Israel is roughly located on the site of the ancient kingdoms
Israel and Judah. The area (also known as Land of
Israel and as
Palestine) is the birthplace of the
Hebrew language, the place that
Hebrew Bible was composed and the birthplace of
Christianity. It contains sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity,
Druze and the Bahá'í Faith.
The Land of
Israel has come under the sway of various empires and has
been home to a variety of ethnicities, but was predominantly Jewish
from roughly 1,000 years before the
Common Era (BCE) until the 3rd
century of the
Common Era (CE).
The adoption of
Christianity by the
Roman Empire in the 4th century
led to a Christian majority which lasted until the 7th century when
the area was conquered by the Arab Empire. It gradually became
predominantly Moslem until the
Crusades between 1096 and 1291, when it
was the focal point of conflict between
Christianity and Islam. From
the 13th Century it was mainly Moslem with
Arabic as the dominant
language and was first part of the Syrian province of the Mamluk
Sultanate and then part of the
Ottoman Empire until the British
conquest in 1917.
A Jewish national movement, Zionism, emerged in the late-19th century
(partially in response to growing anti-Semitism) and
immigration to the Land of Israel) increased. After World
Ottoman territories in the Levant came under British and French
control and the
League of Nations
League of Nations granted the British a Mandate to
rule Palestine which was to be turned into a Jewish National Home. A
Arab nationalism also claimed rights over the former Ottoman
territories and sought to prevent Jewish migration into Palestine,
leading to growing Arab–Jewish tensions. Israeli independence in
1948 was marked by massive migration of
Jews from Europe, a Jewish
exodus from Arab and Muslim countries to Israel, and of Arabs from
Israel, followed by the Arab–Israeli conflict. About 43% of the
Jews live in
Israel today, the largest Jewish community in the
Since about 1970, the
United States has become the principal ally of
Israel. In 1979 an uneasy Egypt–
Israel Peace Treaty was signed,
based on the
Camp David Accords. In 1993,
Israel signed Oslo I Accord
with the Palestine Liberation Organization, followed by establishment
Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian National Authority and in 1994 Israel–Jordan
peace treaty was signed. Despite efforts to finalize the peace
agreement, the conflict continues to play a major role in Israeli and
international political, social and economic life.
The economy of
Israel was initially primarily socialist and the
country dominated by social democratic parties until the 1970s. Since
then the Israeli economy has gradually moved to capitalism and a free
market economy, partially retaining the social welfare system.
2 Ancient times
2.2 Early Israelites
Hebrew texts and religion
Israel and Judah
3 Babylonian, Persian, Ptolemaic and Seleucid rule (586–135 BCE)
Hasmonean dynasty (135–47 BCE)
5 Roman rule (64 BCE–390 CE)
Herodian dynasty and Roman province
5.2 Jewish–Roman wars
5.3 After the Jewish Defeat
5.4 Rome adopts Christianity
6 Byzantine rule (390–634)
7 Caliphates (634–1099)
Crusades and Mongols (1099–1291)
Mamluk rule (1291–1517)
10 Ottoman rule (1517–1917)
10.1 Old Yishuv
10.2 Birth of Zionism
11 British Mandate of Palestine (1920–1948)
11.1 First years
11.2 Increase of Jewish immigration
11.3 Arab revolt and the White Paper
War II and the Holocaust
11.5 Illegal Jewish immigration and insurgency
11.6 United Nations Partition Plan
11.7 Civil War
12 State of
War of Independence
12.2 Armistice Agreements
12.3 1948–1955: Ben-Gurion I; Sharett
12.4 1955–1963: Ben-Gurion II
12.5 1963–1969: Eshkol
12.6 1969–1974: Meir
12.7 1974–1977: Rabin I
12.8 1977–1983: Begin
12.9 1983–1992: Shamir I; Peres I; Shamir II
12.10 1992–1996: Rabin II; Peres II
12.11 1996–2001: Netanyahu I; Barak
12.12 2001–2006: Sharon
12.13 2006–2009: Olmert
12.14 2009–present: Netanyahu II
14 See also
16 Further reading
17 External links
Further information: Prehistory of the Levant
Es Skhul cave
Between 2.6 and 0.9 million years ago, at least four episodes of
hominine dispersal from
Africa to the Levant are known, each
culturally distinct. The oldest evidence of early humans in the
territory of modern Israel, dating to 1.5 million years ago, was found
Ubeidiya near the Sea of Galilee. The flint tool artefacts have
been discovered at Yiron, the oldest stone tools found anywhere
outside Africa. Other groups include 1.4 million years old Acheulean
industry, the Bizat Ruhama group and Gesher Bnot Yaakov.
In the Carmel mountain range at el-Tabun, and Es Skhul, Neanderthal
and early modern human remains were found, including the skeleton of a
Neanderthal female, named Tabun I, which is regarded as one of the
most important human fossils ever found. The excavation at el-Tabun
produced the longest stratigraphic record in the region, spanning
600,000 or more years of human activity, from the Lower Paleolithic
to the present day, representing roughly a million years of human
evolution. Other notable
Paleolithic sites include caves Qesem and
Manot. The oldest fossils of anatomically modern humans found outside
Africa are the Skhul and Qafzeh hominids, who lived in northern Israel
120,000 years ago. Around 10th millennium BCE, the Natufian
culture existed in the area.
Main article: History of ancient
Israel and Judah
Map of the ancient Near East
Canaan and Djahy
During the 2nd millennium BCE, Canaan, part of which later became
known as Israel, was dominated by the
New Kingdom of Egypt
New Kingdom of Egypt from c.1550
to c. 1180.
