania and Poland (over 100,000 each). Nearly all the Jewish immigrants could be described as refugees, however only 136,000 who immigrated to Israel from Central Europe, had international certification because they belonged to the 250,000 Jews registered by the allies as displaced after World War II and living in Displaced persons camps in Germany, Austria and Italy.
In 1950 the Knesset passed the Law of Return, which granted to all Jews and those of Jewish ancestry, and their spouses, the right to settle in Israel and gain citizenship. That year, 50,000 Yemenite Jews (99%) were secretly flown to Israel. In 1951 Iraqi Jews were granted temporary permission to leave the country and 120,000 (over 90%) opted to move to Israel. Jews also fled from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. By the late sixties, about 500,000 Jews had left Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Over the course of twenty years, some 850,000 Jews from Arab countries (99%) relocated to Israel (680,000), France and the Americas. The land and property left behind by the Jews (much of it in Arab city centres) is still a matter of some dispute. Today there are about 9,000 Jews living in Arab states, of whom 75% live in Morocco and 15% in Tunisia.
Between 1948 and 1958, the population of Israel rose from 800,000 to two million. During this period, food, clothes and furniture had to be rationed in what became known as the Austerity Period (Tkufat haTsena). Immigrants were mostly refugees with no money or possessions and many were housed in temporary camps known as ma’abarot. By 1952, over 200,000 immigrants were living in tents or prefabricated shacks built by the government. Israel received financial aid from private donations from outside the country (mainly the United States). The pressure on the new state’s finances led Ben-Gurion to sign a reparations agreement with West Germany. During the Knesset debate some 5,000 demonstrators gathered and riot police had to cordon the building. Israel received several billion marks and in return agreed to open diplomatic relations with Germany.
At the end of 1953, Ben-Gurion retired to Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev.
History of Israel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
C. 17th Century BCE
Documents unearthed in Mesopotamia, dating back to 2000- 1500 BCE, corroborate aspects of their nomadic way of life as described in the Bible. The Book of Genesis relates how Abraham was summoned from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan to bring about the formation of a people with belief in the One God. When a famine spread through Canaan, Jacob (Israel), his twelve sons and their families settled in Egypt, where their descendants were reduced to slavery and pressed into forced labor.
C. 13th Century BCE
Moses was chosen by God to take his people out of Egypt and back to the Land of Israel promised to their forefathers. They wandered for 40 years in the Sinai desert, where they were forged into a nation and received the Torah (Pentateuch), which included the Ten Commandments and gave form and content to their monotheistic faith.
During the next two centuries, the Israelites conquered most of the Land of Israel and relinquished their nomadic ways to become farmers and craftsmen; a degree of economic and social consolidation followed. Periods of relative peace alternated with times of war during which the people rallied behind leaders known as ‘judges,’ chosen for their political and military skills as well as for their leadership qualities.
C. 13th – 12th Centuries BCE
The Israelites settle the Land of Israel.
The first king, Saul (c. 1020 BCE), bridged the period between loose tribal organization and the setting up of a full monarchy under his successor, David. King David (c.1004-965 BCE) established Israel as a major power in the region by successful military expeditions, including the final defeat of the Philistines, as well as by constructing a network of friendly alliances with nearby kingdoms. David was succeeded by his son Solomon (c.965-930 BCE) who further strengthened the kingdom. Crowning his achievements was the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, which became the center of the Jewish people’s national and religious life.
First Temple, the national and spiritual center of the Jewish people, built in Jerusalem by King Solomon.
After Solomon’s death (930 BCE), open insurrection led to the breaking away of the ten northern tribes and division of the country into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah, on the territory of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
The Kingdom of Israel, with its capital Samaria, lasted more than 200 years under 19 kings, while the Kingdom of Judah was ruled from Jerusalem for 350 years by an equal number of kings of the lineage of David. The expansion of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires brought first Israel and later Judah under foreign control.
722 – 720
The Babylonian conquest brought an end to the First Jewish Commonwealth (First Temple period) but did not sever the Jewish people’s connection to the Land of Israel. The exile to Babylonia, which followed the destruction of the First Temple (586 BCE), marked the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora. There, Judaism began to develop a religious framework and way of life outside the Land, ultimately ensuring the people’s national survival and spiritual identity and imbuing it with sufficient vitality to safeguard its future as a nation.
Following a decree by the Persian King Cyrus, conqueror of the Babylonian empire (538 BCE), some 50,000 Jews set out on the First Return to the Land of Israel, led by Zerubabel, a descendant of the House of David. Less than a century later, the Second Return was led by Ezra the Scribe.
The repatriation of the Jews under Ezra’s inspired leadership, construction of the Second Temple on the site of the First Temple, refortification of Jerusalem’s walls and establishment of the Knesset Hagedolah (Great Assembly) as the supreme religious and judicial body of the Jewish people marked the beginning of the Second Jewish Commonwealth (Second Temple period).
As part of the ancient world conquered by Alexander the Great of Greece (332 BCE), the Land remained a Jewish theocracy under Syrian-based Seleucid rulers.
When the Jews were prohibited from practicing Judaism and their Temple was desecrated as part of an effort to impose Greek-oriented culture and customs on the entire population, the Jews rose in revolt (166 BCE). First led by Mattathias of the priestly Hasmonean family and then by his son Judah the Maccabee, the Jews subsequently entered Jerusalem and purified the Temple (164 BCE).
Following further Hasmonean victories (147 BCE), the Seleucids restored autonomy to Judea, as the Land of Israel was now called, and, with the collapse of the Seleucid kingdom (129 BCE), Jewish independence was again achieved.
Under the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted about 80 years, the kingdom regained boundaries not far short of Solomon’s realm, political consolidation under Jewish rule was attained and Jewish life flourished.
63 BCE-313 CE
37BCE – 4CE
By the end of the 4th century, following Emperor Constantine’s adoption of Christianity (313) and the founding of the Byzantine Empire, the Land of Israel had become a predominantly Christian country. Churches were built on Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee, and monasteries were established in many parts of the country. The Jews were deprived of their former relative autonomy, as well as of their right to hold public positions, and were forbidden to enter Jerusalem except on one day of the year (Tisha b’Av – ninth of Av)to mourn the destruction of the Temple.
The Persian invasion of 614 was welcomed and aided by the Jews, who were inspired by messianic hopes of deliverance. In gratitude for their help, they were granted the administration of Jerusalem, an interlude which lasted about three years. Subsequently, the Byzantine army regained the city (629) and again expelled its Jewish population.
The Arab conquest of the Land came four years after the death of Muhammad (632) and lasted more than four centuries, with caliphs ruling first from Damascus, then from Baghdad and Egypt. At the outset of Islamic rule, Jewish settlement in Jerusalem was resumed, and the Jewish community was granted permission to live under “protection,” the customary status of non-Muslims under Islamic rule, which safeguarded their lives, property and freedom of worship in return for payment of special poll and land taxes.
However, the subsequent introduction of restrictions against non-Muslims (717) affected the Jews’ public conduct as well as their religious observances and legal status. The imposition of heavy taxes on agricultural land compelled many to move from rural areas to towns, where their circumstances hardly improved, while increasing social and economic discrimination forced many Jews to leave the country. By the end of the 11th century, the Jewish community in the Land had diminished considerably and had lost some of its organizational and religious cohesiveness.
For the next 200 years, the country was dominated by the Crusaders, who, following an appeal by Pope Urban II, came from Europe to recover the Holy Land from the infidels. In July 1099, after a five-week siege, the knights of the First Crusade and their rabble army captured Jerusalem, massacring most of the city’s non-Christian inhabitants. Barricaded in their synagogues, the Jews defended their quarter, only to be burnt to death or sold into slavery. During the next few decades, the Crusaders extended their power over the rest of the country, through treaties and agreements, but mostly by bloody military victories. The Latin Kingdom of the Crusaders was that of a conquering minority confined mainly to fortified cities and castles.
When the Crusaders opened up transportation routes from Europe, pilgrimages to the Holy Land became popular and, at the same time, increasing numbers of Jews sought to return to their homeland. Documents of the period indicate that 300 rabbis from France and England arrived in a group, with some settling in Acro (Akko), others in Jerusalem.
