Arab Isreal Conflict Essay Research Paper ArabIsraeli

Arab Isreal Conflict Essay, Research Paper

Arab-Israeli Conflicts

Since the United Nations partition of PALESTINE in 1947 and the

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, continued into the 1980s.


The first war began as a civil conflict between Palestinian

Jews and Arabs following the United Nations recommendation of

Nov. 29, 1947, to partition Palestine, then still under

British mandate, into an Arab state and a Jewish state.

Fighting quickly spread as Arab guerrillas attacked Jewish

settlements and communication links to prevent implementation

of the UN plan.

Jewish forces prevented seizure of most settlements, but Arab

guerrillas, supported by the Transjordanian Arab Legion under

the command of British officers, besieged Jerusalem. By April,

Haganah, the principal Jewish military group, seized the

offensive, scoring victories against the Arab Liberation Army

in northern Palestine, Jaffa, and Jerusalem. British military

forces withdrew to Haifa; although officially neutral, some

commanders assisted one side or the other.

After the British had departed and the state of Israel had been

established on May 15, 1948, under the premiership of David

BEN-GURION, the Palestine Arab forces and foreign volunteers

were joined by regular armies of Transjordan (now the kingdom

of JORDAN), IRAQ, LEBANON, and SYRIA, with token support from

SAUDI ARABIA. Efforts by the UN to halt the fighting were

unsuccessful until June 11, when a 4-week truce was declared.

When the Arab states refused to renew the truce, ten more days

of fighting erupted. In that time Israel greatly extended the

area under its control and broke the siege of Jerusalem.

Fighting on a smaller scale continued during the second UN

truce beginning in mid-July, and Israel acquired more

territory, especially in Galilee and the Negev. By January

1949, when the last battles ended, Israel had extended its

frontiers by about 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 UN

partition resolution. It had also secured its independence.

During 1949, armistice agreements were signed under UN auspices

between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. The

armistice frontiers were unofficial boundaries until 1967.


Border conflicts between Israel and the Arabs continued despite

provisions in the 1949 armistice agreements for peace

negotiations. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who

had left Israeli-held territory during the first war

concentrated in refugee camps along Israel’s frontiers and

became a major source of friction when they infiltrated back to

their homes or attacked Israeli border settlements. A major

tension point was the Egyptian-controlled GAZA STRIP, which was

used by Arab guerrillas for raids into southern Israel.

Egypt’s blockade of Israeli shipping in the Suez Canal and Gulf

of Aqaba intensified the hostilities.

These escalating tensions converged with the SUEZ CRISIS caused

by the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian president

Gamal NASSER. Great Britain and France strenuously objected to

Nasser’s policies, and a joint military campaign was planned

against Egypt with the understanding that Israel would take the

initiative by seizing the Sinai Peninsula. The war began on

Oct. 29, 1956, after an announcement that the armies of Egypt,

Syria, and Jordan were to be integrated under the Egyptian

commander in chief. Israel’s Operation Kadesh, commanded by

Moshe DAYAN, lasted less than a week; its forces reached the

eastern bank of the Suez Canal in about 100 hours, seizing the

Gaza Strip and nearly all the Sinai Peninsula. The Sinai

operations were supplemented by an Anglo-French invasion of

Egypt on November 5, giving the allies control of the northern

sector of the Suez Canal.

The war was halted by a UN General Assembly resolution calling

for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of all occupying

forces from Egyptian territory. The General Assembly also

established a United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to replace

the allied troops on the Egyptian side of the borders in Suez,

Sinai, and Gaza. By December 22 the last British and French

troops had left Egypt. Israel, however, delayed withdrawal,

insisting that it receive security guarantees against further

Egyptian attack. After several additional UN resolutions

calling for withdrawal and after pressure from the United

States, Israel’s forces left in March 1957.

SIX-DAY WAR (1967)

Relations between Israel and Egypt remained fairly stable in

the following decade. The Suez Canal remained closed to

Israeli shipping, the Arab boycott of Israel was maintained,

and periodic border clashes occurred between Israel, Syria, and

Jordan. However, UNEF prevented direct military encounters

between Egypt and Israel.

By 1967 the Arab confrontation states–Egypt, Syria, and

Jordan–became impatient with the status quo, the propaganda

war with Israel escalated, and border incidents increased

dangerously. Tensions culminated in May when Egyptian forces

were massed in Sinai, and Cairo ordered the UNEF to leave Sinai

and Gaza. President Nasser also announced that the Gulf of

Aqaba would be closed again to Israeli shipping. At the end of

May, Egypt and Jordan signed a new defense pact placing

Jordan’s armed forces under Egyptian command. Efforts to

de-escalate the crisis were of no avail. Israeli and Egyptian

leaders visited the United States, but President Lyndon

Johnson’s attempts to persuade Western powers to guarantee free

passage through the Gulf failed.

