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The 1948 War (May 1948 - July 1949)
With the declaration of the creation of Israel, several Arab states declared war. Despite being attacked by five Arab states (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon) with a combined much larger population than Israel, the Israelis were able to gain the offensive and defeat the Arab armies. The Arabs were hampered by a less than total commitment and a lack of coordination. The Israelis benefited from better weapons and training. In the end, Israel had gained control over all the lands originally allocated it under the partition plan plus some additional territories. Overall, Israel emerged from the war with control over 75 percent of Palestine. The rest of Palestine had been acquired by Arab states--Egypt took over the Gaza Strip and Jordan took over the West Bank. No Palestinian state was created.

The war thus ended: without a peace treaty between Israel and any of the Arab states; with a large Palestinian refugee population (83% of the Palestinians became some sort of refugee); with a feeling of resentment and humiliation among the Arabs and the Palestinians; and a feeling of insecurity and fear among the Israelis.

Suez Crisis (October 1956)
On July 26, 1956 President Nasser of Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in order earn the money needed to finance the Aswan Dam project in southern Egypt. The British and the French were furious because they controlled the company which ran the Canal. At the same time, Israel was hoping to oust Nasser and get a less confrontational leader in Cairo.

Britain, France and Israel constructed a plan whereby following a guerrilla attack by Egyptian-based Palestinian commandos against Israel, Israel would invade Egypt and drive to the Suez Canal. Then, the British and French would demand that both sides withdraw ten miles from the Canal. After the anticipated Egyptian refusal, Nasser would be labeled the aggressor and British and French troops would occupy the Canal. If possible, they were then to drive to Cairo or they hoped Nasser would be overthrown by his own people.

On October 29, 1956 the attack began and initially went as planned. However, the attack soon prompted an unexpected international outcry, including from the United States and the Soviet Union. Britain, France, and Israel withdrew in disgrace. In the end, Egypt moved closer to the Soviet Union, Nasser emerged as a hero in the Arab world, and Israel lost some of its sympathy within the international community.

Six-Day War (June 1967)
In early 1967 there were repeated confrontations between Israel and Syria. The situation escalated in May when Nasser of Egypt called on UN forces in the Sinai (UNEF--placed there after the 1956 war) to be removed in order to place pressure on Israel. Nasser also closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping. A final element was the May 30 signing of a defense pact between Jordan and Egypt.

On 6/5/67, the Israeli air force launched a surprise attack and decimated the Egyptian air force on the ground. It then accomplished similar results against the Syrian and Jordanian air forces. With unchallenged mastery of the air, Israeli ground units then struck, capturing the Gaza Strip from Egypt on the 6th and the Sinai Peninsula on the 8th. The West Bank of the Jordan River (including East Jerusalem) was captured on June 7th from Jordan. Despite a UN sponsored truce, Israel continued to attack Syria until the Golan Heights were taken on June 10th. At that point a cease-fire was accepted.

As a result of the war:

The UN Security Council passed UN Resolution 242 (November 22, 1967) calling for "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict"; "termination of all claims 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". This is referred to as the land for peace strategy.

A new Palestinian refugee problem was created as many Palestinians fled from the newly-occupied West Bank and Gaza into neighboring Arab states. Some of these people had already been refugees as a result of the 1948 War. The issue of their right to return to their former lands has remained a sticking point in Israeli-Palestinian relations ever since.

The Israeli government formally annexed East Jerusalem and declared the city to be the undivided capital of Israel forever. This annexation and declaration have been strongly opposed by the Palestinians who hope to create a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.


The 1973 War (October 1973)
After six years of ineffective diplomacy, Syria and Egypt attacked Israel in an effort to break the stalemate over the return of territories taken in the Six Day War. Anwar Sadat of Egypt was also certain that the growing American-Soviet détente meant that the superpowers were unwilling to take strong action to alter the Middle East impasse. The war was partly designed to bring the superpowers back into the situation.

The war was launched on 10/6/73, on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. While the Syrians launched an attack against the Golan Heights, the Egyptians, in a coordinated move, undertook a crossing of the Suez Canal. The Bar-Lev defense line of the Israelis was quickly breached and the Israelis began a retreat. On October 10, the Soviets begin to resupply the Syrians and Egyptians. On October 13, the U.S. began a similar, but much larger, resupply of Israel. With the infusion of these weapons the Israelis, on October 15, moved to the offensive. They were able to retake the Golan and then to cross the Suez, thereby isolating the Egyptian 3rd army located in the Sinai.

At this point both superpowers agreed to the need for a cease-fire. UN Resolution 338, which called for a cease-fire in place and the implementation on UN 242, was passed in the Security Council on 10/22. Israel ignored the cease-fire call because she did not want Arab armies in areas about which negotiations might take place; i.e. the Sinai and Golan. On 10/24, the Soviets proposed a joint U.S.-Soviet military force to rescue the trapped Egyptian 3rd Army. To warn off the Soviets, Nixon placed American nuclear forces on alert world-wide. At this point the Soviets withdrew the proposal and Israel, under American pressure, agreed to the cease-fire.

A secondary aspect of the war was the 1973-74 oil embargo and price hike. In coordination with Egypt and Syria, the oil producing countries of the Middle East, including America's regional ally, the Shah of Iran, made a concerted effort to control production and to raise prices. In a matter of months the price of oil quadrupled severely effecting the economies of many oil importing states, including the United States. Also, an effort was made to deny certain states access to oil. The United States, the Netherlands, Portugal and South Africa were specifically targeted for embargo. While the embargo was not successful in altering American policy, the future power of the "oil weapon" was visibly demonstrated.

Israeli Invasion of Lebanon (1982-1985)
On June 6, 1982 Israel launched a massive invasion of Lebanon. It sought to remove the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from southern Lebanon from where it launched guerrilla attacks against northern Israel, to influence the political orientation in Lebanon, and to lessen Syrian influence in Lebanon. During "Operation Peace for Galilee" the Israeli’s quickly rolled through southern Lebanon and decisively defeated the Syrian air force. After these initial objectives were obtained, Israel continued to advance eventually occupying Beirut. At this point public opinion turned against Israel, both within Lebanon, within Israel, and within the international community. Facing diplomatic pressure and also military attacks by the Shia population of south Lebanon, Israel pulled back. However, Israel set up, and has maintained, a so-called "security zone" in southern Lebanon.



Ancient History
..|..British Mandate Over Palestine..| Birth of Israel..|..The Arab-Israel Wars..|..The Peace Process..|..Security Issues

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