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A Timeline of the History of Israel – Contender Ministries
The IsraeliPalestinian conflict (Arabic: – al-Niza’a al’Filastini al ‘Israili; Hebrew: – Ha’Sikhsukh Ha’Yisraeli-Falestini) is the ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century. The conflict is wide-ranging, and the term is sometimes also used in reference to the earlier sectarian conflict in Mandatory Palestine, between the Jewish yishuv and the Arab population under British rule. The IsraeliPalestinian conflict has formed the core part of the wider ArabIsraeli conflict. It has been referred to as the world’s “most intractable conflict”.
Despite a long-term peace process and the general reconciliation of Israel with Egypt and Jordan, Israelis and Palestinians have failed to reach a final peace agreement. The remaining key issues are: mutual recognition, borders, security, water rights, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements,Palestinian freedom of movement, and resolving Palestinian claims of a right of return for their refugees. The violence of the conflict, in a region rich in sites of historic, cultural and religious interest worldwide, has been the object of numerous international conferences dealing with historic rights, security issues and human rights, and has been a factor hampering tourism in and general access to areas that are hotly contested.
Many attempts have been made to broker a two-state solution, involving the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel (after Israel’s establishment in 1948). In 2007, the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a number of polls, preferred the two-state solution over any other solution as a means of resolving the conflict. Moreover, a majority of Jews see the Palestinians’ demand for an independent state as just, and thinks Israel can agree to the establishment of such a state. The majority of Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have expressed a preference for a two-state solution.[unreliable source?] Mutual distrust and significant disagreements are deep over basic issues, as is the reciprocal scepticism about the other side’s commitment to upholding obligations in an eventual agreement.
Within Israeli and Palestinian society, the conflict generates a wide variety of views and opinions. This highlights the deep divisions which exist not only between Israelis and Palestinians, but also within each society. A hallmark of the conflict has been the level of violence witnessed for virtually its entire duration. Fighting has been conducted by regular armies, paramilitary groups, terror cells, and individuals. Casualties have not been restricted to the military, with a large number of fatalities in civilian population on both sides. There are prominent international actors involved in the conflict.
The two parties engaged in direct negotiation are the Israeli government, currently led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), currently headed by Mahmoud Abbas. The official negotiations are mediated by an international contingent known as the Quartet on the Middle East (the Quartet) represented by a special envoy, that consists of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations. The Arab League is another important actor, which has proposed an alternative peace plan. Egypt, a founding member of the Arab League, has historically been a key participant.
Since 2006, the Palestinian side has been fractured by conflict between the two major factions: Fatah, the traditionally dominant party, and its later electoral challenger, Hamas. After Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006, the Quartet (United States, Russia, United Nations, and European Union) conditioned future foreign assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) on the future government’s commitment to non-violence, recognition of the State of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements. Hamas rejected these demands, which resulted in the Quartet’s suspension of its foreign assistance program, and the imposition of economic sanctions by the Israelis. A year later, following Hamas’s seizure of power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, the territory officially recognized as the State of Palestine (former Palestinian National Authority the Palestinian interim governing body) was split between Fatah in the West Bank, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The division of governance between the parties had effectively resulted in the collapse of bipartisan governance of the Palestinian National Authority (PA). However, in 2014, a Palestinian Unity Government, composed of both Fatah and Hamas, was formed. The latest round of peace negotiations began in July 2013 and was suspended in 2014.
The IsraeliPalestinian conflict has its roots in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the birth of major nationalist movements among the Jews and among the Arabs, both geared towards attaining sovereignty for their people in the Middle East. The collision between those two forces in southern Levant and the emergence of Palestinian nationalism in the 1920s eventually escalated into the IsraeliPalestinian conflict in 1947, and expanded into the wider Arab-Israeli conflict later on.
With the outcome of the First World War, the relations between Zionism and the Arab national movement seemed to be potentially friendly, and the FaisalWeizmann Agreement created a framework for both aspirations to coexist on former Ottoman Empire’s territories. However, with the defeat and dissolution of the Arab Kingdom of Syria in July 1920 following the Franco-Syrian War, a crisis fell upon the Damascus-based Arab national movement. The return of several hard-line Palestinian Arab nationalists, under the emerging leadership of Haj Amin al-Husseini, from Damascus to Mandatory Palestine marked the beginning of Palestinian Arab nationalist struggle towards establishment of a national home for Arabs of Palestine. Amin al-Husseini, the architect of the Palestinian Arab national movement, immediately marked Jewish national movement and Jewish immigration to Palestine as the sole enemy to his cause, initiating large-scale riots against the Jews as early as 1920 in Jerusalem and in 1921 in Jaffa. Among the results of the violence was the establishment of Jewish paramilitary force of Haganah. In 1929, a series of violent anti-Jewish riots was initiated by the Arab leadership. The riots resulted in massive Jewish casualties in Hebron and Safed, and the evacuation of Jews from Hebron and Gaza.
In the early 1930s, the Arab national struggle in Palestine had drawn many Arab nationalist militants from across the Middle East, most notably Sheikh Izaddin al-Qassam from Syria, who established the Black Hand militant group and had prepared the grounds for the 1936 Arab revolt. Following, the death of al-Qassam at the hands of the British in late 1935, the tensions erupted in 1936 into the Arab general strike and general boycott. The strike soon deteriorated into violence and the bloody revolt against the British and the Jews. In the first wave of organized violence, lasting until early 1937, much of the Arab gangs were defeated by the British and a forced expulsion of much of the Arab leadership was performed. The revolt led to the establishment of the Peel Commission towards partitioning of Palestine, though was subsequently rejected by the Palestinian Arabs. The two main Jewish leaders, Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion, accepted the recommendations but some secondary Jewish leaders did not like it.
The renewed violence, which had sporadically lasted until the beginning of WWII, ended with around 5,000 casualties, mostly from the Arab side. With the eruption of World War II, the situation in Mandatory Palestine calmed down. It allowed a shift towards a more moderate stance among Palestinian Arabs, under the leadership of the Nashashibi clan and even the establishment of the JewishArab Palestine Regiment under British command, fighting Germans in North Africa. The more radical exiled faction of al-Husseini however tended to cooperation with Nazi Germany, and participated in the establishment of pro-Nazi propaganda machine throughout the Arab world. Defeat of Arab nationalists in Iraq and subsequent relocation of al-Husseini to Nazi-occupied Europe tied his hands regarding field operations in Palestine, though he regularly demanded the Italians and the Germans to bomb Tel Aviv. By the end of World War II, a crisis over the fate of the Holocaust survivors from Europe led to renewed tensions between the Yishuv and the Palestinian Arab leadership. Immigration quotas were established by the British, while on the other hand illegal immigration and Zionist insurgency against the British was increasing.
On 29 November 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Resolution 181(II) recommending the adoption and implementation of a plan to partition Palestine into an Arab state, a Jewish state and the City of Jerusalem. On the next day, Palestine was already swept by violence, with Arab and Jewish militias executing attacks. For four months, under continuous Arab provocation and attack, the Yishuv was usually on the defensive while occasionally retaliating. The Arab League supported the Arab struggle by forming the volunteer based Arab Liberation Army, supporting the Palestinian Arab Army of the Holy War, under the leadership of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni and Hasan Salama. On the Jewish side, the civil war was managed by the major underground militias the Haganah, Irgun and Lehi, strengthened by numerous Jewish veterans of World War II and foreign volunteers. By spring 1948, it was already clear that the Arab forces were nearing a total collapse, while Yishuv forces gained more and more territory, creating a large scale refugee problem of Palestinian Arabs. Popular support for the Palestinian Arabs throughout the Arab world led to sporadic violence against Jewish communities of Middle East and North Africa, creating an opposite refugee wave.
Following the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948, the Arab League decided to intervene on behalf of Palestinian Arabs, marching their forces into former British Palestine, beginning the main phase of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The overall fighting, leading to around 15,000 casualties, resulted in cease fire and armistice agreements of 1949, with Israel holding much of the former Mandate territory, Jordan occupying and later annexing the West Bank and Egypt taking over the Gaza Strip, where the All-Palestine Government was declared by the Arab League on 22 September 1948.
Through the 1950s, Jordan and Egypt supported the Palestinian Fedayeen militants’ cross-border attacks into Israel, while Israel carried out reprisal operations in the host countries. The 1956 Suez Crisis resulted in a short-term Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and exile of the All-Palestine Government, which was later restored with Israeli withdrawal. The All-Palestine Government was completely abandoned by Egypt in 1959 and was officially merged into the United Arab Republic, to the detriment of the Palestinian national movement. Gaza Strip then was put under the authority of Egyptian military administrator, making it a de facto military occupation. In 1964, however, a new organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), was established by Yasser Arafat. It immediately won the support of most Arab League governments and was granted a seat in the Arab League.