Believing that war was inevitable, Israeli Premier Levi ESHKOL,

Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan, and Army Chief of Staff

Yitzhak RABIN approved preemptive Israeli strikes at Egyptian,

Syrian, Jordanian, and Iraqi airfields on June 5, 1967. By the

evening of June 6, Israel had destroyed the combat

effectiveness of the major Arab air forces, destroying more

than 400 planes and losing only 26 of its own. Israel also

swept into Sinai, reaching the Suez Canal and occupying most of

the peninsula in less than four days.

King HUSSEIN of Jordon rejected an offer of neutrality and

opened fire on Israeli forces in Jerusalem on June 5. But a

lightning Israeli campaign placed all of Arab Jerusalem and the

Jordanian West Bank in Israeli hands by June 8. As the war

ended on the Jordanian and Egyptian fronts, Israel opened an

attack on Syria in the north. In a little more than two days

of fierce fighting, Syrian forces were driven from the Golan

Heights, from which they had shelled Jewish settlements across

the border. The Six-Day War ended on June 10 when the UN

negotiated cease-fire agreements on all fronts.

The Six-Day War increased severalfold the area under Israel’s

control. Through the occupation of Sinai, Gaza, Arab

Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Golan Heights, Israel shortened

its land frontiers with Egypt and Jordan, removed the most

heavily populated Jewish areas from direct Arab artillery

range, and temporarily increased its strategic advantages.


Israel was the dominant military power in the region for the

next six years. Led by Golda MEIR from 1969, it was generally

satisfied with the status quo, but Arab impatience mounted.

Between 1967 and 1973, Arab leaders repeatedly warned that they

would not accept continued Israeli occupation of the lands lost

in 1967.

After Anwar al-SADAT succeeded Nasser as president of Egypt in

1970, threats about “the year of decision” were more frequent,

as was periodic massing of troops along the Suez Canal.

Egyptian and Syrian forces underwent massive rearmament with

the most sophisticated Soviet equipment. Sadat consolidated

war preparations in secret agreements with President Hafez

al-ASSAD of Syria for a joint attack and with King FAISAL of

Saudi Arabia to finance the operations.

Egypt and Syria attacked on Oct. 6, 1973, pushing Israeli

forces several miles behind the 1967 cease-fire lines. Israel

was thrown off guard, partly because the attack came on Yom

Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the most sacred Jewish religious

day (coinciding with the Muslim fast of Ramadan). Although

Israel recovered from the initial setback, it failed to regain

all the territory lost in the first days of fighting. In

counterattacks on the Egyptian front, Israel seized a major

bridgehead behind the Egyptian lines on the west bank of the

canal. In the north, Israel drove a wedge into the Syrian

lines, giving it a foothold a few miles west of Damascus.

After 18 days of fighting in the longest Arab-Israeli war since

1948, hostilities were again halted by the UN. The costs were

the greatest in any battles fought since World War II. The

Arabs lost some 2,000 tanks and more than 500 planes; the

Israelis, 804 tanks and 114 planes. The 3-week war cost Egypt

and Israel about $7 billion each, in material and losses from

declining industrial production or damage.

The political phase of the 1973 war ended with disengagement

agreements accepted by Israel, Egypt, and Syria after

negotiations in 1974 and 1975 by U.S. Secretary of State Henry

A. KISSINGER. The agreements provided for Egyptian

reoccupation of a strip of land in Sinai along the east bank of

the Suez Canal and for Syrian control of a small area around

the Golan Heights town of Kuneitra. UN forces were stationed

on both fronts to oversee observance of the agreements, which

reestablished a political balance between Israel and the Arab

confrontation states.

Under the terms of an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty signed on

Mar. 26, 1979, Israel returned the Sinai peninsula to Egypt.

Hopes for an expansion of the peace process to include other

Arab nations waned, however, when Egypt and Israel were

subsequently unable to agree on a formula for Palestinian

self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the 1980s

regional tensions were increased by the activities of militant

Palestinians and other Arab extremists and by several Israeli

actions. The latter included the formal proclamation of the

entire city of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital (1980), the

annexation of the Golan Heights (1981), the invasion of

southern Lebanon (1982), and the continued expansion of Israeli

settlement in the occupied West Bank.




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