Israel And Palestinians Essay, Research Paper
Long ago, a great controversy arose between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel believed it should have the right to the Holy Land; including the city of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. At the same time, the Palestinians believed that they had the same rights. That controversy still exists today, and at nearly the same intensity. The ambassador to the United Nations has asked me to prepare a proposal to some of the problems in the Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, West Bank, and city of Jerusalem. That is why I am here today. The purpose of this proposal is to suggest a compromise that will have at least some appeal to everyone involved.
The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is the oldest and one of the most well known controversies in the history of civilization. Even the oldest book, the Holy Bible, lists the history of it. Jewish history began about 4,000 years ago (c. 17th century BCE) with the patriarchs – Abraham, his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. Documents unearthed in Mesopotamia, dating back to 2000- 1500 BCE, corroborate aspects of their nomadic way of life as described in the Bible. The Book of Genesis relates how Abraham was summoned from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan to bring about the formation of a people with belief in the One God. When a famine spread through Canaan, Jacob (Israel), his twelve sons and their families settled in Egypt, where their descendants were reduced to slavery and pressed into forced labor. After 400 years of bondage, the Israelites were led to freedom by Moses who, according to the biblical narrative, was chosen by God to take his people out of Egypt and back to the Land of Israel promised to their forefathers (c. 13th-12th centuries BCE). They wandered for 40 years in the Sinai desert, where they were forged into a nation and received the Torah (Pentateuch), which included the Ten Commandments and gave form and content to their monotheistic faith. The exodus from Egypt (c.1300 BCE) left an indelible imprint on the national memory of the Jewish people and became a universal symbol of liberty and freedom. Every year Jews celebrate Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost) and Succot (Feast of Tabernacles), commemorating events of that time. During the next two centuries, the Israelites conquered most of the Land of Israel and relinquished their nomadic ways to become farmers and craftsmen; a degree of economic and social consolidation followed. Periods of relative peace alternated with times of war during which the people rallied behind leaders known as ‘judges,’ chosen for their political and military skills as well as for their leadership qualities. The weakness inherent in this tribal organization in face of a threat posed by the Philistines (sea-going people from Asia Minor who settled on the country’s Mediterranean coast) generated the need for a ruler who would unite the tribes and make the position permanent, with succession carried on by inheritance.
The first king, Saul (c. 1020 BCE), bridged the period between loose tribal organization and the setting up of a full monarchy under his successor, David. King David (c.1004-965 BCE) established Israel as a major power in the region by successful military expeditions, including the final defeat of the Philistines, as well as through a network of friendly alliances with nearby kingdoms. Consequently, his authority was recognized from the borders of Egypt and the Red Sea to the banks of the Euphrates. At home, he united the twelve Israelite tribes into one kingdom and placed his capital, Jerusalem, and the monarchy at the center of the country’s national life. Biblical tradition describes David as a poet and musician, with verses ascribed to him appearing in the Book of Psalms. David was succeeded by his son Solomon (c.965-930 BCE) who further strengthened the kingdom. Through treaties with neighboring kings, reinforced by politically motivated marriages, Solomon ensured peace for his kingdom and made it equal among the great powers of the age. He expanded foreign trade and promoted domestic prosperity by developing major enterprises such as copper mining and metal smelting, while building new towns and fortifying old ones of strategic and economic importance. Crowning his achievements was the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, which became the center of the Jewish people’s national and religious life. The Bible attributes to Solomon the Book of Proverbs and the Song of Songs.
The end of Solomon’s rule was marred by discontent on the part of the populace, which had to pay heavily for his ambitious schemes. At the same time, preferential treatment of his own tribe embittered the others, which resulted in growing antagonism between the monarchy and the tribal separatists. After Solomon’s death (930 BCE), open insurrection led to the breaking away of the ten northern tribes and division of the country into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah, on the territory of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The Kingdom of Israel, with its capital Samaria, lasted more than 200 years under 19 kings, while the Kingdom of Judah was ruled from Jerusalem for 350 years by an equal number of kings of the lineage of David. The expansion of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires brought first Israel and later Judah under foreign control. The Kingdom of Israel was crushed by the Assyrians (722 BCE) and its people carried off into exile and oblivion. Over a hundred years later, Babylonia conquered the Kingdom of Judah, exiling most of its inhabitants as well as destroying Jerusalem and the Temple (586 BCE). The Babylonian conquest brought an end to the First Jewish Commonwealth (First Temple period) but did not sever the Jewish people’s connection to the Land of Israel. Sitting by the rivers of Babylon, the Jews pledged to remember their homeland: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither; let my tongue stick to my palate if I cease to think of you, if I do not keep Jerusalem in memory even at my happiest hour” (Psalms 137:5-6). The exile to Babylonia, which followed the destruction of the First Temple (586 BCE), marked the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora. There, Judaism began to develop a religious framework and way of life outside the Land, ultimately ensuring the people’s national survival and spiritual identity and imbuing it with sufficient vitality to safeguard its future as a nation. Following a decree by the Persian King Cyrus, conqueror of the Babylonian empire (538 BCE), some 50,000 Jews set out on the First Return to the Land of Israel, led by Zerubabel, a descendant of the House of David. Less than a century later, the Second Return was led by Ezra the Scribe. Over the next four centuries, the Jews knew varying degrees of self-rule under Persian (538-333 BCE) and later Hellenistic (Ptolemaic and Seleucid) overlordship (332-142 BCE). The repatriation of the Jews under Ezra’s inspired leadership, construction of the Second Temple on the site of the First Temple, refortification of Jerusalem’s walls and establishment of the Knesset Hagedolah (Great Assembly) as the supreme religious and judicial body of the Jewish people marked the beginning of the Second Jewish Commonwealth (Second Temple period). Within the confines of the Persian Empire, Judah was a nation centered in Jerusalem whose leadership was entrusted to the high priest and council of elders. As part of the ancient world conquered by Alexander the Great (332 BCE) of Greece, the Land remained a Jewish theocracy under Syrian-based Seleucid rulers. When the Jews were prohibited from practicing Judaism and their Temple was desecrated as part of an effort to impose Greek-oriented culture and customs on the entire population, the Jews rose in revolt (166 BCE). First led by Mattathias of the priestly Hasmonean family and then by his son Judah the Maccabee, the Jews subsequently entered Jerusalem and purified the Temple (164 BCE), events commemorated each year by the festival of Hanukkah.
