Arab-Israeli Wars Essay, Research Paper
ARAB-ISRAELI WARS ================= Since the United Nations partition of PALESTINE in 1947 and theestablishment of the modern state of ISRAEL in 1948, there have been fourmajor Arab-Israeli wars (1947-49, 1956, 1967, and 1973) and numerousintermittent battles. Although Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in1979, hostility between Israel and the rest of its Arab neighbors,complicated by the demands of Palestinian Arabs, continued into the 1980s. THE FIRST PALESTINE WAR (1947-49) The first war began as a civil conflict between Palestinian Jews andArabs following the United Nations recommendation of Nov. 29, 1947, topartition Palestine, then still under British mandate, into an Arab stateand a Jewish state. Fighting quickly spread as Arab guerrillas attackedJewish settlements and communication links to prevent implementation of theUN plan. Jewish forces prevented seizure of most settlements, but Arabguerrillas, supported by the Transjordanian Arab Legion under the commandof British officers, besieged Jerusalem. By April, Haganah, the principalJewish military group, seized the offensive, scoring victories against theArab Liberation Army in northern Palestine, Jaffa, and Jerusalem. Britishmilitary forces 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 David BEN-GURION, thePalestine Arab forces and foreign volunteers were joined by regular armiesof Transjordan (now the kingdom of JORDAN), IRAQ, LEBANON, and SYRIA, withtoken support from SAUDI ARABIA. Efforts by the UN to halt the fightingwere unsuccessful until June 11, when a 4-week truce was declared. When theArab states refused to renew the truce, ten more days of fighting erupted. In that time Israel greatly extended the area under its control and brokethe siege of Jerusalem. Fighting on a smaller scale continued during thesecond UN truce beginning in mid-July, and Israel acquired more territory,especially in Galilee and the Negev. By January 1949, when the lastbattles 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 Jewishstate in the UN partition resolution. It had also secured itsindependence. During 1949, armistice agreements were signed under UNauspices between 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 peace negotiations. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who had left Israeli-heldterritory during the first war concentrated in refugee camps along Israel’sfrontiers and became a major source of friction when they infiltrated backto their homes or attacked Israeli border settlements. A major tensionpoint was the Egyptian-controlled GAZA STRIP, which was used by Arabguerrillas for raids into southern Israel. Egypt’s blockade of Israelishipping in the Suez Canal and Gulf of Aqaba intensified the hostilities. These escalating tensions converged with the SUEZ CRISIS caused by thenationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian president Gamal NASSER. Great Britain and France strenuously objected to Nasser’s policies, and ajoint military campaign was planned against Egypt with the understandingthat Israel would take the initiative by seizing the Sinai Peninsula. Thewar began on Oct. 29, 1956, after an announcement that the armies ofEgypt, Syria, and Jordan were to be integrated under the Egyptian commanderin chief. Israel’s Operation Kadesh, commanded by Moshe DAYAN, lasted lessthan a week; its forces reached the eastern bank of the Suez Canal inabout 100 hours, seizing the Gaza Strip and nearly all the Sinai Peninsula. The Sinai operations were supplemented by an Anglo-French invasion of Egypton November 5, giving the allies control of the northern sector of the SuezCanal. The war was halted by a UN General Assembly resolution calling for animmediate ceasefire and withdrawal of all occupying forces from Egyptianterritory. The General Assembly also established a United NationsEmergency Force (UNEF) to replace the allied troops on the Egyptian side ofthe borders in Suez, Sinai, and Gaza. By December 22 the last British andFrench troops had left Egypt. Israel, however, delayed withdrawal,insisting that it receive security guarantees against further Egyptianattack. After several additional UN resolutions calling for withdrawal andafter 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 thefollowing decade. The Suez Canal remained closed to Israeli shipping, theArab boycott of Israel was maintained, and periodic border clashes occurredbetween Israel, Syria, and Jordan. However, UNEF prevented direct militaryencounters between Egypt and Israel.
