Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Contemporary World

1945 to the present

After World War II, a new world order came into being in which two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, played the leading roles. Their ideological differences led to the arms race of the Cold War and fears of a global nuclear conflict. The rest of the world was also drawn into the bipolar bloc system, and very few nations were able to remain truly non-aligned. The East-West conflict came to an end in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent downfall of the Eastern Bloc. Since that time, the world has been driven by the globalization of worldwide economic and political systems. The world has, however, remained divided: The rich nations of Europe, North America, and East Asia stand in contrast to the developing nations of the Third World.

The first moon landing made science-fiction dreams reality in the year 1969.
Space technology has made considerable progress as the search for new
possibilities of using space continues.





SINCE 1948


see also: United Nations member states -

see also collection: David Roberts "A Journey in the Holy Land"

see also: Marc Chagall


The State of Israel's fight for existence determines its policies and identity to this day. Between the wars, and especially after 1945, many Jews settled in Palestine and cultivated and developed the country with determination and idealism. However, from the beginning, no satisfactory political solution could be found for the consequent expulsion of the Palestinians who were already living in the area. Relations with Israel's Soviet-backed Arab neighbors have long been strained to breaking point. The US-Israeli alliance has become central to both countries' foreign policies, helping to ensure Israeli supremacy in the Middle East. After a series of military defeats, most Arab countries eventually reached an accommodation with Israel, leaving the Palestinians isolated in their struggle for a state of their own.



History of Israel






Part I

Introduction- Jewish history in Israel
Birth of Judaism and Israel 1400 BCE - 586 BCE
Babylonian, Persian and Greek rule 586 BCE - 150 BCE
The restoration of Jewish rule 174 BCE - 64 BCE
Roman rule 64 BCE - 330
Byzantine (Christian Roman) rule 330 - 631
Arab rule 636 - 1099
Crusader rule 1099 - 1291
Mamluk (Egyptian - Islamic) rule 1260 - 1517
Ottoman (Turkish - Islamic) rule 1517 - 1917
The Zionist Movement
1897–1917: The Zionist Revolution
1917–1948: British rule: the Jewish national home
The League of Nations Mandate
The growth of Arab resistance and immigration restrictions
The 1939 White Paper and the Holocaust
1945–1947: Jewish uprising against British rule
The United Nations decides to partition Palestine
The War of Independence: The civil war phase
Israel 1948 - Present
The State of Israel declared
The War of Independence/Nakba: the Arab invasion phase
Labour Party rule 1948–1977
1948–1953: Ben Gurion and mass immigration
1954–1955: Moshe Sharett and the Lavon Affair
1955–1963: Ben-Gurion II: Sinai Campaign & Eichmann Trial

Part II

1963–1969: Levi Eshkol and the Six-Day War


Part III

1969–1975: Golda Meir and Yom Kippur War
1975–1976: Yitzhak Rabin I: Operation Entebbe, start of Religious Settlements

Part IV

Likud domination 1977–1992
1977–1981: Menachem Begin I: the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty
1981–1983: Begin II: the First Lebanon War
1984–1988: Yitzhak Shamir/Shimon Peres rotation government and first Intifada
1988–1992: Shamir II: the Gulf War and Soviet immigration
1992–1995: Rabin II: Oslo peace talks
Direct elections for the Premier 1996–2005
1996–1999: Binyamin Netanyahu - the peace process slows
1999–2001: Ehud Barak and withdrawal from South Lebanon
2001–2006: Ariel Sharon and withdrawal from Gaza and the Northern West Bank
2006–2009: Ehud Olmert and growing Islamist confrontation
2009-present: Netanyahu II

Part V

List of Prime Ministers; List of presidents of the State of Israel

Part VI

Chagall in Israel

Part VII

United Nations member states - Israel



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The State of Israel (Hebrew: מדינת ישראל‎, Medinat Yisrael) was established on May 14, 1948 after nearly two thousand years of Jewish dispersal, and after 55 years of efforts to create a Jewish homeland (Zionism). The 61 years since Israeli independence have been marked by conflict with neighbouring Arab states and the Palestinian-Arabs. There have also been many negotiations, and peace has been achieved with Egypt and Jordan. Israel's democracy has survived under difficult circumstances and the country has prospered despite war, ethno-religious conflict, boycotts, mass immigration and terror attacks. Since the creation of the Jewish state, the percentage of the world's Jews in Israel has grown; at present, about 40% of the world's Jewish population are Israeli residents.

Introduction- Jewish history in Israel

Readers should note that this section uses BCE ("Before Common Era") in preference to BC ("Before Christ"). CE ("Common Era") is used instead of AD ("Anno Domini": Latin for "Year of Our Lord"). Orthodox Jews use a Jewish calendar which is traditionally regarded as dating back to the creation of the universe.

Main articles: History of ancient Israel and Judah, Jewish history, Land of Israel, History of the Jews in the Land of Israel, and History of the Southern Levant
Evidence of Jewish presence in Israel dates back 3,400 years, to the formation of the religion. The name "Jews" derives from their origin in Judah. Over the course of this long history, the Jews have several times been dispersed and then returned from exile.

Birth of Judaism and Israel 1400 BCE - 586 BCE
The origins of Judaism are uncertain. The Israelites are thought to have come into existence between 1400 and 1100 BCE in Canaan, developing an independent kingdom around 1050 BCE. Around 950 BCE, the kingdom split into the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel. The Israelites were exiled by Assyria around 720 BCE, becoming the Lost Tribes of Israel.

Babylonian, Persian and Greek rule 586 BCE - 150 BCE
In 586 BCE King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon conquered the Kingdom of Judah and exiled the population to Babylon. The Bible recounts how, in 538 BCE Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon and issued a proclamation granting the people of Judah their freedom. 50,000 Judeans, led by Zerubabel returned. A second group of 5000, led by Ezra and Nehemiah, returned to Judea in 456 BCE.

In 333 BCE Alexander the Great conquered Judea and sometime thereafter, the first translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint) was begun in Alexandria.

The restoration of Jewish rule 174 BCE - 64 BCE
In the second century, Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to eradicate Judaism in favor of Hellenism leading to the 174 - 135 BCE Maccabean Revolt. The success of this revolt is celebrated in the Jewish festival of Hanukka. The Books of the Maccabees documented the uprising.

Roman rule 64 BCE - 330
In 64 BCE the Roman General, Pompey conquered Judea. The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem became the only religious structure in the Roman Empire which did not contain an effigy of the emperor and was one of the largest religious structures in the world.

From 37 BCE - 92 the Herodian dynasty, Jewish-Roman client kings ruled Judea.

In 66 CE the Jews broke free of Rome, naming their short-lived kingdom variously "Israel" and "Zion". Israel's unsuccessful revolt against Roman domination and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by Titus in the year 70 were described by the Roman-Jewish historian Josephus, including the famous last stand at Massada. The Jewish revolt led the Christians, at this time a sub-sect of Judaism, to completely disassociate themselves from Judaism. This was reflected in the Gospels.

A second Jewish revolt in 135 also renamed the country "Israel", and its defeat led the Emperor Hadrian to rename Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina. Jews were banned from living there and the Roman province, until then known as Iudaea Province, was renamed to Palaestina; no other revolt led to a province being renamed. The names "Palestine" (in English) and "Filistin" (in Arabic) derive from this name.

Byzantine (Christian Roman) rule 330 - 631
In 330 the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion and the capital was moved to Byzantium, later renamed Constantinopole (and now called Istanbul). There was another Jewish revolt in 351–352.

Despite persecution, key Jewish religious texts were compiled in Israel between the years 200 and 1000. In the second century Israeli Rabbis decided which books could be regarded as part of the Hebrew Bible. The Jewish apocrypha were left out (including the Books of the Maccabees). Sacred Jewish texts written in Israel in this period include the Mishnah (200), the Gemara (400) and the Talmud (500).

In 614 a Jewish revolt against Byzantine Emperor Heraclius with Persian support failed, leading to an edict expelling the Jews from Palestine.

According to Muslim tradition, in 620 Muhammed flew from Mecca to the "farthest mosque", whose location is considered to be the Temple Mount, returning the same night. In 631, the Arabs defeated Heraclius and conquered the area. Over the next few centuries, Islam became the dominant religion in the area.

Arab rule 636 - 1099
From 636 until the Crusades, Palestine was ruled by the Medinah based Rashidun Caliphs, then the Damascus based Umayyad Caliphate and after that the Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphs. In 691, Ummayad Caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705) constructed the Dome of the Rock shrine on the Temple Mount. Many Jews consider it to contain the Foundation Stone (see also Holy of Holies) which is the holiest site in Judaism. A second building, the Al-Aqsa Mosque was erected on the Temple Mount in 705.

Between the 7th and 11th centuries, Jewish scribes, called the Masoretes and located in the Galilee and Jerusalem, established the Masoretic Text, the final text of the Hebrew Bible.

Crusader rule 1099 - 1291
The name Palestine fell out of use under the Crusaders, who called the kingdoms they established there "Outremer" (overseas). During the Crusades, Jews in Israel were massacred or sold into slavery. The murder of Jews began during the Crusaders' travels across Europe and continued in the Holy Land. Ashkenazi orthodox Jews still recite a prayer in memory of the destruction caused by the Crusades. From 1260 to 1291 Israel became the frontier between Mongol invaders (occasional Crusader allies) and the Mamluks of Egypt. The conflict impoverished the area and severely reduced its population. Sultan Baybars of Egypt eventually expelled the Mongols and eliminated the last Crusader Kingdom of Acre in 1291, thereby ending the Crusades.

Mamluk (Egyptian - Islamic) rule 1260 - 1517
The Egyptian Mamluks governed the area 1260 - 1517.

The collapse of the Crusades was followed by widespread expulsions of Jews in Europe, beginning in England (1290) and followed by France (1306). In the 15th century the large and well integrated Jewish communities in Spain (the Alhambra decree 1492) and Portugal (1497) were expelled or forced to convert. Many of these Jews moved to the New World (see History of the Jews in Latin America) and to Poland. Persecutions usually also led to movement of Jews to Israel.

In 1267 the Mamluk Sultan, Babybars conquered Hebron and Jews were banned from worshipping at the Cave of the Patriarchs (the second holiest site in Judaism) until its conquest by Israel 700 years later.

Ottoman (Turkish - Islamic) rule 1517 - 1917
Under the Ottomans (1517—1917) the area was part of the province of Syria.

During the 1648—1654 Khmelnytsky Uprising in the Ukraine over 100,000 Jews were massacred in Eastern Europe, leading to further migration. The Jewish population of Israel was concentrated in the Four Holy Cities.

In 1799 Napoleon briefly occupied the coast and prepared a proclamation offering to create a Jewish state but did not issue it.

By the 19th century, the Land of Israel was populated mostly by Muslim and Christian Arabs, as well as Jews, Greeks, Druze, Bedouins and other minorities. In 1844, Jews constituted the largest population group in Jerusalem and by 1890 an absolute majority in the city, although as a whole the Jewish population made up far less than 10% of the region.

When the British conquered the area in 1917, they named it "Palestine" and defined boundaries including modern Israel, the West-Bank and Gaza and Jordan.


The Zionist Movement

1897–1917: The Zionist Revolution

For a full account of the emergence of the Zionist movement see the History of Zionism.

The French Revolution and the associated spread of Enlightenment ideals led to Jewish emancipation across Europe. Many Jews actively embraced the enlightenment and assimilated as ways to attain equal rights. This led to a counter-reaction by European reactionaries who sought to prevent Jews from being granted citizenship and who saw them as an alien, morally inferior non-European community. Opponents of Jewish civil rights called themselves antisemites. Scientific racism became increasingly popular as the century wore on and what had been religious prejudice now became racial prejudice. In Tzarist Russia, the government actively encouraged pogroms in an effort to divert popular resentment at the government and to drive out the Jewish population. As part of the campaign the Russian government alleged a Jewish-Zionist conspiracy to achieve world domination.

A small percentage of the millions of Jews who fled Russia headed for Palestine. Mikveh Israel was founded in 1870 by Alliance Israelite Universelle, followed by Petah Tikva (1878), Rishon LeZion (1882), and other agricultural communities founded by the members of Bilu and Hovevei Zion.

Antisemitism, pogroms and the growth of nationalism in Europe led to an increase in the number of Jews who considered the possibility of re-establishing themselves as an independent nation. Left-wing antisemitism and the desire to preserve their identity led some socialist Jews to seek solutions within their own community.

In 1897, the First Zionist Congress proclaimed the decision "to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law." The movement made little political progress before the First World War and was regarded with suspicion by the Ottoman rulers of the Holy Land.

Zionism attracted religious Jews, secular nationalists and left-wing socialists. Socialists aimed to reclaim the land by working on it and formed collectives. This was accompanied by Revival of the Hebrew language.

During World War I, the British sought Jewish support in the fight against Germany. This and support for Zionism from Prime-Minister Lloyd-George led to foreign minister, Lord Balfour making the Balfour Declaration of 1917, stating that the British Government "view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people"..."it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine".

The British invasion force, led by General Allenby, included a force of Jewish volunteers (mostly Zionists), known as the Jewish Legion.


1917–1948: British rule: the Jewish national home

The League of Nations Mandate
After World War I, the League of Nations formally assigned the Palestine mandate to the United Kingdom; endorsing the terms of the Balfour Declaration and additionally requiring the creation of an independent Jewish Agency that would administer Jewish affairs in Palestine. Britain signed an additional treaty with the USA (which did not join the League of Nations) in which the USA endorsed the terms of the mandate.

The Jewish Agency was managed by a council of 224 representatives, half elected by the Zionist Congress and half by Jews (not just Zionists) in various countries. The Agency allocated immigration permits (the number of permits was fixed by the British) and distributed funds donated by Jews abroad.

From 1927, the adult Jews of Palestine (including women) elected a 314 member General Assembly every four years which appointed a 40 member Va'ad Leumi (National Committee), which functioned as a government and raised taxes (with British permission); most of the revenue raised by the Mandate came from the Jewish minority but was spent on funding the British administration and services to the Arab majority so the Va'ad administered independent services for the Jewish population.

Education and health care for the Jewish population were in the hands of the major Zionist parties: the General Zionists, the Mizrahi and the Socialist Zionists all operated their own public education, health and (except for Mizrahi) sports organizations funded by municipal taxes, donations and fees. Following a campaign by Haim Weizmann the Zionist movement also established the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Technion in Haifa. While educational opportunities for the Arab population increased under the mandate, many remained illiterate (as was the case across the Empire) and no universities were created. Modern schooling was not freely available at any age and most education was traditional religious schooling.

The growth of Arab resistance and immigration restrictions
Following Arab rioting in 1921, the British mandatory authorities enacted a system of immigration quotas to ensure that Jewish immigration did not disrupt Palestine's economy. An exception was made for Jews with over 1000 Pounds in cash (a large sum in those days), or professionals with over 500 Pounds, who would be allowed in despite the quotas. A decision was made to remove Transjordan from the mandate and allow an independent state to be created there.

Arab attacks on isolated Jewish settlements and British failure to protect the Jews, led to the creation of Haganah (Defense) a mainly socialist Jewish militia dedicated to defending Jewish settlements. Following the 1929 Arab riots, the Revisionist Zionist leader, Jabotinsky, created a right-wing militia called the Irgun Tzvai Leumi (National Military Organization, known in locally by its acronym "Etzel"), this smaller group temporarily merged with Haganah in the thirties.

Jewish immigration grew slowly in the 1920s. However, the increased persecution of European Jews by the European Fascist powers (such as the Third Reich) resulted in a marked increase in Jewish immigration.

Rapid Jewish migration led to a large-scale Arab rebellion in Palestine (1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine). The Jewish Agency leader, Ben-Gurion responded to the revolt with Havlagah, a policy of not responding to Arab attacks in order to prevent polarization. The Etzel left the Haganah because of its failure to avenge Arab attacks on Jews.

Concerned that the revolt would damage Anglo-Arab/Muslim relations, Britain responded by creating a Royal Commission chaired by Lord Peel. The Peel Commission recommended the partition of Palestine into two separate autonomous regions for Jews and Arabs, with Britain maintaining overall control over the territory and a population transfer to secure full separation between the communities. The proposals were rejected as unworkable by the British Parliament. The commission did not examine the situation of Jews in Europe.

The 1939 White Paper and the Holocaust
In 1939, the increasing probability of major war in Europe prompted Britain to focus on Arab goodwill and prevent immigration by the growing numbers of Jews trying to enter Palestine. The result was the 1939 White Paper which restricted Jewish immigration to 75,000 over the next five years (further levels requiring Arab consent) and a promise to establish an independent Palestine under Arab majority rule within the next ten years. Both the Jewish and the Palestinian-Arab leadership rejected the White Paper.

The White Paper was published on 9 November 1938, two weeks after Germany annexed Sudetenland. The night it was published a massive pogrom took place in Germany and 25-30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps, 200 synagogues destroyed and 91 Jews murdered. The White Paper was passed into law by Parliament in May 1939, a few weeks after Britain agreed to Germany annexing the rest of Czechoslavakia.

The 1939 White Paper broke with the terms of the British Mandate as decreed by the League of Nations and the Balfour Declaration. Despite this, the Jewish Agency leader, Ben-Gurion, decided to support Britain in the coming conflict with Germany and Palestine's Jewish youth were called on to volunteer for the British Army (both men and women). The Etzel also supported this policy, however a small group dedicated to fighting the British broke away and formed the Lehi (Stern Gang), led by Avraham Stern. According to Arthur Koestler, Stern's parents had been on a boat the British returned to Europe in the 1930s where they were killed by the Nazis.

In March 1940 the British High Commissioner for Palestine issued an edict banning Jews from purchasing land in 95% of Palestine.