Main articles: Hebrews, Israelites, and Biblical judges
See also: Origins of Judaism, Biblical archaeology, and The Bible and
Merneptah Stele. While alternative translations exist, the
majority of biblical archaeologists translate a set of hieroglyphs as
"Israel," representing the first instance of the name in the
The first record of the name
Israel (as ysrỉꜣr) occurs in the
Merneptah stele, erected for Egyptian Pharaoh
Merneptah (son of Ramses
II) c. 1209 BCE, "
Israel is laid waste and his seed is not."
William G. Dever sees this "Israel" in the central highlands as a
cultural and probably political entity, more an ethnic group rather
than an organized state.
Ancestors of the
Israelites may have included Semites native to Canaan
and the Sea Peoples. McNutt says, "It is probably safe to assume
that sometime during
Iron Age I a population began to identify itself
as 'Israelite'", differentiating itself from the
such markers as the prohibition of intermarriage, an emphasis on
family history and genealogy, and religion.
Villages had populations of up to 300 or 400, which lived by
farming and herding, and were largely self-sufficient; economic
interchange was prevalent. Writing was known and available for
recording, even in small sites. The archaeological evidence
indicates a society of village-like centres, but with more limited
resources and a small population.
Hebrew texts and religion
The first use of grapheme-based writing originated in the area,
probably among Canaanite peoples resident in Egypt. This evolved into
Phoenician alphabet from which all modern alphabetical writing
systems are descended. The
Paleo-Hebrew alphabet was one of the first
to develop and evidence of its use exists from about 1000 BCE (see
the Gezer calendar), the language spoken was probably Biblical Hebrew.
Monotheism, the belief in a single all-powerful law-giving God is
thought to have evolved among the
Hebrew speakers gradually, over the
next few centuries, from a number of separate cults, leading to
the first versions of the religion now known as Judaism.
Israel and Judah
Main articles: Kingdom of
Israel (united monarchy), Kingdom of Israel
(Samaria), and Kingdom of Judah
City of David
City of David in Jerusalem
Hebrew Bible describes constant warfare between the
the Philistines, whose capital was Gaza. The Bible states that King
David founded a dynasty of kings and that his son
Solomon built a
Temple. Both David and
Solomon are widely referenced in Jewish,
Christian and Islamic texts. Standard Biblical chronology suggests
that around 930 BCE, following the death of Solomon, the kingdom split
into a southern
Kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Judah and a northern Kingdom of Israel. The
Books of Kings
Books of Kings states that soon after the split Pharoh
"Shishaq" invaded the country, plundering Jerusalem. An inscription
over a gate at Karnak in Egypt recounts such an invasion by Pharoh
The archaeological evidence for this period is extremely sparse,
leading some scholars to suggest that this section of the
(which includes texts written two centuries later) exaggerates the
importance of David and Solomon. The earliest references to the
"House of David" have been found at two sites, the
Tel Dan Stele
Tel Dan Stele and
Mesha Stele (a Moabite stele, now in the Louvre) which describes
an 840 BCE invasion of
Moab by Omri, King of Israel. Jehu, son of
Omri, is referenced by Assyrian records (now in the British Museum).
Modern Archaeological findings show that Omri's capital city, Samaria
was large and Finkelstein has suggested that the Biblical account of
Solomon are an attempt by later Judean rulers to ascribe
Israel's successes to their dynasty.
Israel and Judah
In 854 BCE, an alliance between
Israel and Ben Hadad II of
Aram Damascus managed to repulse the incursions of the Assyrians, with
a victory at the Battle of Qarqar. (see the Kurkh Monoliths). The
Israel was destroyed by Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III
around 750 BCE. The Philistine kingdom was also destroyed. The
Assyrians sent most of the northern Israelite kingdom into exile, thus
creating the "Lost Tribes of Israel". The Samaritans claim to be
descended from survivors of the Assyrian conquest. An Israelite revolt
(724–722 BCE) was crushed after the siege and capture of
the Assyrian king Sargon II. Sargon's son, Sennacherib, tried and
failed to conquer Judah. Assyrian records say he levelled 46 walled
cities and besieged Jerusalem, leaving after receiving extensive
Modern scholars believe that refugees from the destruction of Israel
moved to Judah during the rule of King
Hezekiah (ruler from 715–686
BCE), massively expanding
Jerusalem and leading to construction of the
Siloam Tunnel which could provide water during a siege. The
refugees brought with them new religious ideas which led, under King
Josiah (ruler from 641 - 619), to the writing of the books of
Deuteronomy, Joshua and to the accounts of the kingship of David and
Solomon in the book of Kings. The books are known as
considered to be a major key step in the emergence of
Judah. They were written at a time that
Assyria was weakened by the
Babylon and may be a committing to text of pre-writing
Babylonian, Persian, Ptolemaic and Seleucid rule (586–135 BCE)
Main articles: Yehud (Babylonian province), Yehud Medinata, and
The route of the exiles to Babylon
In 586 BCE King
Nebuchadnezzar II of
Babylon conquered Judah.
According to the
Hebrew Bible, he destroyed
Solomon's Temple and
Jews to Babylon. The defeat was also recorded by the
Babylonians (see the Babylonian Chronicles). Babylonian and
Biblical sources suggest that the Judean king, Jehoiachin, switched
allegiances between the Egyptians and the Babylonians and that
invasion was a punishment for allying with Babylon's principal rival,
Egypt. The exiled
Jews may have been restricted to the elite.
Jehoiachin was eventually released by the Babylonians (see
Jehoiachin's Rations Tablets) and according to both the Bible and the
Talmud, the Judean royal family (the Davidic line) continued as head
of the exile in
Babylon (the Exilarch).