Following further Hasmonean victories (147 BCE), the Seleucids restored autonomy to Judea, as the Land of Israel was now called, and, with the collapse of the Seleucid kingdom (129 BCE), Jewish independence was again achieved. Under the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted about 80 years, the kingdom regained boundaries not far short of Solomon’s realm, political consolidation under Jewish rule was attained and Jewish life flourished.
When the Romans replaced the Seleucids as the great power in the region, they granted the Hasmonean king, Hyrcanus II, limited authority under the Roman governor of Damascus. The Jews were hostile to the new regime, and the following years witnessed frequent insurrections. A last attempt to restore the former glory of the Hasmonean dynasty was made by Mattathias Antigonus, whose defeat and death brought Hasmonean rule to an end (40 BCE), and the Land became a province of the Roman Empire. In 37 BCE Herod, a son-in-law of Hyrcanus II, was appointed King of Judea by the Romans. Granted almost unlimited autonomy in the country’s internal affairs, he became one of the most powerful monarchs in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. A great admirer of Greco-Roman culture, Herod launched a massive construction program, which included the cities of Caesarea and Sebaste and the fortresses at Herodium and Masada. He also remodeled the Temple into one of the most magnificent buildings of its time. But despite his many achievements, Herod failed to win the trust and support of his Jewish subjects. Ten years after Herod’s death (4 BCE), Judea came under direct Roman administration. Growing anger against increased Roman suppression of Jewish life resulted in sporadic violence which esclated into a full-scale revolt in 66 CE. Superior Roman forces led by Titus were finally victorious, razing Jerusalem to the ground (70 CE) and defeating the last Jewish outpost at Masada (73 CE). The total destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was catastrophic for the Jewish people. According to the contemporary historian Josephus Flavius, hundreds of thousands of Jews perished in the siege of Jerusalem and elsewhere in the country, and many thousands more were sold into slavery. A last brief period of Jewish sovereignty in ancient times followed the revolt of Shimon Bar Kokhba (132 CE), during which Jerusalem and Judea were regained. However, given the overwhelming power of the Romans, the outcome was inevitable. Three years later, in conformity with Roman custom, Jerusalem was “plowed up with a yoke of oxen,” Judea was renamed Palaestinia and Jerusalem, Aelia Capitolina. Although the Temple had been destroyed and Jerusalem burned to the ground, the Jews and Judaism survived the encounter with Rome. The supreme legislative and judicial body, the Sanhedrin (successor of the Knesset Hagedolah) was reconvened in Yavneh (70 CE), and later in Tiberias. Without the unifying framework of a state and the Temple, the small remaining Jewish community gradually recovered, reinforced from time to time by returning exiles. Institutional and communal life was renewed, priests were replaced by rabbis and the synagogue became the focus of Jewish settlement, as evidenced by remnants of synagogues found at Capernaum, Korazin, Bar’am, Gamla and elsewhere. Halakhah (Jewish religious law) served as the common bond among the Jews and was passed on from generation to generation.
By the end of the 4th century, following Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity (313) and the founding of the Byzantine Empire, the Land of Israel had become a predominantly Christian country. Churches were built on Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee, and monasteries were established in many parts of the country. Jews were deprived of their former relative autonomy, as well as of their right to hold public positions, and were forbidden to enter Jerusalem except on one day of the year (Tisha b’Av – ninth of Av) to mourn the destruction of the Temple. The Persian invasion of 614 was aided by the Jews, who were inspired by messianic hopes of deliverance. In gratitude for their help, they were granted the administration of Jerusalem, an interlude which lasted about three years. Subsequently, the Byzantine army regained the city (629) and again expelled its Jewish inhabitants.
