The modern Israeli state was proclaimed in
1948. Several wars since then have led to the growth of
Israel's surface. But peace agreements have only been
reached with two of the neighboring countries, and the
difficult question of how to divide the country with the
Palestinians has remained unsolved.
After World War I, Palestine was ruled as a so-called
mandate area by Britain on behalf of the United Nations'
forerunner of the League of Nations. As tensions between
Jews and Arabs intensified and turned into violence, the
British handed over the issue of Palestine's future to
the UN. In 1947, when the UN got the issue on its table,
the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181, which
meant that Palestine should be divided into a Jewish and
an Arab state. The Jewish state would comprise about 55
percent of Palestine's land area and the Arab state 44
percent. Jerusalem would be placed under UN
administration. The Jews accepted the proposal but not
the Palestinians and not the Arab states. The violence
escalated. In April 1948, the Arab village of Deir
Yassin was attacked by the Jewish terrorist leagues Irgun and Stern. About 250 villagers were murdered. The
massacre was one of the reasons why Palestinians did not
dare to remain. Mass escape was the result.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Israel. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
The British government ceased on May 15, 1948.
Already on May 14, the independent Jewish state of
Israel was proclaimed by the Labor Party leader David
Ben-Gurion, who became prime minister. The next day, the
newly formed state was attacked by Egypt, Transjordan,
Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Yemen participated with
smaller forces. The UN mediator, the Swedish people,
Folke Bernadotte, was murdered during the war by
Sternligan, who among its members included Yitzhak
Shamir, later head of government in Israel.
The war ended in 1949 with several ceasefire
agreements. The semi-official border that arose between
Israel and Jordan is often referred to as the "green
line", which is what one refers to when talking about
the border before the 1967 war. Israel now occupied 77
percent of Palestine's area, including West Jerusalem.
Nothing remained of the intended Palestinian state since
the West Bank and the eastern half of Jerusalem ended up
under Jordanian administration and Gaza under Egyptian.
For the Palestinians, 1948-49 meant a disaster, called
al-nakba. About 160,000 Arabs stayed in Israel,
while more than 700,000 fled to the West Bank, Gaza or
neighboring Arab states.
In Israel, community building was already far
advanced with parties, defense forces, business and
trade union movement. The decades before 1948 had
predominantly emigrated Jews from Europe, now followed a
wave of Jewish immigration from Arab countries. In 1948,
there were approximately 630,000 Jews in Israel; four
years later the number had doubled.
The Declaration of Independence declared that Israel
would be a Jewish state. It was later established in a
nationality law with force as the basis (see Current
policy). In 1950, a law was passed that gives Jews all
over the world the right to immigrate (do aliya),
and a law that allows the state to seize land and other
property owned by people who fled during the 1948 war.
In the late 1950s, Yasir Arafat, Mahmud Abbas and
other Palestinians formed the exile movement Fatah. Its
goal was to obliterate the Jewish state and prepare the
way for all Palestinian refugees to return home. In the
1950s and early 1960s, it was otherwise Arab states that
drove the issue. Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser
initiated the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in
Tensions increased in 1967 at the Israel-Syria
border. Egypt, affiliated with Syria, sent troops to the
border and blocked the Aqaba Bay from Israeli shipping.
In June, the six-day war broke out. Israel's air force
attacked Egypt, Syria and Jordan in what Israel saw as a
defense war. After six days, the armies of Egypt and
Jordan were crushed and the Syrian army badly
humiliated. Israel conquered the Gaza Strip and the
Sinai Peninsula from Egypt as well as the West Bank
including eastern Arab Jerusalem from Jordan. The Golan
Heights were occupied from Syria.
Settlements begin to be built
Israeli leaders were uncertain about how they would
relate to newly conquered territories. At first Jews
were forbidden to settle there, but eventually religious
Zionists (see Older history) were allowed to
build settlements on occupied land. As long as the left
was sitting in power, the settlements were described as
being built for Israel's security.
In the fall of 1967, the UN adopted Resolution 242,
which became the basis for international peace efforts.
It requires a retreat from occupied territories, respect
for and recognition of the sovereignty, territorial
integrity and independence of the states involved, and
their right to live in peace within safe and recognized
In the refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria,
Palestinians flocked to movements that wanted to
liberate Palestine. In 1969 the guerrilla movements took
Fatah at the head of the PLO and Arafat became the PLO's
leader. From bases in Jordan, PLO targets in Israel.
