Archive for July, 2014

The Israeli-Arab Conflict

Central Connecticut State Univeristy

The Israeli-Arab Conflict

A look at the major events in the conflict since the Second World War


Daniel F Whalen


A brief look at the two major wars, the founding of the PLO, and the peace process

Throughout the course of history no area in the world has seen so much strife and conflict as the area in which the nation of Israel now sits. Since the Hittites this region has seen more conflict than any other. Most recently the conflict stems from two parties, or ethnic groups, that want the land to be their own country. These two groups, the Palestinians and the Israelis, claim this region as their homeland. In more recent times the conflict between the two groups flared up shortly after the end of the Second World War. In the conflict there have seemed at times that peace is at hand, but this peace never amounts to a sustained peace.

After the end of the Second World War there were a great number of displaced Jews from Europe, most of whom had survived the horrors of Nazi occupation and the concentration camps. Without an actually country of their own the Jews tried to find a country that would allow them residence within their borders. With not result they decided to settle in what they consider their historical homeland, which was known as Palestine at that time. This land area of Palestine is where in the Bible the lands of Judah, Canaan, and Israel sat. To many religions this is the land of Abraham, but for the Jews it is the land of David the Biblical king of Judah and then the Kingdom of Israel. This would be the claim the Jewish people would use as for the founding of modern Israel.

The Israeli-Arab Conflict as it is today started in or about the year 1948 when the Jewish Provisional Government declared its independence when the British would start their withdrawal after the end of the British Mandate for Palestine[1]. For centuries prior to World War One this region was under the control of the Ottoman Empire and with the Ottoman defeat in the war the region that is modern day Israel and Jordan was given the British to administer. Britain however grew wary of the situation in what was then Palestine and found its self caught in a three-way conflict between them and the Jewish and Arab populations[2]. In the year 1947 Britain handed over the mandate to the newly formed United Nations[3]. It was with this that the United Nations General Assembly voted to divide Palestine into two states, UN Resolution 181, one under the control of Palestinians and the other under the control of Jews[4]. This would leave Jerusalem under international control however[5]. With the United States and the Soviet Union voting for this partition along with parts of South America and most of Europe[6] it would seem that there should not be a problem. However all of the Arab nations that were members of the United Nations at that time voted against the resolution[7]. Britain however abstained from the voting, most likely due to the past mandate. It is suggested since then that the reason the Europeans voted in favor of this because of guilt over the Holocaust. This is possible because most of Europe and the United States did look the other way when the Nazi regime rounded up the Jews for forced labor and death camps. Whatever the reason the European powers had for voting for this they did not foresee the level of violence that would overcome the region.

The Jewish Government at the time would accept the Resolution, for a number of reasons but primarily for strategic reasons[8]. The Palestinians rejected because the unbalanced distribution of land. On May 14th Israel declares its independence thus forming the State of Israel. It would be the next day that five Arab nations, Egypt, Transjordan (present day Jordan), Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, would invade Israel in support of the Palestinians and the Palestinian militia[9]. One would think the onslaught of Arabs would be too much to the Israeli forces to handle, but it is important to keep in mind that most of the Jews in Israel came from Europe.   They had experience fighting the Nazis in resistance movements, which is invaluable military experience. Many had been trained by the British; they were also much better armed and motivated fighting for their new country[10]. Many of the Arab countries prior to this were colonies to various European powers, for example Egypt was a colony of Britain, but did not receive the level of training as compared to European armies. The exact reason why the Arab countries would reject the Resolution and invade the newly declared Jewish state is unknown, but there was plenty of hostility between the Jews and Arabs prior to this because the Jews formed armed mobs and militias that went about “cleansing” the land of Palestinian towns and villages[11]. Cleansing is a term used the Israeli military, it means more or less to massacre[12]. A lesson they learned from the Nazis. This hostility would continue and involve the whole region.

There would be relative peace after this brief war. The peace, or calm in the action, would last for the better part of two decades. That is not to say that both sides, the Israelis and Arabs got along.   Actions would be taken by the Arabs to press the Palestinian issue. The most notable of actions was the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in year 1964. The PLO is more or less an umbrella, or bloc, organization containing smaller Palestinian organizations brought together as one larger group. For the first few years after it’s founding the PLO was mainly under the direction of the Arab League[13]. The original doctrine of the PLO was to drive the “Jews into the sea.[14]” This is a bold statement for an organization that did not have a standing army or funds to arm an army. This maybe why over time the PLO would become a loose collection of political and more associated with terrorist organizations. It would not be until Yasser Arafat takes control of the PLO that the PLO sees some political success. Today one hardly hears of the PLO.

