Since the United Nations partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of
the modern state of Israel in 1948, there have been four major Arab-Israeli wars (1947-
49, 1956, 1967, and 1973) and numerous intermittent battles. Although Egypt and Israel
signed a peace treaty in 1979, hostility between Israel and the rest of its Arab neighbors,
especially with Palestinian Arabs, has continued because of the lack of co-operation by
The first war began as a civil conflict between Palestinian Jews and Arabs
following the United Nations recommendation of November 29, 1947, to partition
Palestine, then still under British mandate, into an Arab state and a Jewish state.
Fighting quickly spread as Arab guerrillas attacked Jewish settlements and
communication links to prevent implementation of the UN plan.
Jewish forces prevented seizure of most settlements, but Arab guerrillas,
supported by the Transjordanian Arab Legion under the command of British officers,
besieged Jerusalem. By April, Haganah, the principal Jewish military group, seized the
offensive, scoring victories against the Arab Liberation Army in northern Palestine, Jaffa,
and Jerusalem. British military forces withdrew to Haifa; although officially neutral,
some commanders assisted one side or the other.
After the British had departed and the state of Israel had been established on May
15, 1948, under the premiership of David Ben-Gurion, the Palestine Arab forces and
foreign volunteers were joined by regular armies of Transjordan (now the kingdom of
Jordan), Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, with token support from Saudi Arabia. Efforts by the
UN to halt the fighting were unsuccessful until June 1, when a 4-week truce was
declared. When the Arab states refused to renew the truce, ten more days fighting
erupted. In that time Israel greatly extended the area under its control and broke the siege
of Jerusalem. Fighting on a smaller scale continued during the second UN truce
beginning in mid-July, and Israel acquired more territory, especially in Galilee and the
Negev.By January 1949, when the last battles ended, Israel has extended its frontiers by
about 5,000 sq. km (1930 sq mi.) beyond the 15,500 sq. km (4983 sq mi.) allocated to the
Jewish state in the UN partition resolution. It had also secured its independence. During
1949, armistice agreements were signed under UN auspices between Israel and Egypt,
Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. The armistice frontiers were unofficial boundaries until
Border conflicts between Israel and the Arabs continued despite provisions in the
1949 armistice agreements for peace negotiations. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian
Arabs who had left Israeli-held territory during the first war concentrated in refugee
camps along Israels frontiers and became a major source of friction when they infiltrated
back to their homes or attacked Israeli border settlements. A major tension point was the
Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip, which was used by arab guerrillas for raids into southern
Israel. Egypts blockade of Israeli shipping in the Suez Canal and Gulf of Aqaba
These escalating tensions converged with the Suez Crisis caused by the
nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian president Gamal Nasser. Great Britain
and France strenuously objected to Nassers policies, and a joint military campaign was
planned against Egypt with the understanding that Israel would take the initiative by
seizing the Sinai Peninsula. The war began on October 29, 1956, after an announcement
that the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan were to be integrated under the Egyptian
commander in chief. Israels Operation Kadesh, commanded by Moshe Dayan, lasted
less than a week; its forces reached the eastern bank of the Suez Canal in about 100 hours
, seizing the Gaza Strip and nearly all the Sinai Peninsula. The Sinai operations were
supplemented by an Anglo-French invasion of Egypt on November 5, giving the allies
control of the northern sector of the Suez Canal.
The war was halted by a UN General Assembly resolution calling for an
immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of all occupying forces from Egyptian territory.
The General Assembly also established a United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to
replace the allied troops on the Egyptian side of the borders in Suez, Sinai, and Gaza. By
December 22 the last British and French Troops had left Egypt, Israel, however, delayed
withdrawal, insisting than it receives security guarantees against further Egyptian attack.
After several additional UN resolutions calling for withdrawal and after pressure from the
United States, Israels forces left in March 1957.
Relations between Israel and Egypt remained fairly stable in the following
decade. The Suez Canal remained closed to Israeli shipping, the Arab boycott of Israel
was maintained, and periodic clashes occurred between Israel, Syria, and Jordan.
However, UNEF prevented direct military encounters between Egypt and Israel.
By 1967 the Arab confrontation states-Egypt, Syria, and Jordan-became
impatient with the status quo, the propaganda war with Israel escalated, and border
incidents increased dangerously. Tensions culminated in May when Egyptian forces
were massed in Sinai, and Cairo ordered the UNEF to leave Sinai and Gaza. President
Nasser also announced that the Gulf of Aqaba would be closed again to Israeli shipping.
At the end of May, Egypt and Jordan signed a new defense pact placing Jordans armed
forces under Egyptian command. Efforts to de-escalate the crisis were of no availability
Israeli and Egyptian leaders visited the United States, but President Lyndon Johnsons
attempts tp persuade Western powers to guarantee free passage through the Gulf failed.
