1947 and theestablishment of the modern state of ISRAEL in 1948, there havebeen four major Arab-Israeli wars (1947-49, 1956, 1967, and1973) and numerous intermittent battles. Although Egypt andIsrael signed a peace treaty in 1979, hostility between Israeland the rest of its Arab neighbors, complicated by the demandsof Palestinian Arabs, continued into the 1980s. THE FIRST PALESTINE WAR (1947-49)The first war began as a civil conflict between PalestinianJews and Arabs following the United Nations recommendation ofNov. 29, 1947, to partition Palestine, then still underBritish mandate, into an Arab state and a Jewish state. Fighting quickly spread as Arab guerrillas attacked Jewishsettlements and communication links to prevent implementationof the UN plan.
Jewish forces prevented seizure of most settlements, but Arabguerrillas, supported by the Transjordanian Arab Legion underthe command of British officers, besieged Jerusalem. 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 British had departed and the state of Israel had beenestablished on May 15, 1948, under the premiership of DavidBEN-GURION, the Palestine Arab forces and foreign volunteerswere joined by regular armies of Transjordan (now the kingdomof JORDAN), IRAQ, LEBANON, and SYRIA, with token support fromSAUDI ARABIA. Efforts by the UN to halt the fighting wereunsuccessful until June 11, when a 4-week truce was declared.
When the Arab states refused to renew the truce, ten more daysof fighting erupted. In that time Israel greatly extended thearea under its control and broke the siege of Jerusalem. Fighting on a smaller scale continued during the second UNtruce beginning in mid-July, and Israel acquired moreterritory, especially in Galilee and the Negev. By January1949, when the last battles ended, Israel had extended itsfrontiers by about 5,000 sq km (1,930 sq mi) beyond the 15,500sq 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 UN auspicesbetween Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Thearmistice frontiers were unofficial boundaries until 1967. SUEZ-SINAI WAR (1956)Border conflicts between Israel and the Arabs continued despiteprovisions in the 1949 armistice agreements for peacenegotiations. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs whohad left Israeli-held territory during the first warconcentrated in refugee camps along Israel’s frontiers andbecame a major source of friction when they infiltrated back totheir homes or attacked Israeli border settlements. A majortension point was the Egyptian-controlled GAZA STRIP, which wasused by Arab guerrillas for raids into southern Israel. Egypt’s blockade of Israeli shipping in the Suez Canal and Gulfof Aqaba intensified the hostilities.
These escalating tensions converged with the SUEZ CRISIS causedby the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian presidentGamal NASSER. Great Britain and France strenuously objected toNasser’s policies, and a joint military campaign was plannedagainst Egypt with the understanding that Israel would take theinitiative by seizing the Sinai Peninsula. The war began onOct. 29, 1956, after an announcement that the armies of Egypt,Syria, and Jordan were to be integrated under the Egyptiancommander in chief. Israel’s Operation Kadesh, commanded byMoshe DAYAN, lasted less than a week; its forces reached theeastern bank of the Suez Canal in about 100 hours, seizing theGaza Strip and nearly all the Sinai Peninsula.
The Sinaioperations were supplemented by an Anglo-French invasion ofEgypt on November 5, giving the allies control of the northernsector of the Suez Canal. The war was halted by a UN General Assembly resolution callingfor an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of all occupyingforces from Egyptian territory. The General Assembly alsoestablished a United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to replacethe allied troops on the Egyptian side of the borders in Suez,Sinai, and Gaza. By December 22 the last British and Frenchtroops had left Egypt. Israel, however, delayed withdrawal,insisting that it receive security guarantees against furtherEgyptian attack.
After several additional UN resolutionscalling for withdrawal and after pressure from the UnitedStates, Israel’s forces left in March 1957. SIX-DAY WAR (1967)Relations between Israel and Egypt remained fairly stable inthe following decade. The Suez Canal remained closed toIsraeli shipping, the Arab boycott of Israel was maintained,and periodic border clashes occurred between Israel, Syria, andJordan. However, UNEF prevented direct military encountersbetween Egypt and Israel.By 1967 the Arab confrontation states–Egypt, Syria,