Israel responded with attacks that became a strain for
Jordan, and in a civil war with the PLO in 1970,
Jordan's King Hussein drove out the PLO. The war was
called "black September" by the Palestinians. PLO built
bases in Lebanon instead. During the first years of the
1970s, several Palestinian organizations used terrorist
methods. In Munich in 1972, the terror was targeted at
Israel's Olympic squad.
New war with neighboring countries
In October 1973, Egypt and Syria went on a surprise
attack on Israel during the Jewish weekend of Yom Kippur
(the Day of Atonement), which happened to coincide with
the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Israel managed to
resume the initiative before the war was quenched after
16 days. The October war strengthened the right, which
claimed that Israel could not win without the
territories occupied in 1967. In the wake, the national
religious settler group Gush Emunim was formed, which
demanded that Israel retain its occupied territories.
The PLO's goal was to liberate all of Palestine
(including Israel) by military means. From 1974, the PLO
accepted the possibility of self-government in "every
part" of Palestine, as a sub-target. The PLO also
decided that the liberation could also be achieved
through political means. In 1974, the Arab states
recognized the PLO as the only legal representative of
the Palestinian people and the PLO gained observer
status at the UN.
With the right-wing Likud election victory in 1977,
Israeli politics entered a new stage. So far, all
governments had been led by the Labor Party, which
mainly gathered Jews with backgrounds in Europe. Those
who immigrated from North Africa and other countries in
the Middle East were not secularized and leftist to the
same extent and tended to prefer Likud.
Likud's board under the leadership of Menachem Begin
began with great success. In the fall of 1978, Israel
and Egypt were joined by Jimmy Carter at the US
President's leisure camp Camp David in the United
States. Prior to the first peace agreement with an Arab
country, the Israeli movement Peace was formed. On the
basis of the Camp David Accords, Israel and Egypt struck
peace in 1979, and Egypt regained Sinai. The
dissatisfaction was widespread in the Arab world, but
Egypt defended itself against allegations of fraud: the
Egyptians had also pledged to work for Palestinian
With Likud in power, the settlers gained influence.
Despite protests from the left, a lot of settlements
were added in the early 1980s. In 1980, Israel
proclaimed Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible
capital. The Golan Heights were annexed in 1981: Israeli
law was introduced.
In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon and expelled the PLO,
which moved its headquarters to Tunisia. Hundreds of
thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon were left
unprotected. In the Sabra and Shatila camps, refugees
were massacred by Christian phalangists, who were allied
with Israel. Israel's then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon
was held accountable and forced to resign. The invasion
of Lebanon divided the Israelis. The peace movement
gained more followers.
Rebellion on the West Bank
On the West Bank, Israel controlled large areas of
land, but around the settlements there grew the
frustration of the Palestinians. In 1987, stone-throwing
youths initiated a revolt, the intifada, which raged for
several years. The Intifada was a popular civil uprising
with elements of both limited and nonviolent violence.
The Israelis responded with low-intensity warfare and
collective punishment. However, the realization grew
that the situation was unsustainable. Contacts were made
between Israelis and Palestinians.
In 1988, Jordan's King Hussein surrendered all
responsibility for governing the West Bank. The PLO's
exile parliament proclaimed an independent Palestinian
state with Arafat as president. Thus, a two-state
solution was announced. The PLO recognized UN Resolution
242 and thus Israel's right to exist within safe
borders. The PLO waives its right to use terror.
In the early 1990s, the time was ripe for closer ties
between Israelis and Palestinians. The dissolution of
the Soviet Union had deprived the Palestinians of east
support. They were also weakened after the Kuwait War in
1991. They had supported Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein,
who invaded Kuwait and, as a punishment, withdrew his
support to the PLO on the Persian Gulf. Israel was also
affected by the fall of the Soviet empire: it led to a
new wave of Jewish immigration to provide for.
The Labor Party regained power in the 1992 elections
and Yitzhak Rabin became new prime minister. Rabin put a
stop to new settlement projects, with the exception of
the eastern half of Jerusalem.
Negotiations began which culminated in a principle
agreement on peace in September 1993. Supported by the
Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995, local Palestinian
autonomy was established at the West Bank and Gaza. The
PLO also formally recognized Israel's right to exist
within safe borders, and Israel for the first time
recognized the PLO as the representative of the
Self-government began in 1994 in the Gaza Strip and
in the city of Jericho on the West Bank. PLO leader
Arafat was able to establish the Palestinian Authority,
with police force. Self-government was expanded in 1995,
but Israel retained control of most of the West Bank.