The Arab conquest of the Land came four years after the death of the prophet Muhammad (632) and lasted more than four centuries, with caliphs ruling first from Damascus, then from Baghdad and Egypt. At the outset, Jewish settlement in Jerusalem resumed, and the Jewish community was granted the customary protected status of non-Muslims under Islamic rule, which safeguarded their lives, property and freedom of worship in return for payment of special poll and land taxes. However, subsequent restrictions against non-Muslims (717) affected the Jews’ public conduct as well as their religious observances and legal status. The imposition of heavy taxes on agricultural land compelled many to move from rural areas to towns, where their circumstances hardly improved, while increasing social and economic discrimination forced others to leave the country. By the end of the 11th century, the Jewish community in the Land had diminished considerably and had lost some of its organizational and religious cohesiveness.
For the next 200 years, the country was dominated by the Crusaders who, following an appeal by Pope Urban II, came from Europe to recover the Holy Land from the infidels. In July 1099, after a five-week siege, the knights of the First Crusade and their rabble army captured Jerusalem, massacring most of the city’s non-Christian inhabitants. Barricaded in their synagogues, the Jews defended their quarter, only to be burned to death or sold into slavery. During the next few decades, the Crusaders extended their power over the rest of the country, partly through treaties and agreements, but mostly by bloody military victories. The Latin Kingdom of the Crusaders was that of a conquering minority confined mainly to fortified cities and castles. When the Crusaders opened up transportation routes from Europe, pilgrimages to the Holy Land became popular and, at the same time, increasing numbers of Jews sought to return to their homeland. Documents of the period indicate that 300 rabbis from France and England arrived in a group, some settling in Acre (Akko), others in Jerusalem. Following the overthrow of the Crusaders by a Muslim army under Saladin (1187), the Jews were again accorded a certain measure of freedom, including the right to live in Jerusalem. Although the Crusaders regained a foothold in the country after Saladin’s death (1193), their presence was limited to a network of fortified castles. Crusader authority in the Land ended after a final defeat (1291) by the Mamluks, a Muslim military class which had come to power in Egypt.
The Land under the Mamluks became a backwater province ruled from Damascus. Acre, Jaffa (Yafo) and other ports were destroyed for fear of new crusades, and maritime as well as overland commerce was interrupted. By the end of the Middle Ages, the country’s towns were virtually in ruins, most of Jerusalem was abandoned and the small Jewish community was poverty-stricken. The period of Mamluk decline was darkened by political and economic upheavals, plagues, locusts and devastating earthquakes.
Following the Ottoman conquest in 1517, the Land was divided into four districts, attached administratively to the province of Damascus and ruled from Istanbul. At the outset of the Ottoman era, some 1,000 Jewish families lived in the country, mainly in Jerusalem, Nablus (Shehem), Hebron, Gaza, Safed (Tzfat) and the villages of Galilee. The community was comprised of descendants of Jews who had always lived in the Land, as well as immigrants from North Africa and Europe. Orderly government, until the death (1566) of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, brought improvements and stimulated Jewish immigration. Some newcomers settled in Jerusalem, but the majority went to Safed where, by the mid-16th century, the Jewish population had risen to about 10,000, and the town had become a thriving textile center as well as the focus of intense intellectual activity. During this period, the study of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) flourished, and contemporary clarifications of Jewish law, as codified in the Shulhan Arukh, spread throughout the Diaspora from the houses of study in Safed. With a gradual decline in the quality of Ottoman rule, the country suffered widespread neglect. By the end of the 18th century, much of the land was owned by absentee landlords and leased to impoverished tenant farmers, and taxation was as crippling as it was capricious. The great forests of Galilee and the Carmel mountain range were denuded of trees; swamp and desert encroached on agricultural land. The 19th century saw medieval backwardness gradually give way to the first signs of progress, with various Western powers jockeying for position, often through missionary activities. British, French and American scholars launched studies of biblical archaeology; Britain, France, Russia, Austria and the United States opened consulates in Jerusalem. Steamships began to ply regular routes between the Land and Europe; postal and telegraphic connections were installed; the first road was built connecting Jerusalem and Jaffa. The Land’s rebirth as a crossroads for commerce of three continents was accelerated by the opening of the Suez Canal. Consequently, the situation of the country’s Jews slowly improved, and their numbers increased substantially. By mid-century, overcrowded conditions within the walled city of Jerusalem motivated the Jews to build the first neighborhood outside the walls (1860) and, in the next quarter century, to add seven more, forming the nucleus of the New City. By 1880, Jerusalem had an overall Jewish majority. Land for farming was purchased throughout the country; new rural settlements were established; and the Hebrew language, long restricted to liturgy and literature, was revived. The stage was set for the founding of the Zionist movement. Inspired by Zionist ideology, two major influxes of Jews from Eastern Europe arrived in the country at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. Resolved to restore their homeland by working the soil, these pioneers reclaimed barren fields, built new settlements and laid the foundations for what would become a thriving agricultural economy. The new arrivals faced extremely harsh conditions, as the attitude of the Ottoman administration was hostile and oppressive; communications and transportation were rudimentary and insecure; swamps bred deadly malaria; and the soil itself suffered from centuries of neglect. Land purchases were restricted, and construction was banned without a special permit obtainable only in Istanbul. While these difficulties hampered the country’s development, they did not stop it. At the outbreak of World War I (1914), the Jewish population in the Land numbered 85,000, as compared to 5,000 in the early 1500s. In December 1917, British forces under the command of General Allenby entered Jerusalem, ending 400 years of Ottoman rule. The Jewish Legion, with three battalions comprising thousands of Jewish volunteers, was then an integral unit of the British army.
