This section covers the history of the State of Israel and of the British
Mandate of Palestine. I will concentrate on the events that caused a change in borders,
illustrating the above changes with maps whenever possible.
Since there's so much to cover, I might skip certain events or be extremely
short on the description of others - I will then link to other sites that might
go into more details.
I have to start somewhere, so I'll start just after the First World War, where
a major territorial change occurs: the French and the English now occupy the Middle East which
previously was part of the Ottoman Empire.
So it's 1918, the end of the First World War, which France and England have just won:
among other things the French get the northern part of the Middle East, where today
we have Lebanon and Syria, while the English now have the Palestine Mandate
(show below in blue and yellow).
Please note that the above is not a Palestinian State, it is a region controlled
by the English, called the Palestine Mandate - both Arab and Jewish residents
live in this area.
In 1922, Transjordan (later the State of Jordan) is created in 75% of the Palestine
British Mandate. What remains of the Palestine
British Mandate is outlined below in blue:
Now, in 1947, things start to get interesting. The U.N. votes on the creation
of two States: one for the Jewish inhabitants of the Palestine
Mandate, and a second one for the Arab inhabitants. The Jewish residents
accept, but the Arabs and Palestinians refuse the two State solution and the 1948
war is under way.
After Israel declared its independence in May of 1948, the Arabs living in the Palestine Mandate (today's Palestinians) and the Arab States
refuse the two state compromise and declare war on the new Jewish State. Armies
from Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt attack the new Jewish State
as shown below:
Israel wins its war of Independence and the Palestinians miss their first chance on getting a State of their own.
The borders of 1948 are shown below with Israel outlined in green, while the
West Bank (under Jordan control) and Gaza (under Egyptian control) are shown in brown:
During Israel's war of independance and after Israel won the war and became a reality,
some Arab residents left Israel and moved to the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon,
Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt:
After over 50 years, none of the above Arab States have yet given citizenship to
some of these Palestinians, causing the refugee problem - they live in camps with few
or no rights (see stats for more information on the numbers).
A Muslim woman votes
in the Israeli Elections
It is ironic to note that Palestinians that stayed in Israel have rights: they
received full Israeli citizenship. As of 2/2002 there were 980,000 Arab Israeli Citizens
(mostly Muslim, some are Christian) who
have the right to vote and have parties of their own represented in
Israel's parliament. It is also ironic to note that neither Jordan nor Egypt gave
the Palestinians the option of an independant state, but Israel did in October
2000 (more on that later).
The 1948 armistice held up until the war of 1956: raids and reprisals between the
Arabs and Israel, and Egypt's seizure of the Suez Canal, led to Israel's invasion
of the Sinai Peninsula. While French and British troops took control of the canal,
the Israelis took Gaza and Sharm el Sheikh at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula that
controls access to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Indian Ocean. Israel withdrew in 1957
after its access to the gulf was guaranteed by the United Nations. Since no major
territory changes occured I won't show any maps.
The next major war occured in 1967, also known as the six day war. I have
family and friends who lived through the period leading up to the war, and they
thought that this was going to be the end of Israel and its Jewish citizens - the
fear was immense.
In May 1967, Egypt closed the Gulf of Aqaba to
Israeli shipping and began mobilizing its forces to attack Israel. Syria, Jordan,
Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq also mobilized and sent troops. In response, Israel
launched a strike. Starting June 5, the Israeli air force destroyed Egypt's planes on the ground.
Enabled by air superiority throughout the region, Israeli tank columns and
infantry captured the Sinai Peninsula in three days. Elsewhere, the Israelis
overran the Golan Heights, the West Bank, including the Old
City of Jerusalem, and Gaza as shown below:
Note that from 1948 to 1967 both the West Bank and Gaza were not under Israeli
administration. The West Bank was administered by Jordan, yet no Palestinian State
was created. Similarly, the Gaza strip was under
Egyptian control, yet no Palestinian State came into being. Also note that the amount of territory gained by Israel is
relatively big, specially the Sinai Peninsula (4 times the size of existing Israel).
Unfortunately, after initating another war and being defeated once again by the Israeli army, the Arab/Muslims still did not
accept the existence of Israel and wish for peace. The Khartoum Arab Summit in 1967 took place one month after
the six days war and resulted in three NOs: NO peace with
Israel, NO recognition of Israel, and NO negotiations with Israel.
The next war occured in 1973 when the Arab States attacked Israel by surprise
on the holiest day of the year for Jews: Yom Kipur. This is a day where even many
non-religious jews choose to fast as their orthodox counterparts do.
Israel won this war as well, but many Israelis lost their lives - again since no
major territory changes occured I won't show a map.
The next major change in the region occured not after a war, but after peace!
In 1978, Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty that formally
ended the state of war that had existed between them for 30 years.
The Sinai was bigger than Israel itself and contained oil reserves but in return
for Egypt's recognition of Israel's right to exist, Israel returned it
It is also interesting to note that Israel wanted to return the Gaza Strip as well
(since Egypt occupied it between 1948 and 1967), but Egypt refused.