Obverse of Yehud silver coin
In 538 BCE, Cyrus the Great of
Babylon and took over
its empire. Cyrus issued a proclamation granting subjugated nations
(including the people of Judah) religious freedom (for the original
text see the Cyrus Cylinder). According to the
Hebrew Bible 50,000
Judeans, led by Zerubabel, returned to Judah and rebuilt the temple. A
second group of 5,000, led by
Ezra and Nehemiah, returned to Judah in
456 BCE although non-
Jews wrote to Cyrus to try to prevent their
return. Modern scholars believe that the final
Hebrew versions of the
Books of Kings
Books of Kings date from this period, that the returning
Israelites adopted an
Aramaic script (also known as the Ashuri
alphabet), which they brought back from Babylon; this is the current
Hebrew script. The
Hebrew Calendar closely resembles the Babylonian
calendar and probably dates from this period.
In 333 BCE, the Macedonian ruler
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great defeated Persia
and conquered the region. Sometime thereafter, the first translation
Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, was begun in Alexandria. After
Alexander's death, his generals fought over the territory he had
conquered. Judah became the frontier between the
Seleucid Empire and
Ptolemaic Egypt, eventually becoming part of the
Seleucid Empire in
200 BCE at the battle of Panium.
Hasmonean dynasty (135–47 BCE)
In the 2nd century BCE, Seleucid ruler
Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to
Judaism in favour of Hellenistic religion. This provoked the
Maccabean Revolt led by
Judas Maccabeus (whose victory
is celebrated in the Jewish festival of Hanukkah). The Books of the
Maccabees describe the uprising and the end of Greek rule. A Jewish
party called the
Hasideans opposed both Hellenism and the revolt but
eventually gave their support to the Maccabees. Modern interpretations
see the initial stages of the uprising as a civil war between
Hellenized and orthodox forms of Judaism.
Portion of the Temple Scroll, one of the
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls written by
Hasmonean dynasty of (Jewish) priest-kings ruled
Judea with the
Essenes as the principal Jewish social
movements. As part of the struggle against Hellenistic civilization,
Simeon ben Shetach established the first schools
based around meeting houses. This led to Rabbinical Judaism.
Justice was administered by the Sanhedrin, which was a Rabbincal
assembly and law court whose leader was known as the Nasi. The Nasi's
religious authority gradually superseded that of the Temple's high
priest (under the Hasmoneans this was the king).
The Hasmoneans continually extended their control over much of the
region. In 125 BCE the
John Hyrcanus subjugated
Edom and forcibly converted the population to Judaism. Hyrcanus'
Alexander Jannaeus established good relations with the Roman
Republic, however there was growing tension between
Sadducces and a conflict over the succession to Janneus, in which the
warring parties invited foreign intervention on their behalf.
Roman rule (64 BCE–390 CE)
Further information: History of the
Jews in the Roman Empire
In 64 BCE the Roman general Pompey conquered Syria and intervened in
Hasmonean civil war in Jerusalem. During the siege of Alexandria
in 47 BCE, the lives of
Julius Caesar and his protege
saved by 3,000 Jewish troops sent by King
Hyrcanus II and commanded by
Antipater, whose descendants Caesar made kings of Judea.
Herodian dynasty and Roman province
Main articles: Herodian dynasty, Herodian kingdom, Herodian Tetrarchy,
Judea (Roman province)
From 37 BCE to 6 CE, the Herodian dynasty, Jewish-Roman client kings,
descended from Antipater, ruled Judea.
Herod the Great
Herod the Great considerably
enlarged the temple (see Herod's Temple), making it one of the largest
religious structures in the world. Despite its fame, it was in this
period that Rabbinical Judaism, led by Hillel the Elder, began to
assume popular prominence over the Temple priesthood. The Jewish
Jerusalem was granted special permission not to display an
effigy of the emperor, becoming the only religious structure in the
Roman Empire that did not do so.
Special dispensation was granted for
Jewish citizens of the
Roman Empire to pay a tax to the temple.
Judea a Roman province in 6 CE, deposing the last Jewish
king, Herod Archelaus, and appointing a Roman governor. There was a
small revolt against Roman taxation led by
Judas of Galilee and over
the next decades tensions grew between the Greco-Roman and Judean
population centered on attempts to place effigies of the Emperor
Caligula in Synagogues and in the Jewish temple.
Jesus was born in the last years of Herod's rule, probably in the
Judean city of Bethlehem.
Jesus is thought to have been a Galilean
Jewish reformer (from Nazareth), and was executed in
Jerusalem by the
Pontius Pilate between 25 and 35 CE. All his key
followers, the Twelve Apostles, were
Jews including Paul the Apostle
(5–67 CE) who took critical steps towards creating a new religion,
Jesus as the "Son of God". In the year 50 CE, the Council of
Jerusalem led by Paul, decided to abandon the Jewish requirement of
circumcision and the Torah, creating a form of
accessible to non-
Jews and with a more universal notion of God.
Another Jewish follower, Peter is believed to have become the first
In 64 CE, the Temple High Priest
Joshua ben Gamla introduced a
religious requirement for Jewish boys to learn to read from the age of
six. Over the next few hundred years this requirement became steadily
more ingrained in Jewish tradition.
Jewish–Roman wars and Syria Palaestina
Jerusalem (70 CE)
In 66 CE, the
Judea rose in revolt against Rome, naming their
new state as "Israel". The events were described by the Jewish
leader and historian Josephus, including the defence of Jotapata, the
Jerusalem (69–70 CE) and the desperate last stand at Masada
Eleazar ben Yair (72–73 CE).
Josephus estimated that over a million people died in the siege of
Jerusalem. The Temple and most of
Jerusalem was destroyed. During the
Jewish revolt, most Christians, at this time a sub-sect of Judaism,
removed themselves from Judea. The rabbinical/
Pharisee movement led by
Yochanan ben Zakai, who opposed the
Sadducee temple priesthood, made
peace with Rome and survived. After the war
Jews continued to be taxed
in the Fiscus Judaicus, which was used to fund a temple to Jupiter. A
victory arch erected in Rome can still be seen today.
