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The Arab-Israel Problem – World History – Free PDF Download

 

Introduction:

  • Although the United States supported the Balfour declaration of 1917, which favored the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, president Franklin D. Roosevelt had assured the Arabs in 1945 that the United States would not intervene without consulting both the Jews and the Arabs in the region.
  • The British, who held a colonial mandate in Palestine until may 1948, opposed both the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine as well as unlimited immigration of Jewish refugees to the region.
  • Great Britain wanted to preserve good relations with the Arabs to protect its vital political and economic interests in Palestine.
  • Throughout 1947, The United Nations special Commission on Palestine examined the Palestinian question and recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.
  • On November 29, 1947 The United Nations adopted Resolution 181( also known as the Partition resolution) that would divide Great Britain’s former Palestinian mandate into Jewish and Arab states in may 1948, when the British mandate was scheduled to end.
  • Under the resolution, the area of religious significance surrounding Jerusalem would remain under international control administered by the United Nations.
  • The Palestinian Arabs refused to recognize this arrangement, which they regarded as favorable to the Jews and unfair to the Arab population that would remain in Jewish territory under the partition.
  • The United States sought a middle way by supporting the United Nations resolution, but also encouraging negotiations between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East.
  • Although the United States backed the resolution 181, The US Department of State recommended the creation of a United Nations trusteeship with limits on Jewish immigration and division of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab provinces but not states.
  • The state Department, concerned about the possibility of an increasing Soviet role in the Arab world and the potential for restriction by Arab oil producing nations of oil supplies to the United States, advised against US intervention on behalf of the Jews.
  • Later, as the date for British departure from Palestine drew near, the Department of State grew concerned about the possibility of an all-out war in Palestine as Arab states threatened to attack almost as soon as the US passed the partition resolution.
  • Despite the growing conflict between Palestine Arabs and Palestine Jews and despite the Department of states endorsements of a trusteeship, Truman ultimately decided to recognize the state of Israel and on May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion, the head of the Jewish agency, proclaimed the establishment of the state of Israel.
  • US President Harry S Truman recognized the new nation on the same day.

The Arab-Israeli War, 1948:

  • The Arab Israeli war of 1948 broke out when five Arab nations invaded the territory in the former Palestinian mandate immediately following the announcement of the independence of the state of Israel.
  • In 1947, and again on May 14, 1948, The United States had offered, de facto recognition of the Israeli provisional government, but during the war, The United States maintained an arms embargo against all belligerents.
  • After Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, the fighting which had already started between Palestinian mercenaries and Jewish fighters, intensified with other Arab forces joining the Palestinian Arabs in attacking territory in the former Palestinian mandate.
  • On the eve of May 14, The Arabs launched an air attack on Tel Aviv, which the Israelis resisted.
  • This action was followed by the invasion of the former Palestinian mandate by Arab armies from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt.
  • Saudi Arabia sent a formation that fought under the Egyptian command.
  • British trained forces from Transjordan eventually intervened in the conflict, but only in areas that had been designated as part of the Arab state under the United Nations partition plan and the corpus separatum of Jerusalem.
  • After intense early fighting, Israeli forces were able to gain the offensive.
  • Though the United Nations brokered to cease fires during the conflict, fighting continued into 1949.
  • Israel and the Arab states did not reach any formal Armistice agreements until February.
  • Under separate agreements between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria, these bordering nations agreed to formal Armistice lines.
  • Israel gained some territory formally granted to Palestinian Arabs under the United Nations resolution in 1947.
  • Egypt and Jordan retained control over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively.
  • These Armistice lines held until 1967.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict of 1967:

  • Until the early 1960s, The United States had adhered to the terms of the Tripartite Declaration of 1950, wherein the United States, United Kingdom and France had pledged to prevent aggression by Middle Eastern States and oppose regional arms race.
  • The United States had pressed Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip after Suez, and rejected Israeli requests for all but limited quantities of defensive weapons.
  • By the time Lyndon Johnson took office, however, US policymakers concluded that this policy was no longer sustainable.
  • Soviet arms sales to left leaning Arab states, especially Egypt, threatened to erode Israelis military superiority.
  • Johnson’s  advisors worried that if the United States did not offset this shift in the balance of power, Israel’s leaders might launch a preventive war or develop nuclear weapons.
  • Initially, the Johnson administration sought to convince Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Soviet leadership to work towards a regional arms control regime, but neither party proved receptive.
  • Thus in 1965, Johnson agreed to sell Israel M48A3 tanks, followed by a four Skyhawk aircraft in 1966.
  • On May 13, 1967, Soviet officials informed the Syrian and Egyptian governments that Israel had massed troops on Syria’s border.
  • Though the report was false, Nasser sent large numbers of Egyptian soldiers into the Sinai anyway.
  • On May 16, Egypt demanded the United Nations emergency force( UNEF), which had been deployed in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip since 1957, to withdraw from Israel’s border.
  • Secretary general U Thant replied that he would have to withdraw UNEF from all its positions, including Sharam al Shaykh, which would put political pressure or Nasser to close the straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping.
  • Naser remained adamant, and on May 22, after UNEF withdrew, he announced that he would close the straits.
  • This provoked Israel to launch an offensive to protect its interest in the straits of Tiran.
  • Meanwhile, Jordan joined the Arab coalition, heightened the pressure for an Israeli strike.
  • Though Johnson continued to caution Israel against preemption, a number of president’s advisors had concluded that US interests would be best served by Israel “going it alone”.
  • Between June 5 and June 10, Israel defeated Egypt, Jordan, and Syria and occupied the Sinai Peninsula, The Gaza Strip, The West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.