After numerous terrorist attacks from Arafat's PLO against Israeli
civilians living in the North, Israel entered Lebanon and created a security
zone, as shown below:
During the Lebanon war, the massacre of
Sabra and Shatila
occured: a Lebanese Phalangist
militia murdered hundreds of Palestinians (estimates vary between 460 to 800 victims). click here for more details.
Israel pulled out of the security zone on May 24, 2000 - unfortunately,
this pullout was not achieved after a peace treaty with Lebanon
and Syria, but was an unilateral move on Israel's part.
For more information on the Lebanon War, check this page.
In 1991, during the Gulf War, Sadam Hussein and Iraq
fired Scud missiles on Israeli civilian centers.
Israel never retaliated.
In the beggining of the 90's the Oslo peace process between Palestinians
and Israel got underway and in the next
few years after a series of negotiations, the Palestinians living in the West
Bank and Gaza finally got some taste of independance (given to them by Israel). Although a State has not
been declared, for the first time in history an authonomy exists for Palestinians as
Another major breakthrough happened in 1994 when King Hussein, representing Jordan, and
Ytzhak Rabin, representing Israel, signed a peace treaty. This brought the number of Arab
countries that recognized Israel and now have diplomatic relations with the Jewish country
to two (Egypt and Jordan). Let's hope more will follow!
Click here to see the announcement
on Israel's gov. site or
click here to get the details
from the Jordanian's perspective.
In October of 2000 with the help of President Clinton, Palestinian Chairman Arafat
and Israel's prime minister Ehud Barak tried to reach a final agreement in Camp David.
In exchange for peace, Israel offered Arafat an independent Palestinian State, 95% of the
West Bank and Gaza and half of Jerusalem as shown below:
The Palestinian response was negative. The talks broke down because of Jerusalem and
the Palestinian right of return with no agreement
When Arafat refused Barak's offer, the Palestinians missed their second chance for an
independent Palestinian State, and decided instead to continue their armed struggle
through terrorist attacks against civilians. These attacks include random shootings against
women, children and passers-by in any street in Israel or suicide bombers
who attach kilograms of explosives to their bodies and blow themselves up in
malls or busy streets.
For a list of victims of Palestinian terrorism,
click here, and for a list of homicide bombings executed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas,
and Arafat's Al-Aksa brigades, click here.
In May 2003, the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia, released a "roadmap to peace"
between the State of Israel and the Palestinians. I quote the introduction:
The following is a performance-based and goal-driven roadmap, with clear phases, timelines,
target dates, and benchmarks aiming at progress through reciprocal steps by the two parties in the political,
security, economic, humanitarian, and institution-building fields, under the auspices of the Quartet [the United States,
European Union, United Nations, and Russia]. The destination is a final and comprehensive settlement of the
Israel-Palestinian conflict by 2005, as presented in President Bush’s speech of 24 June, and welcomed by the EU,
Russia and the UN in the 16 July and 17 September Quartet Ministerial statements.
A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism,
when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror and willing and able to build a
practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty [...]
So far, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Hamas, and Arafat's Al-Aksa brigades have rejected the roadmap and responded
with homicide bombings and the deliberate murder of Israeli women and children. It's too early to tell, but one thing
is clear: unless the Palestinians realize that such racist violence will lead them nowhere, the "roadmap" will be blocked
and its implementation will be impossible. Under these circumstances, there will be no peace, and there will be
no Palestinian State.
For the full text of the "roadmap to peace", click here.
In August 2005, Israel decided to move out all of its troops and citizens out of the Gaza strip. Removing the Jewish
communities from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria meant:
■ 42 day-care centers, 36 kindergartens, seven elementary schools, and three high schools were closed
■ 5,000 schoolchildren needed to find new schools
■ 38 synagogues were dismantled
■ 166 Israeli farmers lost their livelihoods - plus some 5,000 of their Palestinian workers
■ 48 graves in the Gush Katif Cemetery, including those of six residents murdered by terrorists, were exhumed and moved to Israel.
Disengagement cost Israel an estimated $2 billion - about 3.5 percent of the 2005 state budget.
■ The cost of family relocation alone was estimated to be nearly $1 billion. This came from an annual state budget of about $59 billion.
■ In addition, the IDF spent some $500 million to remove military bases and equipment from the Gaza Strip.
■ To cite just one example of the costs entailed, the demolition and removal of rubble from some 3,000 homes and public buildings cost an estimated $25 million.
■ In the context of Israel’s 2005 state budget, the estimated $2b. cost of disengagement was equivalent to about half the country's annual health budget or approximately one third of the budget for education.
It is important to note that Israel decided to get out of Gaza unilaterally. This was not the result of a peace treaty with the Palestinians, but was a decision by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his cabinet: they came to the conclusion that it is in Israel's interest to remove its troops and citizens from Gaza.
It took a few days for the Israeli Army and Police to remove over 9,000 civilians in 21 different towns. My thoughts were with the families moving out of Gaza and the young soldiers and policemen that had to confront them.
A map of the Israeli towns that were evacuated by
the Israeli army as part of the "Gaza Disengagement plan"
Click here for more information on the "Gaza Disengagement Plan", or click here for an article that shows why it was a good idea for Israel to move out of the Gaza strip.