The areas of self-government were concentrated in cities
and lacked communication with each other. Similarly,
there was no connection between Gaza and the Palestinian
enclaves on the West Bank.
The Oslo agreement was not a real peace agreement; it
merely indicated how Israel and the PLO would proceed to
resolve the conflict. Important issues such as
settlements, refugees, borders and Jerusalem - which
both parties want as their capital - are addressed in
the future. But the peace process continued despite
opponents on both sides trying to sabotage it. Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
and PLO leader Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize. In
1994, Israel and Jordan made peace.
In November 1995, Rabin was shot to death by a Jewish
extremist nationalist. It was the culmination of a
campaign of hatred by the right against Rabin's peace
policy. In retrospect, the murder appeared as the
beginning to the end of the peace process.
The party partner Peres succeeded Rabin until the
1996 elections, but violent terror from the Islamist
Palestinian movement Hamas , which
opposed the Oslo Accords, spread terror among Israelis
and favored the right. Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu,
won the election, but his government became dependent on
small parties on the right. Increased support for the
settlers led to unrest in the West Bank and Gaza.
After a bitter election campaign, the Labor Party's
new leader Ehud Barak emerged victorious in the 1999
election and formed a broad coalition. From Lebanon,
Barak withdrew Israel's last forces in the spring of
2000, after 18 years. The Shiite, Iran-backed Hezbollah
movement and militant Palestinian groups celebrated
Israel's departure as a victory.
The second intifada
In the fall of 2000, Ariel Sharon, who succeeded
Netanyahu as Likud leader, made a visit that Arabs
perceived as provocative on the Temple Mount in
Jerusalem. The Temple Mount is sacred to both Jews and
Muslims (See Jerusalem). Sharon's actions ignited the
spark of a new Palestinian uprising, the al-Aqsa
intifada, which became more violent than the first
revolt. Barak declared the peace process complete. The
next election was won by Likud and Sharon formed
government. Violence escalated and all peace talks were
Sharon's next government got a clearer right profile,
since the Labor Party experienced its worst election
defeat so far. In the spring of 2003, a new initiative
for peace was taken when the United States, the UN, the
EU and Russia submitted a "roadmap for peace" to
Israelis and Palestinians. Already in 2004, the plan was
on ice. In the fall of 2004, Arafat died. He was
succeeded as PLO leader and Palestinian President by
Mahmud Abbas, who renounced the uprising's violence but
refused to stop militant Palestinians with arms power.
Jewish settlements on Palestinian land had continued
to grow, but unlike many others on the right, Sharon now
believed that settlement policy had not made Israel
safer. He was ready to sacrifice some occupied land.
Settlers were appalled, but a majority of Israelis
supported Sharon. In the fall of 2005, the Israelis
Sharon and other defectors left Likud to form the
"nationally liberal" party Kadima, but in 2006 Sharon
fell into a coma following a stroke. New Prime Minister
and Kadimal leader became Ehud Olmert, who soon formed a
coalition with, among others, the Labor Party.
In Palestinian self-government, the parliamentary
elections were won the same year by the Islamic
resistance movement Hamas, over the then-ruling Fatah.
As Hamas's terrorist label refused to recognize Israel,
the US and the EU froze their aid to the Palestinian
In July 2006, Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah
killed eight Israeli soldiers near the border. In
response, Israeli flights attacked Hezbollah's posts,
roads and bridges in southern Lebanon and Beirut's
international airport. Hezbollah fired northern Israel
with rockets and Israeli ground troops entered southern
Lebanon. During this "Second Lebanon War", 157 Israelis
and thousands of Lebanese were killed. Both Israel and
Hezbollah proclaimed victory, but it was clear that, as
Olmert promised, Israel's army could not have protected
northern Israel by crushing Hezbollah.
Several wars in Gaza
Inompalestine contradictions led to brutal violence
between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza. In the summer of 2007,
Hamas took power. Gaza was now under Israeli (and
Egyptian) economic blockade, while Israel continued to
speak with Fatah's government on the West Bank. At the
same time, the rocket rain from Gaza reached further
into Israel, causing deaths. An Israeli intervention in
Gaza in early 2008 resulted in the deaths of over one
hundred Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers.