The 1967 Six Day War exerted a significant effect upon Palestinian nationalism, as Israel gained authority of the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt. Consequently, the PLO was unable to establish any control on the ground and established its headquarters in Jordan, home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and supported the Jordanian army during the War of Attrition, most notably the Battle of Karameh. However, the Palestinian base in Jordan collapsed with the Jordanian-Palestinian civil war in 1970. The PLO defeat by the Jordanians caused most of the Palestinian militants to relocate to South Lebanon, where they soon took over large areas, creating the so-called “Fatahland”.
Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon peaked in the early 1970s, as Lebanon was used as a base to launch attacks on northern Israel and airplane hijacking campaigns worldwide, which drew Israeli retaliation. During the Lebanese Civil War, Palestinian militants continued to launch attacks against Israel while also battling opponents within Lebanon. In 1978, the Coastal Road massacre led to the Israeli full-scale invasion known as Operation Litani. Israeli forces, however, quickly withdrew from Lebanon, and the attacks against Israel resumed. In 1982, following an assassination attempt on one of its diplomats by Palestinians, the Israeli government decided to take sides in the Lebanese Civil War and the 1982 Lebanon War commenced. The initial results for Israel were successful. Most Palestinian militants were defeated within several weeks, Beirut was captured, and the PLO headquarters were evacuated to Tunisia in June by Yasser Arafat’s decision. However, Israeli intervention in the civil war also led to unforeseen results, including small-scale conflict between Israel and Syria. By 1985, Israel withdrew to a 10km occupied strip of South Lebanon, while the low-intensity conflict with Shia militants escalated.Those Iranian-supported Shia groups gradually consolidated into Hizbullah and Amal, operated against Israel, and allied with the remnants of Palestinian organizations to launch attacks on Galilee through the late 1980s. By the 1990s, Palestinian organizations in Lebanon were largely inactive.
The first Palestinian uprising began in 1987 as a response to escalating attacks and the endless occupation. By the early 1990s, international efforts to settle the conflict had begun, in light of the success of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1982. Eventually, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process led to the Oslo Accords of 1993, allowing the PLO to relocate from Tunisia and take ground in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, establishing the Palestinian National Authority. The peace process also had significant opposition among radical Islamic elements of Palestinian society, such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who immediately initiated a campaign of attacks targeting Israelis. Following hundreds of casualties and a wave of radical anti-government propaganda, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli fanatic who objected to the policy of the government. This struck a serious blow to the peace process, from which the newly elected government of Israel in 1996 backed off.
Following several years of unsuccessful negotiations, the conflict re-erupted as the Second Intifada on September 2000. The violence, escalating into an open conflict between the Palestinian Authority security forces and the IDF, lasted until 2004/2005 and led to approximately 130 fatalities. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon decided to disengage from Gaza. In 2005, Israel removed every soldier and every Jewish settler from Gaza. Israel and its Supreme Court formally declared an end to occupation, saying it “had no effective control over what occurred” in Gaza. In 2006, Hamas took power by winning a plurality of 44% in a Palestinian parliamentary election. Israel responded it would begin economic sanctions unless Hamas agreed to accept prior Israeli-Palestinian agreements, forswear violence, and recognize Israel’s right to exist. Hamas responded with rocket attacks and an incursion onto Israeli territory using underground tunnels to kidnap Gilad Shalit. After internal Palestinian political struggle between Fatah and Hamas erupted into the Battle of Gaza (2007), Hamas took full control of the area. in 2007, Israel imposed a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, and cooperation with Egypt allowed a ground blockade of the Egyptian border
The tensions between Israel and Hamas, who won increasing financial and political support of Iran, escalated until late 2008, when Israel launched operation Cast Lead (the Gaza War). By February 2009, a cease-fire was signed with international mediation between the parties, though small and sporadic eruptions of violence continued.
The question of whether Gaza remains occupied following Israel’s withdrawal remains contentious. Israel insists that its full withdrawal from Gaza means it does not occupy Gaza. The UN has taken no position over whether Gaza remains occupied. Palestinian leaders insist that the Israeli decision, following attacks from Hamas, to impose a weapons blockade of Gaza, Israel’s control of Gaza crossing points into Israel, and Israel’s control of air above and sea around Gaza constitutes continued Israeli occupation.
In 2011, a Palestinian Authority attempt to gain UN membership as a fully sovereign state failed. In Hamas-controlled Gaza, sporadic rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli air raids still take place. In November 2012, the representation of Palestine in UN was upgraded to a non-member observer State, and mission title was changed from “Palestine (represented by PLO)” to State of Palestine.
In 1993, Israeli officials led by Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leaders from the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasser Arafat strove to find a peaceful solution through what became known as the Oslo peace process. A crucial milestone in this process was Arafat’s letter of recognition of Israel’s right to exist. In 1993, the Oslo Accords were finalized as a framework for future IsraeliPalestinian relations. The crux of the Oslo agreement was that Israel would gradually cede control of the Palestinian territories over to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. The Oslo process was delicate and progressed in fits and starts, the process took a turning point at the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and finally unraveled when Arafat and Ehud Barak failed to reach agreement at Camp David in July 2000. Robert Malley, special assistant to US President Bill Clinton for ArabIsraeli Affairs, has confirmed that while Barak made no formal written offer to Arafat, the US did present concepts for peace which were considered by the Israeli side yet left unanswered by Arafat “the Palestinians’ principal failing is that from the beginning of the Camp David summit onward they were unable either to say yes to the American ideas or to present a cogent and specific counterproposal of their own”. Consequently, there are different accounts of the proposals considered.
In July 2000, US President Bill Clinton convened a peace summit between Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Barak reportedly put forward the following as ‘bases for negotiation’, via the U.S. to the Palestinian President; a non militarized Palestinian state split into 3-4 parts containing 87-92%[note 1] of the West Bank including only parts of East Jerusalem, and the entire Gaza Strip, The offer also included that 69 Jewish settlements (which comprise 85% of the West Bank’s Jewish settlers) would be ceded to Israel, no right of return to Israel, no sovereignty over the Temple Mount or any core East Jerusalem neighbourhoods, and continued Israel control over the Jordan Valley.
Arafat rejected this offer. According to the Palestinian negotiators the offer did not remove many of the elements of the Israeli occupation regarding land, security, settlements, and Jerusalem. President Clinton reportedly requested that Arafat make a counter-offer, but he proposed none. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami who kept a diary of the negotiations said in an interview in 2001, when asked whether the Palestinians made a counterproposal: “No. And that is the heart of the matter. Never, in the negotiations between us and the Palestinians, was there a Palestinian counterproposal.” In a separate interview in 2006 Ben Ami stated that were he a Palestinian he would have rejected the Camp David offer.
No tenable solution was crafted which would satisfy both Israeli and Palestinian demands, even under intense US pressure. Clinton has long blamed Arafat for the collapse of the summit. In the months following the summit, Clinton appointed former US Senator George J. Mitchell to lead a fact-finding committee that later published the Mitchell Report aimed at restoring the peace process.
Following the failed summit Palestinian and Israeli negotiators continued to meet in small groups through August and September 2000 to try to bridge the gaps between their respective positions. The United States prepared its own plan to resolve the outstanding issues. Clinton’s presentation of the US proposals was delayed by the advent of the Second Intifada at the end of September.
Clinton’s plan, eventually presented on 23 December 2000, proposed the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state in the Gaza strip and 9496 percent of the West Bank plus the equivalent of 13 percent of the West Bank in land swaps from pre-1967 Israel. On Jerusalem the plan stated that, “the general principle is that Arab areas are Palestinian and that Jewish areas are Israeli.” The holy sites were to be split on the basis that Palestinians would have sovereignty over the Temple Mount/Noble sanctuary, while the Israelis would have sovereignty over the Western Wall. On refugees the plan suggested a number of proposals including financial compensation, the right of return to the Palestinian state, and Israeli acknowledgement of suffering caused to the Palestinians in 1948. Security proposals referred to a “non-militarized” Palestinian state, and an international force for border security. Both sides accepted Clinton’s plan and it became the basis for the negotiations at the Taba Peace summit the following January.