In July 1922, the League of Nations entrusted Great Britain with the Mandate for Palestine (the name by which the country was then known). Recognizing “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine,” Great Britain was called upon to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine-Eretz Israel (Land of Israel). Two months later, in September 1922, the Council of the League of Nations and Great Britain decided that the provisions for setting up a Jewish national home would not apply to the area east of the Jordan River, which constituted three fourths of the territory included in the Mandate and eventually became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Motivated by Zionism and encouraged by British “sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations,” as communicated by Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour (1917), successive waves of immigrants arrived in the Land between 1919 and 1939, each contributing to different aspects of the developing Jewish community. Some 35,000 who came between 1919 and 1923, mainly from Russia, strongly influenced the community’s character and organization for years to come. These pioneers laid the foundations of a comprehensive social and economic infrastructure, developed agriculture, established unique communal forms of rural settlement – the kibbutz and moshav – and provided the labor force for building housing and roads. The next influx of some 60,000, which arrived primarily from Poland between 1924 and 1932, was instrumental in developing and enriching urban life. These immigrants settled mainly in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, where they established small businesses, construction firms and light industry. The last major wave of immigration before World War II, comprising some 165,000, took place in the 1930s following Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. The newcomers, many of whom were professionals and academics, constituted the first large-scale influx from Western and Central Europe. Their education, skills and experience raised business standards, improved urban and rural amenities and broadened the community’s cultural life. The British Mandate authorities granted the Jewish and Arab communities the right to run their own internal affairs. Utilizing this right, the Jewish community, known as the yishuv, elected (1920) a self-governing body based on party representation, which met annually to review its activities and elect the National Council (Vaad Leumi) to implement its policies and programs. Financed by local resources and funds raised by world Jewry, a countrywide network of educational, religious, health and social services was developed and maintained. In 1922, as stipulated in the Mandate, a ‘Jewish Agency’ was constituted to represent the Jewish people vis-a-vis the British authorities, foreign governments and international organizations. During the three decades of the Mandate, agriculture was expanded; factories were established; new roads were built throughout the country; the waters of the Jordan River were harnessed for production of electric power; and the mineral potential of the Dead Sea was tapped. The Histadrut (General Federation of Labor) was founded (1920) to advance workers’ welfare and provide employment by setting up cooperatively-owned enterprises in the industrial sector as well as marketing services for the communal agricultural settlements. Day by day, a cultural life was emerging which would become unique to the Jewish community in the Land of Israel. Art, music and dance developed gradually with the establishment of professional schools and studios. Galleries and halls were set up to provide venues for exhibitions and performances attended by a discriminating public. The opening of a new play, the appearance of a new book or a retrospective show by a local painter were immediately scrutinized by the press and became the subject of lively discussion in coffee shops and at social gatherings. The Hebrew language was recognized as one of three official languages of the country, alongside English and Arabic, and was used on documents, coins and stamps, as well as for radio broadcasting. Publishing proliferated, and the country emerged as the world center of Hebrew literary activity. Theaters of various genres opened their doors to enthusiastic audiences, accompanied by first attempts to write original Hebrew plays. The Jewish national revival and the community’s efforts to rebuild the country were strongly opposed by Arab nationalists. Their resentment erupted in periods of intense violence (1920, 1921, 1929, 1936-39) when Jewish transport was harassed, fields and forests set on fire, and unprovoked attacks launched against the Jewish population. Attempts to reach a dialogue with the Arabs, undertaken early in the Zionist endeavor, were ultimately unsuccessful, polarizing Zionism and Arab nationalism into a potentially explosive situation. Recognizing the opposing aims of the two national movements, the British recommended (1937) dividing the country into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Jewish leadership accepted the idea of partition and empowered the Jewish Agency to negotiate with the British government in an effort to reformulate some aspects of the proposal. The Arabs were uncompromisingly against any partition plan. Continuing large-scale Arab anti-Jewish riots led Britain (May 1939) to issue a White Paper imposing drastic restrictions on Jewish immigration, despite its consequence of denying European Jewry a place of refuge from Nazi persecution. The start of World War II soon after caused David Ben-Gurion, later Israel’s first prime minister, to declare: “We will fight the war as if there were no White Paper, and the White Paper as if there were no war.” Over 26,000 men and women of the Jewish community in the Land volunteered to join the British forces in the fight against Nazi Germany and its Axis allies, serving in the army, air force and navy, as well as in the Jewish Brigade. During World War II (1939-45), the Nazi regime deliberately carried out a systematic master plan to liquidate the Jewish community of Europe, in the course of which some six million Jews, including 1.5 million children, were murdered. As the Nazi armies swept through Europe, Jews were savagely persecuted, subjected to every conceivable torture and humiliation, and herded into ghettos where attempts at armed resistance led to even harsher measures. From the ghettos they were transported to camps where a fortunate few were put to hard labor, but most were either shot in mass executions or put to death in gas chambers. Not many managed to escape. Some fled to other countries, a few joined the partisans and others were hidden by non-Jews who did so at risk of their own lives. Consequently, only one third, including those who had left Europe before the war, survived out of a population of almost nine million, which had once constituted the largest and most vibrant Jewish community in the world. After the war, the British intensified their restrictions on the number of Jews permitted to enter and settle in the Land. The Jewish community responded by instituting a wide network of “illegal immigration” activities to rescue Holocaust survivors. Between 1945 and 1948, some 85,000 Jews were brought to the Land by secret, often dangerous routes, in spite of a British naval blockade and border patrols set up to intercept the refugees before they reached the country. Those who were caught were interned in detention camps on the island of Cyprus. .
