Israeli and Palestinian Conflicts

In the last post I covered the background of what is now Israel and Palestine. This covers the period post 1945 after Israel declared independence. Once again, I rely heavily on Wikipedia and include some direct text from their site.

Situation 1945

In 1945 Palestine was under British control or mandate. It had been agreed by the UN that it was supposed to be Palestine with a small area in the North set aside for Israel.

In the 1920s long before they had a country to govern, Zionist supporters outside the country created Hagenah. Hagenah was a Jewish parliamentary organisation with a military wing. During WW2 they feared that Rommel, as he advanced towards the Suez canal would capture Palestine so they supported the Allies during the war.

In 1944 Menachem Begin assumed leadership of Irgun. Irgun was a political branch of the Zionist movement that had broken away from Hagenah. He was determined to force the British government to remove its troops entirely from Palestine. He believed that the British had reneged on their original promise of the Balfour Declaration. He also said that the White Paper of 1939 restricting Jewish immigration was an escalation of their pro-Arab policy, In 1944 and 1945 there was internal conflict between the two Zionist parties – Haganah and Irgun.

Post the war, Britain found Palestine a burden. There was the cost of supporting 100,000 troops to maintain order. The various Zionist groups including Haganah and Irgun carried out attacks on British property and strategic installations. In a three way deal, America promised a reconstruction loan to Britain but only after 100,000 Jewish survivors were re-located from Europe to Israel.

Establishment of Israel

By 1947 Britain caved, and announced they were ending the mandate. They would take no action to protect the situation for the Arabs. It was a matter of ‘sort it out yourselves.’ In November 1947 the UN voted a resolution to allow an “Independent Arab state alongside a Jewish States, and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem”.

Britain drew up a map which was a collection of unconnected areas for the Palestinians.

1948 Arab Israeli War

On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion and the Jewish People’s Council declared the establishment of a Jewish state of Israel. The Arab states objected. Transjordan and Egypt took control of territory designated for the future Arab State, Syrian and Iraqi expeditionary forces attacked Israel without success. Israel conquered the whole of the Galilee region, both the Lydda and Ramle areas, and the Negev.

In 1949 an armistice was proposed but 350,000 Palestinians had already fled their homes. Some fled because the Arab armies told them to get out until the war was over. Others were afraid. Some were driven out by the Jewish Army. This was denied for many years but finally admitted by their commander Yitzhak Rabin who went on to become Prime Minister.

The Jews accepted a partition plan drawn up by the UN but the Arabs rejected it. The area allocated to the Palestinian Arabs and the international zone of Jerusalem were occupied by Israel and the neighboring Arab states. In addition to the UN-partitioned area allotted to the Jewish state, Israel captured and incorporated a further 26% of the British Mandate territory. Jordan retained possession of about 21% of the former Mandate territory. Jerusalem was divided, with Jordan taking the eastern parts, including the Old City, and Israel taking the western parts. In addition, Syria held on to small slivers of the former Mandate territory to the south and east of the Sea of Galilee, which had been allocated in the UN partition plan to the Jewish state. It was not just Israel grabbing land. Arab countries were picking up bits for themselves.

Post 1948

Now it gets complicated. After the war an All-Palestine Government was set up by the Arab League. The Arab League was a group of Arab countries including Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Syria. In effect, it was powered by Egypt and the Government was established in Gaza although most of the members of the government were outside the country. Ten years later it was merged with the Egyptian Military.

King Abudllah I of Transjordan was named King of Arab Palestine by the All-Palestine Government. He  sought control over what had been the British Jerusalem and Samaria districts on the West Bank of the Jordan River. He gave Jordanian citizenship to all Arab holders of passports from the British Mandate and in 1950 combined the East Bank and West Bank of the river Jordan into the state of Jordan. The residents of Jordan believed their return to Israel was imminent. Peace broke out for a few years.

1967 – Six-Day War

The war began when Egypt closed the Suez Canal to Israel ships after growing tensions between the two. As the heat rose, Israel carried out preemptive strikes against Egypt’s Air Force. In other words, they attacked first. Jordan and Syria supported Egypt, but Egypt had lost. There were 20,000 Arab casualties and only 1,000 Israeli.

During the war Israel captured the rest of the area that had been part of the British Mandate of Palestine, taking the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt. Another 280,000 to 325,000 Palestinians and 100,000 Syrians fled or were expelled from the West Bank and the Golan Heights, respectively.