The Israeli negotiation team presented a new map at the Taba Summit in Taba, Egypt in January 2001. The proposition removed the “temporarily Israeli controlled” areas, and the Palestinian side accepted this as a basis for further negotiation. With Israeli elections looming the talks ended without an agreement but the two sides issued a joint statement attesting to the progress they had made: “The sides declare that they have never been closer to reaching an agreement and it is thus our shared belief that the remaining gaps could be bridged with the resumption of negotiations following the Israeli elections.” The following month the Likud party candidate Ariel Sharon defeated Ehud Barak in the Israeli elections and was elected as Israeli prime minister on 7 February 2001. Sharons new government chose not to resume the high-level talks.
One peace proposal, presented by the Quartet of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States on 17 September 2002, was the Road Map for Peace. This plan did not attempt to resolve difficult questions such as the fate of Jerusalem or Israeli settlements, but left that to be negotiated in later phases of the process. The proposal never made it beyond the first phase, which called for a halt to Israeli settlement construction and a halt to Israeli and Palestinian violence, none of which was achieved.
The Arab Peace Initiative (Arabic: Mubdirat as-Salm al-Arabyyah) was first proposed by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in the Beirut Summit. The peace initiative is a proposed solution to the ArabIsraeli conflict as a whole, and the IsraeliPalestinian conflict in particular.
The initiative was initially published on 28 March 2002, at the Beirut Summit, and agreed upon again in 2007 in the Riyadh Summit.
Unlike the Road Map for Peace, it spelled out “final-solution” borders based explicitly on the UN borders established before the 1967 Six-Day War. It offered full normalization of relations with Israel, in exchange for the withdrawal of its forces from all the occupied territories, including the Golan Heights, to recognize “an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as a “just solution” for the Palestinian refugees.
A number of Israeli officials have responded to the initiative with both support and criticism. The Israeli government has expressed reservations on ‘red line,’ issues such as the Palestinian refugee problem, homeland security concerns, and the nature of Jerusalem. However, the Arab League continues to raise it as a possible solution, and meetings between the Arab League and Israel have been held.
The peace process has been predicated on a “two-state solution” thus far, but questions have been raised towards both sides’ resolve to end the dispute. An article by S. Daniel Abraham, an American entrepreneur and founder of the Center for Middle East Peace in Washington, US, published on the website of the Atlantic magazine in March 2013, cited the following statistics: “Right now, the total number of Jews and Arabs living … in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza is just under 12 million people. At the moment, a shade under 50 percent of the population is Jewish.”
Israel has had its settlement growth and policies in the Palestinian territories harshly criticized by the European Union citing it as increasingly undermining the viability of the two-state solution and running in contrary to the Israeli-stated commitment to resume negotiations. In December 2011, all the regional groupings on the UN Security Council named continued settlement construction and settler violence as disruptive to the resumption of talks, a call viewed by Russia as a “historic step”. In April 2012, international outrage followed Israeli steps to further entrench the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which included the publishing of tenders for further settler homes and the plan to legalize settler outposts. Britain said that the move was a breach of Israeli commitments under the road map to freeze all settlement expansion in the land captured since 1967. The British Foreign Minister stated that the “Systematic, illegal Israeli settlement activity poses the most significant and live threat to the viability of the two state solution”. In May 2012 the 27 foreign ministers of the European Union issued a statement which condemned continued Israeli settler violence and incitement. In a similar move, the Quartet “expressed its concern over ongoing settler violence and incitement in the West Bank,” calling on Israel “to take effective measures, including bringing the perpetrators of such acts to justice.” The Palestinian Ma’an News agency reported the PA Cabinet’s statement on the issue stated that the West, including East Jerusalem, were seeing “an escalation in incitement and settler violence against our people with a clear protection from the occupation military. The last of which was the thousands of settler march in East Jerusalem which included slogans inciting to kill, hate and supports violence”.
In a report published in February 2014 covering incidents over the three year period of 2011-2013, Amnesty International asserted that Israeli forces employed reckless violence in the West Bank, and in some instances appeared to engage in wilful killings which would be tantamount to war crimes. Besides the numerous fatalities, Amnesty said at least 261 Palestinians, including 67 children, had been gravely injured by Israeli use of live ammunition. In this same period, 45 Palestinians, including 6 children had been killed. Amnesty’s review of 25 civilians deaths concluded that in no case was there evidence of the Palestinians posing an imminent threat. At the same time, over 8,000 Palestinians suffered serious injuries from other means, including rubber-coated metal bullets. Only one IDF soldier was convicted, killing a Palestinian attempting to enter Israel illegally. The soldier was demoted and given a 1 year sentence with a five month suspension. The IDF answered the charges stating that its army held itself “to the highest of professional standards,” adding that when there was suspicion of wrongdoing, it investigated and took action “where appropriate”.
Following the Oslo Accords, which was to set up regulative bodies to rein in frictions, Palestinian incitement against Israel, Jews, and Zionism continued, parallel with Israel’s pursuance of settlement in the Palestinian territories, though under Abu Mazen it has reportedly dwindled significantly. Charges of incitement have been reciprocal, both sides interpreting media statements in the Palestinian and Israeli press as constituting incitement. In Israeli usage, the term also covers failures to mention Israel’s culture and history in Palestinian textbooks. In 2011, Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu stated that the incitement promulgated by the Palestinian Authority was destroying Israels confidence, and he condemned what he regarded as the glorification of the murderers of the Fogel family in Itamar on PA television. The perpetrator of the murders had been described as a “hero” and a “legend” by members of his family, during a weekly program. This occurred shortly after the official Palestinian Authority Mufti in Jerusalem publicly read out an Islamic hadith that says killing Jews will speed up the redemption, which was criticised by the UK’s Minister for the Middle East and North Africa as potentially stirring up “hatred and prejudice”.
Following the Itamar massacre and a bombing in Jerusalem, 27 US senators sent a letter requesting the US Secretary of State to identify the administration’s steps to end Palestinian incitement to violence against Jews and Israel that was occurring within the “Palestinian media, mosques and schools, and even by individuals or institutions affiliated with the Palestinian Authority.” Media watchdog, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), reported in June 2012 that the Palestinian media continually demonizes Israel and Jews and derogates Jewish history. They stated that the Palestinian children are being taught hatred and violence against Jews and Israelis and that only 7 percent of Palestinian teenagers accept Israel’s right to exist. They stated that a political peace structure is contingent upon a proceeding educational peace process, which is lacking. Children in a Gaza kindergarten were dressed up in uniforms of the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organisation. They received a toy rifles and chanted anti-Israeli slogans. A teacher stated that this was so the children will “grow up to love the resistance and serve the cause of Palestine and Holy Jihad, as well as to make them leaders and fighters to defend the holy soil of Palestine.” The head of the National Security Studies Center, Dan Shiftan, said that this showed a “deep message of the total rejection of Israel, legitimization of terror, and deep-seated victimization.”
The United Nations body UNESCO stopped funding a children’s magazine sponsored by the Palestinian Authority that commended Hitler’s killing of Jews. It deplored this publication as contrary to its principles of building tolerance and respect for human rights and human dignity.
The PLO’s campaign for full member status for the state of Palestine at the UN and have recognition on the 1967 borders received widespread support though it was criticised by some countries for purportedly avoiding bilateral negotiation. Netanyahu expressed criticism of the Palestinians as he felt that they were allegedly trying to bypass direct talks, whereas Abbas argued that the continued construction of Israeli-Jewish settlements was “undermining the realistic potential” for the two-state solution. Although denied full member status by the UN Security Council, in late 2012 the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of sovereign Palestine by granting non-member state status.
Polling data has produced mixed results regarding the level of support among Palestinians for the two-state solution. A poll was carried out in 2011 by the Hebrew University; it indicated that support for a two-state solution was growing among both Israelis and Palestinians. The poll found that 58% of Israelis and 50% of Palestinians supported a two-state solution based on the Clinton Parameters, compared with 47% of Israelis and 39% of Palestinians in 2003, the first year the poll was carried out. The poll also found that an increasing percentage of both populations supported an end to violence63% of Palestinians and 70% of Israelis expressing their support for an end to violence, an increase of 2% for Israelis and 5% for Palestinians from the previous year.