In 1943 the USSR released the Revisionist Zionist leader, Menachem Begin from the Gulag and he migrated to Palestine, taking command of the Etzel with a policy of increased conflict against the British. Begin's family had been murdered by the Nazis. At about the same time Yitzhak Shamir escaped from the camp in Eritrea where the British had been holding him without trial and assumed command of the Lehi (Stern Gang). Shamir's parents were murdered by the Polish villagers they grew up among.

From 1939 to 1945 72% of European Jews were murdered. 20-25% of those killed were children.

1945–1947: Jewish uprising against British rule
The Second World War left the surviving remnant of Jews in central Europe as displaced persons (refugees); almost all wanted to leave, and many opted to seek refuge in Palestine using the clandestine organized effort. A stream of small boats ensued, carrying stateless Jews to Palestine without documents. This situation caused the British to take counter measures against the illegal immigrants and its organization. Because of the human tragedy, both public and militant resistance to British administration increased.

Shortly after VE Day, the Labour Party won the elections in Britain. Although the Labour party conferences for years had called for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, the Labour Foreign Minister, Ernest Bevin, decided to maintain the 1939 White Paper restrictions. This was due to the continued importance of cordial Anglo-Arab relations to British strategic concerns throughout the region and their weakened empire. Britain governed Transjordan, Sudan, Kuwait, the Arab Emirates, Bahrain and the Yemen, and had treaties of alliance with Iraq and Egypt. At this time also, Jewish militias in Palestine, (the Haganah, 'Etzel' and Lehi) decided to form the unified Jewish Resistance Movement against the British.

In June 1946, following instances of sabotage and kidnapping, the British launched Operation Agatha in Palestine and arrested thousands of Jews, including the leadership of the responsible Jewish Agency. Many were held without trial, until arrangements for a deescalation were made.

The Kielce Pogrom in Poland, in July 1946, and continuing violence elsewhere in Eastern Europe, led to a massive wave of Jews seeking to escape Europe. About this time, the British government decided to hold illegal Jewish immigrants to Palestine at Cyprus internment camps; they were held indefinitely and without trial. The prisoners were mostly Holocaust survivors, with many children and orphans; the camps were funded by taxation of the Jewish community in Palestine. Due to concerns in Cyprus that the Jews would never leave, since they lacked citizenship or documents, the administration subsequently began to release them at a rate of 750 per month and allowed their movement to Palestine.

The unified resistance movement in Palestine also broke up in July 1946, after Irgun's bombing of the British Military Headquarters, the King David Hotel bombing, which killed 92, mostly civilians. In the days following the bombing, Tel-Aviv was placed under curfew and over 120,000, nearly 20% of the Jewish population of Palestine, were interrogated by CID.

The negative publicity generated by British attempts to halt Jewish migration to Palestine, led US Congress to delay granting Britain economic aid which was vital to the survival of the British Empire. Fearing a parallel conflict with Britain's Arab allies and subjects, the Labour Government decided to refer the Palestine problem to the United Nations.

The United Nations decides to partition Palestine
The UN appointed a committee to decide how to deal with Palestine, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). While the UNSCOP mission was visiting Palestine, in July 1947, Jewish and Zionist delegations met with the committee; the Arab Higher Committee boycotted the meetings. At this time, British Foreign Secretary Bevin ordered an illegal immigrant ship, the Exodus 1947, to be sent back to Europe.

In July 1947 also, an incident between Britain and the militant Irgun in Palestine triggered anti-semitic riots in Liverpool; these spread to other major British cities, including London, Manchester, Cardiff, Derby and Glasgow.

The principal non-Zionist Orthodox Jewish (or haredi) party, Agudat Israel, recommended to UNSCOP that a Jewish state be created after reaching a religious status quo agreement with Ben-Gurion regarding the future state. The agreement granted future exemption of yeshiva (religious seminary) students and orthodox women from military service, made the Sabbath the national weekend, promised Kosher food in government institutions and allowed them to maintain a separate education system.

In September 1947, one month after Partition of India, (UNSCOP) recommended partition in Palestine, a suggestion ratified by the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947. The result envisaged the creation of two states, one Arab and one Jewish, with the city of Jerusalem to be under the direct administration of the United Nations.

The General Assembly resolution called upon Britain to evacuate a seaport and sufficient hinterland to support substantial Jewish migration, by February 1, 1948. Neither Britain nor the UN Security Council acted to implement the resolution and Britain continued imprisoning Jews attempting to migrate, in camps on Cyprus.

Concerned that partition would severely damage Anglo-Arab/Muslim relations, Britain refused to cooperate with the UN, denying the UN access to Palestine during the interim period (a requirement of the partition decision). Final evacuation was completed by May 1948. Britain continued to hold Jews of "fighting age" and their families on Cyprus even after leaving Palestine. They were eventually released in March 1949.

In 1946-47, the Dead Sea Scrolls were found by a Bedouin Shepherd, Muhammed edh-Dhib. On the day the UN voted to create a Jewish state, archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik identified the scrolls as authentic copies of the bible dating back to before the destruction of Judea. Sukenik bought three of the scrolls the following month.


The United Nations Partition Plan
for Palestine or United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine was a plan adopted by a decision of the General Assembly. The resolution was approved by a vote of 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions on November 29, 1947. The decision recommended the division of the British Mandate of Palestine into two provisional states, one Jewish and one Arab, and a framework for economic union. The resolution reflected two competing nationalist expressions embodied in Palestine, one emanated from Europe and one emanated from the indigenous majority; both had been accepted as legitimate a quarter century earlier by the UN precursor agency, the League of Nations. The resolution was passed to help resolve both the recent humanitarian disaster befallen the European Jews as well as the long-running conflict between Zionist ambitions to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and the competing indigenous “civil and religious rights of [the] existing non-Jewish” Arab majority there. The General Assembly also recommended that the City of Jerusalem be placed under a special international regime, a corpus separatum, administered by the United Nations and outside both states; this was to preserve peace, given the unique spiritual and religious interests in the city among the world's three great monotheistic religions. A transitional period under UN auspices was to begin with the adoption of the resolution and last until establishment of the two states. Although the resolution contemplated a gradual withdrawal of British forces and termination of the Mandate by August 1, 1948, and full independence of the new states by 1 October 1948, this did not happen; the passage of the partition plan immediately instigated a civil war in Palestine.

With the fighting continuing and the planned British withdrawal approaching, the United Nations Security Council reached an impasse on March 5, 1948, when it refused to pass a resolution which would have accepted the partition plan as a basis for Security Council action. The United States subsequently recommended a temporary UN trusteeship for Palestine "without prejudice to the character of the eventual political settlement", and the Security Council voted to send the matter back to the General Assembly for further deliberation. In May 1948, the simultaneous British withdrawal and Israel's unilateral Declaration of Independence, which in part cites the UN resolution as recognizing the right of the Jewish people to establish a state, led to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The General Assembly decided to appoint a Mediator, and relieved the established Palestine Commission from any further exercise of responsibility under Resolution 181 (II). Although the original mediator was assassinated, continued UN mediation efforts resulted in the 1949 Armistice Agreements, which temporarily delineated borders and greatly quieted the fighting between the parties.

Years later, the Palestinian Declaration of Independence of 1988, one of the subsequent attempts to create a Palestinian state, similarly recalls the partition plan as being among the sources entitling Palestinian Arabs to statehood. This is despite strong Arab rejection of the plan at the time.

Map of 1947 Jewish settlements in Palestine


The War of Independence: The civil war phase

Fighting between the Arab and Jewish communities of Palestine began in November 1947, immediately after the UN decision to create a Jewish state. The Arab States declared they would greet any attempt to form a Jewish state with war. Dr Izzat Tannous, the Palestinian Arab representative to the UN declared that

We are now at war, a war in which no quarter will be asked and none will be given. It will be a battle of life and death and woe to the vanquished.


1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine

Jewish soldiers at Katamon, Jerusalem.

The 1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine lasted from 30 November 1947, the date of the United Nations vote in favour of the termination of the British Mandate of Palestine and the UN Partition Plan, to the termination of the British Mandate itself on 14 May 1948.

This period constitutes the first phase of the 1948 Palestine war, during which the Jewish and Arab communities of Palestine clashed, while the British, who supposedly had the obligation to maintain order, organized their withdrawal and intervened only on an occasional basis.

The next phase of the conflict was the 1948 Arab-Israeli War which began on the 15 May 1948, on the termination of the British Mandate of Palestine and the creation of the State of Israel, when the conflict in Palestine became an outright war between the new State of Israel and its Arab neighbours.

In the immediate aftermath of the United Nations' approval of the Partition plan, the explosions of joy amongst the Jewish community were counterbalanced by the expression of discontent amongst the Arab community. Soon after, violence broke out and became more and more prevalent. Murders, reprisals, and counter-reprisals came fast on each other's heels, resulting in dozens of victims killed on both sides in the process. The sanguinary impasse persisted as no force intervened to put a stop to the escalating cycles of violence.

During the first two months of the war, around 1,000 people were killed and 2,000 people injured. By the end of March, the figure had risen to 2,000 dead and 4,000 wounded.These figures correspond to an average of more than 100 deaths and 200 casualties per week in a population of 2,000,000.

From January onwards, operations became increasingly militarized, with the intervention of a number of Arab Liberation Army regiments inside Palestine, each active in a variety of distinct sectors around the different coastal towns. They consolidated their presence in Galilee and Samaria. Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni came from Egypt with several hundred men of the Army of the Holy War. Having recruited a few thousands of volunteers, al-Husayni organised the blockade of the 100,000 Jewish residents of Jerusalem. To counter this, the Yishuv authorities tried to supply the city with convoys of up to 100 armoured vehicles, but the operation became more and more impractical as the number of casualties in the relief convoys surged. By March, Al-Hussayni's tactic had paid off. Almost all of Haganah's armoured vehicles had been destroyed, the blockade was in full operation, and hundreds of Haganah members who had tried to bring supplies into the city were killed. The situation for those who dwelt in the Jewish settlements in the highly-isolated Negev and North of Galilee was even more critical.

While the Jewish population had received strict orders requiring them to hold their ground everywhere at all costs, the Arab population was more affected by the general conditions of insecurity to which the country was exposed. Up to 100,000 Palestinians, from the urban upper and middle classes in Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem, or Jewish-dominated areas, evacuated abroad or to Arab centres eastwards.

This situation caused the USA to withdraw their support for the Partition plan, thus encouraging the Arab League to believe that the Palestinians, reinforced by the Arab Liberation Army, could put an end to partition. The British, on the other hand, decided on the 7 February 1948, to support the annexation of the Arab part of Palestine by Transjordan.

Although a certain level of doubt took hold amongst Yishuv supporters, their apparent defeats were due more to their wait-and-see policy than to weakness. Ben-Gurion reorganised Haganah and made conscription obligatory. Every Jewish man and woman in the country had to receive military training. Thanks to funds raised by Golda Meir from sympathisers in the United States, and Stalin's decision to support for the Zionist cause, the Jewish representatives of Palestine were able to sign very important armament contracts in the East. Other Haganah agents recuperated stockpiles from the Second World War, which helped improve the army's equipment and logistics. Operation Balak allowed arms and other equipment to be transported for the first time by the end of March.

Ben-Gurion invested Yigal Yadin with the responsibility to come up with a plan in preparation for the announced intervention of the Arab states. The result of his analysis was Plan Dalet, which was put in place from the start of April onwards. The adoption of Plan Dalet marked the second stage of the war, in which Haganah passed from the defensive to the offensive.

The first operation, named Nachshon, consisted of lifting the blockade on Jerusalem. 1500 men from Haganah's Givati brigade and Palmach's Harel brigade conducted sorties to free up the route to the city between 5 April and 20 April. The operation was successful, and enough foodstuffs to last 2 months were trucked into to Jerusalem for distribution to the Jewish population. The success of the operation was assisted by the death of Al-Hassayni in combat. During this time, and independently of Haganah or the framework of Plan Dalet, irregular troops from Irgun and Lehi formations massacred a substantial number of Arabs at Deir Yassin, an event which, though publicly deplored and criticized by the principal Jewish authorities, had a deep impact on the morale of the Palestinian population.

At the same time, the first large-scale operation of the Arab Liberation Army ended in a "débâcle", having been roundly defeated at Mishmar HaEmek, coinciding with the loss of their Druze allies through defection.

Within the framework of the establishment of Jewish territorial continuity foreseen by Plan Dalet, the forces of Haganah, Palmach and Irgun intended to conquer mixed zones. Palestinian society was shaken. Tiberias, Haifa, Safed, Beisan, Jaffa and Acre fell, resulting in the flight of more than 250,000 Palestinians.

The British had, at that time, essentially withdrawn their troops. The situation pushed the leaders of the neighbouring Arab states to intervene, but their preparation was not finalised, and they could not assemble sufficient forces to turn the tide of the war. The majority of Palestinian hopes lay with the Arab Legion of Transjordan's monarch, King Abdullah I, but he had no intention of creating a Palestinian-run state, since he hoped to annex as much of the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine as he could. He was playing a double-game, being just as much in contact with the Jewish authorities as with the Arab League.

In preparation for the offensive, Haganah successfully launched Operations Yiftah and Ben-'Ami to secure the Jewish settlements of Galilee, and Operation Kilshon, which created a united front around Jerusalem. The inconclusive meeting between Golda Meir and Abdullah I, followed by the attack of Kfar Etzion on the 13 May by the Arab Legion led to predictions that the battle for Jerusalem would be merciless.

On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the state of Israel and the 1948 Palestine war entered its second phase with the intervention of the Arab state armies and the beginning of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Under the control of a British administration since 1920, the area of Palestine found itself the object of a battle between Jewish Zionist nationalists and Palestinian Arab nationalists, who opposed one another just as much as they both opposed the British 'occupation.'

The Palestinian backlash culminated in the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. Directed by Palestinian nationalists, the rebels opposed Zionism, the British presence in Palestine and Palestinian politicians who called for pan-Arabic nationalism at the same time. Both the British and the Zionist organisations of the time opposed the revolt; nonetheless, the Palestinian nationalists did obtain from the British a drastic reduction of Jewish immigration, legislated by the 1939 White Paper. However, the consequences of the unsuccessful uprising were heavy. Nearly 5,000 Arabs and 500 Jews died; the various paramilitary Zionist organisations were reinforced, and the majority of the members of the Palestinian political elite exiled themselves, such as Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, chief of the Arab High Committee, who took refuge in Nazi Germany, where he would help to recruit Muslims for the Waffen-SS.

After World War II and the horrors of The Holocaust, the Zionist movement attracted sympathy. In Palestine, right-wing Zionist groups fought against the British occupation. The Palestinian nationalists reorganized themselves, but their organisation remained inferior to that of the Zionists. Nevertheless, the weakening of the colonial British Empire reinforced Arab countries and the Arab League for the future war against newly-founded Israel.

Diplomacy failed to reconcile the different points of view concerning the future of Palestine. On 18 February 1947, the British announced their withdrawal from the region. Later that year, on the 29 November, the General Assembly of the United Nations voted for a partition plan with the support of the big global powers, but not that of Britain nor the Arabic nations.

Beginning of the Civil War (30 November 1947 – 1 April 1948)

In the aftermath of the adoption of the United Nations' partition plan, the manifestations of joy of the Jewish community were counterbalanced by protests by Arabs throughout the country and after the 1 December, the Arab Higher Committee enacted a general strike that lasted three days.

A 'wind of violence' rapidly took hold of the country, foreboding civil war between the two communities.

Rise of violence
In all the mixed zones where both communities lived, particularly Jerusalem and Haifa, increasingly violent attacks, reprisals and counter-reprisals followed each other. Isolated shootings evolved into all-out battles. Attacks against traffic, for instance, turned into ambushes as one bloody attack led to another.

For example, Irgun and Lehi followed a strategy of placing bombs in crowded markets and bus-stops. As on 30 December, in Haifa, when members of the clandestine militant Zionist group, Irgun, threw two bombs at a crowd of Arab workers who were queueing in front of a refinery, killing 6 of them and injuring 42. An angry crowd killed 39 Jewish people in revenge, until British soldiers reestablished calm. In reprisals, some soldiers from the strike force, Palmach and the Carmeli brigade, attacked the village of Balad ash-Sheikh and Hawassa. According to different historians, this attack led to between 21 and 70 deaths.

On the 22 February 1948, supporters of Mohammad Amin al-Husayni organised, with the help of certain British deserters, three attacks against the Jewish community. Using car bombs aimed at the headquarters of the pro-Zionist Jerusalem Post, the Ben Yehuda St. market and the backyard of the Jewish Agency's offices, they killed 22, 53 and 13 Jewish people respectively, and injured hundreds. In retaliation, Lehi put a landmine on the railroad track in Rehovot on which a train from Cairo to Haifa was travelling, killing 28 British soldiers and injuring 35. This would be copied on the 31 March, close to Caesarea Maritima, which would lead to the death of forty people, injuring 60, who were, for the most part, Arab civilians.

Between December 1947 and January 1948, it was estimated that around 1,000 people were killed and 2,000 injured.[29] By the end of March, a report stated that 2,000 had been killed and 4,000 injured. These figures correspond to an average of over 100 deaths and 200 injuries per week, all of this in a country with 2,000,000 inhabitants.

War of the roads and blockade of Jerusalem

Geographic situation of the Jewish zones
Apart from on the coastline, Jewish yishuvim, or settlements, were very dispersed. Communication between the coastal area -which was the most developed in terms of Jewish settlements- and the peripheral settlements was carried out by road links. These road links were an easy target for attacks, as the majority of them passed through or near entirely Arab localities. The isolation of the 100,000 Jewish people in Jerusalem and other Jewish settlements outside the coastal zone, such as kibbutz Kfar Etzion, halfway on the strategic road between Jerusalem and Hebron, the 27 settlements in the Southern region of Negev and the settlements to the north of Galilee, were a weak strategic point for Yishuv.

