Israel (Hebrew: יִשְׂרָאֵל, Yisrā'el), officially the State of Israel (Hebrew: מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, Medīnat Yisrā'el) is a country in the Middle East, comprised by five administrative districts: Northeast, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Negev and West Jerusalem. Northeast District bordered with Syria to the east, with Palestine to the west and south, and with Lebanon to the north. Haifa bordered mostly with Palestine to the east and Mediterranean Sea to the west. Negev bordered with Palestine to the north and northwest, with Egypt to the west, and Jordan to the east.
Zionist Movement (1870–1917)Since the Jewish Diaspora, some Jews have aspired to return to "Zion" and the "Land of Israel", though the amount of effort that should be spent towards such an aim was a matter of dispute. With the increasing persecution and pogroms in Eastern Europe, a small wave of Jewish immigrants fled to Ottoman-ruled Southern Syria in the late 19th century. The new migration was accompanied by a revival of the Hebrew language with the creation of the first modern Hebrew dictionary by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda.
Many early migrants left due to difficulty finding work and the early settlements often remained dependent on foreign donations. Despite the difficulties, new settlements arose and the community grew. By 1890, Southern Syria, which was part of the Ottoman Empire, was inhabited by about half a million people, mostly Muslim and Christian Arabs, with Jews as a majority in Jerusalem.Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl is credited for founding Zionism, a movement which sought to establish a Jewish state either in Palestine or in other places as a refuge from rising antisemitism in Europe. The Zionist Organization was formally founded in 1897. After the controversial plan by the British government in 1903 to establish a Jewish state at modern-day Kenya, the Zionist Organization was split between the ones who still preferred Palestine as the sole focus of Zionist aspirations and the Jewish Territorialist Organization who willing to establish a Jewish homeland anywhere.
During World War I, most Jews supported the Germans because they were fighting the Russians who were regarded as the Jews' main enemy. In Britain, the government formed the Jewish Legion as a means of recruiting Russian Jewish immigrants to the British war effort. The most prominent Russian Jewish migrant in Britain was chemist Chaim Weizmann who developed a new process to produce Acetone, a critical ingredient in manufacturing explosives that Britain was unable to manufacture in sufficient quantity. With different national sections of the movement supporting different sides in the war, Zionist policy, however, was to maintain strict neutrality and "to demonstrate complete loyalty to Turkey", the ally of Germany.
Mandatory Palestine (1916–1948)
Under the secret Sykes–Picot Agreement of 1916, the British and the French divided each others' spheres of influences at the Middle East into several League of Nations mandates, which became the real cornerstone of the geopolitics structuring the entire region. The agreement gave Britain control over what parties would begin to call "Palestine". On November 2, 1917, the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, expressing the government's view in favour of "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" that known as the Balfour Declaration.
The British-led Egyptian Expeditionary Force, commanded by Edmund Allenby, captured Jerusalem on December 9, 1917 and occupied the whole of the Levant following the defeat of Ottoman forces in Palestine at the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918 and the capitulation of Ottoman Empire on October 31. The British Mandate for Palestine (המנדט הבריטי על ארץ ישראל haManḏaṭ haBriṭi ʿele Ereṣ Yišrael) was confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922 and came into effect in 1923. The boundaries of Palestine initially included modern Jordan, which was removed from the territory a few years later. Britain signed a treaty with the United States (which did not join the League of Nations) in which the United States endorsed the terms of the Mandate.
Between 1919 and 1923, another 40,000 Russian Jews arrived in Palestine, escaping the revolutionary chaos in Russia and the Ukraine. Many of these immigrants became known as "pioneers" (halutzim), experienced or trained in agriculture and capable of establishing self-sustaining economies. The Jezreel Valley and the Hefer Plain marshes were drained and converted to agricultural use. Land was bought by the Jewish National Fund, a Zionist charity which collected money abroad for that purpose. A mainly underground Jewish militia, Haganah ("Defense"), was established to defend outlying Jewish settlements.