Tensions and attacks on
Jews around the
Roman Empire led to a massive
Jewish uprising against Rome from 115 to 117.
Jews in Libya, Egypt,
Cyprus and Mesopotamia fought against Rome. This conflict was
accompanied by large-scale massacres of both sides. Cyprus was so
severely depopulated that new settlers were imported and
from living there.
In 131, the Emperor
Jerusalem "Aelia Capitolina" and
constructed a Temple of Jupiter on the site of the former Jewish
Jews were banned from living in
Jerusalem itself (a ban that
persisted until the Arab conquest), and the Roman province, until then
known as Iudaea Province, was renamed Palaestina, no other revolt led
to a province being renamed. The names "Palestine" (in English)
and "Filistin" (in Arabic) are derived from this.
From 132 to 136, the Jewish leader
Simon Bar Kokhba
Simon Bar Kokhba led another major
revolt against the Romans, again renaming the country "Israel"
(see Bar Kochba Revolt coinage). The Bar-Kochba revolt probably caused
more trouble for the Romans than the better documented revolt of
70. Christians refused to participate in the revolt and from this
Christianity as a separate religion. The
revolt was eventually crushed by Emperor
Hadrian himself. During the
Bar Kokhba revolt
Bar Kokhba revolt a rabbinical assembly decided which books could be
regarded as part of the
Hebrew Bible: the
Jewish apocrypha and
Christian books were excluded. As a result, the original text of
Hebrew texts, including the
Books of Maccabees were lost (Greek
A rabbi of this period, Simeon bar Yochai, is regarded as the author
of the Zohar, the foundational text for Kabbalistic thought. However,
modern scholars believe it was written in Medieval Spain.
After the Jewish Defeat
After suppressing the Bar Kochba revolt, the Romans exiled the
Judea, but not of
Galilee and permitted a hereditary Rabbinical
Patriarch (from the House of Hillel, based in Galilee) to represent
Jews in dealings with the Romans. The most famous of these was
Judah haNasi who is credited with compiling the final version of the
Mishnah (a massive body of Jewish religious texts interpreting the
Bible) and with strengthening the educational demands of
requiring that illiterate
Jews be treated as outcasts. As a result,
Jews may have converted to Christianity. Jewish
seminaries, such as those at
Bet Shearim continued to
produce scholars and the best of these became members of the
Sanhedrin, which was located first at
Tzippori and later at
Tiberias. Before the Bar-Kochba uprising, an estimated 2/3 of the
population of Gallilee and 1/3 of the coastal region were Jewish.
In the Galillee, many Synagogues have been found dating from this
period. However, persecution and the economic crisis that affected the
Roman empire in the 3rd century led to further Jewish migration from
Syria Palaestina to the more tolerant Persian Sassanid Empire, where a
prosperous Jewish community with extensive seminaries existed in the
area of Babylon.
Rome adopts Christianity
Early in the 4th century, the Emperor Constantine made Constantinople
the capital of the East
Roman Empire and made
official religion. His mother, Helena made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem
(326–328) and led the construction of the Church of the Nativity
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem) and other
key churches that still exist. The name
Jerusalem was restored to
Aelia Capitolina and it became a Christian city.
Jews were still
banned from living in Jerusalem, but were allowed to visit, and it is
in this period that the surviving
Western Wall of the temple became
sacred to Judaism.
In 351–2, another Jewish revolt in the
Galilee erupted against a
corrupt Roman governor. In 362, the last pagan Roman Emperor,
Julian the Apostate, announced plans to rebuild the Jewish Temple. He
died while fighting the Persians in 363 and the project was
Byzantine rule (390–634)
Palaestina Prima and Palaestina Secunda
Further information: Jewish revolt against Heraclius, Rabbinic
Judaism, and Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Roman Empire split in 390 CE and the region became part of the
(Christian) East Roman Empire, known as the Byzantine Empire.
Christianity was dominated by the (Greek) Eastern Orthodox
Church whose massive land ownership has extended into the present. In
the 5th century, the Western
Roman Empire collapsed leading to
Christian migration into the Roman province of
Palaestina Prima and
development of a Christian majority.
Jews numbered 10–15% of the
population, concentrated largely in the Galilee.
Judaism was the only
non-Christian religion tolerated, but restrictions on
increased to include a ban on building new places of worship, holding
public office or owning slaves. In 425, following the death of the
last Nasi, Gamliel VI, the
Sanhedrin was officially abolished and the
title of Nasi banned. Several
Samaritan Revolts erupted in this
period, resulting in the decrease of
Samaritan community from
about a million to a near extinction. Sacred Jewish texts written in
Palestine at this time are the
Gemara (400), the
(500) and the Passover Haggadah.
The Jewish Menorah, which the Romans took when the temple was
destroyed, was reportedly taken to Carthage by the
Vandals after the
sacking of Rome in 455. According to the Byzantine historian,
Byzantine army recovered it in 533 and brought it to
In 611, Sassanid
Persia invaded the
Byzantine Empire and, after a long
Khosrau II captured
Jerusalem in 614, with Jewish help,
including possibly the Jewish
Himyarite Kingdom in Yemen.
Jerusalem when the Persians took over. The Byzantine Emperor,
Heraclius, promised to restore Jewish rights and received Jewish help
in defeating the Persians, but reneged on the agreement after
reconquering Palaestina Prima, massacring the
Jews in Palestine,
and issuing an edict banning
Judaism from the Byzantine Empire.
Coptic Christians took responsibility for this broken
pledge and fasted in penance.