A poll commissioned by The Israel Project conducted in July 2011 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and fielded by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion in the West Bank and Gaza indicated a range of opinions on the peace process that varied according to the wording of the questions. When asked if they “accept a two-state solution” 44% of respondents said yes and 52% said no. When asked if they accepted the following concept: “President Obama said there should be two states: Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people and Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people” 34% accepted and 61% rejected. However, when asked if they favoured or opposed a two-state solution in which “the border between Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps of land to take account of realities on the ground so both sides can achieve a secure and just peace”, 57% said yes and only 40% said no. When half the respondents were given a choice between two sentences (a. Israel has a permanent right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people; b. Over time Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state) 84% chose b. and 8% selected a. The other half were asked to choose between a. I can accept permanently a two-state solution with one a homeland for the Palestinian people living side-by-side with Israel, a homeland for the Jewish people, or b. The real goal should to start with a two state solution but then move to it all being one Palestinian state. 30% of those asked selected the first option while 66% chose the second. When asked to choose between a. The best goal is for a two-state solution that keeps two states living side by side, and b. The real goal should be to start with two states but then move to it all being one Palestinian state, 25% chose a. whilst 52% opted for b.
According to the same poll, 65% of respondents preferred talks and 20% preferred violence. More than 70% of those polled said they believed a hadith, or saying, ascribed to Mohammed that is included as a clause of the Hamas Charter and states, The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews”. The poll further reported that “72% of Palestinians endorsed the denial of Jewish history in Jerusalem, 62% supported kidnapping IDF soldiers and holding them hostage and 53% were in favor or teaching songs about hating Jews in Palestinian schools.” At the same time, only 29% supported the killing of a settler family in Itamar and 22% supported rocket attacks on Israeli cities and civilians. 64% support seeking UN recognition of a Palestinian state outside of the framework of negotiations with Israel and 85% believe that a settlement freeze should be a pre-requisite for continuing negotiations. 81% rejected the suggestion that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was serious about wanting peace and a two-state solution whilst only 12% accepted the notion. The methodology and neutrality of this poll has been called into question by Paul Pillar, writing in the National Interest.
The following outlined positions are the official positions of the two parties; however, it is important to note that neither side holds a single position. Both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides include both moderate and extremist bodies as well as dovish and hawkish bodies.
One of the primary obstacles to resolving the IsraeliPalestinian conflict is a deepset and growing distrust between its participants. Unilateral strategies and the rhetoric of hard-line political factions, coupled with violence and incitements by civilians against one another, have fostered mutual embitterment and hostility and a loss of faith in the peace process. Support among Palestinians for Hamas is considerable, and as its members consistently call for the destruction of Israel and violence remains a threat, security becomes a prime concern for many Israelis. The expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank has led the majority of Palestinians to believe that Israel is not committed to reaching an agreement, but rather to a pursuit of establishing permanent control over this territory in order to provide that security.
The control of Jerusalem is a particularly delicate issue, with each side asserting claims over this city. The three largest Abrahamic religionsJudaism, Christianity, and Islamhold Jerusalem as an important setting for their religious and historical narratives. Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world for Judaism, being the former location of the Jewish temples on the Temple Mount and the capital of the ancient Israelite kingdom. For Muslims, Jerusalem is the site of Mohammad’s Night Journey to heaven, and the al-Aqsa mosque. For Christians, Jerusalem is the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Israeli government, including the Knesset and Supreme Court, is centered in the “new city” of West Jerusalem and has been since Israel’s founding in 1948. After Israel captured the Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, it assumed complete administrative control of East Jerusalem. In 1980, Israel issued a new law stating, “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”.
No country in the world except for Israel has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The majority of UN member states and most international organisations do not recognise Israel’s ownership of East Jerusalem which occurred after the 1967 Six-Day War, nor its 1980 Jerusalem Law proclamation. The International Court of Justice in its 2004 Advisory opinion on the “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” described East Jerusalem as “occupied Palestinian territory.”
As of 2005, there were more than 719,000 people living in Jerusalem; 465,000 were Jews (mostly living in West Jerusalem) and 232,000 were Muslims (mostly living in East Jerusalem).
At the Camp David and Taba Summits in 200001, the United States proposed a plan in which the Arab parts of Jerusalem would be given to the proposed Palestinian state while the Jewish parts of Jerusalem were given to Israel. All archaeological work under the Temple Mount would be jointly controlled by the Israeli and Palestinian governments. Both sides accepted the proposal in principle, but the summits ultimately failed.
Israel expresses concern over the security of its residents if neighborhoods of Jerusalem are placed under Palestinian control. Jerusalem has been a prime target for attacks by militant groups against civilian targets since 1967. Many Jewish neighborhoods have been fired upon from Arab areas. The proximity of the Arab areas, if these regions were to fall in the boundaries of a Palestinian state, would be so close as to threaten the safety of Jewish residents.
Israel has concerns regarding the welfare of Jewish holy places under possible Palestinian control. When Jerusalem was under Jordanian control, no Jews were allowed to visit the Western Wall or other Jewish holy places, and the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated. Since 1975, Israel has banned Muslims from worshiping at Joseph’s Tomb, a shrine considered sacred by both Jews and Muslims. Settlers established a yeshiva, installed a Torah scroll and covered the mihrab. During the Second Intifada the site was looted and burned. Israeli security agencies routinely monitor and arrest Jewish extremists that plan attacks, though many serious incidents have still occurred. Israel has allowed almost complete autonomy to the Muslim trust (Waqf) over the Temple Mount.
Palestinians have voiced concerns regarding the welfare of Christian and Muslim holy places under Israeli control. Additionally, some Palestinian advocates have made statements alleging that the Western Wall Tunnel was re-opened with the intent of causing the mosque’s collapse. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied this claim in a 1996 speech to the United Nations and characterized the statement as “escalation of rhetoric.”
Palestinian refugees are people who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict and the 1967 Six-Day War. The number of Palestinians who fled or were expelled from Israel following its creation was estimated at 711,000 in 1949. Descendants of these original Palestinian Refugees are also eligible for registration and services provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and as of 2010 number 4.7 million people. Between 350,000 and 400,000 Palestinians were displaced during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. A third of the refugees live in recognized refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The remainder live in and around the cities and towns of these host countries.
Most of these people were born outside of Israel, but are descendants of original Palestinian refugees. Palestinian negotiators, most notably Yasser Arafat, have so far publicly insisted that refugees have a right to return to the places where they lived before 1948 and 1967, including those within the 1949 Armistice lines, citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN General Assembly Resolution 194 as evidence. However, according to reports of private peace negotiations with Israel they have countenanced the return of only 10,000 refugees and their families to Israel as part of a peace settlement. Mahmoud Abbas, the current Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization was reported to have said in private discussion that it is “illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or indeed 1 million. That would mean the end of Israel.”  In a further interview Abbas stated that he no longer had an automatic right to return to Safed in the northern Galilee where he was born in 1935. He later clarified that the remark was his personal opinion and not official policy.
The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 declared that it proposed the compromise of a “just resolution” of the refugee problem.
Palestinian and international authors have justified the right of return of the Palestinian refugees on several grounds:
Shlaim (2000) states that from April 1948 the military forces of what was to become Israel had embarked on a new offensive strategy which involved destroying Arab villages and the forced removal of civilians.
The most common arguments for opposition are:
Throughout the conflict, Palestinian violence has been a concern for Israelis. Israel, along with the United States and the European Union, refer to the violence against Israeli civilians and military forces by Palestinian militants as terrorism. The motivations behind Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians are multiplex, and not all violent Palestinian groups agree with each other on specifics. Nonetheless, a common motive is the desire to destroy Israel and replace it with a Palestinian Arab state. The most prominent Islamist groups, such as Hamas, view the IsraeliPalestinian conflict as a religious jihad.
Suicide bombing is used as a tactic among Palestinian organizations like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and certain suicide attacks have received support among Palestinians as high as 84%. In Israel, Palestinian suicide bombers have targeted civilian buses, restaurants, shopping malls, hotels and marketplaces. From 19932003, 303 Palestinian suicide bombers attacked Israel.
The Israeli government initiated the construction of a security barrier following scores of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks in July 2003. Israel’s coalition government approved the security barrier in the northern part of the green-line between Israel and the West Bank. According to the IDF, since the erection of the fence, terrorist acts have declined by approximately 90%.