Three wars between Israel and Hamas then came to
characterize the next few years:
In December 2008, Israel launched massive bomb
attacks against Hamas, followed by a ground offensive
against Gaza. One goal for Israel was to stop the
smuggling of weapons into Gaza. In mid-January 2009, the
fighting was blown off. Over 1,300 Palestinians had been
killed, including at least 700 civilians, and tens of
thousands had become homeless. On the Israeli side, 13
people had lost their lives.
Hamas came for a time to focus on reconstruction
while more radical groups attacked Israeli targets. But
in November 2012, tensions escalated to war again, after
Israel killed the leader of Hamas military branch. After
a week of fighting, a ceasefire was concluded. By then,
around 170 Palestinians, including over a hundred
civilians, had been killed. Four Israeli civilians and
two soldiers had been killed.
In the summer of 2014 it was time again. During seven
weeks of war, militant Palestinians fired more than
4,500 rockets or grenades at Israel, carrying out over
5,200 air strikes against Gaza. Israel also deployed
ground troops to destroy tunnels built by Palestinians
to enter Israel and carry out attacks. By the time the
ceasefire was closed in August, more than 2,100
Palestinians had been killed, most civilians and several
hundred children. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and 7
civilians lost their lives.
Benjamin Netanyahu returned in the role of Prime
Minister. By advocating Israel's right to expand
settlements in response to "natural growth", he came to
the brim with US President Barack Obama who was opposed
to continued expansion (see also Foreign Policy). In an
effort to appease the Americans, Netanyahu mentioned in
June 2009, for the first time, the possibility of a
Palestinian state. On the condition that it must be
demilitarized, that Jerusalem could not be divided and
that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish
state (a requirement that was not officially stated
previously). From the Fatah government on the West Bank,
the requirement was that all settlements must be frozen.
A ten-month construction stop on the West Bank expired
in 2010. Israel announced plans for new housing in East
In 2013, the United States launched a new attempt at
peace negotiations, which quickly came to shame.
While the conflict was constantly in a more or less
serious situation, Israeli debate was also characterized
by everyday economics. High prices and lack of housing
led to demonstrations, and there were more issues with
explosive power. An Equalist government cracked down on
the question of whether ultra-Orthodox young men would
be forced to do military service.
In 2013, new elections were held after
dissatisfaction with the budget. Netanyahu and Likud won
a walking victory, but the next coalition government -
despite ultra-Orthodox parties being outsourced -
consisted of five parties that pulled in different
directions: on the one hand, settlers and nationalists,
on the other, the middle parties Yesh Atid and Hatnua,
who wanted to negotiate with the Palestinians. One
measure of the spirit of the times was that the national
religious settler party Beit Yehudi, which wants to
annex most of the West Bank, quadrupled its mandate.
The economy remained a battlefield: Yesh Atid, formed
by TV profile Yair Lapid, had campaigned on wallet
issues, but as Finance Minister Lapid failed to give the
Israelis better everyday economy. When Netanyahu then
supported a bill that would establish the country's
exclusive Jewish character, Yesh Atid and Hatnua voted
no, on the grounds that the law would discriminate
against the country's Arab minority. Netanyahu kicked
both Lapid and Justice Minister Tipzi Livni, leader of
Hatnua, and announced the 2015 election.
Likud lagged behind in opinion polls. Then Netanyahu
attracted right-wing votes by stating that under his
rule there would be no state of its own for the
Palestinians - comparing to the position he adopted in
2009 when he supported a two-state solution on certain
conditions. Netanyahu now claimed that land handed over
to the Palestinians risked falling into the hands of
radical Islamists. Netanyahu also promised to expand the
settlements in Jerusalem so that it would be impossible
to divide the city and make the eastern half the
Netanyahu openly expressed a view that has grown
strongly in Israel: that Jews should populate the entire
old British mandate Palestine - that is, the entire West
Bank as well. The play gave dividends: a superior
election victory for Likud. In 2015, Netanyahu formed a
coalition since the national religious settler party
Beit Yehudi joined. Other parties in the government were
the ultra-Orthodox Shas and the United Torah Party and
the middle party Kulanu. The coalition's base in
Parliament grew at that time when Yisrael Beiteinu also
joined and the leader Avigdor Lieberman, himself a
resident of the West Bank, was given the post of
Minister of Defense. In important areas, the national
religious and settler-friendly parties came to exert a