By 1967 the Arab confrontation states–Egypt, Syria, and Jordan–becameimpatient with the status quo, the propaganda war with Israel escalated,and border incidents increased dangerously. Tensions culminated in Maywhen Egyptian forces were massed in Sinai, and Cairo ordered the UNEF toleave Sinai and Gaza. President Nasser also announced that the Gulf ofAqaba would be closed again to Israeli shipping. At the end of May, Egyptand Jordan signed a new defense pact placing Jordan’s armed forces underEgyptian command. Efforts to de-escalate the crisis were of no avail. Israeli and Egyptian leaders visited the United States, but PresidentLyndon Johnson’s attempts to persuade Western powers to guarantee freepassage through the Gulf failed. Believing that war was inevitable, Israeli Premier Levi ESHKOL,Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan, and Army Chief of Staff Yitzhak RABINapproved preemptive Israeli strikes at Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, andIraqi airfields on June 5, 1967. By the evening of June 6, Israel haddestroyed the combat effectiveness of the major Arab air forces, destroyingmore than 400 planes and losing only 26 of its own. Israel also swept intoSinai, reaching the Suez Canal and occupying most of the peninsula in lessthan four days. King HUSSEIN of Jordon rejected an offer of neutrality and opened fireon Israeli forces in Jerusalem on June 5. But a lightning Israeli campaignplaced all of Arab Jerusalem and the Jordanian West Bank in Israeli handsby June 8. As the war ended on the Jordanian and Egyptian fronts, Israelopened an attack on Syria in the north. In a little more than two days offierce fighting, Syrian forces were driven from the Golan Heights, fromwhich they had shelled Jewish settlements across the border. The Six-DayWar ended on June 10 when the UN negotiated cease-fire agreements on allfronts. The Six-Day War increased severalfold the area under Israel’s control. Through the occupation of Sinai, Gaza, Arab Jerusalem, the West Bank, andGolan Heights, Israel shortened its land frontiers with Egypt and Jordan,removed the most heavily populated Jewish areas from direct Arab artilleryrange, and temporarily increased its strategic advantages. OCTOBER WAR (1973) Israel was the dominant military power in the region for the next sixyears. Led by Golda MEIR from 1969, it was generally satisfied with thestatus quo, but Arab impatience mounted. Between 1967 and 1973, Arableaders repeatedly warned that they would not accept continued Israelioccupation 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 periodicmassing of troops along the Suez Canal. Egyptian and Syrian forcesunderwent massive rearmament with the most sophisticated Soviet equipment. Sadat consolidated war preparations in secret agreements with PresidentHafez al-ASSAD of Syria for a joint attack and with King FAISAL of SaudiArabia to finance the operations. Egypt and Syria attacked on Oct. 6, 1973, pushing Israeli forcesseveral miles behind the 1967 cease-fire lines. Israel was thrown offguard, partly because the attack came on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement),the most sacred Jewish religious day (coinciding with the Muslim fast ofRamadan). Although Israel recovered from the initial setback, it failed toregain all the territory lost in the first days of fighting. Incounterattacks on the Egyptian front, Israel seized a major bridgeheadbehind 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 fewmiles 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 inany battles fought since World War II. The Arabs lost some 2,000 tanks andmore than 500 planes; the Israelis, 804 tanks and 114 planes. The 3-weekwar cost Egypt and Israel about $7 billion each, in material and lossesfrom declining industrial production or damage. The political phase of the 1973 war ended with disengagement agreementsaccepted by Israel, Egypt, and Syria after negotiations in 1974 and 1975 byU.S. Secretary of State Henry A. KISSINGER. The agreements provided forEgyptian reoccupation of a strip of land in Sinai along the east bank ofthe Suez Canal and for Syrian control of a small area around the GolanHeights town of Kuneitra. UN forces were stationed on both fronts tooversee observance of the agreements, which reestablished a politicalbalance 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 expansionof the peace process to include other Arab nations waned, however, whenEgypt and Israel were subsequently unable to agree on a formula forPalestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the 1980sregional tensions were increased by the activities of militant Palestiniansand other Arab extremists and by several Israeli actions. The latterincluded the formal proclamation of the entire city of Jerusalem as theIsraeli capital (1980), the annexation of the Golan Heights (1981), theinvasion of southern Lebanon (1982), and the continued expansion of Israelisettlement in the occupied West Bank.