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Essay/Term paper: Arab - israeli wars

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Political Science

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the United Nations partition of PALESTINE in 1947 and

the establishment of the modern state of ISRAEL in 1948,

there have been four major Arab-Israeli wars (1947-49,

1956, 1967, and 1973) and numerous intermittent battles.

Although Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979,

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 and Arabs following the United Nations

recommendation of Nov. 29, 1947, to partition Palestine,

then still under British mandate, into an Arab state and a

Jewish state. Fighting quickly spread as Arab guerrillas

attacked Jewish settlements and communication links to

prevent implementation of the UN plan. Jewish forces

prevented seizure of most settlements, but Arab guerrillas,

supported by the Transjordanian Arab Legion under the

command of British officers, besieged Jerusalem. By April,

Haganah, the principal Jewish military group, seized the

offensive, scoring victories against the Arab Liberation Army

in northern Palestine, Jaffa, and Jerusalem. British military

forces withdrew to Haifa; although officially neutral, some

commanders assisted one side or the other. After the British

had departed and the state of Israel had been established on

May 15, 1948, under the premiership of David

BEN-GURION, the Palestine Arab forces and foreign

volunteers were joined by regular armies of Transjordan

(now the kingdom of JORDAN), IRAQ, LEBANON, and

SYRIA, with token support from SAUDI ARABIA. Efforts

by the UN to halt the fighting were unsuccessful until June

11, when a 4-week truce was declared. When the Arab

states refused to renew the truce, ten more days of fighting

erupted. In that time Israel greatly extended the area under

its control and broke the siege of Jerusalem. Fighting on a

smaller scale continued during the second UN truce

beginning in mid-July, and Israel acquired more territory,

especially in Galilee and the Negev. By January 1949, when

the last battles 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 Jewish state in the UN

partition resolution. It had also secured its independence.

During 1949, armistice agreements were signed under UN

auspices between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and

Lebanon. The armistice frontiers were unofficial boundaries

until 1967. SUEZ-SINAI WAR (1956) Border conflicts

between Israel and the Arabs continued despite provisions in

the 1949 armistice agreements for peace negotiations.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who had left

Israeli-held territory during the first war concentrated in

refugee camps along Israel's frontiers and became a major

source of friction when they infiltrated back to their homes or

attacked Israeli border settlements. A major tension point

was the Egyptian-controlled GAZA STRIP, which was used

by Arab guerrillas for raids into southern Israel. Egypt's

blockade of Israeli shipping in the Suez Canal and Gulf of

Aqaba intensified the hostilities. These escalating tensions

converged with the SUEZ CRISIS caused by the

nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian president

Gamal NASSER. Great Britain and France strenuously

objected to Nasser's policies, and a joint military campaign

was planned against Egypt with the understanding that Israel

would take the initiative by seizing the Sinai Peninsula. The

war began on Oct. 29, 1956, after an announcement that the

armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan were to be integrated

under the Egyptian commander in chief. Israel's Operation

Kadesh, commanded by Moshe DAYAN, lasted less than a

week; its forces reached the eastern bank of the Suez Canal

in about 100 hours, seizing the Gaza Strip and nearly all the

Sinai Peninsula. The Sinai operations were supplemented by

an Anglo-French invasion of Egypt on November 5, giving

the allies control of the northern sector of the Suez Canal.

The war was halted by a UN General Assembly resolution

calling for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of all

occupying forces from Egyptian territory. The General

Assembly also established a United Nations Emergency

Force (UNEF) to replace the allied troops on the Egyptian

side of the borders in Suez, Sinai, and Gaza. By December

22 the last British and French troops had left Egypt. Israel,

however, delayed withdrawal, insisting that it receive security

guarantees against further Egyptian attack. After several

additional UN resolutions calling for withdrawal and after

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 the following decade. The

Suez Canal remained closed to Israeli shipping, the Arab

boycott of Israel was maintained, and periodic border

clashes occurred between Israel, Syria, and Jordan.

