Israel Modern History

By | January 31, 2023

Israel is a country located in Western Asia. With the capital city of Jerusalem, Israel has a population of 8,655,546 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. 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.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: 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. Check best-medical-schools for more information about 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 1964.

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 borders.

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 self-government.

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.

Oslo process

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 Palestinian people.

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 canceled.

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 evacuated Gaza.

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 government.

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 Jerusalem.

In 2013, the United States launched a new attempt at peace negotiations, which quickly came to shame.

Short-term governments

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 Palestinian capital.

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 strong influence.

Israel Modern History