Jund Filastin and Jund al-Urdunn
According to Muslim tradition, in 620 Muhammed was taken on spiritual
journey from Mecca to the "farthest mosque", whose location many
consider to be the Temple Mount, returning the same night. In
634–636 the Arabs conquered
Palaestina Prima and renamed it Jund
Filastin, ending the Byzantine ban on
Jews living in Jerusalem. Over
the next few centuries,
Christianity as the dominant
religion of the region.
From 636 until the beginning of the Crusades,
Jund Filastin was ruled
first by Medinah-based
Rashidun Caliphs, then by the Damascus-based
Caliphate and after that the Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphs. In
691, Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik (685–705) constructed the Dome of
the Rock shrine on the Temple Mount.
Jews consider it to contain the
Foundation Stone (see also Holy of Holies), which is the holiest site
in Judaism. A second building, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, was also erected on
Temple Mount in 705.
Between the 7th and 11th centuries, Jewish scribes, called the
Masoretes and located in
Galilee and Jerusalem, established the
Masoretic Text, the final text of the
Crusades and Mongols (1099–1291)
Main article: Kingdom of Jerusalem
The Siege of Jerusalem, 1099, during the First Crusade
In 1099, the first crusade took
Jerusalem and established a Catholic
kingdom, known as the Kingdom of Jerusalem. During the conquest, both
Jews were indiscriminately massacred or sold into
slavery. The murder of
Jews began as the Crusaders travelled
across Europe and continued when they reached the Holy Land.
Jews still recite a prayer in memory of the death
and destruction caused by the Crusades.
In 1187, the Ayyubid Sultan
Saladin defeated the Crusaders in the
Battle of Hattin
Battle of Hattin (above Tiberias), taking
Jerusalem and most of the
former Kingdom of Jerusalem. Saladin's court physician was Maimonides,
whose work had an enormous influence on Judaism.
Maimonides was buried
in Tiberias. A Crusader state centred round Acre survived in weakened
form for another century.
From 1260 to 1291 the area became the frontier between Mongol invaders
(occasional Crusader allies) and the Mamluks of Egypt. The conflict
impoverished the country and severely reduced the population. Sultan
Qutuz of Egypt eventually defeated the Mongols in the Battle of Ain
Jalut (near Ein Harod), and his successors eliminated the Crusader
states. The fall of the last one, the Kingdom of Acre, in 1291 ended
Crusades period in the region.
Mamluk rule (1291–1517)
Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo)
Baibars (1260–1277), conquered the region
and the Mamluks ruled it until 1517, regarding it as part of Syria. In
Jews from worshipping at the Cave of the
Patriarchs (the second holiest site in Judaism); the ban remained in
place until its conquest by
Israel 700 years later.
The Mamluks, continuing the policy of the Ayyubids, made the strategic
decision to destroy the coastal area and to bring desolation to many
of its cities, from Tyre in the north to Gaza in the south. Ports were
destroyed and various materials were dumped to make them inoperable.
The goal was to prevent attacks from the sea, given the fear of the
return of the crusaders. This had a long-term effect on those areas,
which remained sparsely populated for centuries. The activity in that
time concentrated more inland.
The collapse of the
Crusades was followed by increased persecution and
Jews in Europe. Expulsions began in England (1290) and
were followed by
France (1306). In Spain, persecution of the
highly integrated and successful Jewish community began, including
massacres and forced conversions. During the Black Death, many Jews
were murdered after being accused of poisoning wells. The completion
of the Christian reconquest of Spain led to expulsion of the
Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497. These were the wealthiest and most
integrated Jewish communities in Europe. Many
Jews converted to
Christianity, however many secretly practised
Judaism and prejudice
against converts (regardless of their sincerity) persisted, leading
Jews to move to the New World (see History of the
Latin America). Most of the expelled Spanish
Jews moved to North
Africa, Poland, to the
Ottoman Empire and to the region of Bilad
a-Sham, which roughly corresponds to the ancient Kingdom of Israel
(united monarchy). In Italy,
Jews living in the Papal States were
required to live in ghettos (see Cum nimis absurdum). The last
compulsory Ghetto, in Rome, was abolished in the 1880s.
Ottoman rule (1517–1917)
Further information: Ottoman Syria
Under the Mamluks, the area was a province of
Bilad a-Sham (Syria). It
was conquered by Turkish Sultan
Selim I in 1516–17, becoming a part
of the province of
Ottoman Syria for the next four centuries, first as
Damascus Eyalet and later as the
Syria Vilayet (following the
Tanzimat reorganization of 1864).
Between 1535 and 1538
Suleiman the Magnificent
Suleiman the Magnificent built the current Walls
Jerusalem had been without walls since Roman times. The
construction followed the historic area of the city but left out one
section which had previously been within the walls, which is now known
Old Yishuv and
Safed rabbi Joseph Karo, author of the Jewish law book
From the Middle Ages on, there was small scale individual Jewish
migration to the Land of Israel, which increased when persecution grew
elsewhere. Jewish population was concentrated in Jerusalem, Hebron,
Safed and Tiberias, known in Jewish tradition as the Four Holy Cities.
In the 16th century, Spanish immigration led to
Safed becoming a
centre for study of the Kabbalah.
Joseph Nasi was made governor of
Tiberias, where he tried to encourage Jewish settlement, particularly
from Italy. However economic decline and conflict between the
Druze and the Ottomans, led to the community's decline. In 1660, a
Druze revolt led to the destruction of the major
Old Yishuv cities of
Safed and Tiberias. In 1663
Sabbatai Zevi settled in
Jerusalem, and was proclaimed as the Jewish Messiah by Nathan of Gaza.
He acquired a large number of followers before going to Istanbul in
1666, where the Sultan forced him to covert to Islam. Many of his
followers converted, forming a sect that still exists in Turkey, known
as the Dönmeh. In the late 18th century a local Arab sheikh Zahir
al-Umar created a de facto independent Emirate in the Galilee. Ottoman
attempts to subdue the
Sheikh failed, but after Zahir's death the
Ottomans restored their rule in the area.
