- A Chronological Presentation
The New State (1947 - 1957)
Ben-Gurion reads Israel's
Declaration of Independence,
May 14. 1948.
- Preparation for War
Immediately after the UN's decision on the partition
of Palestine into one Jewish and one Arab state in
November 1947 Arab gangs began attacking Jewish communities
all over Palestine. The Arab World made clear its
intention of destroying the Jewish state, the moment
it was declared. As Britain prepared to pull out its
last troops, Jewish and Arab underground militia fought
to position themselves most favorably in anticipation
of the imminent Arab invasion.
The prospect of war made tens of thousands
of Palestinian Arabs, including most of the Arab elite,
leave Palestine. The intensification of the fighting,
as the expiration of the mandate approached, along with
circulation of rumors of both actual and fictitious
Jewish attacks on Arab villages, further accelerated
the flow of refugees. Before the war itself had really
begun, around 175.000 Arabs had already left Palestine.
borders after the
armistice agreements of
1948 - Israel's Independence War
On May 14, 1948 Israel's first prime minister, David
Ben-Gurion, proclamed the establishment of the new Jewish
republic. The next day the joint armies of Egypt, Jordan,
Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded the Jewish state. Measured
by firepower and military equipment at the outset of
war the Arabs were by far superior to the Israelis.
But lack of co-ordination and internal strife between
the Arab governments, along with the higher morale and
better organization of the Israeli troops, caused the
war to turn in Israel's favor.
When the final cease-fire came into force
in the spring of 1949, the Israelis con-trolled about
40% more land than proposed by the UN partition plan.
Egypt and Jordan occupied the Gaza Strip and the West
Bank, respectively. The projected Arab, Palestinian
state never materialized, but was also never requested,
neither by the Palestinian Arabs, nor by the rest
of the Arab World. Even though Israel's Arab neighbors
all signed armistice agreements with Israel, they
didn't recognize the Jewish state's right to exist.
civilians flee from their
homes during the fighting in 1948.
1948-53 - Arab and Jewish
The moment the Jewish State had been proclamed in May
1948, the door was opened for the hundreds of thousands
During the fighting many Palestinian Arabs fled or
were driven from the areas, which came under Israeli
control. Around 300.000 fled to the neighboring Arab
countries, while approximately 420.000 ended up in
refugee camps in the Arab occupied parts of Palestine.
The vast majority fled out of fear of the advancing
Israeli forces. But in certain places Arabs were forced
from their homes by Israeli troops. The Egyptian and
Jordanian controlled areas - including the Old City
of Jerusalem - were ethnically cleansed of Jews.
Jewish refugees, who had
survived the European Holocaust. In reaction to the founding
of Israel, Jews in Arab countries were subjected to a
previously unknown level of violence and persecution.
Israel launched a series of spectacular operations, evacuating
hundreds of thousands of Jews from Yemen and Iraq. Most
of Syria's and Lebanon's Jews also fled to Israel, and
later Jews arrived from Egypt, Tunesia, Algeria, Libya,
Morocco, Iran og Turkey. A total of around 650.000 Jews
fled from various Muslim countries to Israel.
camp for Jewish refugees near
Tel Aviv, 1948.
In stark contrast to Israel's reception
of over a million Jewish refugees, the Arab countries
- with their far greater capacity for absorption - made
no effort whatsoever of integrating the roughly 720.000
Palestinian Arab refugees. To the contrary, they were
left in refugee camps, serving as a political tool in
the ongoing fight against Israel.
Arab attack on a bus in the
Negev Desert leave 11 Israelis
1950-55 - Borderskirmishes
1956 - The Sinai
In the years following Israel's first war both Egypt
and Jordan supported attacks by irregular forces across
the borders from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank into
Israel. The targets were usually Israeli civilians.
In respons Israel conducted systematic retaliatory raids
against the bases in Gaza and the West Bank, from where
the attacks were launched.
From early 1954 Egypt took over Jordan's role
as the primary sponsor of terror against Israel, and during
the summer of 1955 Egyptian trained guerillas intensified
their attacks from Gaza. In the fall of the same year
the Egyptian naval blockade that denied Israeli shipping
access to both the Suez Canal and the Red Sea was expanded
to include the passage of foreign ships to the Israeli
Red Sea port of Eilat. The Egyptian president Nasser entered
a defense alliance with Syria, and the Soviet Union supplied
both countries with large amounts of modern weaponry,
far exceeding Israel's military capabilities. In an official
declaration Nasser now claimed to posess sufficient military
power to destroy Israel.
occupation of Gaza and the
Sinai peninsula, 1956-57.
Under pressure, both militarily and financially,
Israel wished to extract itself from the Egyptian stranglehold.
And when Nasser in 1956 threatened British and French
interests by nationalizing the Suez Canal, the two great
powers supported Israel's invasion of Gaza and the Sinai
Desert, hereby putting an end to both the terror attacks
and the blockade of Eilat. British and French forces
bombed Egyptian airfields and occupied the area around
the Suez Canal. The international community, headed
by the United States pressured England, France and Israel
to withdraw its forces. A UN force was established in
order to monitor the demilitarization of the Sinai and
Gaza, and the US guaranteed Israel's future access to
the Red Sea. The last Israeli troops were pulled out
in March 1957.
Chapter 3 - The New State - Page 2