Perhaps the most important part in this conflict that has had long term effects that resonate to today was the Six Day War in June of 1967. This was a quick war in which Israel military, Israeli Defense Force (IDF), dispatched of the Arab armies with ease. Israel attacks Egypt, Syria, and Jordan for reasons known to them. By the end of the six days of battle Israel close to tripled the size of its territory. From Egypt Israel seizes the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank for Jordan[15]. It was said in peace negations Egypt would regain the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights would be returned to Syria[16], however Israel would remain in control of these territories along with the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The Gaza Strip and West Bank would become the strongholds for the Palestinians; almost like the ghettos the Jews were forced to live in during the Second World War. It can be said that the one thing the Jewish people took out of the Holocaust was how to isolate people they wanted to have limited contact with.

Another war of importance in this conflict would be the Yom Kipper War fought in October of 1973. Much in a the way many feel the Second World War was a extension of the First World War, the Yom Kipper War is seen as a extension of the Six Day War. With Iraq taking the place of Jordan, the belligerents remained the same other wise. This war would start with an Egyptian invasion of the Israeli occupied Sinai Peninsula. With great success the Egyptians would halt their advance and would dig in to hold their positions, leaving Syria to invade from the North from the Golan Heights. Once the IDF regained its wits it repulsed the invading armies and drove deep into Syria and Egypt. These two crushing defeats for the Arab nations at the hands of the IDF are nothing short of embarrassing. It is clear that there is not a balance of power in this region with the Arab armies being routed all the time.

Peace in the Israeli-Arab conflict is possible, but it will come at a high price for all those involved. The fighting has gone on for such a long time it is only natural that the belligerents grow disgusted of it. There are renewed calls for a two state solution to the conflict.   From all outward signs the majority of Palestinians seem to favor that. There are issues that need to be resolved first and issues that stand in the way. An important issue that stands in the way is demographics[17]. There are an estimated five millions Jewish people in Israel and the occupied territories, with about 1.3 millions Arabs in Israel and an estimated 4 million in the Gaza Strip and West Bank alone[18].   What makes this an issue is that the infra-structure for the Palestinians to support so many people in a small amount of space just is not able to do it. In news footage of the Gaza Strip and West Bank the Palestinians live in near squalor conditions. The occupied territories are designed now to keep the Palestine’s in them and out of Israel, similar to the ghetto system used by the Nazis.

Another issue that has to be resolved is the question of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and the IDF withdrawing from the occupied territories. Even moderate voices within the Israeli government believe that the Jewish settlements should be abandoned and the IDF’s presence in the occupied territories should come to and end[19]. Doing this would not only be symbolic, but would show the Arab governments that the Israelis are willing to live peacefully. This would also put pressure on the Arab countries to live peacefully and not be the aggressor.

Lastly is the issue of American involvement in the region. Many around the world view the United States as a strong supporter of Israel. The United States needs to settle on its foreign policy, oil policy, and strategic polices for the region before anything between the Israelis and Arabs can be settled[20]. Since the 1991 Gulf War the United States has been involved in the geo-politics of the Middle East. Also with the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States only went farther in destabilizing the region. Since that invasion Iran has stepped up anti-Israeli rhetoric, calling for an end of the state of Israel.

Chances for peace in the Israeli-Arab Conflict seem to be fleeting, although many people are hopeful that peace can be achieved. There was the symbol of future peace when Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands at the White House while Bill Clinton was President in 1993 when both accepted the Oslo Accords. In the United States and around the world the footage of this must have been shown a millions times. But when there are symbols of peace they seem to be false or halfhearted attempts at peace. The problem they will continue to have is that on both sides each new generation is exposed to greater violence. Once the violence can end peace will be closer.


Bard, Mitchell Geoffrey. Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict. 3 ed. New York: American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (Aice), 2006.

“Dis73a03 Yom Kippur War.” USC – University of Southern California. (accessed May 10, 2010).

Drummond, Dorothy W. Holy Land, Whose Land? Modern Dilemma, Ancient Roots (2nd ed. Revised). 2nd ed. terre haute: fairhurst press, 2004.

Farsoun, Samih K., and Christina E. Zacharia. Palestine and the Palestinians. Boulder: Westview Pr (Trd), 1997.

Gopin, Marc. Holy War, Holy Peace: How Religion Can Bring Peace to the Middle East. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2002.


Herzog, Chaim. Heroes of Israel: Profiles of Jewish Courage. 1st ed ed. New York – Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1989.

LeBor, Adam. “Zion and the Arabs.” World Policy Journal 24, no. Winter 2007/2008 (2007): 61-75.

“Our Documents – Press Release Announcing U.S. Recognition of Israel (1948).” Welcome to (accessed May 1, 2010).

Qumsiyeh, Mazin B.. Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle. London: Pluto Press, 2004.

“START | Terrorist Organization Profile.” START | Home. (accessed May 1, 2010).

“UN General Assembly Resolution 181.” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (accessed April 21, 2010).



[2] World Policy Journal p.64

[3] Ibid p.64


[5] ibid


[7] ibid



[10] World Policy Journal p. 66

[11] Sharing the Land of Canaan

[12] ibid

[13] umd

[14] umd

[15] Colorado

[16] Chaim Herzog, Heroes of Israel p. 253

[17] Sharing the Land

[18] Ibid p. 198

[19] Holy Land, Whose Land

[20] ibid