Britain’s inability to reconcile the conflicting demands of the Jewish and Arab communities led the British government to request that the ‘Question of Palestine’ be placed on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly (April 1947). As a result, a special committee was constituted to draft proposals concerning the country’s future. On 29 November 1947, the Assembly voted to adopt the committee’s recommendation to partition the Land into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Jewish community accepted the plan; the Arabs rejected it. Following the UN vote, local Arab militants, aided by irregular volunteers from Arab countries, launched violent attacks against the Jewish community in an effort to frustrate the partition resolution and prevent the establishment of a Jewish state. After a number of setbacks, the Jewish defense organizations routed most of the attacking forces, taking hold of the entire area which had been allocated for the Jewish state. On 14 May 1948 when the British Mandate came to an end, the Jewish population in the Land numbered some 650,000, comprising an organized community with well-developed political, social and economic institutions – in fact, a nation in every sense and a state in everything but name.
On 14 May, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed according to the UN partition plan (1947). Less than 24 hours later, the regular armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded the country, forcing Israel to defend the sovereignty it had regained in its ancestral homeland. In what became known as Israel’s War of Independence, the newly formed, poorly equipped Israel Defense Forces (IDF) repulsed the invaders in fierce intermittent fighting, which lasted some 15 months and claimed over 6,000 Israeli lives (nearly one percent of the country’s Jewish population at the time). During the first few months of 1949, direct negotiations were conducted under UN auspices between Israel and each of the invading countries (except Iraq which has refused to negotiate with Israel to date), resulting in armistice agreements which reflected the situation at the end of the fighting. Accordingly, the coastal plain, Galilee and the entire Negev were within Israel’s sovereignty, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) came under Jordanian rule, the Gaza Strip came under Egyptian administration, and the city of Jerusalem was divided, with Jordan controlling the eastern part, including the Old City, and Israel the western sector.
The war over, Israel focused on building the state which the people had struggled so long and so hard to regain. The first 120-seat Knesset (parliament) went into session following national elections (25 January 1949) in which nearly 85 percent of all eligible voters cast their ballots. Two of the people who had led Israel to statehood became the country’s leaders: David Ben-Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency, was chosen as the first prime minister; and Chaim Weizmann, head of the World Zionist Organization, was elected by the Knesset as the first president. On 11 May, 1949, Israel took its seat as the 59th member of the United Nations. In accordance with the concept of the ‘ingathering of the exiles’ which lies at the heart of Israel’s raison d’etre, the gates of the country were thrown open, affirming the right of every Jew to come to the country and, upon entry, to acquire citizenship. In the first four months of independence, some 50,000 newcomers, mainly Holocaust survivors, reached Israel’s shores. By the end of 1951, a total of 687,000 men, women and children had arrived, over 300,000 of them refugees from Arab lands, thus doubling the Jewish population. The economic strain caused by the War of Independence and the need to provide for a rapidly growing population required austerity at home and financial aid from abroad. Assistance extended by the United States government, loans from American banks, contributions of diaspora Jews and postwar German reparations were used to build housing, mechanize agriculture, establish a merchant fleet and a national airline, exploit available minerals, develop industries and expand roads, telecommunications and electricity networks. Towards the end of the first decade, the output of industry doubled as did the number of employed persons, with industrial exports increasing four-fold. Vast expansion of areas under cultivation had brought about self-sufficiency in the supply of all basic food products except meat and grains, while some 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares) of mostly barren land were afforested and trees were planted along almost 500 miles (800 km.) of highway. The educational system, which had been developed by the Jewish community in the pre-state period and now included the Arab sector, was greatly expanded. School attendance became free and compulsory for all children aged 5-14 (since 1978 it has been mandatory to age 16 and free to age 18). Cultural and artistic activity flourished, blending Middle Eastern, North African and Western elements, as Jews arriving from all parts of the world brought with them the unique traditions of their own communities as well as aspects of the culture prevailing in the countries where they had lived for generations. When Israel celebrated its 10th anniversary, the population numbered over two million.
