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History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The state of Israel came into existence on May 14, 1948. That day also marks the beginning of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which has dominated the world stage for half a century. This paper will trace the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict over the past 50 years.

The region of Palestine had been under British control (as part of a League of Nations mandate) since the end of World War I. After World War II, the British, nearly bankrupt, began dismantling their empire. The British turned to the United Nations to address the issue of Palestine.

Nearly half a million Jews resided in Palestine in the late 1940s, with many more refugees arriving every day from Europe (Peretz 35). Two plans were presented at the United Nations. One called for a federation of autonomous Jewish and Arab states, with power divided between the states and the central government. The other plan called for partition of Palestine, with the Jewish state allotted 5,700 square miles and the Palestinian state allotted 4,300 square miles. Though Arabs outnumbered Jews, the UN committee reasoned that the flood of refugees from Europe would result in a greater Jewish population.

The Arabs were vehemently opposed to the partition plan and warned of war if it were implemented. Nonetheless, the partition plan passed, setting off a civil war in Palestine. The British, desperate to abandon the situation entirely, stood back. No matter what, on May 15, they were going to pull out.

The Jews recognized this and devised a strategy to acquire as much land as possible in anticipation of that date (Peretz 38). On May 14, as the British were preparing their final withdrawal, Israel declared its independence. The next day, Egypt, Transjordan (Jordan), Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq sent more than 20,000 troops to fight against the Israelis. As it turned out, the Palestinians would have been better off going it alone.

Fighting begat a cease-fire, and, afte...

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