March 31, 2002
Israel—A Time Line.

Time for a history refresher.

In 1917, Lord Balfour, in his capacity as British Foreign Secretary, wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild, leader of the Zionist movement. This letter became known as the Balfour Declaration, and is the first governmental document supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland.

After the first World War, the League of Nations partitioned the Ottoman Empire, and assigned mandates to various nations (Italy, Britain, France) to cover the middle east region. Britain was assigned a mandate over Palestine, a region that covers present-day Israel and Jordan, plus the Golan Heights region (claimed by Syria). The LoN mandate specifically addresses the goal of restoring a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Emir Faisal, leader of the Arabic faction that had overthrown the Ottomans, signed an agreement with Chaim Weizman and other Zionist leaders at the 1919 Paris Peace conference. “Mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people,” it said, “and realizing that the surest means of working out the consummation of their national aspirations s through the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab states and Palestine.” Furthermore, the agreement looked to the fulfillment of the Balfour Declaration and called for all necessary measures “ encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil.”

The cooperation was to be short-lived, however, as strains began to appear in the relationship within 18 years. A group of Arabic leaders began to protest Jewish advances into the region, and after three years of rioting, the British decided to limit Jewish immigration to a small portion of Palestine, the area west of the Jordan River.

In 1947, the United Nations called for an end to the British Mandate, and began looking at ways to establish a Jewish homeland. (The Holocaust in Europe drove home a need for such a state). 15 UN representatives debated the issue—11 called for the creation of two separate nations, 3 called for a unitary state with Arab and Jewish provinces, and one nation abstained. A partition plan was drawn up, based solely on population. Jerusalem was in international city, not under the control of either Arabs or Jews. The plan was not wholly satisfactory to either group, but the Jews agreed to the partition, The Arabs refused.

While the negotiations dragged on, Britain announced that they were withdrawing their administration of the Mandate on May 15, 1948. The day before the British left, Jewish leaders announced the formation of the State of Israel. Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan invaded. The Israelis were able to repulse the invasion, and by the time hostilities had ended, were in control of more territory than they had under the UN partition plan.

At this point, events began to take a sinister turn. Jordan annexed the West Bank in 1950, and began destroying or desecrating dozens of synagogues. Further, hundreds of thousands of Jews living in Arab countries found themselves targets for hatred and contempt; these Jews would form a large majority of the immigrants into Israel over the next few years of the nation’s existence.

It’s interesting to note that during this period, when Egypt and Jordan controlled the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, no mention was made of establishing a Palestinian state in these territories. If such a request had been made, however, it is unlikely that it would have been considered.

In 1951, Egypt began a new economic blockade with the Suez Canal, refusing to allow ships bound to and from Israel to use the canal. Egyptian President Nasser ignored UN resolutions to open the canal to all shipping for several years. He ultimately nationalized the canal in 1956. After Egypt blockaded Eilat, Israel’s port on the Red Sea, and its major trade point with Asia and Iran, the Israelis attacked, with assistance from France and Britain. They captured much of the Sinai, all the way to the canal and to Sharm el-Sheikh on the southern tip of the peninsula. Another cease-fire led to the return of the peninsula to the Egyptians, and the installation of a UN peacekeeping force.

In 1967, Egypt and Syria began a massive buildup on Israel’s borders. Syria stepped up its attacks on Jewish settlements from its fortifications on the Golan Heights, while Egypt ejected the UN peacekeeping force on the Sinai and blockaded Eilat again. Israel mobilized its forces, and notified the Jordanians that they would not be attacked unless they initiated hostilities. Unfortunately, Jordan attacked, and Israel fought back against them as well. Six days later, when a cease-fire was negotiated, Israel controlled the Sinai, the Golan Heights, all of Jerusalem, and the West Bank (or Judea and Samaria, as they are also known).

UN Resolution 242 called for a “return of lands occupied by Israel” during the war. Note that the word “all” is NOT included in the resolution; this was not an oversight, but an intentional omission. The Arab countries lobbied long and hard to include “all” but were not successful. Negotiations dragged on for six years, with no change in the views of the entities involved.

In 1973, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon again attacked Israel, with troops and weapons from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Jordan, and Sudan. The attack began on Yom Kippur, the holiest day for Jews. Israel was on the defensive for the first two days, but recovered quickly and was prepared to destroy the Egyptian Third Army (which was cut off and surrounded) when the UN-brokered cease-fire took effect.

Since that time, Egypt has made peace with the Israelis (which resulted in the return of the Sinai peninsula again) and Jordan signed a peace agreement with Israel as well, which resulted in Israel returning a small portion of the West Bank to Jordan. Much of the rest of the West Bank was ceded to the Palestinian Authority during the Oslo peace talks and the Wye River Accords during the late 1990s.

