The State of Israel: 1948-1990

1948: The War for Independence

When the British Mandate officially ended on May 14, 1948, the Jews in Israel immediately gratefully and joyously accepted the U.N.’s offer and proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. However, the Arabs living in the land rejected the U.N.’s two-state offer and refused to take their state. Instead, five Arab states – Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq – declared war on Israel and immediately invaded Israel on May 15 with the goal of eliminating it. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) was established, and Israel fought for its existence in the War of Independence from May 1948 to July 1949.

Despite being greatly outnumbered, Israel won the war and in 1949 signed armistice agreements with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon (Iraq withdrew its forces without signing an armistice). As a result of the war, the State of Israel now included more territory than it had under the original U.N. partition plan. In particular, Israel included all of present-day Israel minus the West Bank, which was part of Jordan, and the Gaza Strip, which was part of Egypt. Also, Jerusalem was divided under the Israeli and Jordanian rule.

Early Years of the State of Israel

Between 1948 and 1949, hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors make their way to Israel. In addition, “Operation Magic Carpet” brought thousands of Jews from Yemen to safety in Israel. In 1949 the First Knesset (parliament) was elected, and Israel began its life as a modern democratic state though many left for America Also in 1949, Israel was admitted to the United Nations as an official member. From 1948 to 1952 great numbers of Jews immigrated from European and Arab countries. The country has continuously dedicated huge funds and much attention to education and innovation.

This mass immigration was a result of two key factors: one was that now, with the British Mandate lifted, all Jews were free to immigrate to Israel and become citizens; the other was that as a result of the creation of the State of Israel, Arab countries across the Middle East instituted extremely harsh persecution measures against Jews, generally including either direct expulsion or other measures that forced Jews to leave and immigrate to the safety of Israel. These Jewish refugees from Arab countries found a safe home in Israel.

1956 Sinai War: Conflict over the Suez Canal

In 1956 Egypt attempted to nationalize and block the Suez Canal, which had previously been under British and French control. Egypt blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba, blocking Israeli shipping through this key route. In response to this as well as other Egyptian incitements, Israel, along with Britain and France, attacked Egypt. The conflict ended in 1957 with no changes in the territory, but the Suez Canal was successfully re-opened for all nations. Check out as well this post about recent immigration waves.

1967: Six-Day War

During the 1960s Israel endured increasing hostility from Arabs in the region, an atmosphere which led Israel to adopt a policy not only of immediate retaliation to any violent attack but also of pre-emptive measures to prevent violent attacks.  In the spring of 1967, Egypt intensified military activity in the Sinai Peninsula in areas very close to the Israeli border and stated that Egypt was in a state of war with Israel.

At the same time Syria and Jordan, in military alliances with Egypt, moved troops to the northern and eastern borders of Israel respectively, and in addition, other Arab countries such as Iraq promised military support. In reaction to all of these threats and incitements to violence, Israel launched preemptive air strikes against Egypt and its allies. In winning the ensuing war, Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. All in all, there are so many good reasons to visit Israel.

1970s: Ongoing Terrorism

While terrorist acts by Arabs had been plaguing Jews in Israel since, before the founding of the state, the 1970s witnessed some particularly heinous acts of terrorism committed by Palestinian terrorists, particularly the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which had been founded in 1964 with the goal of achieving Palestinian autonomy and destroying Israel. These attacks were targeted against Israelis and Jews both inside and outside Israeli borders. On May 30, 1972, 26 people were killed and 80 were wounded in a machine gun and grenade attack at Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel’s main airport.

During the Munich Olympic Games in September 1972, Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli Athletes. On May 15, 1974, Palestinian terrorists snuck across the border from Lebanon and made their way to the city of Ma’alot, where, after indiscriminately killing three members of an Israeli family in their home, they entered a school and took 115 people hostage, including 105 students. As an Israeli military rescue began, the terrorists began killing the hostages. 22 people were killed and 68 were gravely wounded.

1973: Yom Kippur War

On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Egypt and Syria, aided by various other Arab nations such as Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, Libya, Tunisia, and Sudan, launched a surprise attack against Israel, hoping to find the Israeli Defense Forces unprepared. Despite this, Israel managed to win the war and on October 24 a ceasefire was arranged by the U.N.

Peace with Egypt, War with Lebanon

In September 1978 Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David Accords, which provided a framework for peace between the two nations. On March 26, 1979, the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty was signed, in which Israel promised to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for peace with Egypt. By 1982 Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai was complete. For achieving this monumental step towards peace in the region, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

However, the early 1980s also saw increased terrorist activity in Lebanon, mainly led by the PLO. Israel’s Operation Peace for Galilee, launched in 1982 with the goal of removing PLO terrorists from Lebanon, led to the First Lebanon War from 1982 to 1985.

The First Intifada

In 1987 the First Intifada began as Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza carried out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians in order to protest Israeli occupation. Although the PLO supported the Intifada, after Israel put an end to the worst of the violence, the PLO succumbed to pressure to recognize the State of Israel in 1988, which it did as it simultaneously declared a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. However, the sincerity of this declaration was disputed by Israel, the United States, and other Western Nations, and did little to change the situation in the region. Nevertheless, 1987 was a major turning point as it revealed that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Arab dominated territories, was unsustainable.