Israel

In 1947, following increasing levels of violence together with unsuccessful efforts to reconcile the Jewish and Arab populations, the British government decided to withdraw from the Palestine Mandate. The UN General Assembly approved the 1947 UN Partition Plan dividing the territory into two states, with the Jewish area consisting of roughly 55% of the land, and the Arab area roughly 45%. Jerusalem was planned to be an international region administered by the UN to avoid conflict over its status.

Immediately following the adoption of the Partition Plan by the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947, David Ben-Gurion tentatively accepted the partition, while the Arab League rejected it. Scattered attacks on civilians of both sides soon turned into widespread fighting between Arabs and Jews, this civil war being the first “phase” of the 1948 War of Independence.

The State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, one day before the expiry of the Palestine Mandate.

Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949.

War of Independence and migration
Main article: 1948 Arab-Israeli War
See also: Jewish refugees, Palestinian refugee, Palestinian exodus, and Arab-Israeli conflict
Following the State of Israel’s establishment, the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq joined the fighting and began the second phase of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. From the north, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, were all but stopped relatively close to the borders. Jordanian forces, invading from the east, captured East Jerusalem and laid siege on the city’s west. However, forces of the Haganah successfully stopped most invading forces, and Irgun forces halted Egyptian encroachment from the south. At the beginning of June, the UN declared a one-month cease fire during which the Israel Defense Forces were officially formed. After numerous months of war, a cease fire was declared in 1949 and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were instituted. Israel had gained an additional 26% of the Mandate territory west of the Jordan River. Jordan, for its part, held the large mountainous areas of Judea and Samaria, which became known as the West Bank. Egypt took control of a small strip of land along the coast, which became known as the Gaza Strip.

During and after the war, then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion set about establishing order by dismantling the Palmach and underground organizations like the Irgun and Lehi. Those two groups were classified as terror organizations after the murder of Folke Bernadotte, a Swedish diplomat.

Large numbers of the Arab population fled the newly-created Jewish State during the Palestinian exodus (it is also referred to as the Nakba (Arabic: النكبة), meaning “disaster” or “cataclysm”). Many historians suggest that the Palestinians fled due to orders from Arab generals. Many Palestinians left under the belief that the Arab armies would prevail and they would return.[8] Moreover, Israel offered many of the Palestinians an opportunity to live and take citizenship in Israel, but many refused.[citation needed]

(Estimates of the final refugee count range from 600,000 to 900,000 with the official United Nations count at 711,000.[9]) The continuing conflict between Israel and the Arab world resulted in a lasting displacement that persists to this day.

Immigration of Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from Arab lands doubled Israel’s population within a year of independence. Over the following years approximately 850,000 Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews fled or were expelled from surrounding Arab countries and Iran. Of these, about 600,000 settled in Israel; the remainder went to Europe and the Americas. See: Jewish exodus from Arab lands

1950s and 1960s
Between 1954 and 1955, under Moshe Sharett as prime minister, the Lavon Affair, a failed attempt to bomb targets in Egypt, caused political disgrace in Israel. Compounding this, in 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, much to the chagrin of the United Kingdom and France. Following this and a series of Fedayeen attacks, Israel created a secret military alliance with those two European powers and declared war on Egypt. After the Suez Crisis, the three collaborators faced international condemnation, and Israel was forced to withdraw its forces from the Sinai Peninsula.

In 1955, Ben-Gurion once again became prime minister and served as such until his final resignation in 1963. After Ben-Gurion’s resignation, Levi Eshkol was appointed to the post.

In 1961, the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, who had been largely responsible for the Final Solution, the planned extermination of the Jews of Europe, was captured in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and brought to trial in Israel. Eichmann became the only person ever sentenced to death by the Israeli courts.

On the political field, tensions once again arose between Israel and her neighbors in May 1967. Syria, Jordan, and Egypt had been hinting at war, and Egypt expelled UN Peacekeeping Forces from the Gaza Strip. When Egypt closed the strategic Straits of Tiran to Israeli vessels, Israel deemed it a casus belli for pre-emptively attacking Egypt on June 5. After the ensuing Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the Jewish State emerged triumphant. Israel had defeated the armies of three large Arab states and decimated their air forces. Territorially, Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, and Golan Heights. The Green Line of 1949 became the administrative boundary between Israel and her Occupied Territories, also called Disputed Territories. However, Israel has spread its administrative domain to East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The Sinai was later returned to Egypt following the signing of a peace treaty.