Thus endeth the history lesson; I am sure that there will be replies if anyone is actually reading this…

Edited 6 April 2002 to correct error regarding Jordan's status in the 1973 war. Thanks to Geoff M. for the feedback.

posted on March 31, 2002 12:51 PM


Thanks for the history lesson.


posted by Myria on April 1, 2002 11:54 AM

Very nice summation. Can you elaborate on why Israel is expected to provide a homeland for the Palestinians when she is surrounded by Arab countries with much more land?

posted by RB on April 1, 2002 04:21 PM

Can you elaborate on why Israel is expected to provide a homeland for the Palestinians when she is surrounded by Arab countries with much more land?

I cannot. My belief is that Jordan *is* Palestine, and therefore should accept all the refugees from the wars.

Of course, the Arabs have hung Arafat (and the Palestinians) out to dry for 50 years; nobody wants to deal with them, but all the Arab countries expect Israel to absorb all of the costs (and dangers) of dealing with the descendants of 700,000 displaced persons.

posted by scutum on April 1, 2002 07:03 PM

Because the idea has never been peace. The idea has always been about biding time until Israel can be destroyed.

posted by Jeff G. on April 1, 2002 08:13 PM

I've read with interest your brief review (of which I learned via VodkaPundit). I thought a comment is needed as to one major landmark which was neglected to my mind, if I may - the Arab summit, which took place at Khartoum, after the six day war (1967), in which the Arab leaders decided and declared of their unanimous formal position towards Israel, known as "the three no's": no negotiations; no peace agreement; no recognition.
That was not only a major historical and political event in the sequence of the events you mentioned, which also clearly affected the evolution of the conflict (inter alia, causing the abandonment of the Israeli government decision to trade the territories just occupied, for a lasting peace agreement with its neighbors). It had a long and lasting impact on the concept and perception of the conflict, as they evolved in our region, certainly as they evolved in Israel. And the rest, as they say, is history, and alas, a very bloody and painful reality.

posted by Michal, Israel on April 1, 2002 08:33 PM


Thanks for the input. I had read about the summit while doing the research for this post, but for some reason the significance did not hit me.

This refusal to recognize the right of Israel to exist is one of the reasons Abdullah's proposal is a farce; until the various nations Recognize Israel, that country has no reason to sit and discuss ANYTHING with them. Recognition comes before negotiations, IMNSHO.

posted by scutum on April 1, 2002 09:47 PM

Nice historical review, and certainly more balanced than I would write, but I say that as one who read "Exodus" (Leon Uris, not the Bible) at age 13 and has been rabidly pro-Israeli ever since. Oddly, "Trinity", also by Uris, but read five years later, did not spark a similar "Brits Out" fervor, despite my Irish ancestry. Must be an impressionable age, and I am still very pro-hobbit as well.

Things worth adding:

We have all been told that Menachem Begin (former Prime Minister) was an ex-terrorist. The Jewish terrorism against the British prior to 1948 is worth describing.

Also, the 1970 civil war between the PLO and the King of Jordan is quite topical today. In today's Times, Sharon tells Safire that Jordan will not accept a Palestinian state bordering Jordan.


posted by Tom on April 1, 2002 09:57 PM

Well, I'm glad you find my comment helpful in shedding some light on the subject (some more insights could be found at the "israelinsider", not well known, but a worthy news site in English). As for the current, practical conclusions you draw with regard the Saudi initiative, I'm not sure I necessarily agree, and to my mind its grave problems lie elsewhere (f.e. the no-comment on the way it was rejected openly by Hizballa's - who btw fired tonight at the northern Galilee, for the first time since IDF left all of the Lebanese territory). But that's a whole different issue, and I don't think it would be wise to start a discussion about it here, while commenting as to the historical chronology of the conflict (maybe in another entry?).
As for Tom's comment, suggesting you should add information about the "Jewish terrorism against the british prior 1948", I'd say - by all means. provided, of course, one wouldn't neglect mentioning how exactly the Brits ruled this land at that era - i.e. refusing to let in and sending back (or at best, arresting in home-made camps), Jews who escaped the Holocaust in Europe, not only after but also d-u-r-i-n-g the ww2; failing to defend the local Jewish population from the local Arabs' terror; etc.
The long and winding road. sigh.

posted by Michal, Israel on April 2, 2002 02:59 AM

A pretty good succinct summary, but with regards to the Yom Kippur War, Jordan didn't really invade Israel. In fact, King Hussein was caught by surprise but did help bolster the Syrian army with a couple of his own units.

posted by Geoff M on April 3, 2002 09:37 AM

You're right. should have put Jordan in the "with troops from" section.

posted by scutum on April 3, 2002 06:10 PM

Thank you for creating this page. I sat down tonight with my curiosity and cigarettes and was determined to understand better the situation. Most sites I found were decidedly biased or compromised. I did not get the impression here that there was any of that, only a comprehensive timeline, not compromised by 'omission'. Thanks again.

posted by Kurt on December 16, 2002 09:17 AM

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