During the whole interwar period, the British, appealing to the terms of the Mandate, rejected the principle of majority rule or any other measure that would give the Arab population, who formed the majority of the population, control over Palestinian territory. From 1928, the democratically elected Jewish National Council ("Va'ad Leumi") became the main institution of the Palestine Jewish community ("Yishuv") and included non-Zionist Jews. As the Yishuv grew, the Va'ad Leumi adopted more government-type functions, such as education, health care and security. With British permission, the Va'ad raised its own taxes and ran independent services for the Jewish population. From 1929 its leadership was elected by Jews from 26 countries.
In 1933, the Jewish Agency and the Nazis negotiated the Ha'avara Agreement, under which 50,000 Jews would be transferred to Palestine and in return the Nazis allowed the Ha'avara organization to purchase 14 million pounds worth of German goods for export to Palestine. The agreement was controversial and the Labour Zionist leader who negotiated the agreement, Haim Arlosoroff, was assassinated in Tel Aviv in 1933. Between 1929 and 1938, 250,000 Jews arrived in Palestine. Between 1929 and 1938, 250,000 Jews arrived in Palestine.
The death of Palestinian Arab nationalist leader, Shaykh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, and an increasing Jewish immigration contributed to the large-scale 1936–1939 Arab uprising in Palestine, a largely nationalist revolt directed at ending British rule. Attacks were mainly directed at British strategic installations such as the Trans Arabian Pipeline (TAP) and railways, and to a lesser extent against Jewish settlements, secluded Jewish neighborhoods in the mixed cities, and Jews, both individually and in groups. The violence abated for about a year while the British sent the Peel Commission to investigate.The Peel Commission then recommended that an exclusively Jewish territory be created in the Galilee and western coast (including the population transfer of 225,000 Arabs); the rest becoming an exclusively Arab area. With the Arab rejection of this proposal, the revolt resumed during the autumn of 1937. Violence continued throughout 1938 and eventually petered out in 1939. By the time the revolt concluded in March 1939, more than 5,000 Arabs, 400 Jews, and 200 British had been killed and at least 15,000 Arabs were wounded.
World War II (1939–1945)On June 10, 1940, Italy declared war on the United Kingdom and sided with Germany. Within a month, the Italians attacked Palestine from the air, bombing Tel Aviv and Haifa, inflicting multiple casualties. In May 1941, the Palmach was established to defend the Yishuv when the forces of German General Erwin Rommel advanced east in North Africa towards the Suez Canal and there was fear that they would conquer Palestine. In June 1944 the British agreed to create a Jewish Brigade that would fight in Italy. Approximately 1.5 million Jews around the world also served in every branch of the allied armies, mainly in the Soviet and U.S. armies. 200,000 Jews died serving in the Soviet army alone.
Between 1939 and 1945, the Nazis led systematic efforts to kill every person of Jewish extraction in Europe called the Holocaust), causing the deaths of approximately 6 million Jews. During the Holocaust Europe's Jews were cut off from and disowned by the outside world. Jews were systematically impoverished, starved and murdered. The 1942 Zionist conference could not be held because of the war. Instead 600 Jewish leaders met at the Biltmore Hotel in New York and adopted a statement known as the Biltmore Program. They agreed that the Zionist movement would seek the creation of a Jewish state after the war and that all Jewish organizations would fight to ensure free Jewish migration into Palestine.
Zionist insurgency (1945–1947)
The British Empire was severely weakened at the end of war. In the Middle East, the war had made Britain conscious of its dependence on Arab oil and were concerned about maintaining Arab support. Even after the Labour Party won the general election in Britain in 1945, the British Government decided to maintain the 1939 White Paper policies that reduced the number of immigrants allowed into Palestine, restricted Jewish land purchases, and recommended that an independent Palestine, governed jointly by Arabs and Jews, be established within 10 years.