1973 – Yom Kippur War

In the course of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, military forces of Egypt crossed the Suez Canal and Syria to regain the Golan Heights. The attacking military forces of Syria were pushed back. After a cease-fire, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat started peace talks with the U.S. and Israel. Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt as part of the 1978 Camp David Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel.

1987-1993 – First Intifada

The First Intifada was from 1987 to 1993 and consisted largely of skirmishes between Israel and Arabs. Following the historic 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israel (the “Oslo Accords”), which gave the Palestinians limited self-rule in some parts of the occupied territories through the Palestinian Authority, and other detailed negotiations, proposals for a Palestinian state gained momentum. They were soon followed in 1993 by the Israel–Jordan peace treaty.

2002 – Second Intifada

The Second Intifada in 2002 consisted mainly of suicide bombings and targeted attacks. In 2002 George Bush called for an independent Palestine but the Israeli withdrew from negotiations in 2004. It withdrew all settlers and most of the military presence from the Gaza Strip, but maintained control of the air space and coast. Israel also dismantled four settlements in the northern West Bank in September 2005.

2006 – Palestinian Elections

In 2006 Palestinian legislative elections were held to elect the second Palestinian Legislative Council, the legislature of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Hamas won the election, securing 74 of the 132 seats while its rival Fatah only won 45 seats. Meanwhile, Israel and the US imposed sanctions on the PA to destabilize the Palestinian government so that it would fail, and new elections would be called.

Those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful but led to a rift between Hamas and Fatah. From that point on, governance of the Palestinian territories was split between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas was branded an Islamist terror organization by the EU and several Western countries. Hamas was in control of Gaza and Fatah in control of the West Bank. No further elections have been held in Gaza.

2011 – UN Representation

In 2011 President Abbas as head of the Palestinian Authority proposed a vote in the UN for acceptance of Palestine as a member. So far, the vote has not taken place. Their status is considered a non-member observer status – the same as the Vatican.

Current Situation


So now we have Gaza which is 41 kilometres (25 miles) long, from 6 to 12 km (3.7 to 7.5 mi) wide and has a total area of 365 km2 (141 sq mi). It has around 2 million Palestinians. It has been under the control of Hamas since 2006 but under Israeli military control. Sunni Muslims make up most of Gaza’s population, with a Palestinian Christian minority. It is bordered by Israel and Egypt.

West Bank

The West Bank is bordered by Jordan and the Dead Sea to the east and by Israel to the south, west, and north. It has been under Israeli military occupation since the 1967 Arab Israeli War. Since the Oslo II Accord was signed in 1995, its area has been split into 165 Palestinian enclaves under total or partial civil administration by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and a contiguous area containing 230 Israeli settlements into which Israeli law is “pipelined”. Israel administers the West Bank – except East Jerusalem – as the Judea and Samaria Area division.

The West Bank has an area of 5,640 km2 plus a water area of 220 km2, consisting of the northwestern quarter of the Dead Sea. It has an estimated population of 2,750,000 Palestinians, and over 670,000 Israeli settlers, of which approximately 220,000 live in East Jerusalem. The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal under international law.

Golan Heights

The Golan Heights or simply the Golan, is a region spanning about 1,800 km2 (690 sq mi). Golan is the border region captured from Syria by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967; the territory has been occupied by the latter since then and was subject to a de facto Israeli annexation in 1981.

Construction of Israeli settlements began in the remainder of the territory held by Israel, which was under a military administration until the Knesset passed the Golan Heights Law in 1981. This law applied Israeli law to the territory; the move has been described as an annexation. The Golan Heights Law was condemned by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 497, which stated that

“the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect”

and Resolution 242, which emphasizes the

“inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”

Israel maintains it has a right to retain the Golan, also citing the text of Resolution 242, which calls for

“secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force”.

After the onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, control of the Syrian-administered part of the Golan Heights was split between the state government and Syrian opposition forces. In July 2018, the Syrian government regained full control over the eastern Golan Heights.


My all time favourite movie is Lawrence of Arabia made in the 60s.  It is about this region and the duplicity of the British during the first world war. The final scene is where Lawrence enters the office of General Allenby. Lawrence had led the Arabs to capture Damascus but the British moved in quickly and took over. He finds Prince Faisal discussing political arrangements and how the Ottoman Empire might be divided. The dialogue stuck with me so I looked it up. It may be fiction, but it sounds like fact.

Faisal who went on to reluctantly become King Faisal of Iraq said this:

There is nothing further for a warrior here.
We drive bargains.
Old men’s work.
Young men make wars. The virtues of war are the virtues of young men – courage and hope for the future.
And the old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men – mistrust and caution. It must be so.

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