The possibility of evacuating these difficult to defend zones was considered, but the policy of Haganah was set by David Ben-Gurion. He stated that 'what the Jewish people have has to be conserved. No Jewish person should abandon his or her house, farm, kibbutz or job without authorisation. Every outpost, every colony, whether it is isolated or not, must be occupied as though it were Tel Aviv itself. No Jewish settlement was evacuated until the invasion of May 1948. Only a dozen kibbutzim in Galilee as well as those of Gush Etzion sent women and children into the safer interior zones.

Ben Gurion gave instructions that the settlements of Negev be reinforced in number of men and goods, in particular the kibbutzim of Kfar Darom and Yad Mordechai (both north of Gaza,) Revivim (south of Beersheba) and Kfar Etzion. Conscious of the danger that weighed upon Negev, the supreme command of Haganah assigned a whole Palmach battalion there.

Jerusalem and the great difficulty of accessing the city became even more critical to its Jewish population, who made up one sixth of the total of Yishuv settlers. The route from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was long and precipitous, which, after leaving the Jewish zone at Hulda, went through the foothills of Latrun. Then, the 28 kilometre route between Bab al-Wad and Jerusalem took no less than 3 hours, and the route passed the vicinity of the Arab villages of Saris, Qaluniya, Al-Qastal and Deir Yassin.

Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni's strategy
Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni arrived in Jerusalem with the intent to surround and besiege its Jewish community. He moved to Surif, a village to the southwest of Jerusalem, with his supporters - around a hundred fighters who were trained in Syria before the war and who served as officers in his army, Jihad al-Muqadas, or Army of the Holy War. He was joined by a hundred or so young villagers and Arab veterans of the British Army. His militia soon had several thousand men, and it moved its training quarters to Bir Zeit, a town near Ramallah. Its zone of influence extended up to Lydda and Ramleh, where Hasan Salama - a veteran of the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine - commanded 1,000 men and co-ordinated, with al-Husayni, a plan of disruption and harassment of road traffic.

On the 10 December, the first organized attack occurred when ten members of a convoy between Bethlehem and Kfar Etzion were killed.

On the 14 January, Abd al-Qadir himself commanded and took part in an attack against Kfar Etzion, in which 1,000 Palestinian Arab combatants were involved. The attack was a failure, and 200 of al-Husayni's men died. Nonetheless, the attack did not come without losses of Jewish lives: a detachment of 35 Palmach men who sought to reinforce the establishment were ambushed and killed.

On 25 January, a large scale attack took place in the Arab village of al-Qastal. Due to an appeal by al-Husayni, many people from several Arab-majority villages situated in the northeast of Jerusalem joined the attack, although others did not, for fear of reprisals. The campaign for control over the roads became increasingly militaristic in nature, and became a focal point of the Arab war effort.[ After 22 March, supply convoys to Jerusalem stopped, due to a convoy of around thirty vehicles having been destroyed in the gorges of Bab-el-Oued.

On 27 March, an important supply convoy from Kfar Etzion was taken in an ambush in southern Jerusalem. They were forced to surrender all of their arms, ammunition and vehicles to al-Husayni's forces. The Jews of Jerusalem requested the assistance of the United Kingdom after 24 hours of combat. According to a British report, the situation in Jerusalem, where a food rationing system was already in application, risked becoming desperate after 15 May.

The situation in other areas of the country was as critical as the one of Jerusalem. The settlements of Negev were utterly isolated, due to the impossibility of using the Southern coastal road, which passed through zones densely populated by Arabs. On 27 March, a convoy of supplies (the Yehiam convoy) that was intended for the isolated kibbutzim north-west of Galilee was attacked in the vicinity of Nahariya. In the ensuing battle, 42-47 Haganah combatants and around a hundred fighters of the Arab Liberation Army were killed, and all vehicles involved were destroyed.

Death toll and analysis
In the last week of March alone, the losses underwent by Haganah were particularly heavy: they lost three large convoys in ambushes, more than 100 soldiers and their fleet of armoured vehicles.

All in all, West Jerusalem was gradually 'choked;' the settlements of Galilee could not be reached in any other way but via the valley of Jordan and the road of Nahariya, both dominated by Arab villages. Haifa could not be joined to Tel-Aviv by the coastal road due to the chain of Arab villages at the Northern part of it. In the south, the four settlements of the Etzion Bloc were besieged and the pipeline that supplied them with water regularly sabotaged.

This situation, the need to prepare the settlements for the foreseen attack of the Arab states in May, and the earlier projected departure date of the British pushed Haganah to the offensive and to apply the Daleth plan from April onwards.

Intervention of foreign forces in Palestine
Violence kept intensifying with the intervention of military units. Although responsible for law and order up until the end of the mandate, the British did not try to take control of the situation, being more involved in the liquidation of the administration and the evacuation of their troops. Furthermore, the authorities felt that they had lost enough men already in the conflict.

The British either could not or did not want to impede the intervention of foreign forces into Palestine. According to a special report by the UN Special Commission on Palestine:

-During the night of 20-21 January, a troop composed of 700 Syrians in battle dress, equipped well and in control of mechanised transport, enters Palestine 'via Transjordan.'
-On 27 January, 'a band of 300 men from outside Palestine, was established in the area of Safed in Galilee and was probably responsible for the intensive heavy weapon and mortar attacks the following week against the settlement of Yechiam.'
-In the night of 29 January-30 January, a battalion commanded by commanded by Fawzi al-Qawuqji that consisted of 950 men in 19 vehicles was deployed by the Arab Liberation Army and entered Palestine 'via Adam Bridge and dispersed itself around the villages of Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarem.'

This description corresponds to the entry of Arab Liberation Army troops between 10 January and the start of March:

-The Second regiment of Yarmouk, under the orders of Adib Shishakli [49] entered Galilee via Lebanon on the night of 11-12 January. The battalion passed through Safed and then settled in the village of Sasa. A third of the regiment's fighters were Palestinian, and a quarter were Syrian.
-The 1st Yarmouk regiment, commanded by Muhammad Tzafa, entered Palestine on the night of 20–21 January, via the Bridge of Damia from Jordan and disperses around Samaria, where it established its HQ, in the Northern Samarian city of Tubas. The regiment is composed chiefly of Palestinians and Iraqis.
-The Hittin regiment, commanded by Madlul Abbas, settled in the west of Samaria with its headquarters in Tulkarem.
-The Hussein ibn Ali regiment provided reinforcement in Haifa, Jaffa, Jerusalem and several other cities.
-The Qadassia regiment were reserves based in Jab'a.

Fawzi al-Qawuqji, Field Commander of the Arab Liberation Army, arrived, according to himself, on the 4 March, with the rest of the logistics and around 100 Bosniak volunteers in Jab'a, a small village on the route between Nablus and Jenin. He established a headquarters there and a training centre for Palestinian volunteers.

Alan Cunningham, the British High Commissioner in Palestine, thoroughly protested against the incursions and the fact that 'no serious effort is being made to stop incursions'. The only reaction came from Alec Kirkbride, who complained to Ernest Bevin about Cunningham's 'hostile tone and threats'.

The British and the information service of Yishuv expected an offensive for 15 February, but it would not take place, seemingly because the Mufti troops were not ready.

In March, an Iraqi regiment of the Arab Liberation Army came to reinforce the Palestinian troops of Salameh in the area around Lydda and Ramleh, whilst Al-Hussayni started a headquarters in Bir Zeit, 10 km to the north of Ramallah. At the same time, a number of North African troops, principally Libyans, and hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood entered Palestine. In March, an initial regiment arrived in Gaza and certain militants amongst them reached Jaffa.

Morale of the fighters
The Arab combatants' initial victories reinforced morale amongst them. The Arab Higher Committee was confident and decided to prevent the set-up of the UN-backed partition plan. In an announcement made to the Secretary-General on the 6 February, they declared[54]:

“ The Palestinian Arabs consider any attempt by Jewish people or by whatever power or group of power to establish a Jewish state in an Arab territory to be an act of aggression that will be resisted by force [...]

The prestige of the United Nations would be better served by abandoning this plan and by not imposing such an injustice [...]
The Palestinian Arabs make a grave declaration before the UN, before God and before history that they will never submit to any power that comes to Palestine to impose a partition. The only way to establish a partition is to get rid of them all: men, women, and children.”

At the beginning of February 1948, the morale of the Jewish leaders was not high: 'distress and despair arose clearly from the notes taken at the meetings of the Mapai party.' 'The attacks against the Jewish settlements and main roads worsened the direction of the Jewish people, who underestimated the intensity of the Arab reaction. The situation of the 100,000 Jewish people situated in Jerusalem was precarious, and supplies to the city, already slim in number, were likely to be stopped. Nonetheless, despite the setbacks suffered, the Jewish forces, in particular Haganah, remained superior in number and quality to those of the Arab forces.

The first wave of Palestinian refugees

1948 Palestinian exodus

The high morale of the Arab fighters and politicians was not shared by the Palestinian Arab civilian population. The UN Palestine Commission reported 'Panic continues to increase, however, throughout the Arab middle classes, and there is a steady exodus of those who can afford to leave the country. 'From December 1947 to January 1948, around 70,000 Arabs fled, and, by the end of March, that number had grown to around 100,000.

These people were part of the first wave of Palestinian refugees of the conflict. Mostly the middle and upper classes fled, including the majority of the families of local governors and representatives of the Arab Higher Committee. Non-Palestinian Arabs also fled in large numbers.[59] Most of them did not abandon the hope of returning to Palestine once the hostilities had ended.

Policies of foreign powers
Many decisions were made abroad that had an important influence over the outcome of the conflict.

Britain and the Jordanian choice
Britain did not want a Palestinian state led by the Mufti, and opted unofficially instead, on 7 February 1948, to support the annexation of the Arab part of Palestine by Abdullah I of Jordan. At a meeting in London between the commander of Transjordan's Arab Legion, Glubb Pasha, and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Ernest Bevin, the two parties agreed that they would facilitate the entry of the Arab Legion into Palestine on 15 May and that the Arab part of Palestine be occupied by it. However, they held that the Arab Legion not enter the vicinity of Jerusalem or the Jewish state itself. This option did not envisage a Palestinian Arab state. Although the ambitions of King Abdullah are known, it is not apparent to what extent the authorities of Yishuv, the Arab Higher Committee or the Arab League knew of this decision.

The American U-turn
In Mid-March, after the increasing disorder in Palestine and faced with the fear, later judged unfounded, of an Arab petrol embargo, the American administration announced the possible withdrawal of its support for the UN's partition plan and for the dispatching of an international force to guarantee its implementation. The US, instead, suggested that Palestine be put under UN supervision. On the 1 April, the UN Security Council voted on the American proposal of a convocation of a special assembly intended to reconsider the Palestinian problem, a proposal for which the Soviets abstained from voting. This U-turn from the Americans causes concern and debate amongst Yishuv authorities, who could not, after the withdrawal of British troops, afford to face the Arab troops without the support of the USA. In this context, Elie Sasson, the director of the Arab section of Jewish Agency, and several other personalities, ended up convincing David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meyerson to advance a diplomatic initiative towards the Arabs. The job of negotiation was delegated to Joshua Palmon, who was prohibited from limiting the Haganah's liberty of action but was authorised to declare that 'the Jewish people were ready with a truce.'

The logistical support of the Eastern bloc
In the context of the embargo imposed upon Palestinian belligerents—Jewish and Arab alike—and the dire lack of goods in Palestine, Stalin's decision to not adhere to the embargo and support the country by exporting Czechoslovakian goods played a role in the war that was differently appreciated.

Motivations advanced as regards to Stalin's choice include his support towards the UN Partition plan and his interest in financially aiding Czechoslovakia to lessen their financial frustration after he refused to allow tem to receive Marshall Plan assistance.

The extent of this support and the concrete role that it played is up for debate. Figures advanced by historians tend to vary. Yoav Gelber spoke of 'small deliveries from Czechoslovakia arriving by air [...] from April 1948 onwards[68]' whereas various historians have argued that there was an unbalanced level of support in favour of Yishuv, given that the Palestinian Arabs did not benefit from an equivalent level of Soviet support. In any case, the embargo that was extended to all Arab states in May 1948 by the UN Security Council caused great problems to them.

Arab leaders' refusal of direct involvement
Despite what one may be led to think by their bellicose declarations, the Arab leaders 'did what they possibly could to avoid being directly involved' in support for the Palestinian cause.

At the Arab League summit of October 1947, in Aley, the Iraqi general, Ismail Safwat, painted a realist picture of the situation. He underlined the better organisation and greater financial support of the Jewish people in comparison to the Palestinians. He recommended the immediate deployment of the Arab armies at the Palestinian borders, the dispatching of weapons and ammunition to the Palestinians, and the contribution of a million pounds of financial aid to them. His proposals were rejected, other than the suggestion to send financial support, which was not followed up on. Nonetheless, a techno-military committee was established to coordinate assistance to the Palestinians. Based in Cairo, it was directed by Sawfat, who was supported by Lebanese and Syrian officers and representatives of the Higher Arab Committee. A Transjordian delegate was also appointed, but he did not participate in meetings.

At the December 1947 Cairo summit, under pressure by public opinion, the Arab leaders decided to create a military command that united all the heads of all the major Arab states, headed by Safwat. They still ignored his calls for financial and military aid, preferring to defer any decision until the end of the Mandate, but, nevertheless, decide to form the Arab Liberation Army, which would go into action in the following weeks. On the night of 20–21 January 1948, around 700 armed Syrians entered Palestine via Transjordan. In February 1948, Safwat reiterated his demands, but they fell on deaf ears: the Arab governments hoped that the Palestinians, aided by the Arab Liberation Army, could manage on their own until the International community renounced the partition plan.

The Arms Problem
Whereas the Arab states had state armies and official structures that guaranteed a steady flow of weapons, ammunition and materials, the other protagonists of the conflict did not. The Palestinian Arabs and the Jews' situation was more delicate, since, during the British mandate, the authorities always prohibited the possession of weapons, and confiscated all that they found. Consequently, neither had heavy weaponry or the advantages that recognised, established states have, and their forces had to be clandestine.

The Arab Liberation Army was, in theory, financed and equipped by the Arab League. A budget of one million pounds sterling had been promised to them, due to the insistence of Ismail Safwat. In reality, though, funding never arrived, and only Syria truly supported the Arab volunteers in concrete terms. On the ground, logistics were completely neglected, and their leader, Fawzi al-Qawuqji, envisaged that his troops survive only on the expenses accorded to them by the Palestinian population.

The situation that the Army of the Holy War and the Palestinian forces were in was worse. They could not rely on any form of foreign support and had to get by on the funds that Mohammad Amin al-Husayni could raise. The troops' armament was limited to what the fighters already had. To make things even worse, they had to be content with arms bought on the black market or pillaged from British warehouses, and, as a result, did not really have enough arms to wage war.

The situation in which Jewish fighters found themselves in was better than that of the Palestinian Arabs, since they benefitted from a number of clandestine factories that manufactured light weapons and ammunition. However, they had far less than what was necessary to carry out a war: in November, only one out of every three Jewish combatants was armed, rising to two out of three within Palmach.

However, for Ben-Gurion, the problem was not essentially having the capacity of waging war, but of constructing an army that was worthy to be a state army. The importance that he accorded to this is illustrated by the practice of combining the cabinet posts of Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, a practice that he initiated and that many of his successors follow.

To arm and equip this army, he sent agents to Europe and to the USA, thence came the essential support in terms of light arms and munitions, which began to arrive at the start of April. From June, onwards, there was also a flow of heavy arms.

Until March, Haganah suffered a lack of arms similar to that of the Army of Holy War. From April onwards, it was armed better than the Palestinians, but, after 15 May, during the first weeks of the Arab-Israeli War, the arms advantage leant in favour of the Arab states. From June, after the first truce, the advantage leant clearly towards the Israelis. This situation's changing was due to the contacts made in November 1947 and afterwards.

The Jewish armament movement was helped out after the Yishuv agents obtained a supply of Avia planes from Czechoslovakia and, later on in the conflict, Supermarine Spitfires, machine guns and munitions. In the stockpiles left over from World War II, they procured all the necessary equipment, vehicles and logistics needed for an army. In France, they procured armoured vehicles despite the ongoing embargo. Jewish agents also bought machines to manufacture arms and munitions, forming the foundations of the Israeli armament industry.

In the USA, they bought a number of bombardiers and aeroplanes, which allowed for the transporting of arms purchased in Europe. Operation Balak was put in place to bring these arms and munitions to Israel by the end of March.[86] Some ships were also leased out from various European ports so that these goods could be transported by the 15 May. To finance all of this, Golda Meir managed, by the end of December, to collect twenty-five million dollars through a fundraising campaign set about in the USA to capitalise on American sympathisers to the Zionist cause. Out of the 129 million US dollars raised between October 1947 and March 1949 for the Zionist cause, more than 78 million dollars, over 60%, were used to buy arms and munition.

Reorganisation of Haganah

After 'having gotten the Jews of Palestine and of elsewhere to do everything that they could, personally and financially, to help Yishuv,' Ben-Gurion's second greatest achievement was his having successfully transformed Haganah from being a clandestine paramilitary organization into a true army. Ben-Gurion appointed Israel Galili to the position of head of the High Command counsel of Haganah and divided Haganah into 6 infantry brigades, numbered 1 to 6, allotting a precise theatre of operation to each one. Yaakov Dori was named Chief of Staff, but it was Yigal Yadin who assumed the responsibility on the ground as chief of Operations. Palmach, commanded by Yigal Allon, was divided into 3 elite brigades, numbered 10-12, and constituted the mobile force of Haganah.