Believing that war was inevitable, Israeli Premier Levi Eshkol, Minister of
Defense Moshe Dayan, and Army Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin approved preemptive
Israeli strikes at Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, and Iraqi airfields on June 5, 1967. By the
evening of June 6, Israel had destroyed the combat effectiveness of the major Arab air
forces, destroying more than 400 planes and losing only 26 of its own. Israel also swept
into Sinai, reaching the Suez Canal and occupying most of the peninsula in less than four
King Hussein of Jordan rejected an offer of neutrality and opened fire on Israeli
forces in Jerusalem on June 5. But a lightning Israeli campaign placed all of Arab
Jerusalem and the Jordanian west bank in Israeli hands by June 8. As the war ended on
the Jordanian and Egyptian fronts, Israel opened an attack on Syria in the north. In a
little more than two days of fierce fighting, Syrian forces were driven from the Golan
Heights, from which they had shelled Jewish settlements across the border. The Six-day
War ended on June 10 when the UN negotiated cease-fire agreements on all fronts.
The Six-day War increased severalfold the area under Israels control. Through
the occupation of Sinai, Gaza, Arab Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Golan Heights, Israel
shortened its land frontiers with Egypt and Jordan, removed the most heavily populated
Jewish areas from direct Arab artillery range, and temporarily increased its strategic
Israel was the dominant military power in the region for the next six years.Led
by Golda Meir from 1969, it was generally satisfied with the status quo, but Arab
impatience mounted. Between 1967 and 1973, Arab leaders repeatedly warned that they
would not accept continued Israeli occupation of the lands lost in 1967.
After Anwar al-Sadat succeeded Nasser as president of Egypt in 1970, threats
about the year of decision were more frequent, as was periodic massing of troops long
the Suez canal. Egyptian and Syrian forces underwent massive rearmament with the
most sophisticated Soviet equipment. Sadat consolidated war preparations in secret
agreements with President Hafez al-Assad of Syria for a joint attack and with King Faisal
of Saudi Arabia to finance the operations.
Egypt and Syria attacked on October 6, 1973, pushing Israeli forces several miles
behind the 1967 cease-fire lines. Israel was thrown off guard, partly because the attack
came on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the most sacred Jewish religious day
(coinciding with the Muslim fast of Ramadan). Although Israel recovered from the initial
setback, it failed to regain all the territory lost in the first days of fighting. In
counterattacks on the Egyptian front, Israel seized a major bridgehead behind the
Egyptian lines on the West Bank of the canal. In the north, Israel drove a wedge into the
Syrian lines, giving it a foothold a few miles west of Damascus.
After 18 days of fighting in the longest Arab-Israeli war since 1948, hostilities
were again halted by the UN. The costs were the greatest in any battles fought since
World War 2.The Arabs lost some 2,000 tanks and more than 500 planes; the Israelis,
804 tanks and 114 planes. The 3-week war cost Egypt and Israel about $ 7 billion each,
in material and losses from declining industrial production or damage.
The political phase of the 1973 war ended with disengagement agreements
accepted by Israel, Egypt, and Syria after negotiations in 1974 and 1975 by U.S.
Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. The agreements provided for Egyptian
reoccupation of a strip of land in Sinai along the east bank of the Sues canal and for
Syrian Control of a small area around the Golan Heights town of Kuneitra, UN forces
were stationed on both fronts to oversee observance of the agreements, which
reestablished a political balance between Israel and the Arab confrontation states.
Under the terms of an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty signed on March 26, 1979,
Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. Hopes for an expansion of the peace process
to include either Arab nations waned, however when Egypt and Israel wee subsequently
unable to agree on a formula for Palestinian self-rule I the West bank and Gaza Strip. In
the 1980s regional tensions were increased by the activities of militant Palestinians and
other Arab extremists and by several Israeli actions. The latter included the formal
proclamation of the entire city of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital (1980), the annexationof
the Golan Heights (1981), the invasion of southern Lebanon (1982) and the continued
expansion of Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.
Many Peace Processes have been attempted since but problems caused by each
side have caused these processes to not occur. There have been various terrorist attacks
from each side and peace seems like it is not possible. Although a small portion of
Palestine has been given back to the Palestinians both sides seem like they dont want to
In conclusion the Arabs have not co-operated with the Israelis which has resulted
in various problems. This has majorly affected the peace process, which leads to
continuous disagreements between both sides. The hostility between both sides will not
stop till both sides stop hurting eachother.
1.) Ashrawi, Hanan.This Side of Peace:A Personal Account. New York: Simon &
2.) Ciment, John. Palestine/Israel:The Long Conflict. New York: Facts On File, 1997.
3.) Meyer, Lawrence. Israel Now:Portrait of a Troubled Land. New York: Delacorte
4.) Perlmutter, Ames. Israel the Partitioned State:A Political History Since 1900. New
York: C.Scrilness Sons, 1985.
5.) Sachar, Howard Morley. A History of Israel Volume 2: From the Aftermath of the
Yom Kippur War. New York, Oxford University Press, 1987.
6.) Usher Graham. Palestine In Crisis: The Struggle for Peace & Political Independence After Oslo. London, Pluto Press, 1995.
7.) Wicks, Ben. Dawn of the Promised Land: The Credits of Israel. Torono, Delacarte
Publishing Co., 1997.