Napoleon briefly occupied the country and planned a
Jews to create a state. The proclamation was
shelved following his defeat at Acre. In 1831, Muhammad Ali of
Egypt, an Ottoman ruler who left the Empire and tried to modernize
Ottoman Syria and tried to revive and resettle much
of its regions. His conscription policies led to a popular Arab revolt
in 1834, resulting in major casualties for the local Arab peasants,
and massacres of Christian and Jewish communities by the rebels.
Following the revolt, Muhammad Pasha, the son of Muhammad Ali,
expelled nearly 10,000 of the local peasants to Egypt, while bringing
loyal Egyptian peasants and discharged soldiers to settle the
coastline of Ottoman Syria. Northern
Jordan Valley was settled by his
Jewish workers in
Kerem Avraham neighbourhood of
Jerusalem (c. 1850s)
In 1838 there was another revolt by the Druze. In 1839 Moses
Montefiore met with Muhammed Pasha in Egypt and signed an agreement to
establish 100–200 Jewish villages in the
Damascus Eyalet of Ottoman
Syria, but in 1840 the Egyptians withdrew before the deal was
implemented, returning the area to Ottoman governorship. In 1844, Jews
constituted the largest population group in
Jerusalem and by 1890 an
absolute majority in the city, but as a whole the Jewish population
made up far less than 10% of the country. In 1868, the
Ottomans banished the Bahá'u'lláh, one of the founders of the
Bahá'í Faith, to Acre where he is buried, and the movement
subsequently established its global administrative centre in nearby
Haifa. In 1874, Ottoman reforms led to the area of
special status as the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem.
Birth of Zionism
Main articles: History of
Zionism and Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem
Part of a series on
Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel
Gathering of Israel
Homeland for the Jewish people
Law of Return
Return to Zion
Aliyah in modern times
from Muslim countries
from the Soviet Union
from Latin America
Revival of the
Hebraization of surnames
World Zionist Organization
Jewish National Fund
Jewish Agency for Israel
Ministry of Immigrant Absorption
Am Yisrael Foundation
History of the
Jews in the Land of Israel
Demographic history of Palestine
Demographic history of Palestine (region)
Historical Jewish population comparisons
During the 19th century,
Jews in Western Europe were increasingly
granted citizenship and equality before the law; however, in Eastern
Europe, they faced growing persecution and legal restrictions,
including widespread pogroms in which thousands were murdered, raped
or lost their property. Half the world's
Jews lived in the Russian
Empire, where they were severely persecuted and restricted to living
in the Pale of Settlement. National groups in the Empire, such as the
Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians were agitating for independence and
often regarded the
Jews as undesirable aliens. The
Jews were usually
the only non-Christian minority and spoke a distinct language
(Yiddish). An independent Jewish national movement first began to
emerge in the Russian Empire and the millions of
Jews who were fleeing
the country (mostly to the USA) carried the seeds of this nationalism
wherever they went.
In 1870, an agricultural school, the Mikveh Israel, was founded near
Jaffa by the Alliance Israelite Universelle, a French Jewish
association. In 1878, "Russian" Jewish emigrants established the
village of Petah Tikva, followed by
Rishon LeZion in 1882. "Russian"
Jews established the
Hovevei Zion ("Love of Zion") movements
to assist settlers and these created communities that, unlike the
traditional Ashkenazi-Jewish communities, sought to be self-reliant
rather than dependent on donations from abroad. Existing
Ashkenazi-Jewish communities were concentrated in the Four Holy
Cities, extremely poor and lived on donations from Europe. The new
migrants avoided these communities and tended to create small
agricultural settlements. In
Jaffa a vibrant commercial community
developed in which Ashkenazi and
Jews inter-mingled. Many
early migrants left due to difficulty finding work and the early
settlements often remained dependent on foreign donations. Despite the
difficulties, more settlements arose and the community continued to
The new migration was accompanied by a revival of the
Jews of all kinds; religious, secular, nationalists and
left-wing socialists. Socialists aimed to reclaim the land by becoming
peasants or workers and forming collectives. In Zionist history, the
different waves of Jewish settlement are known as "aliyah". During the
First Aliyah, between 1882 and 1903, approximately 35,000
to what is now Israel. The first wave coincided with a wave of Jewish
Messianism among Yemenite
Jews and Bukharan Jews. By
Jews were a majority in Jerusalem, although the country as a
whole was populated mainly by Muslim (settled and nomad Bedouins) and
Theodor Herzl published
Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), in
which he asserted that the solution to growing antisemitism in Europe
(the so-called "Jewish Question") was to establish a Jewish state. In
Zionist Organisation was founded and the First Zionist
Congress proclaimed its aim "to establish a home for the Jewish people
in Palestine secured under public law." However,
regarded with suspicion by the Ottoman rulers and was unable to make
Between 1904 and 1914, around 40,000
Jews settled in the area now
Israel (the Second Aliyah). In 1908 the Zionist Organisation
set up the Palestine Bureau (also known as the "Eretz
Jaffa and began to adopt a systematic Jewish settlement policy.
Migrants were mainly from Russia (which then included part of Poland),
escaping persecution. The first Kibbutz, Degania, was founded by nine
Russian socialists in 1909. In 1909 residents of
Jaffa established the
first entirely Hebrew-speaking city,
Ahuzat Bayit (later renamed Tel
Hebrew newspapers and books were published,
Jewish political parties and workers organizations were established.
Occupied Enemy Territory Administration
Occupied Enemy Territory Administration and Balfour
Occupied Enemy Territory Administration, 1918
War I, most
Jews supported the Germans because they were
fighting the Russians who were regarded as the Jews' main enemy.