On 19 November 1947, obligatory conscription is instituted and all men and women received military training.

"From November 1947, the Haganah, (...) began to change from a territorial militia into a regular army. (...) Few of the units had been well trained by December. (...) By March-April, it fielded still under-equipped battalion and brigades. By April-May, the Haganah was conducting brigade size offensive.

Plan Dalet

Yaakov Dori, Haganah's Chief of Staff,
and his right hand man, Yigael Yadin, Chief of Operations.

Plan Dalet was finalised on 10 March 1948, under the direction of Yigal Yadin. 75 pages long, it laid down the rules and the objects that were to be followed by Haganah during the second phase of the war. Its principal objective was to secure Yishuv's uninterrupted territorial connections, particularly in response to the war of the roads carried out by Al-Hussayni and in preparation for the Arab states' declared intervention. Plan Dalet caused quite a controversy amongst historians. Some see it as a plan which was primarily defensive and military in nature and a preparation against invasion. whereas others think that the plan was an offensive plan that approves of ethnic cleansing, and the conquering of as much of Palestine as possible.

Haganah on the offensive (1 April – 15 May 1948)

The second phase of the war, which began in April, marked a huge change in direction, as Haganah moved to the offensive.

In this stage, Arab forces were composed of around 10,000 men among which between 3,000 and 5,000 foreign volunteers serving in the Arab Liberation Army. Haganah and Palmach forces were steadily increasing. In March, they aligned around 15,000 men[98] and in May around 30,000 who were better equipped, trained and organized.

The armed Palestinian groups were roundly defeated, Yishuv took control of some of the principal routes that linked the Jewish settlements, and as a consequence, Jerusalem was able to receive supplies again. Palestinian society collapsed. Many mixed cities were taken by the Haganah as well as Jaffa. A massive exodus was triggered.

The Battle of Mishmar HaEmek (4–15 April)

Women training at Mishmar HaEmek

Mishmar HaEmek is a kibbutz that was founded by Mapam in 1930, in the Jezreel Valley, close to the road between Haifa and Jenin that passes the Megiddo kibbutz. It is situated in a place that Haganah officers considered to be on one of the most likely axes of penetration for a 'major Arab attack' against the Yishuv.

On 4 April, the Arab Liberation Army launched an attack on the kibbutz with the support of artillery cannons. The attack was fought off by the members of the kibbutz, who were supported by Haganah soldiers. The artillery fire that had almost totally destroyed the kibbutz was stopped by a British column, who arrived on the scene by order of General MacMillan, and, on 7 April, Fawzi Al-Qawuqji accepted a 24-hour ceasefire, but required that the kibbutz be surrendered. The inhabitants of the kibbutz evacuated their children, and, after having consulted Tel-Aviv, refused to surrender.

On the 8 or 9 April, Haganah prepared a counter-offensive, with accordance to Plan Dalet. Yitzhak Sadeh was put in charge of operations, with the order to 'clean out' the region. The battle lasted until the 15 April. Sadeh's men besieged all the villages around the kibbutz, and the Arab Liberation Army had to retreat to its bases in Jabba. The majority of the inhabitants of the region fled, but those who did not were either imprisoned or expelled to Jenin. The villages were plundered by some kibbutznikim and razed to the ground with explosives.

According to Morris, the Arab Liberation Army soldiers were demoralised by reports of the Deir Yassin massacre and the death of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni. Throughout battle, they had generally been forced to withdraw and to abandon the people of the villages. Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins report that Joshua Palmon, head of a unit of 6 men, failed to seize invaluable pieces of artillery, and they depict the events as a débâcle for which Fawzi Al-Qawuqji offered extravagant excuses, declaring in particular that the Jewish forces has 120 tanks, six squadrons of fighter and bomber aeroplanes and that they were supported by a regiment of gentile Russian volunteers.

When the battle finished, Palmach forces continued 'cleaning' operations until the 19 April, destroying several villages and forcing those who inhabited them to flee. Some villages were also evacuated under the instruction of Arab authorities.

In May, Irgun engaged in several operations in the region, razing a number of villages and killing some of their inhabitants, as did some detachments from the Golani and Alexandroni brigades.

Operation Nachshon, 5–20 April
At the end of March 1948, Hussayni's troops prevented supply convoys from reaching Jerusalem. The city was besieged and the Jewish population was forced to adhere to a rationing system. As the first operation of Plan Daleth, Ben-Gurion decided to launch the Nachshon operation to open up the town and provide supplies to Jerusalem.

Between 5-20 April 1500 men from the Guivati and Harel brigades took control of the road to Jerusalem and allowed 3 or 4 convoys to get to the city.

The operation was a military success. All the Arab villages that blocked the route were either taken or destroyed, and the Jewish forces were victorious in all their engagements. Nonetheless, not all the objectives of the operation were achieved, since only 1800 tonnes of the 3,000 envisaged were transported to the town, and two months of severe rationing had to be assumed.

Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni was killed during the night of 7-8 April, in the middle of the battles taking place in Al-Qastal. The loss of this charismatic Palestinian leader 'disrupted the Arab strategy and organisation in the area of Jerusalem.' His successor, Emil Ghuri, changed tactics: instead of provoking a series of ambushes throughout the route, he had a huge road block erected at Bab-el-Oued, and Jerusalem was once again isolated as a consequence.

The Nachshon operation exposed the bad military organisation of the Palestinian paramilitary groups. Due to lack of logistics, particularly food and ammunition, they were incapable of maintaining engagements that were more than a few hours away from their permanent bases.

Faced with these events, the Arab Higher Committee asked Alan Cunningham to allow the return of the Mufti, the only person capable of redressing the situation. Despite obtaining permission, the Mufti did not get to Jerusalem. His declining prestige cleared the way for the expansion of the influence of the Arab Liberation Army and of Fawzi al-Kawukji in the Jerusalem area.

Deir Yassin massacre
Deir Yassin is a village located 5 kilometres west of Jerusalem. On 9 April 1948, independently of the Nachshon operation but with the agreement of the Haganah, around 120 Irgun and Lehi attacked the village of Deir Yassin. They massacred between 100 and 120 inhabitants of the village, mostly civilians.

This massacre led to indignation from the international community, the more so since the press of the time reported that the death toll was 254. Ben-Gurion roundly condemned it, as did the principal Jewish authorities: Haganah, the Great Rabbinate and the Jewish Agency for Israel, who sent a letter of condemnation, apology and condolence to King Abdullah I.

According to Morris, "the most important immediate effect of the atrocity and the media campaign that followed it was how one started to report the fear felt in Palestinian towns and villages, and, later, the panicked fleeing from them."

Another important repercussion was within the Arab population of neighbouring Arab states, which, once again, increased its pressure on the representatives of these states to intervene and come to the aid of the Palestinians.

On the 13 April, in revenge, a medical convoy that was driving towards Jerusalem's Hadassah of Mount Scopus hospital was attacked by Arabs, killing 80 Jewish doctors and patients. A few British soldiers tried to intervene to stop this massacre, but without success.

The Battle of Ramat Yohanan and the Defection of the Druze
Following the 'fiasco' of Mishmar HaEmek, Fawzi Al-Qawuqji ordered the Druze regiment of the Arab Liberation Army into action, to carry out diversion operations. Druze soldiers took position in several Arab villages 12 kilometres to the east of Haifa, whence they occasionally attacked traffic and Jewish settlements, including Ramat Yohanan.

The Kibbutznikim and the Haganah soldiers that supported them forced back their attacks with ease, and razed the villages from which they launched their attacks in retaliation. Having run out of ammunition, the Druze withdrew to their base in Shefa-'Amr, with one hundred casualties.

The Druze had already made contact on several occasions with Yishuv agents, and, following their defeat at Ramat Yohanan, the Druze officers, without the knowledge of their officer, offered to defect and to join the ranks of Haganah. This proposition was discussed with Yigael Yadin, who refused the proposal but suggested that they could help to carry out sabotage operations behind the backs of the Arabs and to influence their comrades into deserting the army. By the start of May, 212 Wahab soldiers deserted, Taking into account the attitude of his men, Wahab met with Jewish liaison officers on the 9 May and agreed to cooperate with Haganah. The two parties avoided clashes, and Wahab created a neutral enclave in the centre of Galilee. Wahab's army did not respond to calls for it to help fight Haganah's occupation of Acre, and avoided being present whilst Haganah occupied the police fortress of Shefa-'Amr during its evacuation by the British.

The position that the Druze took influenced their fate after the war. Given the good relationship between the Druze and Yishuv from 1930 onwards despite their collaboration with the Arab Higher Council and the Arab League, Ben-Gurion insisted that the Druze, as well as the Circassians and the Maronites benefit from a different position to that of the other Arabs.

The siege of mixed localities
In the context of Plan Dalet, mixed urban centres, or those on the borders of the Jewish state, were attacked and besieged by Jewish forces. Tiberias was attacked on 10 April and fell six days later; Haifa fell on 23 April, after only one day of combat (Operation Bi'ur Hametz), and Jaffa was attacked on 27 April but fell only after the British abandoned it (Operation Hametz). Safed and Beisan fell on 11 May and 13 May respectively, within the framework of Operation Yitfah, and Acre fell on 17 May, within the framework of Operation Ben Ami.

The Arab inhabitants of these towns fled or were expelled en masse. In these 6 cities, only 13,000 of the total of 177,000 Arab inhabitants remained by the end of May. This phenomenon ricocheted also in the suburbs and the majority of the zone's Arab villages.

Operation Yiftah (20 April – 24 May)
The Finger of Galilee, a zone in North-West Galilee, between the Lake Tiberias and Metula, was the Jewish-controlled area that was the most distant and isolated from the area most densely populated by Jewish people, the coastal plain. The presence of the Lebanese border to the North, the Syrian border to East and the Arab presence in the rest of Galilee made it a probable target for intervention of the Arab armies. Within the framework of the Dalet plan, Yigal Yadin entrusted Yigal Allon, commander of the Palmach, with the responsibility of managing Operation Yiftah, whose objectives were to control all the aforementioned area and consolidate it ahead of the Arab attack that was planned for 15 May.

Allon was in charge the 1st and 3rd Palmach battalions, which had to face the populace of Safed and several dozen Arab villages. The situation was made more problematic by the presence of the British, although they began their evacuation of the area. According to his analysis, it was essential that they empty the zone of any Arab presence to completely protect themselves; the exodus would also encumber the roads that the Arab forces would have to penetrate.

On 20 April, Allon launched a campaign that mixed propaganda, attacks, seizing control of strongholds that the British had abandoned, and destroying conquered Arab villages. On 1 May, a counter-offensive was launched by Arab militiamen against Jewish settlements but was ultimately unsuccessful. On 11 May, Safed fell, and the operation finished on 24 May after the villages of the valley of Hula were burnt down. Syrian forces' planned offensive in the area failed and, by the end of June, the zone covering everywhere from Tiberias to Metula, incorporating Safed, was emptied of all its Arab population.

Meeting of Golda Meir and King Abdullah I of Jordan (10 May)

Golda Meir in 1943; King Abdullah of Jordan

On 10 May, Golda Meir and Ezra Danin secretly went to Amman, to the palace of King Abdullah to discuss the situation with him. The situation that Abdullah found himself in was difficult. On one hand, his personal ambitions, the promises made by the Yishuv in November 1947 and the British approval of these promises pushed him to consider annexing the Arab part of Palestine without intervening against the future state of Israel. On the other hand, the pressure exerted by his people in reaction to the massacre of Deir Yassin, combined with their feelings with regard to the Palestinian exodus and his agreements with other members of the Arab League pushed him to be more strongly involved in the war against Israel. He also found himself in a position of power, having the benefit of military support from not only the Arab League, but the British. In his diary, Ben-Gurion wrote about Golda Meir's reaction to the meeting:

“ We met [on 10 May] amicably. He was very worried and looks terrible. He did not deny that there had been talk and understanding between us about a desirable arrangement, namely that he would take the Arab part [of Palestine]. (...) But Abdullah had said that he could now, on 10 May, only offer the Jews "autonomy" within an enlarged Hashemite kingdom. He added that while he was not interested in invading the areas allocated for Jewish statehood, the situation was volatile. But he voiced the hope that Jordan and the Yishuv would conclude a peace agreement once the dust had settled. ”

Historical analyses of the motivations and conclusions of this meeting differ. According to Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins - as well as Israeli historiographers - the intention behind the Yishuv's negotiation was to obtain a peace treaty and avoid an attack by Arab forces. At that time, the balance of power was not favourable for them, but Meir did not manage to convince the King.

According to Morris, Abdullah 'reconsidered the promises that he made in November to not be opposed to the partition plan,' but left Meir with the impression that he would make peace with the Jewish state once the civil war had finished.

Avi Shlaim spoke of a 'tacit' agreement to prevent the division of Palestine with the Palestinians, arguing the idea that there was a collusion between the Hashemite Kingdom and Yishuv. The historian Yoav Gelber, however, rejected this idea and devoted an entire work to dismounting it.

Pierre Razoux indicated that 'the majority of experts consider it probable' that Ben-Gurion and King Abdullah had an understanding over dividing Palestine, and that only the pressure from the Arab states on Abdullah constrained him from following up on his promise. According to Razoux, this idea explains the attitude of the British, who, following this plan, would thereby fulfill the promises made by Arthur Balfour to the Yishuv and the Hashemite empire at the same time. He states that the presence of Arab Legion troops, before 15 May, near strategic positions held by the British is in this way easy to understand...

Ilan Pappé stressed that neither Abdullah's ministers, nor the Arab world itself, seemed to be privy to the discussions held between him and the Yishuv, even if his ambitions on Palestine were widely known. He also stated that Sir Alec Kirkbride and Glubb Pasha thought at the time that, at the very least, Azzam Pasha, the Secretary of the Arab League, must have known about Abdullah's double game.

It is certain, on the other hand, that Golda Meir and King Abdullah did not come to an agreement on the status of Jerusalem. On 13 May, the Arab Legion took Kfar Etzion, strategically located halfway along the road between Hebron and Jerusalem. On 17 May, Abdullah ordered Glubb Pasha, commander of the Arab Legion, to launch an attack against the Holy City.

Kfar Etzion massacre

Jewish prisoners taken after the fall of Gush Etzion

Kfar Etzion is a group of four settlements established on the strategic route between Hebron and Jerusalem, right in the middle of Arab territory. It had 400 inhabitants at the end of 1947. After the adoption of the partition plan, it was the object of Arab attacks. Ben Gurion reinforced it on 7 December, protecting it with a Palmach division, but on 8 January, he authorised the evacuation of the women and children of the settlements.

After 26 March, the last date on which a supply convoy successfully reached it, despite heavy losses of life, the defenders were completely isolated.

On 12 May, Arab Legion units started to attack the settlements. The motivations advanced include their desire to protect one of their last supply convoys before the embargo took effect, which had to travel down the road by Kfar Etzion. Another theory is that the block of settlements obstructed the deployment of the Legion in the area around Hebron, whose attack was one of Abdullah's principal objectives. External defences fell quickly, and, on the 13 May, the first kibbutz was captured, and those who were taken prisoner were massacred; only four survived. Of the 131 defenders, 127, including 21 women, were killed, or massacred after they surrendered. The other three establishments surrendered, and the kibbutzim were first plundered, then razed to the ground.

The events that took place at Kfar Etzion made apparent the limitations of the policy prohibiting evacuation. Although it was effective during civil war, when facing militias, isolated Jewish settlements could not resist the fire power of a regular army, and an evacuation could have made it possible to avoid the captivity or death of those who defended the settlements.

According to Yoav Gelber, the fall and massacre of Kfar Eztion influenced Ben-Gurion's decision to engage the Arab Legion on its way to Jerusalem, although the Haganah General Staff were divided about whether the Legion should be challenged inside Jerusalem itself as such a move could harm the Jews in the city. Ben Gurion left the final decision to Shaltiel. The battle for Jerusalem was thus set in motion.

Operation Kilshon ("Pitchfork") (13–18 May)
The Haganah intended to capture the Old City during the final days of the Mandate. Its attacks on the seam between East and West Jerusalem from 13-18 May (known as Operation Kilshon) were planned as the initial phase of this conquest.

In Jerusalem, the British held several strategically-located security zones named "Bevingrads", at its centre. The city's radio station, telephone exchange and government hospital were located there, along with a number of barracks and the fashionable Notre Dame country inn, which dominated the city. One of the main objectives of Operation Kilshon was to take control of these zones of strategic importance whilst the British withdrew. On 13 May the Haganah extended its control of the Old City's Jewish Quarter and on 14th (having obtained the precise schedule of the evacuation with British complicity) took control of the Bevingrads, including the central post office and the Russian Church compound at 04:00. Having taken the Arab troops by surprise, they were unable to offer any resistance.

A secondary objective of Operation Kilshon was to simultaneously create a continuous frontline between the various isolated Jewish localities. For this aim, Brigadier General David Shaltiel, Haganah's former envoy to Europe, was deployed along with a troop of 400 Haganah soldiers and 600 militia soldiers. Emil Ghuri, the new leader of the Army of the Holy War, also envisaged taking these districts and mobilised 600 soldiers for the mission, but prepared no specific operation.

The secondary aim was also successful. In the North of the city, Jewish forces seized Arab-populated Sheikh Jarrah, made a connection with Mount Scopus, and took the villages surrounding the American settlement. In the South, they ensured the connection of the German and Greek settlements with Talpiot and Ramat Rahel, after having taken the Allenby barracks. A Palmach unit even re-established contact with the Jewish district in the Old City via the Zion Gate.