The years of state-building were overshadowed by serious security problems. The 1948 armistice agreements had not only failed to pave the way to permanent peace, but were also constantly violated. In contradiction to the UN Security Council resolution of 1 September 1951, Israeli and Israel-bound shipping was prevented from passing through the Suez Canal; the blockade of the Straits of Tiran was tightened; incursions into Israel of terrorist squads from neighboring Arab countries for murder and sabotage occurred with increasing frequency; and the Sinai peninsula was gradually converted into a huge Egyptian military base. Upon the signing of a tripartate military alliance by Egypt, Syria and Jordan (October 1956), the imminent threat to Israel’s existence was intensified. In the course of an eight-day campaign, the IDF captured the Gaza Strip and the entire Sinai peninsula, halting 10 miles (16 km.) east of the Suez Canal. A United Nations decision to station a UN Emergency Force (UNEF) along the Egypt-Israel border and Egyptian assurances of free navigation in the Gulf of Eilat led Israel to agree to withdraw in stages (November 1956 – March 1957) from the areas taken a few weeks earlier. Consequently, the Straits of Tiran were opened, enabling the development of trade with Asian and East African countries as well as oil imports from the Persian Gulf.
During Israel’s second decade (1958- 68), exports doubled, and the GNP increased some 10 percent annually. While some previously imported items such as paper, tires, radios and refrigerators were now being manufactured locally, the most rapid growth took place in the newly-established branches of metals, machinery, chemicals and electronics. Since the domestic market for home-grown food was fast approaching the saturation point, the agricultural sector began to grow a larger variety of crops for the food processing industry as well as fresh produce for export. A second deep-water port was built on the Mediterranean coast at Ashdod, in addition to the existing one at Haifa, to handle the increased volume of trade. In Jerusalem, a permanent home for the Knesset was built, and facilities for the Hadassah Medical Center and Hebrew University were constructed on alternate sites to replace the original buildings on Mount Scopus, which had to be abandoned after the War of Independence. At the same time, the Israel Museum was established with the aim of collecting, conserving, studying and exhibiting the cultural and artistic treasures of the Jewish people. Israel’s foreign relations expanded steadily, as close ties were developed with the United States, British Commonwealth countries, most western European states, nearly all the countries of Latin America and Africa, and some in Asia. Extensive programs of international cooperation were initiated, as hundreds of Israeli physicians, engineers, teachers, agronomists, irrigation experts and youth organizers shared their know-how and experience with people in other developing countries. In 1965 ambassadors were exchanged with the Federal Republic of Germany, a move which had been delayed until then because of the Jewish people’s bitter memories of the crimes committed against them during the Nazi regime (1933-45). Vehement opposition and public debate preceded normalization of relations between the two countries.
Hopes for another decade of relative tranquillity were dashed with the escalation of Arab terrorist raids across the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, persistent Syrian artillery bombardment of agricultural settlements in northern Galilee and massive military build-ups by the neighboring Arab states. When Egypt again moved large numbers of troops into the Sinai desert (May 1967), ordered the UN peacekeeping forces (deployed since 1957) out of the area, reimposed the blockade of the Straits of Tiran and entered into a military alliance with Jordan, Israel found itself faced by hostile Arab armies on all fronts. As Egypt had violated the arrangements agreed upon following the 1956 Sinai Campaign, Israel invoked its inherent right of self-defense, launching a preemptive strike (5 June 1967) against Egypt in the south, followed by a counterattack against Jordan in the east and the routing of Syrian forces entrenched on the Golan Heights in the north. At the end of six days of fighting, previous cease-fire lines were replaced by new ones, with Judea, Samaria, Gaza, the Sinai peninsula and the Golan Heights under Israel’s control. As a result, the northern villages were freed from 19 years of recurrent Syrian shelling; the passage of Israeli and Israel-bound shipping through the Straits of Tiran was ensured; and Jerusalem, which had been divided under Israeli and Jordanian rule since 1949, was reunified under Israel’s authority.
The war over, Israel’s diplomatic challenge was to translate its military gains into a permanent peace based on UN Security Council Resolution 242, which called for “acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” However, the Arab position, as formulated at the Khartoum Summit (August 1967) called for “no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel and no recognition of Israel.” In September 1968, Egypt initiated a ‘war of attrition,’ with sporadic, static actions along the banks of the Suez Canal, which escalated into full-scale, localized fighting, causing heavy casualties on both sides. Hostilities ended in 1970 when Egypt and Israel accepted a renewed cease-fire along the Suez Canal. Three years of relative calm along the borders were shattered on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the holiest day of the Jewish year, when Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated surprise assault against Israel (6 October 1973), with the Egyptian army crossing the Suez Canal and Syrian troops penetrating the Golan Heights. During the next three weeks, the Israel Defense Forces turned the tide of battle and repulsed the attackers, crossing the Suez Canal into Egypt and advancing to within 20 miles (32 km.) of the Syrian capital, Damascus. Two years of difficult negotiations between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Syria resulted in disengagement agreements, according to which Israel withdrew from parts of the territories captured during the war.
While the 1973 war cost Israel a year’s GNP, by the second half of 1974 the economy had recovered. Foreign investments grew considerably and, with Israel becoming an associate member of the European Common Market (1975), new potential outlets opened up for Israeli goods. Tourism began to increase and the annual number of visitors passed the one million mark. The 1977 Knesset elections brought the Likud bloc, a coalition of liberal and centrist parties, to power, ending almost 30 years of Labor party dominance. Upon taking office, the new prime minister, Menachem Begin, reiterated the commitment of all previous prime ministers to strive for permanent peace in the region and called upon the Arab leaders to come to the negotiating table. The cycle of Arab rejections of Israel’s appeals for peace was broken with the visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem (November 1977), followed by negotiations between Egypt and Israel under American auspices. The resulting Camp David Accords (September 1978) contained a framework for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a detailed proposal for self-government for the Palestinians. On 26 March 1979, Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in Washington, DC, bringing the 30-year state of war between them to an end. In accordance with the terms of the treaty, Israel withdrew from the Sinai peninsula, exchanging former cease-fire lines and armistice agreements for mutually recognized international boundaries. Some of the African states which had severed ties with Israel as a result of Arab pressure during the 1973 oil crisis, restored contacts in the 1980s, giving renewed momentum to economic relations, as well as reestablishing formal diplomatic ties.