In Britain, the government sought Jewish support for the war effort
for a variety of reasons including an erroneous antisemitic perception
of "Jewish power" over the Ottoman Empire's
Young Turks movement,
and a desire to secure American Jewish support for US intervention on
There was already sympathy for the aims of
Zionism in the British
government, including the Prime Minister Lloyd George. In late
1917, the British Army drove the Turks out of Southern Syria, and
the British foreign minister, Lord Balfour, sent a public letter to
Lord Rothschild, a leading member of his party and leader of the
Jewish community. The letter subsequently became known as the Balfour
Declaration of 1917. It stated that the British Government "view[ed]
with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the
Jewish people". The declaration provided the British government with a
pretext for claiming and governing the country. New Middle Eastern
boundaries were decided by an agreement between British and French
bureaucrats. The agreement gave Britain control over what parties
would begin to call "Palestine".
Jewish Legion composed largely of Zionist volunteers organized by
Trumpeldor participated in the British invasion. It
also participated in the failed Gallipoli Campaign. A Zionist spy
network provided the British with details of Ottoman troops.
British Mandate of Palestine (1920–1948)
Main article: Mandatory Palestine
Jewish Agency for Israel
The British Mandate (in effect, British rule) of Palestine, including
the Balfour Declaration, was confirmed by the
League of Nations
League of Nations in
1922 and came into effect in 1923. The boundaries of Palestine
initially included modern Jordan, which was removed from the territory
by Churchill a few years later. Britain signed a treaty with the
United States (which did not join the League of Nations) in which the
United States endorsed the terms of the Mandate.
Between 1919 and 1923, another 40,000
Jews arrived in Palestine,
mainly escaping the post-revolutionary chaos of Russia (Third Aliyah),
as over 100,000
Jews were massacred in this period in Ukraine and
Russia. Many of these immigrants became known as "pioneers"
(halutzim), experienced or trained in agriculture and capable of
establishing self-sustaining economies. The
Jezreel Valley and the
Hefer Plain marshes were drained and converted to agricultural use.
Land was bought by the Jewish National Fund, a Zionist charity that
collected money abroad for that purpose. A mainly socialist
underground Jewish militia,
Haganah ("Defense"), was established to
defend outlying Jewish settlements.
The opening ceremony of The
Hebrew University of
Jerusalem visited by
Arthur Balfour, 1 April 1925
The French victory over the
Arab Kingdom of Syria
Arab Kingdom of Syria and the Balfour
Declaration led to the emergence of
Palestinian Nationalism and Arab
rioting in 1920 and 1921. In response, the British authorities imposed
immigration quotas for Jews. Exceptions were made for
Jews with over
1,000 pounds in cash (roughly 100,000 pounds at year 2000 rates) or
Jewish professionals with over 500 pounds. The
Jewish Agency issued
the British entry permits and distributed funds donated by Jews
abroad. Between 1924 and 1929, 82,000 more
Jews arrived (Fourth
Aliyah), fleeing antisemitism in Poland and Hungary, and because the
Immigration Act of 1924
Immigration Act of 1924 now kept
Jews out. The new
arrivals included many middle-class families who moved into towns and
established small businesses and workshops—although lack of economic
opportunities meant that approximately a quarter later left. The first
electricity generator was built in
Tel Aviv in 1923 under the guidance
of Pinhas Rutenberg, a former
Commissar of St Petersburg in Russia's
pre-Bolshevik Kerensky Government. In 1925 the Jewish Agency
Hebrew University in
Jerusalem and the Technion
(technological university) in Haifa.
From 1928, the democratically elected Va'ad Leumi (Jewish National
Council or JNC) became the main institution of the Palestine Jewish
community ("Yishuv") and included non-Zionist Jews. As the Yishuv
grew, the JNC adopted more government-type functions, such as
education, health care and security. With British permission, the
Va'ad raised its own taxes and ran independent services for the
Jewish population. From 1929 its leadership was elected by Jews
from 26 countries.
In 1929 tensions grew over the Kotel (Wailing Wall), a narrow alleyway
Jews were banned from using chairs or any furniture (many of the
worshipers were elderly). The Mufti claimed it was Muslim property and
Jews were seeking control of the Temple Mount. This (and
general animosity) led to the August 1929 Palestine riots. The main
victims were the ancient Jewish community at Hebron, which came to an
end. The riots led to right-wing Zionists establishing their own
militia in 1931, the
Irgun Tzvai Leumi (National Military
Organization, known in
Hebrew by its acronym "Etzel").
Zionist political parties provided private education and health care:
the General Zionists, the
Mizrahi and the Socialist Zionists, each
established independent health and education services and operated
sports organizations funded by local taxes, donations and fees (the
British administration did not invest in public services). During the
whole interwar period, the British, appealing to the terms of the
Mandate, rejected the principle of majority rule or any other measure
that would give the Arab population, who formed the majority of the
population, control over Palestinian territory.
Increase of Jewish immigration
Main articles: Fifth
Aliyah and Nuremberg Laws
In 1933, the
Jewish Agency and the Nazis negotiated the Ha'avara
Agreement (transfer agreement), under which 50,000
Jews would be
transferred to Palestine. The Jews' possessions were confiscated and
in return the Nazis allowed the Ha'avara organization to purchase 14
million pounds worth of German goods for export to Palestine (which
was used to compensate the immigrants). The Nazis did not normally
Jews to leave with any money or to take more than two suitcases.
The agreement was controversial and the Labour Zionist leader who
negotiated the agreement, Haim Arlosoroff, was assassinated in Tel
Aviv in 1933. The assassination was a long source of anger between the
Zionist left and Zionist right. Arlosoroff had been the boyfriend of
Magda Ritschel some years before she married Joseph Goebbels.
