Sincethe United Nations partition of PALESTINE in 1947 andthe establishment of the modern state of ISRAEL in 1948,there have been four major Arab-Israeli wars (1947-49,1956, 1967, and 1973) and numerous intermittent battles. Although Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979,hostility between Israel and the rest of its Arab neighbors,complicated by the demands of Palestinian Arabs, continuedinto the 1980s. THE FIRST PALESTINE WAR (1947-49)The first war began as a civil conflict between PalestinianJews and Arabs following the United Nationsrecommendation of Nov. 29, 1947, to partition Palestine,then still under British mandate, into an Arab state and aJewish state. Fighting quickly spread as Arab guerrillasattacked Jewish settlements and communication links toprevent implementation of the UN plan. Jewish forcesprevented seizure of most settlements, but Arab guerrillas,supported by the Transjordanian Arab Legion under thecommand of British officers, besieged Jerusalem.Order now
By April,Haganah, the principal Jewish military group, seized theoffensive, scoring victories against the Arab Liberation Armyin northern Palestine, Jaffa, and Jerusalem. British militaryforces withdrew to Haifa; although officially neutral, somecommanders assisted one side or the other. After the Britishhad departed and the state of Israel had been established onMay 15, 1948, under the premiership of DavidBEN-GURION, the Palestine Arab forces and foreignvolunteers were joined by regular armies of Transjordan(now the kingdom of JORDAN), IRAQ, LEBANON, andSYRIA, with token support from SAUDI ARABIA. Effortsby the UN to halt the fighting were unsuccessful until June11, when a 4-week truce was declared. When the Arabstates refused to renew the truce, ten more days of fightingerupted.
In that time Israel greatly extended the area underits control and broke the siege of Jerusalem. Fighting on asmaller scale continued during the second UN trucebeginning in mid-July, and Israel acquired more territory,especially in Galilee and the Negev. By January 1949, whenthe last battles ended, Israel had extended its frontiers byabout 5,000 sq km (1,930 sq mi) beyond the 15,500 sq km(4,983 sq mi) allocated to the Jewish state in the UNpartition resolution. It had also secured its independence. During 1949, armistice agreements were signed under UNauspices between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Syria, andLebanon. The armistice frontiers were unofficial boundariesuntil 1967.
SUEZ-SINAI WAR (1956) Border conflictsbetween Israel and the Arabs continued despite provisions inthe 1949 armistice agreements for peace negotiations. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who had leftIsraeli-held territory during the first war concentrated inrefugee camps along Israel’s frontiers and became a majorsource of friction when they infiltrated back to their homes orattacked Israeli border settlements. A major tension pointwas the Egyptian-controlled GAZA STRIP, which was usedby Arab guerrillas for raids into southern Israel. Egypt’sblockade of Israeli shipping in the Suez Canal and Gulf ofAqaba intensified the hostilities.
These escalating tensionsconverged with the SUEZ CRISIS caused by thenationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian presidentGamal NASSER. Great Britain and France strenuouslyobjected to Nasser’s policies, and a joint military campaignwas planned against Egypt with the understanding that Israelwould take the initiative by seizing the Sinai Peninsula. Thewar began on Oct. 29, 1956, after an announcement that thearmies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan were to be integratedunder the Egyptian commander in chief.
Israel’s OperationKadesh, commanded by Moshe DAYAN, lasted less than aweek; its forces reached the eastern bank of the Suez Canalin about 100 hours, seizing the Gaza Strip and nearly all theSinai Peninsula. The Sinai operations were supplemented byan Anglo-French invasion of Egypt on November 5, givingthe allies control of the northern sector of the Suez Canal. The war was halted by a UN General Assembly resolutioncalling for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of alloccupying forces from Egyptian territory. The GeneralAssembly also established a United Nations EmergencyForce (UNEF) to replace the allied troops on the Egyptianside of the borders in Suez, Sinai, and Gaza. By December22 the last British and French troops had left Egypt.
Israel,however, delayed withdrawal, insisting that it receive securityguarantees against further Egyptian attack. After severaladditional UN resolutions calling for withdrawal and afterpressure from the United States, Israel’s forces left in March1957. SIX-DAY WAR (1967) Relations between Israeland Egypt remained fairly stable in the following decade. TheSuez Canal remained closed to Israeli shipping, the Arabboycott of Israel was maintained, and periodic borderclashes occurred between Israel, Syria, and Jordan. However, UNEF prevented direct military encountersbetween Egypt and Israel.
By 1967 the Arab confrontationstates–Egypt,