Since 2001, the threat of Qassam rockets fired from the Palestinian Territories into Israel is also of great concern for Israeli defense officials. In 2006the year following Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Stripthe Israeli government recorded 1,726 such launches, more than four times the total rockets fired in 2005. As of January 2009, over 8,600 rockets had been launched, causing widespread psychological trauma and disruption of daily life. Over 500 rockets and mortars hit Israel in JanuarySeptember 2010 and over 1,947 rockets hit Israel in JanuaryNovember 2012.
According to a study conducted by University of Haifa, one in five Israelis have lost a relative or friend in a Palestinian terrorist attack.
There is significant debate within Israel about how to deal with the country’s security concerns. Options have included military action (including targeted killings and house demolitions of terrorist operatives), diplomacy, unilateral gestures toward peace, and increased security measures such as checkpoints, roadblocks and security barriers. The legality and the wisdom of all of the above tactics have been called into question by various commentators.[unreliable source?]
Since mid-June 2007, Israel’s primary means of dealing with security concerns in the West Bank has been to cooperate with and permit United States-sponsored training, equipping, and funding of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, which with Israeli help have largely succeeded in quelling West Bank supporters of Hamas.
Some Palestinians have committed violent acts over the globe on the pretext of a struggle against Israel. Many foreigners, including Americans and Europeans, have been killed and injured by Palestinian militants. At least 53 Americans have been killed and 83 injured by Palestinian violence since the signing of the Oslo Accords.[unreliable source?]
During the late 1960s, the PLO became increasingly infamous for its use of international terror. In 1969 alone, the PLO was responsible for hijacking 82 planes. El Al Airlines became a regular hijacking target. The hijacking of Air France Flight 139 by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine culminated during a hostage-rescue mission, where Israeli special forces successfully rescued the majority of the hostages.
However, one of the most well-known and notorious terrorist acts was the capture and eventual murder of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic Games.
Israeli forces have launched attacks against Palestinians around the globe as part of the conflict. Israel has assassinated dozens of Palestinians and their supporters outside of Palestine, mainly in Europe and the Middle East. Israel has also bombed Palestinian targets in many[quantify] nations such as Syria and Lebanon, including the bombing of the PLO Headquarters in Tunisia, killing several hundred.
Fighting among rival Palestinian and Arab movements has played a crucial role in shaping Israel’s security policy towards Palestinian militants, as well as in the Palestinian leadership’s own policies. As early as the 1930s revolts in Palestine, Arab forces fought each other while also skirmishing with Zionist and British forces, and internal conflicts continue to the present day. During the Lebanese Civil War, Palestinian baathists broke from the Palestine Liberation Organization and allied with the Shia Amal Movement, fighting a bloody civil war that killed thousands of Palestinians.
In the First Intifada, more than a thousand Palestinians were killed in a campaign initiated by the Palestine Liberation Organization to crack down on suspected Israeli security service informers and collaborators. The Palestinian Authority was strongly criticized for its treatment of alleged collaborators, rights groups complaining that those labeled collaborators were denied fair trials. According to a report released by the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, less than 45 percent of those killed were actually guilty of informing for Israel.
The policies towards suspected collaborators contravene agreements signed by the Palestinian leadership. Article XVI(2) of the Oslo II Agreement states:
“Palestinians who have maintained contact with the Israeli authorities will not be subjected to acts of harassment, violence, retribution, or prosecution.”
The provision was designed to prevent Palestinian leaders from imposing retribution on fellow Palestinians who had worked on behalf of Israel during the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas officials have killed and tortured thousands of Fatah members and other Palestinians who oppose their rule. During the Battle of Gaza, more than 150 Palestinians died over a four-day period. The violence among Palestinians was described as a civil war by some commentators. By 2007, more than 600 Palestinian people had died during the struggle between Hamas and Fatah.
In the past, Israel has demanded control over border crossings between the Palestinian territories and Jordan and Egypt, and the right to set the import and export controls, asserting that Israel and the Palestinian territories are a single economic space.
In the interim agreements reached as part of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority has received control over cities (Area A) while the surrounding countryside has been placed under Israeli security and Palestinian civil administration (Area B) or complete Israeli control (Area C). Israel has built additional highways to allow Israelis to traverse the area without entering Palestinian cities. The initial areas under Palestinian Authority control are diverse and non-contiguous. The areas have changed over time because of subsequent negotiations, including Oslo II, Wye River and Sharm el-Sheik. According to Palestinians, the separated areas make it impossible to create a viable nation and fails to address Palestinian security needs; Israel has expressed no agreement to withdrawal from some Areas B, resulting in no reduction in the division of the Palestinian areas, and the institution of a safe pass system, without Israeli checkpoints, between these parts. Because of increased Palestinian violence to occupation this plan is in abeyance.
In the Middle East, water resources are of great political concern. Since Israel receives much of its water from two large underground aquifers which continue under the Green Line, the use of this water has been contentious in the IsraeliPalestinian conflict. Israel withdraws most water from these areas, but it also supplies the West Bank with approximately 40million cubic metres annually, contributing to 77% of Palestinians’ water supply in the West Bank, which is to be shared for a population of about 2.6 million.
While Israel’s consumption of this water has decreased since it began its occupation of the West Bank, it still consumes the majority of it: in the 1950s, Israel consumed 95% of the water output of the Western Aquifer, and 82% of that produced by the Northeastern Aquifer. Although this water was drawn entirely on Israel’s own side of the pre-1967 border, the sources of the water are nevertheless from the shared groundwater basins located under both West Bank and Israel.
In the Oslo II Accord, both sides agreed to maintain “existing quantities of utilization from the resources.” In so doing, the Palestinian Authority established the legality of Israeli water production in the West Bank, subject to a Joint Water Committee (JWC). Moreover, Israel obligated itself in this agreement to provide water to supplement Palestinian production, and further agreed to allow additional Palestinian drilling in the Eastern Aquifer, also subject to the Joint Water Committee. Many Palestinians counter that the Oslo II agreement was intended to be a temporary resolution and that it was not intended to remain in effect more than a decade later.
In 1999, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it continued to honor its obligations under the Interim Agreement. The water that Israel receives comes mainly from the Jordan River system, the Sea of Galilee and two underground sources. According to a 2003 BBC article the Palestinians lack access to the Jordan River system.
According to a report of 2008 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, water resources were confiscated for the benefit of the Israeli settlements in the Ghor. Palestinian irrigation pumps on the Jordan River were destroyed or confiscated after the 1967 war and Palestinians were not allowed to use water from the Jordan River system. Furthermore, the authorities did not allow any new irrigation wells to be drilled by Palestinian farmers, while it provided fresh water and allowed drilling wells for irrigation purposes at the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
A report was released by the UN in August 2012 and Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, explained at the launch of the publication: Gaza will have half a million more people by 2020 while its economy will grow only slowly. In consequence, the people of Gaza will have an even harder time getting enough drinking water and electricity, or sending their children to school. Gaylard present alongside Jean Gough, of the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF), and Robert Turner, of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The report projects that Gazas population will increase from 1.6 million people to 2.1 million people in 2020, leading to a density of more than 5,800 people per square kilometre.
Numerous foreign nations and international organizations have established bilateral agreements with the Palestinian and Israeli water authorities. It is estimated that a future investment of about US$1.1bn for the West Bank and $0.8bn[clarification needed] is needed for the planning period from 2003 to 2015.
In order to support and improve the water sector in the Palestinian territories, a number of bilateral and multilateral agencies have been supporting many different water and sanitation programs.
There are three large seawater desalination plants in Israel and two more scheduled to open before 2014. When the fourth plant becomes operational, 65% of Israel’s water will come from desalination plants, according to Minister of Finance Dr. Yuval Steinitz.
In late 2012, a donation of $21.6 million was announced by the Government of the Netherlandsthe Dutch government stated that the funds would be provided to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), for the specific benefit of Palestinian children. An article, published by the UN News website, stated that: “Of the $21.6 million, $5.7 will be allocated to UNRWAs 2012 Emergency Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory, which will support programmes in the West Bank and Gaza aiming to mitigate the effects on refugees of the deteriorating situation they face.”
Occupied Palestinian Territory is the term used by the United Nations to refer to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Stripterritories which were captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, having formerly been controlled by Egypt and Jordan. The Israeli government uses the term Disputed Territories, to argue that some territories cannot be called occupied as no nation had clear rights to them and there was no operative diplomatic arrangement when Israel acquired them in June 1967. The area is still referred to as Judea and Samaria by some Israeli groups, based on the historical regional names from ancient times. This is also the name used on the 1947 UN Partition Plan.