In 1967 Israeli aircraft attacked the USS Liberty, killing 34 American servicemen. American and Israeli investigations into the incident concluded that the attack was a tragic accident involving confusion over the identity of the Liberty.

In 1969 Golda Meir, Israel’s first and to date only female prime minister was elected.

See also: Positions on Jerusalem, Jerusalem Law, Golan Heights, and Israeli-occupied territories

1970s
Between 1968 and 1972, a period known as the War of Attrition, numerous scuffles erupted along the border between Israel and Syria and Egypt. Furthermore, in the early-1970s, palestinian groups embarked on an unprecedented wave of attacks against Israel and Jewish targets in other countries. The climax of this wave occurred at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, when, in the Munich massacre, Palestinian terrorists held hostage and killed members of the Israeli delegation. Israel responded with Operation Wrath of God, in which agents of Mossad assassinated most of those who were involved in the massacre.

Finally, on October 6, 1973, on the Jewish fast day of Yom Kippur, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israel. However, despite early successes against an unprepared Israeli army, Egypt and Syria failed to accomplish their goal of regaining the territories lost in 1967. Yet after the war, a number of years of relative calm ensued, which fostered the environment in which Israel and Egypt could make peace.

In 1974, Yitzhak Rabin, with Meir’s resignation, became Israel’s fifth prime minister. Then, in the 1977 Knesset elections, the Ma’arach, the ruling party since 1948, created a storm by leaving the government. The new Likud party, led by Menachem Begin, became the new ruling party.

Then, in November of that year, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, making a historic visit to the Jewish State, spoke before the Knesset — the first recognition of Israel by its Arab neighbors. Following the visit, the two nations conducted negotiations which led to the signing of the Camp David Accords. In March 1979, Begin and Sadat signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty in Washington, DC. As laid out in the treaty, Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and evacuated the settlements established there during the 1970s. It was also agreed to lend autonomy to Palestinians across the Green Line.

See also: War of Attrition, Munich Massacre, Yom Kippur War, Anwar Sadat, and Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty

1980s
On July 7, 1981, the Israeli Air Force bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osiraq in an attempt to foil Iraqi efforts at producing an atomic bomb.

In 1982, Israel launched an attack against Lebanon, which had been embroiled in the Lebanese Civil War since 1975. The official reason for the attack was to defend Israel’s northernmost settlements from terrorist attacks, which had been occurring frequently. However, after establishing a forty-kilometer barrier zone, the IDF continued northward and even captured the capital, Beirut. Israeli forces expelled Palestinian Liberation Organization forces from the country, forcing the organization to relocate to Tunis. Unable to deal with the stress of the ongoing war, Prime Minister Begin resigned from his post in 1983 and was replaced by Yitzhak Shamir. Though Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, a buffer zone was maintained until May 2000 when Israel unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon.

The rest of the 1980s were spent constantly shifting from the right, led by Yitzhak Shamir, to the left under Shimon Peres. Peres, for example, was prime minister from 1984, but handed the position over to Shamir in 1986. The First Intifadah then broke out in 1987 and was accompanied by waves of violence in the Occupied Territories. Following the outbreak, Shamir once again was elected prime minister, in 1988.

See also: 1982 Lebanon War, Lebanese Civil War, and PLO

1990s
During the Gulf War, Israel was hit by a number of Iraqi missiles, which killed two Israeli citizens, even though Israel was not a member of the coalition and was not involved in the fighting.

The early 1990s were marked by the beginning of a massive immigration of Soviet Jews, who, according to the Law of Return, were entitled to become Israeli citizens upon arrival. About 380,000 arrived in 1990-91 alone. Although initially favouring the right, the new immigrants became the target of an aggressive election campaign by Labor, which blamed their employment and housing problems on the ruling Likud. As a result, in the 1992 elections the immigrants voted en masse for Labor, letting the left achieve a 61-59 majority in the 1992 Knesset elections.

Following the elections, Yitzhak Rabin became prime minister, forming a left-wing government coalition. During the election campaign his Labor party promised Israelis a significant improvement in personal security and achievement of a comprehensive peace with the Arabs “within six to nine months” after the elections. By the end of 1993 the government abandoned the framework of Madrid and signed the Oslo Accords with the PLO. In 1994, Jordan became the second of Israel’s neighbours to make peace with it.