The international boundary line with Lebanon has never been challenged by either side. However, when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) redeployed itself in southern Lebanon after being expelled from Jordan (1970) and perpetrated repeated terrorist actions against the towns and villages of northern Israel (Galilee), which caused many casualties and much damage, the Israel Defense Forces crossed the border into Lebanon (1982). “Operation Peace for Galilee” resulted in removing the bulk of the PLO’s organizational and military infrastructure from the area. Since then, Israel has maintained a small security zone in southern Lebanon adjacent to its northern border to safeguard its population in Galilee against continued attacks by hostile elements.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Israel has absorbed over 700,000 new immigrants, mainly from the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Ethiopia. The influx of so many new consumers as well as a large number of skilled and unskilled workers, coupled with strident measures to control inflation, boosted the economy into a period of accelerated expansion, attaining one of the highest GDP growth rates among Western countries. The government which came into power after the 1984 Knesset elections was made up of the two major political blocs – Labor (left/center) and Likud (right/center). It was replaced in 1988 by a Likud-led coalition, which at the end of its four-year term was followed in 1992 by a coalition of Labor and smaller left-of-center parties. During these years, each government worked towards the achievement of peace, economic development and immigrant absorption according to its own political convictions.
Since the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty (1979), various initiatives were put forth by Israel and others to further the peace process in the Middle East. These efforts eventually led to the convening of the Madrid Peace Conference (October 1991), held under American and Soviet auspices, which brought together representatives of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians. The formal proceedings were followed by bilateral negotiations between the parties and by multilateral talks addressing regional concerns. Israel and the Palestinians: Following months of intensive behind-the-scenes contacts in Oslo between negotiators for Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a Declaration of Principles (DOP) was formulated outlining self-government arrangements for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Its signing was preceded by an exchange of letters (September 1993) between PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in which the PLO renounced the use of terrorism, pledged to invalidate those articles in its Covenant which deny Israel’s right to exist and committed itself to a peaceful resolution of the decades-long conflict between the Palestinians and the Jews over the Land. In response, Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. Signed by Israel and the PLO in Washington, DC in September 1993, the DOP contains a set of mutually agreed-upon general principles regarding a five-year interim period of Palestinian self-rule, to be implemented in four stages. The first step, setting up self-rule in the Gaza Strip and Jericho area, took place in May 1994. In August of the same year, the second stage was introduced involving the transfer of powers and responsibilities to Palestinian representatives in the West Bank through early empowerment in five specific spheres – education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation and tourism. The Interim Israeli-Palestinian Agreement of September 1995, constituting the third stage, broadened Palestinian self-government in the West Bank by means of an elected self-governing authority – the Palestinian Council – to allow the Palestinians to conduct their own internal affairs. The last stage – negotiations between the parties on final status arrangements – began as scheduled in May 1996. These talks will determine the nature of the permanent settlement, covering remaining issues including refugees, settlements, security matters, borders, Jerusalem and other subjects of common interest. Three years of talks between Jordan and Israel following the Madrid Conference culminated in a declaration by King Hussein and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (July 1994), which ended the 46-year state-of-war between their two countries. The Jordan-Israel peace treaty was signed at the Arava border crossing (near Eilat in Israel and Akaba in Jordan) on 26 October 1994, in the presence of American President Bill Clinton. Since then, Israel and Jordan have been cooperating in many spheres for the benefit of both countries. Under the framework of the Madrid formula, talks between Israeli and Syrian delegations began in Washington and are held from time to time at ambassadorial level, with the involvement of high-ranking American officials. Two recent rounds of Syrian-Israeli peace talks (December 1995, January 1996), focused on security and other key issues. Highly detailed and comprehensive in scope, the talks identified important areas of conceptual agreement and convergence for future discussion and consideration. The multilateral talks were constituted as an integral part of the peace process, aimed at finding solutions for key regional problems, while serving as a confidence building measure to promote development of normalized relations among the Middle East nations. Following the Moscow Multilateral Middle East Conference (January 1992), with the participation of 36 countries and international organizations, the delegations broke up into five working groups dealing with specific areas of common regional concern – environment, arms control and regional security, refugees, water resources and economic development – which meet from time to time in various venues in the region. After the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin (November 1995), the government – in accordance with its right to appoint a minister (who must also be a member of the Knesset) to serve as prime minister until the next elections – named Foreign Minister Shimon Peres as acting prime minister, with all the privileges of office except that of dissolving the Knesset. The May 1996 elections brought to power a coalition government made up of nationalist, religious and centrist elements, headed by Binyamin Netanyahu of the Likud. With goals dedicated to the overall interests of the State of Israel, the challenges facing the new government are, inter alia, the continuation of the peace process; ensuring the country’s security; broadening the scope of its diplomatic ties throughout the world; enhancing the education system by instituting smaller classes and a longer school day; promoting equal opportunity in education; placing increased emphasis on scientific and technological studies to assist Israeli industry; increasing economic competitiveness with less government intervention; reducing the balance-of-payments deficit; maintaining a low rate of inflation; streamlining government bureaucracy; easing the tax burden; finding solutions to housing problems; and intensifying infrastructure expansion. Steady immigration into the country and progress in the peace process should positively affect Israel’s continued growth and development towards the coming century.