In 1980, Israel annexed East Jerusalem. Israel has never annexed the West Bank, apart from East Jerusalem, or Gaza Strip, and the United Nations has demanded the “[t]ermination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force” and that Israeli forces withdraw “from territories occupied in the recent conflict” the meaning and intent of the latter phrase is disputed. See Interpretations.
It has been the position of Israel that the most Arab-populated parts of West Bank (without major Jewish settlements), as well as the entire Gaza Strip, must eventually be part of an independent Palestinian State; however, the precise borders of this state are in question. At Camp David, for example, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat an opportunity to establish a non-militarized Palestinian State. The proposed state would consist of 77% of the West Bank split into two or three areas, followed by: an of increase of 86-91% of the West Bank after six to twenty-one years; autonomy, but not sovereignty for some of the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem surrounded by Israeli territory; the entire Gaza Strip; and the dismantling of most settlements. Arafat rejected the proposal without providing a counter-offer.
A subsequent settlement proposed by President Clinton offered Palestinian sovereignty over 94 to 96 percent of the West Bank but was similarly rejected with 52 objections. The Arab League has agreed to the principle of minor and mutually agreed land-swaps as part of a negotiated two state settlement based on June 1967 borders. Official U.S. policy also reflects the ideal of using the 1967 borders as a basis for an eventual peace agreement.
Some Palestinians claim they are entitled to all of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. Israel says it is justified in not ceding all this land, because of security concerns, and also because the lack of any valid diplomatic agreement at the time means that ownership and boundaries of this land is open for discussion. Palestinians claim any reduction of this claim is a severe deprivation of their rights. In negotiations, they claim that any moves to reduce the boundaries of this land is a hostile move against their key interests. Israel considers this land to be in dispute, and feels the purpose of negotiations is to define what the final borders will be. Other Palestinian groups, such as Hamas, have in the past insisted that Palestinians must control not only the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, but also all of Israel proper. For this reason, Hamas has viewed the peace process “as religiously forbidden and politically inconceivable”.
According to DEMA, “In the years following the Six-Day War, and especially in the 1990s during the peace process, Israel re-established communities destroyed in 1929 and 1948 as well as established numerous new settlements in the West Bank.” These settlements are, as of 2009, home to about 301,000 people. DEMA added, “Most of the settlements are in the western parts of the West Bank, while others are deep into Palestinian territory, overlooking Palestinian cities. These settlements have been the site of much inter-communal conflict.” The issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and, until 2005, the Gaza Strip, have been described by the UK and the WEU as an obstacle to the peace process. The United Nations and the European Union have also called the settlements “illegal under international law.”
However, Israel disputes this; several scholars and commentators disagree with the assessment that settlements are illegal, citing in 2005 recent historical trends to back up their argument. Those who justify the legality of the settlements use arguments based upon Articles 2 and 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as UN Security Council Resolution 242. On a practical level, some objections voiced by Palestinians are that settlements divert resources needed by Palestinian towns, such as arable land, water, and other resources; and, that settlements reduce Palestinians’ ability to travel freely via local roads, owing to security considerations.
In 2005, Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan, a proposal put forward by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was enacted. All residents of Jewish settlements in the Gaza strip were evacuated, and all residential buildings were demolished.
Various mediators and various proposed agreements have shown some degree of openness to Israel retaining some fraction of the settlements which currently exist in the West Bank; this openness is based on a variety of considerations, such as, the desire to find real compromise between Israeli and Palestinian territorial claims.
Israel’s position that it needs to retain some West Bank land and settlements as a buffer in case of future aggression, and Israel’s position that some settlements are legitimate, as they took shape when there was no operative diplomatic arrangement, and thus they did not violate any agreement.
Former US President George W. Bush has stated that he does not expect Israel to return entirely to the 1949 armistice lines because of “new realities on the ground.” One of the main compromise plans put forth by the Clinton Administration would have allowed Israel to keep some settlements in the West Bank, especially those which were in large blocs near the pre-1967 borders of Israel. In return, Palestinians would have received some concessions of land in other parts of the country. The current US administration views a complete freeze of construction in settlements on the West Bank as a critical step toward peace. In May and June 2009, President Barack Obama said, “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, stated that the President “wants to see a stop to settlements not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. However, Obama has since declared that the United States will no longer press Israel to stop West Bank settlement construction as a precondition for continued peace-process negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli government states it is justified under international law to impose a blockade on an enemy for security reasons. The power to impose a naval blockade is established under customary international law and Laws of armed conflict, and a United Nations commission has ruled that Israel’s blockade is “both legal and appropriate.” The Israeli Government’s continued land, sea and air blockage is tantamount to collective punishment of the population, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Military Advocate General of Israel has provided numerous reasonings for the policy:
“The State of Israel has been engaged in an ongoing armed conflict with terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza strip. This armed conflict has intensified after Hamas violently took over Gaza, in June 2007, and turned the territory under its de-facto control into a launching pad of mortar and rocket attacks against Israeli towns and villages in southern Israel.”
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Military of Israel
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The Israel Defense Forces (IDF; Hebrew: Tzva Hahagana LeYisra’el(helpinfo), lit. “The Army of Defense for Israel”, commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal (), are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force, and navy. The IDF is headed by its Chief of General Staff, the Ramatkal, subordinate to the Defense Minister of Israel; Lieutenant general (Rav Aluf) Gadi Eizenkot has served as Chief of Staff since 2015.
An order from Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion on 26 May 1948 officially set up the Israel Defense Forces as a conscript army formed out of the paramilitary group Haganah, incorporating the militant groups Irgun and Lehi. The IDF served as Israel’s armed forces in all the country’s major military operationsincluding the 1948 War of Independence, 19511956 Retribution operations, 1956 Sinai War, 19641967 War over Water, 1967 Six-Day War, 19671970 War of Attrition, 1968 Battle of Karameh, 1973 Operation Spring of Youth, 1973 Yom Kippur War, 1976 Operation Entebbe, 1978 Operation Litani, 1982 Lebanon War, 19822000 South Lebanon conflict, 19871993 First Intifada, 20002005 Second Intifada, 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, 2006 Lebanon War, 20082009 Operation Cast Lead, 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense, and 2014 Operation Protective Edge. The number of wars and border conflicts in which the IDF has been involved in its short history makes it one of the most battle-trained armed forces in the world. While originally the IDF operated on three frontsagainst Lebanon and Syria in the north, Jordan and Iraq in the east, and Egypt in the southafter the 1979 EgyptianIsraeli Peace Treaty, it has concentrated its activities in southern Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, including the First and the Second Intifada.
The Israel Defense Forces differs from most armed forces in the world in many ways. Differences include the mandatory conscription of women and its structure, which emphasizes close relations between the army, navy, and air force. Since its founding, the IDF has been specifically designed to match Israel’s unique security situation. The IDF is one of Israeli society’s most prominent institutions, influencing the country’s economy, culture and political scene. In 1965, the Israel Defense Forces was awarded the Israel Prize for its contribution to education. The IDF uses several technologies developed in Israel, many of them made specifically to match the IDF’s needs, such as the Merkava main battle tank, Achzarit armoured personnel carrier, high tech weapons systems, the Iron Dome missile defense system, Trophy active protection system for vehicles, and the Galil and Tavor assault rifles. The Uzi submachine gun was invented in Israel and used by the IDF until December 2003, ending a service that began in 1954. Following 1967, the IDF has close military relations with the United States, including development cooperation, such as on the F-15I jet, THEL laser defense system, and the Arrow missile defense system.
The IDF traces its roots to Jewish paramilitary organizations in the New Yishuv, starting with the Second Aliyah (1904 to 1914). The first such organization was Bar-Giora, founded in September 1907. It was converted to Hashomer in April 1909, which operated until the British Mandate of Palestine came into being in 1920. Hashomer was an elitist organization with narrow scope, and was mainly created to protect against criminal gangs seeking to steal property. During World War I, the forerunners of the Haganah/IDF were the Zion Mule Corps and the Jewish Legion, both of which were part of the British Army. After the Arab riots against Jews in April 1920, the Yishuv’s leadership saw the need to create a nationwide underground defense organization, and the Haganah was founded in June of the same year. The Haganah became a full-scale defense force after the 19361939 Arab revolt in Palestine with an organized structure, consisting of three main unitsthe Field Corps, Guard Corps, and the Palmach. During World War II the successor to the Jewish Legion of World War I was the Jewish Brigade.