However, UNEF prevented direct military encounters

between Egypt and Israel. By 1967 the Arab confrontation

states--Egypt, Syria, and Jordan--became impatient with the

status quo, the propaganda war with Israel escalated, and

border incidents increased dangerously. Tensions culminated

in May when Egyptian forces were massed in Sinai, and

Cairo ordered the UNEF to leave Sinai and Gaza. President

Nasser also announced that the Gulf of Aqaba would be

closed again to Israeli shipping. At the end of May, Egypt

and Jordan signed a new defense pact placing Jordan's

armed forces under Egyptian command. Efforts to

de-escalate the crisis were of no avail. Israeli and Egyptian

leaders visited the United States, but President Lyndon

Johnson's attempts to persuade Western powers to

guarantee free passage through the Gulf failed. Believing that

war was inevitable, Israeli Premier Levi ESHKOL, Minister

of Defense Moshe Dayan, and Army Chief of Staff Yitzhak

RABIN approved preemptive Israeli strikes at Egyptian,

Syrian, Jordanian, and Iraqi airfields on June 5, 1967. By the

evening of June 6, Israel had destroyed the combat

effectiveness of the major Arab air forces, destroying more

than 400 planes and losing only 26 of its own. Israel also

swept into Sinai, reaching the Suez Canal and occupying

most of the peninsula in less than four days. King HUSSEIN

of Jordon rejected an offer of neutrality and opened fire on

Israeli forces in Jerusalem on June 5. But a lightning Israeli

campaign placed all of Arab Jerusalem and the Jordanian

West Bank in Israeli hands by June 8. As the war ended on

the Jordanian and Egyptian fronts, Israel opened an attack

on Syria in the north. In a little more than two days of fierce

fighting, Syrian forces were driven from the Golan Heights,

from which they had shelled Jewish settlements across the

border. The Six-Day War ended on June 10 when the UN

negotiated cease-fire agreements on all fronts. The Six-Day

War increased severalfold the area under Israel's control.

Through the occupation of Sinai, Gaza, Arab Jerusalem, the

West Bank, and Golan Heights, Israel shortened its land

frontiers with Egypt and Jordan, removed the most heavily

populated Jewish areas from direct Arab artillery range, and

temporarily increased its strategic advantages. OCTOBER

WAR (1973) Israel was the dominant military power in the

region for the next six years. Led by Golda MEIR from

1969, it was generally satisfied with the status quo, but Arab

impatience mounted. Between 1967 and 1973, Arab leaders

repeatedly warned that they would not accept continued

Israeli occupation 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 periodic massing of troops along the Suez

Canal. Egyptian and Syrian forces underwent massive

rearmament with the most sophisticated Soviet equipment.

Sadat consolidated war preparations in secret agreements

with President Hafez al-ASSAD of Syria for a joint attack

and with King FAISAL of Saudi Arabia to finance the

operations. Egypt and Syria attacked on Oct. 6, 1973,

pushing Israeli forces several miles behind the 1967

cease-fire lines. Israel was thrown off guard, partly because

the attack came on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement),

the most sacred Jewish religious day (coinciding with the

Muslim fast of Ramadan). Although Israel recovered from

the initial setback, it failed to regain all the territory lost in the

first days of fighting. In counterattacks on the Egyptian front,

Israel seized a major bridgehead behind 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 few miles

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 in any battles fought

since World War II. The Arabs lost some 2,000 tanks and

more than 500 planes; the Israelis, 804 tanks and 114

planes. The 3-week war cost Egypt and Israel about $7

billion each, in material and losses from declining industrial

production or damage. The political phase of the 1973 war

ended with disengagement agreements accepted by Israel,

Egypt, and Syria after negotiations in 1974 and 1975 by

U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. KISSINGER. The

agreements provided for Egyptian reoccupation of a strip of

land in Sinai along the east bank of the Suez Canal and for

Syrian control of a small area around the Golan Heights

town of Kuneitra. UN forces were stationed on both fronts

to oversee observance of the agreements, which

reestablished a political balance 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 expansion of the

peace process to include other Arab nations waned,

however, when Egypt and Israel were subsequently unable

to agree on a formula for Palestinian self-rule in the West

Bank and Gaza Strip. In the 1980s regional tensions were

increased by the activities of militant Palestinians and other

Arab extremists and by several Israeli actions. The latter

included the formal proclamation of the entire city of

Jerusalem as the Israeli capital (1980), the annexation of the

Golan Heights (1981), the invasion of southern Lebanon

(1982), and the continued expansion of Israeli settlement in

the occupied West Bank. 

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