The irregular Arabic forces were rendered impotent and yielded to panic, calling the situation hopeless and announcing the imminent fall of the city.

Operation Ben'Ami (13–22 May)
Within the framework of Plan Dalet, Yigal Yadin intended to make a breakthrough in the west of Galilee, wherein a number of isolated Jewish settlements were situated. This zone, which covers the land from Acre all the way to the Lebanese border, was allocated to the Arabs by the Partition plan, but was on the road through which Lebanese forces intended to enter into Palestine.[147]

The command of this operation was entrusted to Moshe Carmel, head of the Carmeli brigade. It consisted of two phases: the first began on the evening of 13 May, when a column of Haganah's armoured vehicles and lorries advanced along the coast with no resistance. The forces of the Arab Liberation Army fled without entering battle, and the first phase of the operation finished when Acre was taken on 18 May. In the second phase, from the 19 May to the 21 May, troops went as far as the Yehi'am kibbutz by the Lebanese border, connecting it and conquering and destroying a number of Arab villages on the way.

Main wave of the Palestinian Exodus
Haganah's move to offensive operations during the second phase of the war was accompanied by a huge exodus that involved 300,000 Arab refugees, not to forget the 100,000 of the First wave. The term 'Palestinian exodus' is often used to refer to both these and two subsequent waves. These two waves gained a considerable amount of press interest and were widely relayed in the press of the time, more so than most other Palestine-related events.

The causes of and responsibility for this exodus are highly controversial topics amongst commentators on the conflict and even historians who specialise in this era. Amongst the various possible causes, some attribute the exodus mainly to Arab authorities' instructions to escape, whereas others feel that a policy of expulsion had been organised by the Yishuv authorities and implemented by Haganah. Others yet reject these two assumptions and see the exodus as the cumulative effect of all the civil war's consequences.

Preparations made by the Arab League
During the last meeting of the Arab League in February 1948, the Arab leaders expressed their convictions in the capacity of the Arab Liberation Army to help the Palestinians and to force the international community to give up on the UN-backed partition plan. The following summit took place in Cairo on 10 April, with the situation having clearly developed with the death of Al-Hussayni and the debacle at Mishmar Ha'emek.

Once again, Ismail Safwat called for the immediate deployment of the Arab state armies at the borders of Palestine, and for the need to go beyond the established policy of participating in little more than small-scale raids towards taking part in large-scale operations. For the first time, the Arab leaders discussed the possibility of intervening in Palestine.

Syria and Lebanon declared themselves ready to intervene immediately, but King Abdullah refused to let the Arab Legion forces intervene immediately in favour of the Palestinians, a move which irritated the Secretary-General of the League, who declared that Abdallah only cedes to the British diktat.

Nonetheless, Abdullah declared himself ready to send the Legion to assist the Palestinian cause after 15 May. In response, Syria insisted that the Egyptian army also take part, and, in spite of the opposition of Egypt's prime minister, King Farkouk responded favourably to the Syrian request, but due to his aim of curbing the Jordanians' hegemonic goals rather than his desire to help the Palestinians.

Later on, following the visit of several Palestinian dignitaries in Amman, and despite the opposition of Syria and the Mufti, Hadj Amin Al-Hussayni, Azzam Pasha accepted Abdullah's proposition and sent Ismail Safwat to Amman to organise a coordination between the Arab Liberation Army and Jordan's Arab Legion. It was decided that command over the operations would be reserved for King Abdullah, and that the Iraqis would deploy a brigade in Transjordan to prepare for intervention on 15 May.

On 26 April, the 'intention to occupy Palestine' was officially announced at the Transjordanian parliament and the Jewish people were 'invited to place themselves beneath King Abdullah's jurisdiction.' The intention to spare their lives was also promised. Yishuv perceived this declaration as being one of war and encourages the Western world to pressure the King, through diplomatic means, to prevent his intervention.

On 30 April, Jordanians, Egyptians and Iraqis disputed the command of Abdullah. Abdullah received the honorary title of Commander-in-Chief, whilst the Iraqi general, Aldine Nur Mahmud, was named Chief of Staff. Despite this show of unity, it was agreed that each army would act independent of each other in the theatre of operations.

On 4 May, the Iraqi task force arrived at Mafraq. It was composed of a regiment of armoured tanks, a regiment of mechanised infantry, and twenty-four artillery weapons, and included 1500 men. The Egyptians formed two brigades, deploying around 700 men into the Sinai. The Syrians could not put together a better force, whereas the Lebanese announced that they could not take part in military operations on 10 May.

It was only two days before, on 8 May, that the British Foreign Office was certain of the Arab invasion. Whereas British analysts considered that all Arab armies, except the Arab Legion, were not prepared for the engagements to come, the Egyptian officers claimed that their advance would be 'a parade with the least risk,' and that their army 'would be in Tel-Aviv after just two weeks.'

The state of preparation of the army was such that they did not even have maps of Palestine. At the time, the final plans of invasion had not even been established yet. British leaders tried in vain to make the Arab leaders reconsider their decision, and Ismail Safwat resigned in indifference, but the Arab states seemed resolute. On 15 May 1948, the Arab League announced officially that it would intervene in Palestine to guarantee the security and right to self-determination of the inhabitants of Palestine in an independent state. Azzam Pasha declared on Cairo radio: 'This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.'

Results and aftermath
According to Benny Morris, the result of these five and a half months of fighting was a "decisive Jewish victory". On one side, the "Palestinian Arab military power was crushed" and most of the population was fleeing or had been driven out. On the other side, the "Haganah transformed from a militia into an army" and succeeded "in consolidating its hold on a continuous strip of territory embracing the Coastal Plain, the Jezreel Valley, and the Jordan Valley". The Yishuv proved it had the capability to defend itself, persuading the United States and the remaining of the world to support it and the "victory over the Palestinian Arabs gave the Haganah the experience and self-confidence [...] to confront [...] the invading armies of the Arab states."

On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the state of Israel and the 1948 Palestine war entered its second phase with the intervention of the Arab state armies and the beginning of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.


Fighting spread as the British gradually withdrew. The Arab League could not invade before the British withdrew but planned to invade the day after the British left. In this phase, before the British departure, the struggle was a civil war. Arab forces consisted of village militias buttressed by the Arab Liberation Army, a force composed largely of Arab volunteers from across the Middle-East but which included European mercenaries including British deserters, German Nazis  and veterans of the (Bosnian Moslem) Croatian Waffen SS (whose commander had been the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem). The Jews had their militias (including many World War II veterans) and a several thousand strong professional force called the Palmach.

Initially the Arabs had the advantage as the British maintained an embargo on Palestine's seas preventing the Jews from importing arms or man power while Arab states could supply local Arabs who also occupied more strategic areas and out-numbered the Jews. The Jews, however, were better organized and believed themselves to be fighting for their lives. Jewish taxes had funded both the British army in Palestine and British support for the Arab population so the Jewish economy benefited from the British departure while the Arab economy collapsed as the war expanded. The Jews had an elected government (the Va'ad Leumi) already in place with an independent taxation system.

In the early stages 100,000 Palestinian Arabs, mainly the upper-classes and better off fled to neighbouring states. Before May 1948, 150,000 more fled or were evicted during fighting as the Jews slowly overpowered the Arab forces. Jewish preparation for the Arab invasion led to the eviction of hostile Arab communities who controlled access routes. In Haifa the Arab Higher Committee (who were based in Syria) refused to allow a negotiated cease fire with the Jews or allow the Arab population to remain under Jewish control thus contributing to the departure of the city's Arab population. There was particularly heavy fighting on the road to Jerusalem, whose 100,000 strong Jewish community was cut off from the rest of the country, and this led the Jews to destroy most of the Arab villages along the narrow route they eventually established between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv.

The impending Arab invasion provided an incentive for Palestinian-Arabs to leave in the expectation that they would soon return. In 1948 Jews were known as a nation with no military tradition who had easily been slaughtered over the preceding century, while the Arabs were a famous warrior nation and an Arab victory was widely anticipated.

David Ben Gurion (First Prime
Minister of Israel) publicly pronouncing the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948.
Tel Aviv, Israel, beneath a large portrait of Theodore Herzl, founder of modern political Zionism

Israel 1948 - Present

The State of Israel declared
On May 14, 1948, the last British forces left Haifa, and the Jewish Agency, led by David Ben-Gurion, declared the creation of the State of Israel, in accordance with the 1947 UN Partition Plan. Both superpower leaders, U.S. President Harry S. Truman and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, immediately recognized the new state.

Context and content

The document commences by drawing a direct line from Biblical times to the present:

ERETZ-ISRAEL [(Hebrew) - the Land of Israel, Palestine] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

It acknowledges the Jewish exile over the millennia, mentioning both ancient "faith" and new "politics":

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

It speaks of the urge of Jews to return to their ancient homeland:

Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses.

It describes Jewish immigrants to Israel in the following terms:

Pioneers… and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country's inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood. In 1897, at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in what it claimed to be its own country. This right was supported by the British government in the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917 and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Palestine and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.

The European Holocaust of 1939–45 is part of the imperative for the re-settlement of the homeland:

The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people—the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe—was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the community of nations. Survivors of the Nazi Holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution outlining the 'Future Constitution and Government of Palestine'. It called for the establishment of a provisional government for the Jewish State, which would be subject to certain constitutional requirements and guarantees. It required the inhabitants of Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that constitutional form of government. On the issues of sovereignty and self-determination:

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State. Thus members and representatives of the Jews of Palestine and of the Zionist movement upon the end of the British Mandate, by virtue of "natural and historic right" and based on the United Nations resolution… Hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in the land of Israel to be known as the State of Israel. …Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the "Ingathering of the Exiles"; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

The new state pledged that it will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz Israel and appealed:

in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months — to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions. We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

A final appeal is made to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the "Free Hebrew people in its land" in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the struggle for the realization of their age-old dream, the redemption of Israel. The Declaration is making a distinction between the "Hebrew" people in "the Land of Israel", and "the Jewish people" in the rest of the world.

It concludes with the phrase "MiToh Bitahon BeTzur Yisrael", roughly translated as "With faith in the God of Israel," or alternatively "From the strength of Israel." This double meaning ended the document in a manner satisfactory to both the religious and secular factions of the Yishuv.



The War of Independence/Nakba: the Arab invasion phase
Arab League members Egypt, TransJordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq declared war and announced their rejection of the UN partition decision. They claimed the right of self-determination for the Arabs of Palestine over the whole of Palestine. Saudi-Arabia and Sudan also sent forces to participate in the invasion.

UN Secretary General Trygve Lie described this as

the first armed aggression which the world had seen since the end of the war”.


1948 Arab–Israeli War

Captain Avraham ("Bren") Adan
raising the Ink Flag in Umm Rashrash
(now Eilat) which marked the end of the war

The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known by Israelis as the War of Independence (Hebrew: מלחמת העצמאות‎, Milhamat HaAtzma'ut) or War of Liberation (Hebrew: מלחמת השחרור‎, Milhamat HaShahrur) and by Palestinians as the Catastrophe (Arabic: النكبة‎, al-Nakba), was the first in a series of wars fought between the newly declared State of Israel and its Arab neighbours in the long-running Arab-Israeli conflict.

The war commenced upon the termination of the British Mandate of Palestine in mid-May 1948 following a previous phase of civil war in 1947–1948. After the Arab rejection of the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine (UN General Assembly Resolution 181) that would have created an Arab state and a Jewish state side by side, five Arab states invaded the territory of the former British Mandate of Palestine.

Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria attacked the state of Israel, leading to fighting mostly on the former territory of the British Mandate and for a short time also on the Sinai Peninsula and southern Lebanon. The war concluded with the 1949 Armistice Agreements, but it did not mark the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the Allied Supreme Council met at the Villa Dechavan in Sanremo, Italy, 18–26 April 1920 to settle the final terms of the peace treaty with Turkey. The decisions of the conference mainly confirmed those of the First Conference of London (February 1920), and broadly reaffirmed the terms of the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Agreement of 16 May 1916 for the region's partition and the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917.

The San Remo Agreement stated that "the mandatories chosen by the Principal Allied Powers are: France for Syria and Great Britain for Mesopotamia and Palestine." The high contracting parties agreed further that the territorial boundaries of these regions would be "determined by the Principal Allied Powers".

In the case of Palestine, the borders were agreed between the British and French in two separate conventions: the Franco-British Convention of 23rd December 1920 on Certain Points Connected with the Mandates for Syria and the Lebanon, Palestine and Mesopotamia and the Agreement Between the British and the French Governments Respecting the Boundary Line Between Syria and Palestine from the Mediterranean to El Hammé, 1923.

During meetings in Cairo and Jerusalem between Winston Churchill and Emir Abdullah in March 1921, it was agreed that Abdullah would administer the territory of Transjordan (initially for six months only) on behalf of the Palestine administration. In the summer of 1921, Transjordan was included within the Mandate of Palestine but excluded from the provisions for a Jewish National Home. On 24 July 1922, the League of Nations approved the terms of the British Mandate over Palestine and Transjordan. On 16 September the League formally approved a memorandum from Lord Balfour confirming the exemption of Transjordan from the clauses of the mandate concerning the creation of a Jewish national home and from the mandate's responsibility to facilitate Jewish immigration and land settlement.

In 1922 the population of Palestine consisted of approximately 589,200 Muslims, 83,800 Jews, 71,500 Christians and 7,600 others (1922 census). Gradually a large number of Jews immigrated to the area, most of whom were fleeing increasing persecution in Europe. This immigration and accompanying call for a Jewish state in Palestine drew opposition from local Arabs.

Under the leadership of Haj Amin al-Husayni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the local Arabs rebelled against the British and attacked the growing Jewish population repeatedly. These sporadic attacks began with the riots in Palestine of 1920 and Jaffa riots (or "Hurani Riots") of 1921. During the 1929 Palestine riots, 133 Jews were killed, 67 of them in Hebron, and 355 wounded. By the time the British intervened, 116 Arabs were also killed in the fighting and an unknown number wounded.

Arab revolt (1936–1939) and its aftermath
In the late 1920s and early 1930s several factions of Arab society became impatient with the internecine divisions and ineffectiveness of the Arab elite and engaged in grass-roots anti-British and anti-Zionist activism, organized by groups such as the Young Men's Muslim Association. There was also support for the growth in influence of the radical nationalist Independence Party (Hizb al-Istiqlal). Most of these initiatives were contained and defeated by notables in the pay of the Mandatory Administration, particularly the Mufti and his cousin Jamal al-Husayni.

The death of religious leader Shaykh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam at the hands of the British police near Jenin in November 1935 generated widespread outrage, and huge crowds accompanied Qassam's body to his grave in Haifa. A few months later a spontaneous Arab national general strike broke out. This lasted until October 1936. During the summer of that year thousands of Jewish-farmed acres and orchards were destroyed, Jews were attacked and killed, and some Jewish communities—such as those in Beisan and Acre—fled to safer areas.

The Peel Commission recommended the partition of the country into a Jewish state and an Arab state to be attached to Jordan. In the wake of the strike and the Commission, an armed uprising spread through the country. Over the next 18 months the British lost control of Jerusalem, Nablus, and Hebron. During this period from 1936–1939, known as the Great Arab Revolt or the "Great Uprising", British forces, supported by 6,000 armed Jewish auxiliary police, suppressed the widespread riots.

In another significant development during this time the British officer Charles Orde Wingate (who supported a Zionist revival for religious reasons) organized Special Night Squads composed of British soldiers and Haganah mercenaries, which "scored significant successes against the Arab rebels in the lower Galilee and in the Jezreel valley" by conducting raids on Arab villages. The squads were rumored to have used excessive and indiscriminate force, which has been cited by Israeli academic Anita Shapira. The Haganah mobilized up to 20,000 policemen, field troops and night squads; the latter included Yigal Allon and Moshe Dayan. Significantly, from 1936 to 1945, whilst establishing collaborative security arrangements with the Jewish Agency, the British confiscated 13,200 firearms from Arabs and 521 weapons from Jews.

In assessing the overall impact of the revolt on subsequent events Rashid Khalidi argues that its negative effects on Palestinian national leadership, social cohesion and military capabilities contributed to the outcome of 1948 because "when the Palestinians faced their most fateful challenge in 1947–49, they were still suffering from the British repression of 1936–39, and were in effect without a unified leadership. Indeed, it might be argued that they were virtually without any leadership at all".

The attacks on the Jewish population by Arabs had three lasting effects. First, they led to the further development of Jewish underground militias, primarily the Haganah ("The Defense"), which were to prove decisive in 1948. Secondly, the attacks solidified general sentiment that the two communities could not be reconciled, and the idea of partition was born. Thirdly, the British responded to Arab opposition with the White Paper of 1939, which severely restricted Jewish immigration. However, with the advent of World War II, even this reduced immigration quota was not reached. The White Paper policy also radicalised segments of the Jewish population, who after the war would no longer cooperate with the British.

British Mandate administration and training of local Arabs and Jews
From 1936 onward the British government facilitated the training, arming, recruitment and funding of a range of security and intelligence forces in collaboration with the Jewish Agency. These included the Guards (Notrim), which were divided into the 6,000 to 14,000-strong Jewish Supernumerary Police, the elite and highly mobile 6,000–8,000 strong Jewish Settlement Police[18] and the Special Night Squads, the forerunner of Britain's Special Air Service regiments. There was also an elite strike force known as the FOSH, or Field Companies, with around 1,500 members, which were replaced by the larger HISH or Field Force in 1939. The SHAI, the intelligence and counter-espionage arm of the Haganah, was the forebear of Mossad.

The British had enlisted 6,000 Palestinian Arabs during World War II, and 1,700 Palestinian Arabs were recruited into the Trans-Jordanian Frontier Force. The British supplied officers such as John Bagot Glubb ("Glubb Pasha") for the Jordan's Arab Legion, and supplied the Egyptian army with trucks, rifles and airplanes. The British army therefore was intimately involved in the training of both sides for the coming conflict.