In an effort to win independence, Zionists now waged a guerrilla war against the British. The main underground Jewish militia, the Haganah, formed an alliance called the Jewish Resistance Movement with the Etzel and the Lehi to fight the British. In June 1946, following instances of Jewish sabotage, the British launched Operation Agatha, arresting 2700 Jews, including the leadership of the Jewish Agency, whose headquarters were raided. In July 1946, the Irgun blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the headquarters of the British administration, killing 92 people. The situation in Palestine caused the Mandate to become widely unpopular in Britain, and caused the United States Congress delayed the loans that vital for British reconstruction. By 1947 the Labour-led British Government was ready to refer the Palestine problem to the newly created United Nations.
Partition of Palestine (1947–1948)
On April 1947, the United Nations created the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to find a quick solution to the Palestine question. The majority of the members of UNSCOP proposed a partition with Economic Union of Mandatory Palestine to follow the termination of the British Mandate. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state (with Jerusalem becoming an international enclave). The General Assembly's vote caused joy in the Jewish community and discontent among the Arab community. Large-scale fighting soon broke out between the sides.
From January 1948, the fightings became increasingly militarized, with Arab volunteers of the Arab Liberation Army entered Palestine to fight with the Palestinians. They consolidated their presence in Galilee and Samaria. Meanwhile, a veteran of 1936–39 Arab uprising and 1941 Mesopotamian Revolution, Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, arrived in the Jerusalem sector from Egypt with several hundred men of the Army of the Holy War in December 1947. He was joined by a hundred or so young villagers and Arab veterans of the British Army. His army soon had several thousand men, and it moved its training quarters to Bir Zeit, a town near Ramallah.
On the other side, the Haganah was reorganized by the Jewish leadership and every Jewish man and woman in Palestine had to receive military training. Thanks to funds raised by Golda Meir from sympathizers in the United States, and Sergei Kirov's decision to support the Zionist cause, the Jewish representatives of Palestine were able to purchase important arms in Eastern Europe. Under Yigael Yadin, the Haganah passed from the defensive to the offensive. Its principal objective was to secure Yishuv's uninterrupted territorial connections.
State of Israel (1948–present)
1948 Arab–Israeli War (1948–1949)On May 14, 1948, on the day the last British forces left from Haifa, the Jewish People's Council, led by David Ben-Gurion, gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum and proclaimed "the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, to be known as the State of Israel". Following independence, the Haganah became the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Other Jewish militants were required to cease independent operations and join the IDF.
The neighbouring Arab states refused to accept the UN partition plan and had declared they would intervene to prevent its implementation and support the Palestinian Arab population. On May 15, Iraq, Egypt, Transjordan and Syria, invaded the former territory of British Mandate for Palestine, thus marking the beginning of 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
On June 11, 1948, a month-long UN truce was put into effect. Neither side respected the truce. Both sides used this time to improve their positions, a direct violation of the terms of the ceasefire. The fighting then continued on July 8, 1948 for ten days until the UN Security Council issued the second truce on July 18. On September 16, UN mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, proposed a new partition for Palestine in which Jordan would annex Lydda and Ramla, the Negev would be divided between Jordan and Egypt and there would be a Jewish state in the whole of Galilee. The plan was also rejected by both sides and on September 17, Bernadotte was assassinated in Jerusalem by the militant Zionist group Lehi.
On September 20, 1948, the All-Palestine Government was formed by the Arab League in Gaza with Ahmed Hilmi Abd al-Baqi as its Prime Minister. On October 1, 1948, the government declared the independence over the whole of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital. The fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians then resumed on October 15, 1948. On October 24, the Israeli forces captured the entire upper Galilee, driving the Arab Liberation Army and Lebanese Army back to Lebanon, and successfully ambushing and destroying an entire Syrian battalion.
The third truce was issued on November 7, 1948. Both sides used this opportunity to consolidate their territorial gains. By November 1948, the Israeli forces effectively controlled Galilee and northern Negev, while the Palestinian and Arab forces controlled Gaza, Jerusalem and most of West Bank.