The IDF was founded following the establishment of the State of Israel, after Defense Minister and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion issued an order on 26 May 1948. The order called for the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces, and the abolishment of all other Jewish armed forces. Although Ben-Gurion had no legal authority to issue such an order, the order was made legal by the cabinet on 31 May.
The two other Jewish underground organizations, Irgun and Lehi, agreed to join the IDF if they would be able to form independent units and agreed not to make independent arms purchases. This was the background for the dispute which led to the Altalena Affair, following a confrontation regarding the weapons purchased by the Irgun. This resulted in a battle between Irgun members and the newly created IDF. It ended when the ship carrying the arms was shelled. Following the affair, all independent Irgun and Lehi units were either disbanded or merged into the IDF. The Palmach, a strong lobby within the Haganah, also joined the IDF with provisions, and Ben Gurion responded by disbanding its staff in 1949, after which many senior Palmach officers retired, notably its first commander, Yitzhak Sadeh.
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The history of the Israel Defense Forces is intertwined with history of the establishment of the Haganah after which the latter disbanded.
Following the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which divided the British Mandate of Palestine, the country became increasingly volatile and fell into a state of civil war between the Jews and Arabs after the Arab residents rejected any plan that would allow for the creation of a Jewish state. In accordance with Plan Dalet the Haganah tried to secure the areas allotted to the Jewish state in the partition plan and the blocks of settlements that were in the area allotted to the Arab state.
David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the Israeli Declaration of Independence on 14 May 1948. His first order was the formation of the IDF The Israel Defense Forces.
The IDF was based on the personnel who had served in the Haganah and the Palmach and was declared as the only legal armed force in Israel. Another main source of manpower were the immigrants from Europe. Some of them Holocaust survivors and others veterans from World War II.
Following the declaration of independence in 1948, Arab armies invaded Israel. Egypt came from the south, Lebanon and Syria from the north, and Jordan from the east backed by Iraqi and Saudi troops.
In the initial phase of the war, the IDF was inferior in both numbers and armament. Due to a number of reasons, the Arabs never managed to exploit their superiority in numbers. The Israelis managed to successfully defend themselves in virtually all battlefields with the notable exception of East Jerusalem. After the first truce 11 June to 8 July, the Israelis managed to seize the initiative due to new troop enrollments and supplies of arms. Notable achievements of the IDF include the conquest of Eilat (Um Rashrash), Nazareth, and the capture of the Galilee and the Negev.
The war continued until 20 July 1949, when the armistice with Syria was signed. By then the IDF had managed to repel the Egyptians to the Gaza Strip while Jordan took over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
See 1949 Armistice Agreements.
The evolution from several underground militias to a state army is not simple. Many in the Haganah felt it was their High Command’s natural role to become the leadership of the new army. The First Law of the Provisional State Council, Paragraph 18, of the Order of Government and Legal Arrangement stated that “the Provisional Government is empowered to set up armed forces on land, sea and air, which will be authorised to carry out all necessary and legal actions for the defence of the country.” The sensitivity of this issue is indicated by the delay of two weeks before, on 26 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion, for the Provisional Government, published the Israel Defense Forces Ordinance Number 4. It covered the establishment of the IDF, conscription duties, the oath of allegiance, and the prohibition of any other armed forces. The execution of the Ordinance was assigned to the Minister of Defence, David Ben-Gurion. His priority was the dissolution of military organisations affiliated to political parties.
The army was officially set up on 31 May. This involved renaming existing Haganah and Palmach Brigades and bringing them under one central command. Its officers began to take their oaths of allegiance on 27 June. The Stern Gang and Irgun came under central control in the following months.
History of the Israel Defense Forces – Wikipedia, the free …
The conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Zionist (now Israeli) Jews is a modern phenomenon, dating to the end of the nineteenth century. Although the two groups have different religions (Palestinians include Muslims, Christians and Druze), religious differences are not the cause of the strife. The conflict began as a struggle over land. From the end of World War I until 1948, the area that both groups claimed was known internationally as Palestine. That same name was also used to designate a less well-defined Holy Land by the three monotheistic religions. Following the war of 19481949, this land was divided into three parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip.
It is a small areaapproximately 10,000 square miles, or about the size of the state of Maryland. The competing claims to the territory are not reconcilable if one group exercises exclusive political control over all of it. Jewish claims to this land are based on the biblical promise to Abraham and his descendants, on the fact that the land was the historical site of the ancient Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judea, and on Jews need for a haven from European anti-Semitism. Palestinian Arab claims to the land are based on their continuous residence in the country for hundreds of years and the fact that they represented the demographic majority until 1948. They reject the notion that a biblical-era kingdom constitutes the basis for a valid modern claim. If Arabs engage the biblical argument at all, they maintain that since Abrahams son Ishmael is the forefather of the Arabs, then Gods promise of the land to the children of Abraham includes Arabs as well. They do not believe that they should forfeit their land to compensate Jews for Europes crimes against Jews.
The Land and the People
In the nineteenth century, following a trend that emerged earlier in Europe, people around the world began to identify themselves as nations and to demand national rights, foremost the right to self-rule in a state of their own (self-determination and sovereignty). Jews and Palestinians both started to develop a national consciousness and mobilized to achieve national goals. Because Jews were spread across the world (in diaspora), the Jewish national movement, or Zionist trend, sought to identify a place where Jews could come together through the process of immigration and settlement. Palestine seemed the logical and optimal place because it was the site of Jewish origin. The Zionist movement began in 1882 with the first wave of European Jewish immigration to Palestine.
At that time, the land of Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire. This area did not constitute a single political unit, however. The northern districts of Acre and Nablus were part of the province of Beirut. The district of Jerusalem was under the direct authority of the Ottoman capital of Istanbul because of the international significance of the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem as religious centers for Muslims, Christians and Jews. According to Ottoman records, in 1878 there were 462,465 subject inhabitants of the Jerusalem, Nablus and Acre districts: 403,795 Muslims (including Druze), 43,659 Christians and 15,011 Jews. In addition, there were perhaps 10,000 Jews with foreign citizenship (recent immigrants to the country) and several thousand Muslim Arab nomads (Bedouin) who were not counted as Ottoman subjects. The great majority of the Arabs (Muslims and Christians) lived in several hundred rural villages. Jaffa and Nablus were the largest and economically most important towns with majority-Arab populations.
Until the beginning of the twentieth century, most Jews living in Palestine were concentrated in four cities with religious significance: Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias. Most of them observed traditional, orthodox religious practices. Many spent their time studying religious texts and depended on the charity of world Jewry for survival. Their attachment to the land was religious rather than national, and they were not involved inor supportive ofthe Zionist movement that began in Europe and was brought to Palestine by immigrants. Most of the Jews who emigrated from Europe lived a more secular lifestyle and were committed to the goals of creating a modern Jewish nation and building an independent Jewish state. By the outbreak of World War I (1914), the population of Jews in Palestine had risen to about 60,000, about 36,000 of whom were recent settlers. The Arab population in 1914 was 683,000.
The British Mandate in Palestine
By the early years of the twentieth century, Palestine had become a trouble spot of competing territorial claims and political interests. The Ottoman Empire was weakening, and European powers were strengthening their grip on areas along the eastern Mediterranean, including Palestine. During 19151916, as World War I was underway, the British high commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, secretly corresponded with Husayn ibn Ali, the patriarch of the Hashemite family and Ottoman governor of Mecca and Medina. McMahon convinced Husayn to lead an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, which was aligned with Germany against Britain and France in the war. McMahon promised that if the Arabs supported Britain in the war, the British government would support the establishment of an independent Arab state under Hashemite rule in the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, including Palestine. The Arab revolt, led by Husayns son Faysal and T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), was successful in defeating the Ottomans, and Britain took control over much of this area during World War I.
But Britain made other promises during the war that conflicted with the Husayn-McMahon understandings. In 1917, the British foreign minister, Lord Arthur Balfour, issued a declaration (the Balfour Declaration) announcing his governments support for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. A third promise, in the form of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, was a secret deal between Britain and France to carve up the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire and divide control of the region.
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