World War II
On 6 August 1940 Anthony Eden, the British Secretary of State for War, informed Parliament that the Cabinet had decided to recruit Arab and Jewish units as battalions of the Royal East Kent Regiment (the "Buffs"). At a luncheon with Chaim Weizmann on 3 September, Winston Churchill approved the large-scale recruitment of Jewish forces in Palestine and the training of their officers. A further 10,000 men (no more than 3,000 from Palestine) were to be recruited to Jewish units in the British Army for training in the United Kingdom.

Faced with Field Marshal Rommel's advance in Egypt, the British government decided on 15 April 1941 that the 10,000 Jews dispersed in the single defence companies of the Buffs should be prepared for war service at the battalion level and that another 10,000 should also be mobilized along with 6,000 Supernumerary Police and 40,000 to 50,000 home guard. The plans were approved by Field Marshall John Dill. The Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Cairo approved a Haganah proposal for guerilla activities in northern Palestine led by the Palmach arm of the Haganah, as part of which Yitzhak Sadeh devised Plan North for an armed enclave in the Carmel range from which the Yishuv could defend the region and from which they could attack German communications and supply lines, if necessary. British intelligence also trained a small radio network under Moshe Dayan to act as spy cells in the event of a German invasion.

After much hesitation, on 3 July 1944 the British government consented to the establishment of a Jewish Brigade with hand-picked Jewish and also non-Jewish senior officers. On 20 September 1944 an official communiqué by the War Office announced the formation of the Jewish Brigade Group of the British Army. The Zionist flag was officially approved as its standard. It included more than 5,000 Jewish volunteers from Palestine organized into three infantry battalions and several supporting units.

As soon as the war ended British policy reverted to that of the period immediately before the war. Arms were confiscated, and some Haganah members were arrested and tried—one notable case being that of Eliahu Sacharoff, who received a sentence of seven years' imprisonment for possession of two stolen firearms cartridges (stolen from an army consignment during wartime).

Twilight of colonial rule in the region
Meanwhile, many of the surrounding Arab nations were also emerging from colonial rule. Transjordan, under the Hashemite ruler Abdullah, gained independence from Britain in 1946 and was called Jordan, but it remained under heavy British influence. Egypt, while nominally independent, signed the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 that included provisions by which Britain would maintain a garrison of troops on the Suez Canal. From 1945 on, Egypt attempted to renegotiate the terms of this treaty, which was viewed as a humiliating vestige of colonialism. Lebanon became an independent state in 1943, but French troops would not withdraw until 1946, the same year that Syria won its independence from France.

In 1945, at British prompting, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Transjordan, and Yemen formed the Arab League to coordinate policy between the Arab states. Iraq and Transjordan coordinated policies closely, signing a mutual defence treaty, while Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia feared that Transjordan would annex part or all of Palestine, and use it as a basis to attack or undermine Syria, Lebanon, and the Hijaz.

UN Partition Plan
On 29 November 1947 the United Nations General Assembly approved a plan, UN General Assembly Resolution 181, to resolve the Arab-Jewish conflict by partitioning Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Each state would comprise three major sections, linked by extraterritorial crossroads; the Arab state would also have an enclave at Jaffa. With about 32% of the population, the Jews would get 56% of the territory, an area that contained 499,000 Jews and 438,000 Palestinians, though most of this territory was in the inhospitable Negev Desert in the south. The Palestinians would get 42% of the land, which had a population of 818,000 Palestinians and 10,000 Jews. In consideration of its religious significance, the Jerusalem area, including Bethlehem, with 100,000 Jews and an equal number of Palestinians, was to become a Corpus Separatum, to be administered by the UN.

The Jewish leadership accepted the partition plan as "the indispensable minimum," glad as they were with the international recognition but sorry that they did not receive more.

Arguing that the partition plan was unfair to the Arabs with regard to the population balance at that time, the representatives of the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab League firmly opposed the UN action and even rejected its authority to involve itself in the entire matter. They upheld "that the rule of Palestine should revert to its inhabitants, in accordance with the provisions of [...] the Charter of the United Nations." According to Article 73b of the Charter, the UN should develop self-government of the peoples in a territory under its administration.

1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine

In the immediate aftermath of the United Nations' approval of the Partition plan, the explosions of joy amongst the Jewish community were counterbalanced by the expression of discontent amongst the Arab community. Soon thereafter, violence broke out and became more prevalent. Murders, reprisals, and counter-reprisals came one after the other, killing dozens of victims on both sides in the process.

During the period beginning in December 1947 and ending in January 1948, it was estimated that nearly 1,000 people were killed and 2,000 people were injured.[33] By the end of March, the figure had risen to 2,000 dead and 4,000 wounded. These figures correspond to an average of more than 100 deaths and 200 casualties per week; in a population of 2,000,000.

From January onwards operations became more militaristic, with the intervention into Palestine of a number of Arab Liberation Army regiments who divided up around the different coastal towns and reinforced Galilee and Samaria. Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni came from Egypt with several hundred men of the Army of the Holy War. At the time, military assessments were that the Palestinians were incapable of beating the Zionists.

Having recruited a few thousand volunteers, al-Husayni organized the blockade of the 100,000 Jewish residents of Jerusalem. To counter this, the Yishuv authorities tried to supply the city with convoys of up to 100 armoured vehicles, but the operation became more and more impractical and more and more died in this process. By March, Al-Hussayni's tactic had paid off. Almost the entirety of Haganah's armoured vehicles had been destroyed, the blockade was in full operation, and hundreds of the Haganah members who tried to bring supplies to the city were killed. The situation for those who dwelt in the Jewish settlements in the highly isolated Negev and northern Galilee was even more critical.

Since the Jewish population was under strict orders obliging them to hold their dominions at all costs, the situation of insecurity across the country affected the Arab population more visibly. Up to 100,000 Palestinians, chiefly those from the upper classes, left the country to seek refuge abroad or in Samaria.

This situation caused the U.S. to retract their support for the partition plan, thus encouraging the Arab League to believe that the Palestinians, reinforced by the Arab Liberation Army, could put an end to the partition plan. The British, on the other hand, decided on 7 February 1948 to support the annexation of the Arab part of Palestine by Jordan.

Although a certain level of doubt took hold amongst Yishuv supporters, their apparent defeats were caused more by their wait-and-see policy than by weakness. Ben-Gurion reorganized the Haganah and made conscription obligatory. Every Jewish man and woman in the country had to receive military training. Funds were gathered by Golda Meir from sympathizers in the United States, and Joseph Stalin supported the Zionist cause at the time, so Jewish representatives of Palestine were able to sign very important armament contracts in the East. Other Haganah agents retrieved stockpiles from World War II, which helped equip the army further. Operation Balak allowed arms and other equipment to be transported for the first time by the end of March.

Ben-Gurion assigned Yigael Yadin the responsibility to come up with a plan in preparation for the announced intervention of the Arab states. The result of his analysis was Plan Dalet, which was put in place from the start of April onwards. The adoption of Plan Dalet marked the second stage of the war, in which Haganah passed from the defensive to the offensive.

The first operation, named Operation Nachshon, consisted of lifting the blockade on Jerusalem. Fifteen hundred men from the Haganah's Givati Brigade and the Palmach's Harel brigade went about freeing the route to the city between 5 April and 20 April.

The operation was successful, and enough foodstuffs to last two months were shipped to Jerusalem and distributed to the Jewish population. The success of the operation was added to by the death of al-Hussayni in combat. During this time, and beyond the command of Haganah or the framework of Plan Dalet, troops from Irgun and Lehi massacred more than 100 Arabs, mostly civilians, at Deir Yassin, a move that had an important impact on the Palestinian population, and one that was criticised and lamented by all the principal Jewish authorities of the day.

At the same time, the first large-scale operation of the Arab Liberation Army ended in a debacle, having been roundly defeated at Mishmar Ha'emek] and having lost their Druze allies through defection.

Within the framework for the expansion of Jewish territory foreseen by Plan Dalet, the forces of Haganah, Palmach, and Irgun intended to conquer mixed zones. Tiberias, Haifa, Safed, Beisan, Jaffa, and Acre fell, resulting in the flight of more than 250,000 Palestinians.

The British had essentially withdrawn their troops. The situation pushed the leaders of the neighboring Arab states to intervene, but their preparation was not finalized, and they could not assemble forces that would be able to turn the tide of the war. The majority of Palestinian hopes lay with the Arab Legion of Jordan's monarch, King Abdullah I, but he had no intention of creating a Palestinian-run state, instead hoping to annex as much of the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine as he could. He was playing a double-game, being just as much in contact with the Jewish authorities as with the Arab League.

In preparation for the offensive, Haganah successfully launched Operations Yiftah and Ben Ami to secure the Jewish settlements of Galilee, and Operation Kilshon, which created a united front around Jerusalem.

Golda Meir and Abdullah I met on 10 May to discuss the situation, but the meeting was inconclusive and their former agreements were not confirmed. On 13 May, the Arab Legion, backed by irregulars, attacked and took Kfar Etzion, where 127 out of the 131 Jewish defenders were killed and the prisoners massacred.

On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the state of Israel, and the 1948 Palestine war entered its second phase, with the intervention of several Arab states' armies the following day.


Political objectives

Benny Morris points out that the Yishuv's aims evolved during the war.

Initially, the aim was "simple and modest": to survive the assaults of the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab states. "The Zionist leaders deeply, genuinely, feared a Middle Eastern reenactment of the Holocaust, which had just ended; the Arabs' public rhetoric reinforced these fears". As the war progressed, the aim of expanding the Jewish state beyond the UN partition borders appeared: first to incorporate clusters of isolated Jewish settlements and later to add more territories to the state and give it defensible borders. A third and further aim that emerged among the political and military leaders after four or five months was to "reduce the size of Israel's prospective large and hostile Arab minority, seen as a potential powerful fifth column, by belligerency and expulsion."

King Abdullah I of Jordan
King Abdullah was the commander of the Arab Legion, the strongest Arab army involved in the war. The Arab Legion had about 10,000 soldiers, who were trained and commanded by British officers.

In 1946–1947, Abdullah said that he had no intention to "resist or impede the partition of Palestine and creation of a Jewish state." Abdullah supported the partition, intending that the West Bank area of the British Mandate allocated for Palestine be annexed to Jordan. Abdullah had secret meetings with the Jewish Agency (at which the future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was among the delegates) that reached an agreement of Jewish non-interference of Jordanian annexation of the West Bank (although Abdullah failed in his goal of acquiring an outlet to the Mediterranian sea through the Negev desert,) and of Jordanian agreement not to attack the area of the Jewish state contained in the United Nations partition resolution (in which Jerusalem was given neither to the Arab nor the Jewish state, but was to be an internationally administered area.) In one stunning diplomatic achievement, the strongest Arab army agreed not to attack the Jewish state. However, by 1948, the neighbouring Arab states pressured Abdullah into joining them in an "all-Arab military intervention" against the newly created State of Israel, which he used to restore his prestige in the Arab world, which had grown suspicious of his relatively good relationship with Western and Jewish leaders. Abdullah's role in this war became substantial. He saw himself as the "supreme commander of the Arab forces" and "persuaded the Arab League to appoint him" to this position. Through his leadership, the Arabs fought the 1948 war to meet Abdullah's political goals. Abdullah kept his promise not to attack the Jewish state, and the Arab Legion was limited to defending Arab areas of Jerusalem and those parts of the designated Arab state that Jewish forces invaded.

Arab Higher Committee of Amin al-Husayni
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husayni, the Chairman of the Arab Higher Committee, collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II. In 1940, he asked the Axis Powers to acknowledge the Arab right "to settle the question of Jewish elements in Palestine and other Arab countries in accordance with the national and racial interests of the Arabs and along the lines similar to those used to solve the Jewish question in Germany and Italy." He spent the second half of WWII in Germany making radio broadcasts exhorting Muslims to ally with the Nazis in war against their common enemies. In one of these broadcasts, he said, "Arabs, arise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you."

At the beginning of 1948 al-Husayni was in exile in Egypt. The Mufti was involved in some of the high level negotiations between Arab leaders, at a meeting held in Damascus in February 1948 to organize Palestinian Field Commands; however, the commanders of his Holy War Army, Hasan Salama and Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, were allocated only the Lydda district and Jerusalem. This decision

"paved the way for an undermining of the Mufti's position among the Arab States. On 9 February, only four days after the Damascus meeting, a severe blow was suffered by the Mufti at the Arab League session in Cairo [where his demands for] the appointment of a Palestinian to the General Staff of the League, the formation of a Palestinian Provisional Government, the transfer of authority to local National Committees in areas evacuated by the British, a loan for administration in Palestine and appropriation of large sums to the Arab Higher Executive for Palestinians entitled to war damages [were all rejected]."
The Arab League blocked recruitment to the Mufti's forces, which collapsed following the death of his most charismatic commander, his cousin, Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, on 8 April.

Following rumours that King Abdullah was re-opening the bi-lateral negotiations with Israel that he had previously conducted in secret with the Jewish Agency, the Arab League, led by Egypt, decided to set up the All-Palestine Government in Gaza on 8 September under the nominal leadership of the Mufti. Avi Shlaim writes:

The decision to form the Government of All-Palestine in Gaza, and the feeble attempt to create armed forces under its control, furnished the members of the Arab League with the means of divesting themselves of direct responsibility for the prosecution of the war and of withdrawing their armies from Palestine with some protection against popular outcry. Whatever the long-term future of the Arab government of Palestine, its immediate purpose, as conceived by its Egyptian sponsors, was to provide a focal point of opposition to Abdullah and serve as an instrument for frustrating his ambition to federate the Arab regions with Jordan.[57]
Abdullah regarded the attempt to revive the Mufti's Holy War Army as a challenge to his authority and on 3 October his Minister of Defence ordered all armed bodies operating in the areas controlled by the Arab Legion to be disbanded. Glubb Pasha carried out the order ruthlessly and efficiently.

Initial line-up of forces

Military assessments
Benny Morris has argued that although, by the end of 1947, the Palestinians "had a healthy and demoralising respect for the Yishuv's military power", they believed in decades or centuries "that the Jews, like the medieval crusader kingdoms, would ultimately be overcome by the Arab world".

On the eve of the war the number of Arab troops likely to be committed to the war was about 23,000 (10,000 Egyptians, 4,500 Jordanians, 3,000 Iraqis, 3,000 Syrians, 2,000 ALA volunteers, 1,000 Lebanese and some Saudi Arabians), in addition to the irregular Palestinians already present. The Yishuv had 35,000 troops of the Haganah, 3,000 of Stern and Irgun and a few thousand armed settlers.

On 12 May David Ben-Gurion was told by his chief military advisers, "who over-estimated the size of the Arab armies and the numbers and efficiency of the troops who would be committed", that Israel's chances of winning a war against the Arab states were only about even.

Yishuv forces
In November 1947, the Haganah was an underground paramilitary force that had existed as a highly organised, national force since the riots of 1920–21, and throughout the riots of 1929, and Great Uprising of 1936–39 It had a mobile force, the HISH, which had 2,000 full time fighters (men and women) and 10,000 reservists (all aged between 18 and 25) and an elite unit, the Palmach composed of 2,100 fighters and 1,000 reservists. The reservists trained 3–4 days a month and went back to civilian life the rest of the time. These mobile forces could rely on a garrison force, the HIM (Heil Mishmar, lit. Guard Corps), composed of people aged over 25. The Yishuv's total strength was around 35,000 with 15,000 to 18,000 fighters and a garrison force of roughly 20,000. The two clandestine groups Irgun and Lehi had 2,000–4,000 and 500–800 members, respectively. There were also several thousand men and women who had served in the British Army in World War II who did not serve in any of the underground militias but would provide valuable military experience during the war. Walid Khalidi says the Yishuv had the additional forces of the Jewish Settlement Police, numbering some 12,000, the Gadna Youth Battalions, and the armed settlers. Few of the units had been trained by December 1947.

In 1946 Ben-Gurion decided that the Yishuv would probably have to defend itself against both the Palestinian Arabs and neighbouring Arab states and accordingly began a "massive, covert arms acquisition campaign in the West". By September 1947 the Haganah had "10,489 rifles, 702 light machine-guns, 2,666 submachine guns, 186 medium machine-guns, 672 two-inch mortars and 92 three-inch (76 mm) mortars" and acquired many more during the first few months of hostilities. The Yishuv also had "a relatively advanced arms producing capacity", that between October 1947 and July 1948 "produced 3 million 9 mm bullets, 150,000 Mills grenades, 16,000 submachine guns (Sten Guns) and 210 three-inch (76 mm) mortars", along with a few "Davidka" homemade mortars that were highly inaccurate but had a spectacularly loud explosion that demoralized the enemy. Initially, the Haganah had no heavy machine guns, artillery, armoured vehicles, anti-tank or anti-aircraft weapons, nor military aircraft or tanks.

Sources disagree about the amount of arms at the Yishuv's disposal at the end of the Mandate. According to Karsh before the arrival of arms shipments from Czechoslovakia as part of Operation Balak, there was roughly one weapon for every three fighters, and even the Palmach armed only two out of every three of its active members. According to Collins and LaPierre, by April 1948 the Haganah had managed to accumulate only about 20,000 rifles and Sten guns for the 35,000 soldiers who existed on paper. According to Walid Khalidi "the arms at the disposal of these forces were plentiful".