Jerusalem’s history stretches back about five thousand years. around 2500 BC, the Canaanites inhabited the city. Later, Jerusalem became a Jebusite citadel. When david captured the city, around 1000 BC, the Jebusites were absorbed into the Jewish people. David made Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom, and Solomon built the first Temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. In 586 BC, the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple and exiled the Jews to Babylonia. Fifty years later, in 537 BC, Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylonia and permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple. Persia held the city until 333 BC, when Alexander the Great added Palestine to his empire. In 323 BC, Ptolemy I of Egypt took Palestine into his kingdom. About 198 BC, the Seleucid king Antiochus III conquered Judaea making it tributary to Syria. (Jerusalem was a part of Judea). The Jews later revolted under the leadership of Maccabees and defeated the Syrians. The Temple was reconsecrated in 165 BC, and the Maccabean, or Hasmonean, dynasty ruled until Rome took the city in 63 BC. The Romans set up a local dynasy, the house of Herod, to rule most of Palestine; Herod the Great rebuilt much of Jerusalem, including the Temple. Roman governors, however, retained ultimate control; one of them, Pontius Pilate, authorized the execution of Jesus Christ. While suppressing a majore Jewish revolt, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in AD 70. In 135, after the failure of the Bar Kochba revolt, Jews were banished from Jerusalem. From the early 4th century, when Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire, Jerusalem developed as a center of Christian pilgrimage. The Church of Holy Sepulcher and many other Christian shrines were erected. Except for a brief period of Persian rul, the city remained under Roman control until 638, when the Muslim Arabs took Jerusalem. The Arabs built the Dome of the rock mosque on the site of the Temple. In the 11th century, Muslim toleration of both Jews and Christians gave way to persecution under the Fatmid caliph al-Hakim and under the Seljuks, who seized Jerusalem in 1071. European Christendom responded by launching the Crusades. The Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099 and established a Crusader state. Saladin recartured the city for the Muslims in 1187, and the Ayyubid and Mameluke dynasties ruled until 1517, when the Ottoman Empire took control. In 1917 the British occupied Jerusalem, and it became the capital of mandated Palestine from 1923 until 1948. During this period the city saw Arab rioting against the Jews. The 1948 United Nations pertition plan for Palestine called for internalization of the city. The Arabs rejected this resolution. So, from 1949, Jerusalem was divided into an Israeli and a Jordanian sector. The city remained divided until 1967, when Israel took the entire city following the Six Day War. The city is reunited today under Israeli government, which guarantees religious freedom and protection of all holy places.
During Biblical times, the area now know as the Golan Heights was called the Bashan. The name Golan comes from the mention of the city of “Golan in Bashan” in the Book of Deuteromony. The area was contested in First Temple times between the northern kingdom of Israel, and the Arameans that ruled Damascus. Judah Maccabee and his brothers formed the Hasmonean dynasty in the second cetry BC. The Hasmonean kind, Alexander Yannai, added the Golan Heights to his kingdom. The Greeks called the area “Gaulanitis,” and this name was later adopted by the Romans. The name eventually became Golan. The city of Gamla was the main settlement on the Golan Heights, and it was the last Jewish stronghold to hold out against the Roman legions in the Great Revolt. Even so, Jewish settlement on the Golan Heights continued throughout the ages, and the remains of some 25 synagogues, dating from the period between the Revolt and the Islamic conquest in the year 636, have been found. The course of centuries brought other ethnic groups to the Golan Heights, including the Druze who arrived in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Jewish presence was renewed in 1886, when a plot of land was bought north of the present-day moshav, Keshet. In 1891, Baron Rothschild purchased land to the east of Ramat Magshimim, but the Turks forced immigrants off this land in 1898. The Golan Heights were included within the Palestinian Mandate, when it was granted in 1922, but Britain turned conrol of the area over to the French the very next year. The establishment of the State of Israel led to to the Syrians building extensive fortifications on the Heights, and they used these to shell civilian targets in Israel over the years. In the 1967 Six Day War, the Israel Defense Forces took the Golan in heavy fighting. Most of the area’s Arab inhabitants fled to Syria. After the Six Day War, Jewish settlement was renewed on the Golan. Kibbutz Merom Golan was founded in July, 1967, and other settlements quickly followed. In October, 1973, Syrian forces shocked Israel’s defenses at the start of the Yom Kippur War. Syrian troops nearly reached the cliffs overlooking the Kinneret, before the main Israeli counterattack began. A Separation of Forces Agreement was signed between Israel and Syria on May 31, 1974.