Post War Scenario:

  • At the end of August 1967, Arab leaders met in Khartoum in response to the war, to discuss the Arab position towards Israel.
  • They reached a consensus that there should be no recognition, no peace, and no negotiations with the state of Israel, popularly known as “three no’s”.
  • In 1969, Egypt initiated the war of Attrition, with the goal of exhausting Israel into surrendering the Sinai Peninsula.
  • The war ended following Gamal Abdel Nasser’s death in 1970.
  • When the Anwar Sadat that took over, he tried to forge positive relations with the US, hoping that they would put pressure on Israel to return the land, by expelling 15,000 Russians advisors from Egypt.
  • On 6 October 1973, Syria and Egypt staged a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.
  • The Israeli military were caught off guard and unprepared, and took about 3 days to fully mobilize.
  • This helped other Arab states to send troops to reinforce the Egyptians and Syrians.
  • In addition, these Arab countries agreed to enforce an oil embargo on industrial nations, including the US, Japan and western European countries.
  • These OPEC countries increased the price of oil fourfold, and used it as a political weapon to gain support against Israel.
  • The Yom Kippur war accommodated in direct confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union.
  • When Israel had turned the tide of war, The USSR threatened military intervention.
  • The United States, wary of nuclear war, secured a ceasefire on 25th October 1973.

Israel Peace Treaties with Arab Powers:

  • Finally, following an intervention of the US administration, after a series of negotiations at Camp David, two framework agreements were signed at the White House, the second of these frameworks led directly to the 1979 Egypt- Israel peace treaty.
  • Under its terms, the Sinai Peninsula are returned to Egyptian hands, and the Gaza Strip remained under Israeli control, to be included in a future Palestinian state.
  • The agreement also provided for the free passage of Israeli ships through the Suez canal and recognition of the straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba as international waterways.
  • In October 1994, Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement, which stipulated mutual cooperation, an end of hostilities, the fixing of the Israel Jordan border, and a resolution of other issues.
  • After the March 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Israel had occupied some territory of Lebanon, therefore in March 1983, Israel and Lebanon signed a ceasefire agreement.
  • By 1985, Israeli forces withdrew to a 15 kilometer wide southern strip of Lebanon, following which the conflict continued on lower scale, with relatively low casualties on both sides.
  • In 1993 and 1996, Israel launched major operations against the Shiite militia of Hezbollah, which had become an emergent threat.
  • In May 2000, the newly elected government of Ehud Barak authorized a withdrawal from southern Lebanon, fulfilling an election promise to do so well ahead of a declarative deadline.

Israel-Palestine Relations:

  • The 1970s were marked by a large number of major, international terrorist attacks, including the Lod airport massacre and the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972, and the Entebbe hostage taking in 1976, with over 100 Jewish hostages of different nationalities kidnapped and held in Uganda.
  • In December 1987, the First Intifada begun.
  • The first intifada was a mass Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the Palestinian territories.
  • The rebellion began in the Jabalia refugee camp and quickly spread throughout Gaza and the West Bank.
  • Palestinian actions ranged from civil disobedience to violence.
  • In addition to general strikes, boycotts on Israeli products, graffiti and barricades, Palestinian demonstrations that included stone throwing by youths against the Israeli forces brought the intifada international attention.
  • Israeli army’s heavy handed response to the demonstrations, with live ammunition, beatings an mass arrests, brought international condemnation.
  • The Palestinian liberation organization( PLO), which until then had never been recognized as the leaders of the Palestinian people by Israel, was invited to peace negotiations the following year, after it recognized Israel and renounced terrorism.
  • In mid 1993, Israeli and Palestinian representatives engaged in peace talks in Oslo, Norway.
  • As a result, in September 1993, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo accords.
  • Under the provisions of the accord, Israel recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people while the PLO recognized the right of the state of Israel to exist and renounced terrorism, violence and its desire for destruction of Israel.
  • The Oslo second agreement was signed in 1995 and detailed the division of the West bank into areas A,B and C.
  • Area A was land under full Palestinian civilian control.
  • In area A, Palestinians were also responsible for internal security.
  • The Oslo agreements remain important documents in Israeli Palestinian relations.
  • By the year 2000, the Second Intifada began which forced Israel to rethink its relationship and policies towards the Palestinians.
  • Following a series of suicide bombings and attacks, the Israeli army launched operation defensive shield.
  • It was the largest military operation conducted by Israeli since the Six-Day War of 1967.
  • As violence between the Israeli army and Palestinian militants intensified, Israel expanded its security apparatus around the West Bank by retaking many parts of land in area A.
  • Israel established a complicated system of roadblocks and checkpoints around major Palestinian areas to deter violence and protect Israeli settlements.
  • However, since 2008, the Israeli forces have slowly transferred authority to Palestinian security forces.

 

 

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