Arab forces
There was no national military organisation in the Arab Palestinian community. There were two paramilitary youth organizations, the pro-Husayni Futuwa and the anti-Husayni Najjada ("auxiliary corps"). According to Karsh, these groups had 11,000–12,000 members, but according to Morris, the Najjada, which was based in Jaffa and had 2,000–3,000 members, was destroyed in the run-up to the 1948 war, during Husayni's attempt to seize control of it, and the Futuwa never numbered more than a few hundred. At the outbreak of the war, new local militia groups, the National Guard, mushroomed in towns and cities. Each was answerable to its local Arab National Committee.

In December, Abd al-Qadir Husseini arrived in Jerusalem with one hundred combatants who had trained in Syria and that would form the cadre of the Holy War Army. His forces were joined by a few hundred young villagers and veterans of the British army.

The equipment of the Palestinian forces was very poor. The British confiscated most of their arsenal during the 1936–39 rebellion and World War II A report of 1942 by the Haganah intelligence service assessed the number of firearms at the disposal of the Palestinian at 50,000 [but] this was probably an overestimate or even "highly exaggerated".

The Arab Liberation Army (Jaysh al-Inqadh al-Arabi) had been set up by the Arab League. It was an army of around 6,000 volunteers, largely from Arab countries, and was led by Fawzi al-Qawuqji. Its officially allotted area was northern Palestine, including Samaria.

Jordan's Arab Legion was considered the most effective Arab force. Armed, trained and commanded by British officers, this 8,000–12,000 strong force was organised in four infantry/mechanised regiments supported by some 40 artillery pieces and 75 armoured cars. Until January 1948, it was reinforced by the 3,000-strong Jordan Frontier Force.

The Arab Legion joined the war in May 1948. It fought only in the areas that king Abdullah wanted to secure for Jordan: the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In 1948 Iraq had an army of 21,000 men in 12 brigades and the Iraqi Air Force had 100 planes, mostly British. Initially the Iraqis committed around 3,000 men to the war effort including four infantry brigades, one armoured battalion and support personnel. These forces were to operate under Jordanian guidance[80] During the first truce the Iraqis increased their force to about 10,000. Ultimately, the Iraqi expeditionary force numbered around 15,000 to 18,000 men.

The first Iraqi forces to be deployed reached Jordan in April 1948 under the command of Gen. Nur ad-Din Mahmud. On 15 May Iraqi engineers built a pontoon bridge across the Jordan River and attacked the Israeli settlement of Gesher with little success. Following this defeat Iraqi forces moved into the Nablus-Jenin-Tulkarm strategic triangle, where they suffered heavy casualties in the Israeli attack on Jenin which began on 3 June, but they managed to hold on to their positions. Active Iraqi involvement in the war effectively ended at this point.

In 1948 Egypt was able to put a maximum of around 40,000 men into the field, 80% of its military-age male population being unfit for military service and its embryonic logistics system being limited in its ability to support ground forces deployed beyond its borders. Initially, an expeditionary force of 10,000 men was sent to Palestine under the command of Maj. Gen. Ahmed Ali al-Mwawi. This force consisted of five infantry battalions, one armoured battalion equipped with British Light Tank Mk VI and Matilda tanks, one battalion of sixteen 25-pounder guns, a battalion of eight 6-pounder guns and one medium-machine-gun battalion with supporting troops.

The Egyptian Air Force had over 30 Spitfires, 4 Hawker Hurricanes and 20 C47s modified into crude bombers.

By the time of the second truce, the Egyptians had 20,000 men in the field in thirteen battalions equipped with 135 tanks and 90 artillery pieces.

Syria had 12,000 soldiers at the beginning of the 1948 War grouped into three infantry brigades and an armoured force of approximately battalion size. The Syrian Air Force had fifty planes, the 10 newest of which were World War II–generation models.

The Lebanese army was the smallest of the Arab armies, consisting of only 3,500 soldiers. According to Gelber, in June 1947 Ben-Gurion "arrived at an agreement with the Maronite religious leadership in Lebanon that cost a few thousand pounds and kept Lebanon's army out of the War of Independence and the military Arab coalition." According to Rogan and Shlaim a token force of 1,000 was committed to the invasion. It crossed into northern Galilee and was repulsed by Israeli forces who occupied southern Lebanon until an armistice agreement was signed on 23 March 1949.

Saudi Arabia sent a contingent of 800–1,200 men to fight with Egyptian and Jordanian forces.

Yemen also committed a small expeditionary force to the war effort.


Intervention by Arab League countries
Five of the seven countries of the Arab League at that time, namely Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, backed by Saudi Arabian and Yemenite contingents invaded[90] the territory of the former British Mandate of Palestine on the night of 14–15 May 1948. However, only the forces of Syria and Egypt invaded territory outside of the Arab section of the Partition Plan. The official motives for their intervention were set out in a statement of 15 May 1948 :

the only solution of the Palestine problem is the establishment of a unitary Palestinian State, in accordance with democratic principles, whereby its inhabitants will enjoy complete equality before the law, [and whereby] minorities will be assured of all the guarantees recognised in democratic constitutional countries ....
The main objection the Arab League had to the division of Palestine in UN Resolution 181 was that it did not respect the rights of its Arab inhabitants

in accordance with the provisions of the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Charter of the United Nations.
Security and order in Palestine have become disrupted. The Zionist aggression resulted in the exodus of more than a quarter of a million of its Arab inhabitants from their homes and in their taking refuge in the neighbouring Arab countries.
Nevertheless, some speeches were more aggressive. Azzam Pasha, the Arab League Secretary, declared on Cairo radio: "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades."

According to Yoav Gelber, the Arab countries were "drawn into the war by the collapse of the Palestinians and the Arab Liberation Army [and] the Arab governments' primary goal was preventing the Palestinians' total ruin and the flooding of their own countries by more refugees. According to their own perception, had the invasion not taken place, there was no Arab force in Palestine capable of checking the Haganah's offensive".

"[Yishuv] perceived the peril of an Arab invasion as threatening its very existence. Having no real knowledge of the Arabs's true military capabilities, the Jews took Arab propaganda literally, preparing for the worst and reacting accordingly."

British forces in Palestine
There were 100,000 British troops deployed in Palestine "in two ground forces divisions, two independent infantry brigades, two mechanised regiments, some artillery units and a number of RAF squadrons" (Karsh, p. 28). The peak deployment was in July 1947 when 70,200 British troops were stationed in Palestine, serviced by 1,277 civilian drivers and 28,155 civilian employees. However, British forces withdrew in stages in 1948, until May 14, 1948, when their last forces left Jerusalem.


1948 Arab–Israeli War

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First phase: 14 May 1948 – 11 June 1948
The British Mandate over Palestine was due to expire on 15 May, but Jewish leadership led by Ben-Gurion declared independence on 14 May. The State of Israel declared itself as an independent nation, and was quickly recognized by the United States, Iran, the Soviet Union, and many other countries.

Over the next few days, approximately 1,000 Lebanese, 5,000 Syrian, 5,000 Iraqi, and 10,000 Egyptian troops invaded the newly established state. Four thousand Jordanian troops invaded the Corpus separatum region encompassing Jerusalem and its environs, as well as areas designated as part of the Arab state by the UN partition plan. They were aided by corps of volunteers from Saudi Arabia, Libya and Yemen.

In an official cablegram from the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States to the UN Secretary-General on 15 May 1948, the Arab states publicly proclaimed their aim of creating a "United State of Palestine" in place of the Jewish and Arab, two-state, UN Plan. They claimed the latter was invalid, as it was opposed by Palestine's Arab majority, and maintained that the absence of legal authority made it necessary to intervene to protect Arab lives and property.

Israel, the United States and the Soviet Union called the Arab states' entry into Palestine illegal aggression, while UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie characterized it as "the first armed aggression which the world had seen since the end of the [Second World] War." China, meanwhile, broadly backed the Arab claims. Both sides increased their manpower over the following months, but the Israeli advantage grew steadily as a result of the progressive mobilization of Israeli society and the influx of an average of 10,300 immigrants each month.

Israeli Forces 1948
Initial strength 29,677
4 June 40,825
17 July 63,586
7 October 88,033
28 October 92,275
2 December 106,900
23 December 107,652
30 December 108,300



On 26 May 1948, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) was officially established, and the Haganah, Palmach and Irgun were dissolved into the army of the new Jewish state.

As the war progressed, the IDF managed to field more troops than the Arab forces. By July 1948, the IDF had 63,000 troops; by early spring 1949, they had 115,000. The Arab armies had an estimated 40,000 troops in July 1948, rising to 55,000 in October 1948, and slightly more by the spring of 1949.

All Jewish aviation assets were placed under the control of the Sherut Avir (Air Service, known as the SA) in November 1947 and flying operations began in the following month from a small civil airport on the outskirts of Tel Aviv called Sde Dov, with the first ground support operation (in an RWD-13[99]) taking place on 17 December. The Galilee Squadron was formed at Yavne'el in March 1948, and the Negev Squadron was formed at Nir-Am in April. By 10 May, when the SA suffered its first combat loss, there were three flying units: an air staff, maintenance facilities and logistics support. At the outbreak of the war on 15 May the SA became the Israeli Air Force. With its fleet of light planes it was no match for Arab forces during the first few weeks of the war with its T-6s, Spitfires, C-47s and Avro Ansons. The main Arab losses were the result of RAF action in response to Egyptian raids on the British air base at Ramat David near Haifa on 22 May during which five Egyptian Spitfires were shot down. It was also during this time that the balance of air power began to swing in favor of the Israeli Air Force following the purchase of 25 Avia S-199s from Czechoslovakia, the first of which arrived in Israel on 20 May. This created the ironic situation of the young Jewish state using derivatives of the Bf-109 designed in Nazi Germany to help counter the British-designed Spitfires flown by Egypt. The first raid on an Arab capital followed on the night of 31 May/June 1 when three Israeli planes bombed Amman. By the fall of 1948, The IDF achieved air superiority and had superior firepower and more knowledgeable personnel, many of whom had seen action in World War II.

The first mission of the IDF was to hold on against the Arab armies and stop them from destroying major Jewish settlements, until reinforcements and weapons arrived.

The heaviest fighting occurred in Jerusalem and on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road, between Jordan's Arab Legion and the Israeli forces. Abdullah ordered Glubb Pasha, the commander of the Jordanian-led Arab Legion, to enter Jerusalem on 17 May, and heavy house-to-house fighting occurred between 19 May and 28 May, with the Arab Legion succeeding in expelling Israeli forces from the Arab quarters of Jerusalem as well as the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. All the Jewish inhabitants of the Old City were expelled by the Jordanians.[104] Iraqi troops failed in attacks on Jewish settlements (the most notable battle was on Mishmar HaEmek), and instead took defensive positions around Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

On 21 May, the Syrian army was blocked at kibbutz Degania in the north, where local militia reinforced by elements of the Carmeli brigade halted Syrian armored forces with Molotov cocktails and a single PIAT. One tank that was disabled by Molotov cocktails and hand grenades is still present at the kibbutz. The remaining Syrian forces were driven off the next day with four "Napoleonchik" mountain guns—Israel's first use of artillery during the war.

On 23 May, Thomas C. Wasson, the Consul General for the USA and member of the UN Truce Commission was assassinated in West Jerusalem.

On 24 May 1948 IDF forces at Latrun; consisting of the newly formed 7th Armoured Brigade (Israel) and a battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade—attacked the Arab Legion forces in Operation "Bin-Nun A" and on 1 June 1948 the same IDF forces again attacked Latrun Arab Legion forces in Operation "Bin-Nun B". Both attacks failed, and both brigades suffered heavy casualties with a total of 139 killed.

During the following months, the Syrian army was repelled as were the Palestinian irregulars and the ALA. In the south, an Egyptian attack was able to penetrate the defences of several Israeli kibbutzim, but with heavy cost. This attack was stopped near Ashdod. The Israeli military managed not only to maintain their military control of the Jewish territories, but to expand their holdings.

First truce (11 June 1948 – 8 July 1948)
The UN declared a truce on 29 May which came into effect on 11 June and lasted 28 days. The ceasefire was overseen by UN mediator Folke Bernadotte and a team of UN Observers made up of army officers from Belgium, United States, Sweden and France. Bernadotte was voted in by the General Assembly to "assure the safety of the holy places, to safeguard the well being of the population, and to promote 'a peaceful adjustment of the future situation of Palestine'". The truce was designed to last 28 days and an arms embargo was declared with the intention that neither side would make any gains from the truce. Both sides of the conflict did not respect the truce and found ways around the restrictions placed on them. Both the Israelis and the Arabs used this time to improve their positions which was a direct violation of the terms of the ceasefire. "The Arabs violated the truce by reinforcing their lines with fresh units and by preventing supplies from reaching isolated Israeli settlements; occasionally, they opened fire along the lines".[108] The Israeli Defense Forces were able to acquire weapons from Czechoslovakia as well as improve training of forces and reorganization of the army during this time. Yitzhak Rabin, an IDF commander at the time of the war and later Israel's fifth Prime Minister, stated "[w]ithout the arms from Czechoslovakia... it is very doubtful whether we would have been able to conduct the war". As well as violating the arms and personnel embargo, they also sent fresh units to the front lines like the Arabs. The Israel army increased its man power from approximately thirty or thirty-five thousand men to almost sixty-five thousand men during the truce. They were also able to increase their arms supply to "more than twenty-five thousand rifles, five thousand machine guns, and more than fifty million bullets". As the truce commenced, a British officer stationed in Haifa stated that the four week long truce "would certainly be exploited by the Jews to continue military training and reorganization while the Arabs would waste [them] feuding over the future divisions of the spoils". This officer was correct for the Jews were able to reorganize and reequip while the Arabs became unprepared to return to combat.

After the truce was in place, Bernadotte began to address the issue of achieving a political settlement. The main obstacles that Bernadotte faced in his opinion were "the Arab world's continued rejection of the existence of a Jewish state, whatever its borders; Israel's new 'philosophy', based on its increasing military strength, of ignoring the partition boundaries and conquering what additional territory it could; and the emerging Palestinian Arab refugee problem". Taking all the issues into account, Bernadotte presented a new partition plan. Bernadotte proposed there be a Palestinian Arab state alongside Israel and that a "Union" "be established between the two sovereign states of Israel and Jordan (which now included the West Bank); that the Negev, or part of it, be included in the Arab state and that Western Galilee, or part of it, be included in Israel; that the whole of Jerusalem be part of the Arab state, with the Jewish areas enjoying municipal autonomy and that Lydda Airport and Haifa be 'free ports'—presumably free of Israeli or Arab sovereignty". Israel rejected the proposal, in particular the aspect of losing control of Jerusalem, but they did agree to extend the truce for another month. The Arabs rejected both the extension of the truce as well as the proposal. On 8 July, the day before the expiration of the truce, Egyptian General Naguib renewed the war by attacking the Negba position of Israel. As a result of this attack, Israel responded on 9 July by attacking on all three fronts. The fighting continued for ten days until the UN Security Council issued the Second Truce on 18 July.

Second phase (8 July 1948 – 18 July 1948)
The fighting after the truce was dominated by large scale Israeli offensives and a defensive posture from the Arab side. Operation Dani was the most important Israeli offensive, aimed at securing and enlarging the corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv by capturing the roadside cities Lydda (later renamed Lod) and Ramle. In a second planned stage of the operation the fortified positions of Latrun—overlooking the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway—and the city of Ramallah were also to be captured.

The second plan was Operation Dekel, which was aimed at capturing the lower Galilee including Nazareth. The third plan, to which fewer resources were allocated, Operation Kedem was to secure the Old City of Jerusalem.

In the south several offensives were launched including Operation An-Far.

Operation Danny
The objectives of Operation Danny were to capture territory East of Tel Aviv and then to push inland and relieve the Jewish population and forces in Jerusalem. Lydda had become an important military center in the region, lending support to Arab military activities elsewhere and Ramle was one of the main obstacles blocking Jewish transportation. Lydda was defended by a local militia of around 1,000 residents, with an Arab Legion contingent of 125-300. The IDF forces gathered to attack the city numbered around 8,000. It was the first operation where several brigades were involved The city was attacked from the north via Majdal al-Sadiq and al-Muzayri'a and from the east via Khulda, al-Qubab, Jimzu and Danyal. Bombers were also used for the first time in the conflict to bombard the city. The IDF captured the city on July 11, 1948. The next day, Ramle also fell. The civilian populations of Lydda and Ramle were expelled to the Arab front lines, and following resistance in Lydda, the population there was expelled without provision of transport vehicles; some of the evictees died on the long walk under the hot July sun.

On 15-16 July, an attack on Latrun took place but did not manage to occupy the fort. A desperate second attempt occurred on 18 July by units from the Yiftach Brigade equipped with armored vehicles, including two Cromwell tanks, but that attack also failed. Despite the second truce, which began on 18 July, the Israeli efforts to conquer Latrun continued until 20 July.

Operation Dekel
While Operation Dani proceeded in the centre, Operation Dekel was carried out in the north. Nazareth was captured on 16 July, and by the time the second truce took effect at 19:00 18 July, the whole lower Galilee from Haifa bay to the Sea of Galilee was captured by Israel.

Operation Kedem
Originally Operation Kedem was to be executed on 8 July, immediately after the first truce, by Irgun and Lehi. However, it was delayed by David Shaltiel, possibly because he did not trust their ability after their failure to capture Deir Yassin without Haganah assistance.

The Irgun forces that were commanded by Yehuda Lapidot (Nimrod) were to break through at The New Gate, Lehi was to break through the wall stretching from the New Gate to the Jaffa Gate, and the Beit Hiron Battalion was to strike from Mount Zion.

The battle was planned to begin on the Sabbath, at 20:00 on 16 July, a day before the Second Cease-fire of the Arab-Israeli war. The plan went wrong from the beginning and was postponed first to 23:00 and then to midnight. It was not until 02:30 that the battle actually began. The Irgunists managed to break through at the New Gate, but the other forces failed in their missions. At 05:45 on 17 July, Shaltiel ordered a retreat and to cease the hostilities.