The initial wide public support for the Oslo Accords began to wane as Israel was struck by an unprecedented wave of attacks supported by the militant Hamas group, which opposed the accords. Public support slipped even further. On November 4, 1995, a Jewish nationalist militant named Yigal Amir assassinated Rabin.

Public dismay with the assassination created a backlash against Oslo opponents and significantly boosted the chances of Shimon Peres, Rabin’s successor and Oslo architect, to win the upcoming 1996 elections. However, a new wave of suicide bombings combined with Arafat’s statements extolling the Muslim nationalist militant Yahya Ayyash, made the public mood swing once again and in May 1996 Peres narrowly lost to his challenger from Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Although seen as a hard-liner opposing the Oslo Accords, Netanyahu withdrew from Hebron and signed the Wye River Memorandum giving wider control to the Palestinian National Authority. During Netanyahu’s tenure, Israel experienced a lull in attacks against Israel’s civilian population by Palestinian groups, but his government fell in 1999. Labor’s Ehud Barak beat Netanyahu by a wide margin in the 1999 elections and succeeded him as prime minister.

2000s
This section documents a current event.
Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

Barak initiated a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. This process was intended to frustrate Hezbollah attacks on Israel by forcing them to cross Israel’s border. The Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Yassir Arafat once again conducted negotiations with President Clinton at the July 2000 Camp David summit. However, the talks failed. Barak offered to form a Palestinian State initially on 73% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip. In ten to 25 years the West Bank area would expand to 90% (94% excluding greater Jerusalem). [3] [4]

After the collapse of the talks, Palestinian officials began a second uprising, known as the Al-Aqsa Intifadah, just after the leader of the opposition Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The failure of the talks and the outbreak of a new war caused many Israelis on both the right and the left to turn away from Barak, and also discredited the peace movement.

Ariel Sharon became the new prime minister in March 2001 and consequently was re-elected, along with his Likud party in the Knesset elections of 2003. Sharon initiated a plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip. This disengagement was executed between August and September 2005.

Israel also is building a West Bank Barrier to defend the country from attacks by Palestinian armed groups. The barrier, which is planned to measure 681 kilometers, meanders past the Green Line and effectively annexes 9.5% of the West Bank.[10] The barrier has been met with some criticism from the international community and numerous protest demonstrations by the Israeli left.

After Ariel Sharon suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke, the powers of the office were passed to Ehud Olmert, who was designated the “Acting” Prime Minister. On April 14, 2006, Olmert was elected Prime Minister after his party, Kadima, Hebrew for “forward,” won the most seats in the 2006 legislative elections.

On June 28, 2006, after Hamas militias crossed the border from the Gaza Strip and captured an Israeli soldier while also killing two soldiers, Israel began Operation Summer Rains which consisted of heavy bombardment of Hamas targets as well as bridges, roads, and the only power station in Gaza. Israel also has deployed troops into the territory. Israel’s critics have accused it of disproportionate use of force and collective punishment of innocent civilians and not giving diplomacy a chance. Israel argues that they have no other option to get their soldier back and put an end to the rocket attacks into Israel.

On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah militants captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others, sparking the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. According to Israel, the UN, EU, G8 and the USA, the soldiers were captured in the Israeli town of Zar’it, and several prominent news agencies have characterized the Hezbollah action as “cross-border”. However, Lebanese police sources claimed shortly afterwards that the soldiers had been attacked and captured during an Israeli raid into south Lebanon. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared the kidnappings an “act of war” and warned of a “heavy price” to be paid by Lebanon.[11]. As a result, Israel has exercised a strong retaliatory front including strikes on Lebanese bridges, power plants, roads, and army bases. Hundreds of Lebanese civilians, including women and children, aid workers, and international observers have died as a result of heavy Israeli shellings and air strikes in the south of the country; over 800,000 people have been displaced from their homes [12] [13] [14]. A much smaller number of Israeli civilians also have been killed as a result of Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel, with many tens of thousands forced to hide in fall-out shelters. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said that Israel has a right to defend itself, but he condemned the excessive use of force.[15]. Both Hamas and Hezbollah have stated that they only will release the soldiers in a prisoner exchange with Israel; however, Israel has said that they will not engage in any prisoner exchanges, and only will end the conflicts if they agree to suspend all rocket attacks into Israel and unconditionally release the soldiers. Read more

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