Second truce: 18 July 1948 – 15 October 1948
At 19:00 on 18 July, the second truce of the conflict went into effect after intense diplomatic efforts by the UN.

On 16 September, Folke Bernadotte proposed a new partition for Palestine in which Jordan would annex Arab areas including the Negev, Lydda and Ramla. There would be a Jewish state in the whole of Galilee, internationalization of Jerusalem, and return or compensation for refugees. The plan was once again rejected by both sides. On the next day, 17 September, Bernadotte was assassinated by Lehi because of fears that the Jewish government would accept the plan, but unbeknown to Lehi the government had already decided to reject it and resume combat in a month. Bernadotte's deputy, American Ralph Bunche, replaced him.

Third phase (15 October 1948 – 20 July 1949)

Israeli operations
Israel launched a series of military operations in order to drive out the Arab armies and secure the borders of Israel.

October battlesOn 15 October the IDF launched Operation Yoav in the northern Negev. Its goal was to drive a wedge between the Egyptian forces along the coast and the Beersheba-Hebron-Jerusalem road and ultimately to conquer the whole Negev. Operation Yoav was headed by the Southern Front commander Yigal Allon. The operation was a huge success as it shattered the Egyptian army ranks and forced the Egyptian forces to retreat from the northern Negev, Beersheba and Ashdod. On 22 October the Israeli Navy commandoes sank the Egyptian flagship Emir Farouk.

22 October 1948 the third truce came into force.

On 24 October 1948, the IDF launched Operation Hiram and captured the entire Upper Galilee, driving the ALA and Lebanese army back to Lebanon. At the end of the month, Israel had captured the whole Galilee and had advanced 5 miles (8.0 km) into Lebanon to the Litani River.

On 22 December the IDF drove the remaining Egyptian forces out of Israel by launching Operation Horev (also called Operation Ayin). The goal of the operation was to secure the entire Negev from Egyptian presence, destroying the Egyptian threat on Israel's southern communities and forcing the Egyptians into a cease-fire. The operation was a decisive Israeli victory, and Israeli raids into the Nitzana area and the Sinai peninsula forced the Egyptian army, which was encircled in the Gaza Strip, to withdraw and accept cease-fire. On 7 January 1949 a truce was achieved. Israeli forces withdrew from Sinai and Gaza under international pressure.

On 5 March Operation Uvda was launched. On 10 March the Israelis reached Umm Rashrash (where Eilat was built later) and conquered it without a battle. The Negev Brigade and Golani Brigade took part in the operation. They raised a hand-made flag ("The Ink Flag") and claimed Umm Rashrash for Israel.

UN Resolution 194
In December 1948, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194 which declared (amongst other things) that in the context of a general peace agreement "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so" and that "compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return." The resolution also mandated the creation of the United Nations Conciliation Commission. However, parts of the resolution were never implemented, resulting in the Palestinian refugee crisis.

British aircraft
On 20 November 1948, an unarmed RAF photo-reconnaissance De Havilland Mosquito of No. 13 Squadron RAF on an intelligence sortie was shot down by a P-51 flown by Wayne Peake.

Just before noon on 7 January 1949, four Spitfire FR. 18s from No. 208 Squadron RAF on routine reconnaissance in the Deir al-Balah area inadvertently flew over an Israeli convoy that had just been attacked by the Royal Egyptian Air Force. IDF soldiers in the convoy shot down one of the British planes. The remaining three planes were then shot down by patrolling Israeli Air Force Spitfires flown by Slick Goodlin and John McElroy, volunteers from the United States and Canada respectively. Later that day four RAF Spitfires from the same squadron escorted by seven No. 213 Squadron RAF Tempests and another eight Tempests from No. 6 Squadron RAF, searching for the lost planes from No. 208 Squadron were attacked by four Israeli Air Force Spitfires. The Tempests found they could not jettison their external fuel tanks, and some found they had non-operational guns. One of the Tempests was shot down, killing its pilot David Tattersfield. Another Tempest was damaged by an IAF plane flown by Ezer Weizman.

Largely leftover World War II era weapons were used by both sides. Egypt had some British equipment; the Syrian army had some French. German and British equipment was used by Israel.

1949 Armistice Agreements
In 1949, Israel signed separate armistices with Egypt on 24 February, Lebanon on 23 March, Jordan on 3 April, and Syria on 20 July. The new borders of Israel, as set by the agreements, encompassed about 78% of Mandatory Palestine as it stood after the independence of Jordan in 1946. Regarding the original British Mandate (including Jordan, which was included within the Mandate in the summer of 1921 but excluded from the provisions for a Jewish National Home), Israel was created on 18% of the total area of Palestine and Jordan. This was about 50% more than the UN partition proposal allotted it. These cease-fire lines were known afterwards as the "Green Line". The Gaza Strip and the West Bank were occupied by Egypt and Jordan respectively. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization and Mixed Armistice Commissions were set up to monitor ceasefires, supervise the armistice agreements; to prevent isolated incidents from escalating and assist other UN peacekeeping operations in the region.

Israel lost about 1% of its population in the war: 6,373 of its people. About 4,000 were soldiers and the rest were civilians. The exact number of Arab losses is unknown but are estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000 people.

Demographic outcome
During the 1947-1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine and the 1948 Arab–Israeli War that followed, around 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. In 1951 the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine estimated that the number of Palestinian refugees displaced out of Israel was 711,000. This number did not include displaced Palestinians inside Israeli-held territory. The list of villages depopulated during the Arab-Israeli conflict includes more than 400 Arab villages depopulated during the war. It also includes about ten Jewish villages and neighbourhoods.

The Causes of the 1948 Palestinian exodus are a controversial topic among historians.

The Palestinian refugee problem and the debate around the right of their return are also major issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Arab Palestinians have staged annual demonstrations and protests on 15 May of each year. The popularity and number of participants in these annual al Nakba demonstrations has varied over time, though the increasing anti-Israeli sentiment in the Middle East has tended to increase the attendance in recent years. During the al-Aqsa Intifada after the failure of the Camp David 2000 Summit, the attendance at the demonstrations against Israel increased.

During the 1948 War, around 10,000 Jews were forced to evacuate their homes in Palestine or Israe but in the three years following the war, 700,000 Jews settled in Israel, mainly along the borders and in former Arab lands. Around 136,000 came from the 250,000 displaced Jews of World War II. Most others were part of the 758,000 to 900,000 Jews who fled or left Arab countries between 1948 and the Six-Day War following widespread anti-Jewish attacks.


The invading Egyptian and Iraqi armies were poorly trained and equipped as the British had feared they would support the Nazis during the Second World War. The Jordanian "Arab Legion" however, was well trained and had aided the British in Palestine. Many Arab Legion forces were still in Palestine when the British left. Arab Legion commanders were high-ranking British officers (who resigned from the British Army in 1948). The Commander-in-Chief was a British General, Glubb Pasha.

The invading Arab armies were initially successful but met far harder Jewish resistance than they expected, causing them to slow their advance. On May 29, 1948 the British initiated United Nations Security Council Resolution 50 and declared an arms embargo on the region. Czechoslovakia violated the resolution supplying the Jewish state with critical military hardware to match the heavy equipment and planes available to the invading Arab states (who were supplied by Britain).

In early June, the UN declared a month-long truce.

Following the announcement of independence, the Haganah became the Israel Defense Forces and the Palmach, Etzel and Lehi were required to join and cease independent existence. During the ceasefire, Etzel attempted to bring in a private arms shipment aboard a ship called "Altalena". When they refused to unconditionally hand over the arms to the government, Ben-Gurion ordered that the ship be sunk. Several Etzel members were killed in the fighting.

Large numbers of Jewish immigrants, many of them World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors now began arriving, and many joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).When the fighting resumed, Israel gained the upper hand.

Arab supply routes were long and fragile and as the war dragged on they had problems replenishing their ammunition supplies. The Jordanian 'Arab Legion', refrained from invading Israeli territory and focused on occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In March 1949, after many months of battle, a permanent ceasefire went into effect and Israel's interim borders, later known as the Green Line, were established. By that time Israel had conquered the Galilee and Negev, however the Syrians remained in control of a strip of territory along the Sea of Galilee originally allocated to the Jewish state, the Lebanese occupied a tiny area at Rosh Hanikra and the Egyptians held the Gaza strip and had some forces surrounded inside Jewish territory. The Jordanians had occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Following the ceasefire declaration, Britain released over 2,000 Jewish prisoners it was holding on Cyprus and recognized the state of Israel. On May 11, 1949, Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations.

The war for Israel's Independence was the costliest in its history. Out of a Jewish population of 650,000, some 6,000 men and women were killed in the fighting, including 4,000 soldiers in the IDF. The exact number of Arab losses is unknown but the estimates ranged from 10,000 to 15,000 people.

According to United Nations figures, 711,000 Palestinians left Israeli-controlled territory between 1947 and 1949 and, over the next twenty years 850,000 Jews (almost the entire Jewish population) left the Arab world.

At the end of the war, Egypt remained in occupation of the Gaza Strip and Transjordan annexed the "West Bank" and eastern Jerusalem, including the Old City. Jordan and Egypt did not establish an independent state for Palestinian Arabs and made no effort to facilitate the establishment of Palestine. Except in Jordan, Arab refugees that left Palestine were settled in refugee camps and denied full citizenship and rights by the Arab countries that hosted them.


Labour Party rule 1948–1977

The new state established a 120-seat parliament, the Knesset, which first met in Tel Aviv but moved to Jerusalem after the 1949 ceasefire. In January 1949, Israel held its first elections. The first President of Israel was Chaim Weizmann. David Ben-Gurion was elected prime minister.

From 1948 until 1977 all governments were led by Mapai and the Alignment, predecessors of the Labour Party.

1948–1953: Ben Gurion and mass immigration

Labour Zionists led by David Ben-Gurion dominated Israeli politics and the economy was run on primarily socialist lines; however, all governments have been coalitions.

In 1949, the new Government passed a law making education free and compulsory for all citizens until the age of 14. The state now funded the existing party-affiliated Zionist education system and a new body created by the Haredi Agudat Israel party. A separate body was created to provide education for the Arab population.

In 1950 the Knesset passed the Law of Return which granted all Jews and those of Jewish ancestry, and their spouses, the right to migrate to and settle in Israel and gain citizenship.

In 1950 50,000 Yemenite Jews were secretly airlifted to Israel. From 1949-1951, massacres led 30,000 Jews to flee Libya. In 1951 Iraqi Jews were granted temporary permission to leave the country and 120,000 were airlifted to Israel.

Jews also fled from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Jews were not permitted to live in or enter Saudi Arabia. About 500,000 Jews left Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia by the late sixties. The property Arab Jews abandoned (much of it in city centres) is a matter of dispute.

In three years (1948 to 1951), mass immigration doubled the Jewish population (700,000 immigrants) and left an indelible imprint on Israeli society. Most immigrants were either Holocaust survivors or Jews fleeing Arab lands; the largest groups (over 100,000 each) were from Iraq, Romania and Poland, although immigrants arrived from all over Europe and the Middle East.

From 1948 to 1958, the population rose from 800,000 to two million. During this period, food, clothes and furniture were rationed in what became known as the Austerity Period (Tkufat haTsena). Immigrants were mostly refugees with no possessions and were housed in temporary camps known as ma'abarot.

Under the existing system major political parties ran their own education systems and these now competed for immigrants to join them. Fearing that the immigrants lacked sufficient "Zionist motivation", the government banned the existing educational bodies from teaching in the transit camps and instead tried to mandate a unitary secular socialist education[citation needed]. Education came under the control of "camp managers" who also had to provide work, food and housing for the immigrants. There were attempts to force orthodox Yemenite children to adopt a secular life style by teachers, including many instances of Yemenite children having their side-curls cut by teachers. Immigrants who dissented from political lines sometimes faced discrimination, although no one went hungry and all were eventually housed. This treatment of Orthodox children led to a scandal, and the first Israeli public enquiry (the Fromkin Inquiry) investigated the abuses.

The crisis led to the collapse of the coalition and an election in 1951, with little change in the results from the previous election.

By 1952, over 200,000 immigrants were living in tents or pre-fabricated shacks built by the government. Most of the financial aid Israel received were private donations from Jews outside the country (mainly in the USA).

The need to solve the economic crisis led Ben-Gurion to sign a reparations agreement with West Germany. During the Knesset debate some 5,000 demonstrators gathered and riot police had to cordon the building. During the debate, the Herut leader Menachem Begin and Ben-Gurion called each other fascists and Begin branded Ben-Gurion a "hooligan."

Dalia Ofer estimates that by 1952 about 400,000 Israelis were Jews who had been severely displaced by the Holocaust, and the Israeli government's demand for German reparations was in lieu of the expenses involved in resettling them.[52] Israel received several billion marks and in return Israel agreed to open diplomatic relations with Germany.

In its early years Israel sought to maintain a non-aligned position between the super-powers. Both the USA and the USSR had widespread support in Israel, however in 1952 an anti-Semitic public trial was staged in Moscow of a group of Jewish doctors accused of trying to poison Stalin (the Doctors' plot), followed by a similar trial in Czechoslovakia (Slánský trial). That and the failure of Israel to get invited to the Bandung Conference (of non-aligned states), effectively ended Israeli non-alignment. At this time the United States pursued close relations with the new Arab states, particularly the Egyptian Free Officers Movement and Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia.

Israel's solution to the diplomatic isolation resulting from Arab boycotts was to establish good relations with the emerging states in Africa[53] and with France which was then engaged in the Algerian War.

In 1953 the party-affiliated education system was scrapped. The General Zionist and Socialist Zionist education systems were united to become the secular State education system while the Mizrahi became the State Modern-Orthodox system. Agudat Israel were allowed to maintain their existing school system.

At the end of 1953, Ben Gurion retired to Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev.


1954–1955: Moshe Sharett and the Lavon Affair

In January 1954 Moshe Sharett became Prime-Minister of Israel, however his government was brought down by the Lavon Affair, a crude plan to disrupt US-Egyptian relations, involving Egyptian Israeli agents planting bombs at American sites in Egypt. The plan failed when the eleven agents were arrested. Defense Minister Lavon was blamed despite his denial of responsibility.

Archaeologist and General Yigael Yadin, purchased the Dead Sea Scrolls on behalf of the State of Israel. The entire first batch to be discovered were now owned by Israel and housed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum.

In 1954 the Uzi submachine gun first entered use by the Israel Defence Forces.

The Lavon affair led to Sharett's resignation and Ben-Gurion returned to the post of Prime-Minister winning the 1955 election.


1955–1963: Ben-Gurion II: Sinai Campaign & Eichmann Trial

In 1955, Czechoslovakia began supplying arms to Egypt, and France became Israel's principal arms supplier.

Rudolph Kastner, a minor political functionary, was accused of collaborating with the Nazis and sued his accuser. Kastner lost the trial and was assassinated two years later. In 1958 the Supreme Court exonerated him.

The Egyptian government began recruiting former Nazi rocket scientists for a missile program. Some Nazi war criminals found asylum in the Arab world, including Alois Brunner.

The Sinai Campaign came about as conflict between Egypt and Israel increased in 1956. During the Fifties, hundreds of Israelis were killed in Fedayeen attacks from (Egyptian occupied) Gaza into Israeli territory. The attacks began as private initiatives by Palestinian refugees and the victims were frequently Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Fedayeen attacks led to a growing cycle of violence as Israel launched reprisal attacks against Gaza and the Egyptian government organized and sponsored the Fedayeen.

In 1956 Egypt blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba, and closed the Suez canal to Israeli shipping. The canal was then nationalized, to the dismay of its British and French shareholders. In response, France and the United Kingdom entered into a secret agreement with Israel to take back the canal by force.

In accordance with this agreement Israel invaded the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula in October 1956. Israeli forces reached the Suez canal and then French and British forces stepped in on the pretext of restoring order. It is believed the French also agreed to build a nuclear plant for the Israelis and that by 1968 this was able to produce nuclear weapons.

The Israeli, French and United Kingdom forces were victorious, but withdrew in March 1957 due to pressure from the United States and USSR. The United Nations established the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) to keep peace in the area. In return for the withdrawal Israel was guaranteed freedom of access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal and action to end attacks from Gaza. In practice the Suez Canal remained closed to Israeli shipping.

In October 1957 a deranged man threw a handgrenade inside the Knesset wounding Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion was once again victorious in the 1959 elections.

In May 1960 the Mossad located Adolf Eichmann, one of the chief administrators of the Nazi Holocaust, in Argentina and kidnapped him to Israel. In 1961 he was put on trial and after several months found guilty and sentenced to death. He was hanged in 1962 and is the only person ever sentenced to death by an Israeli court. Testimonies by Holocaust survivors at the trial and the extensive publicity which surrounded it has led the trial to be considered a turning point in public awareness of the Holocaust.

In 1961 a Herut non-confidence motion over the Lavon affair led to Ben-Gurion's resignation. Ben-Gurion declared that he would only accept office if Lavon was fired from the position of the head of Histadrut, Israel's labor union organization (due to his role in the Lavon Affair). His demands were accepted and he won the 1961 election.

In 1962 the Mossad began assassinating German rocket scientists working in Egypt after one of them reported the missile program was designed to carry chemical warheads. This action was condemned by Ben-Gurion and led to the Mossad director, Isser Harel's resignation.

In 1963 Ben-Gurion quit again over the Lavon scandal. His attempts to make his party Mapai support him over the issue failed, and Ben-Gurion left the party to form Rafi. Levi Eshkol became leader of Mapai and the new Prime-Minister.


see also: United Nations member states -



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