There has been speculation that he was assassinated by the Nazis to
hide the connection, which only emerged recently but there is no
evidence for it. In Palestine, Jewish immigration (and the
Ha'avara goods) helped the economy to flourish. A port and oil
refineries were built at
Haifa and there was a growth of
industrialization in the predominantly agricultural Palestinian
Between 1929 and 1938, 250,000
Jews arrived in Palestine (Fifth
Aliyah). 174,000 arrived between 1933 and 1936, after which the
British increasingly restricted immigration. Migration was mostly from
Europe and included professionals, doctors, lawyers and professors
from Germany. German architects of the
Bauhaus school made Tel-Aviv
the world's only city with purely
Bauhaus neighbourhoods and Palestine
had the highest per-capita percentage of doctors in the world.
As fascist regimes emerged across Europe, persecution of Jews
massively increased, and
Jews reverted to being non-citizens deprived
of civil and economic rights, subject to arbitrary persecution.
Significantly antisemitic governments came to power in Poland (the
government increasingly boycotted
Jews and by 1937 had totally
excluded all Jews), Hungary,
Romania and the Nazi created states
of Croatia and Slovakia, while Germany annexed Austria and the Czech
Arab revolt and the White Paper
1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine
1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine and White Paper of
Jewish Settlement Police
Jewish Settlement Police members watching the settlement
1936–1939 Arab revolt
Jewish immigration and Nazi propaganda contributed to the large-scale
1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, a largely nationalist uprising
directed at ending British rule. The head of the Jewish Agency,
Ben-Gurion, responded to the Arab Revolt with a policy of
"Havlagah"—self-restraint and a refusal to be provoked by Arab
attacks in order to prevent polarization. The Etzel group broke off
Haganah in opposition to this policy.
The British responded to the revolt with the Peel Commission
(1936–37), a public inquiry that recommended that an exclusively
Jewish territory be created in the
Galilee and western coast
(including the population transfer of 225,000 Arabs); the rest
becoming an exclusively Arab area. The two main Jewish leaders, Chaim
Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion, had convinced the Zionist Congress to
approve equivocally the Peel recommendations as a basis for more
negotiation. The plan was rejected outright by the
Palestinian Arab leadership and they renewed the revolt, which caused
the British to appease the Arabs, and to abandon the plan as
Testifying before the Peel Commission, Weizmann said "There are in
Europe 6,000,000 people ... for whom the world is divided into places
where they cannot live and places where they cannot enter." In 1938,
the US called an international conference to address the question of
the vast numbers of
Jews trying to escape Europe. Britain made its
attendance contingent on Palestine being kept out of the discussion.
No Jewish representatives were invited. The Nazis proposed their own
solution: that the
Jews of Europe be shipped to Madagascar (the
With millions of
Jews trying to leave Europe and every country in the
world closed to Jewish migration, the British decided to close
Palestine. The White Paper of 1939, recommended that an independent
Palestine, governed jointly by Arabs and Jews, be established within
10 years. The White Paper agreed to allow 75,000 Jewish immigrants
into Palestine over the period 1940–44, after which migration would
require Arab approval. Both the Arab and Jewish leadership rejected
the White Paper. In March 1940 the British High Commissioner for
Palestine issued an edict banning
Jews from purchasing land in 95% of
Jews now resorted to illegal immigration: (
Aliyah Bet or
"Ha'apalah"), often organized by the
Mossad Le'aliyah Bet
Mossad Le'aliyah Bet and the
Irgun. Very few
Jews managed to escape Europe between 1939 and 1945.
Those caught by the British were mostly sent to Mauritius.
War II and the Holocaust
Aliyah Bet, History of the
Jews during World War
II, The Holocaust, and Italian bombing of
Mandatory Palestine in World
Jewish Brigade headquarters under both
Union Flag and Jewish flag
During the Second World War, the
Jewish Agency worked to establish a
Jewish army that would fight alongside the British forces. Churchill
supported the plan but British Military and government opposition led
to its rejection. The British demanded that the number of Jewish
recruits match the number of Arab recruits, but few Arabs would
fight for Britain, and the Palestinian leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem,
joined the Nazis in Europe.
In May 1941, the
Palmach was established to defend the
the planned Axis invasion through North Africa. The British refusal to
provide arms to the Jews, even when Rommel's forces were advancing
through Egypt in June 1942 (intent on occupying Palestine) and the
1939 White Paper, led to the emergence of a Zionist leadership in
Palestine that believed conflict with Britain was inevitable.
Despite this, the
Jewish Agency called on Palestine's Jewish youth to
volunteer for the British Army (both men and women). 30,000
Palestinian Jews and 6,000 Palestinian Arabs enlisted in the
British armed forces during the war. In June 1944 the British agreed
to create a
Jewish Brigade that would fight in Italy.
Approximately 1.5 million
Jews around the world served in every branch
of the allied armies, mainly in the Soviet and US armies. 200,000 Jews
died serving in the Soviet army alone. Many of these war veterans
later volunteered to fight for
Israel or were active in its support.
A small group (about 200 activists), dedicated to resisting the
British administration in Palestine, broke away from the Etzel (which
advocated support for Britain during the war) and formed the "Lehi"
(Stern Gang), led by Avraham Stern. In 1943, the
USSR released the
Revisionist Zionist leader
Menachem Begin from the
Gulag and he went
to Palestine, taking command of the Etzel organization with a policy
of increased conflict against the British. At about the same time
Yitzhak Shamir escaped from the camp in Eritrea where the British were
holding Lehi activists without trial, taking command of the Lehi
Jews in the
Middle East were also affected by the war. Most of North
Africa came under Nazi control and many
Jews were used as slaves.
The 1941 pro-Axis coup in
Iraq was accompanied by massacres of Jews.
Jewish Agency put together plans for a last stand in the event of
Rommel invading Palestine (the Nazis planned to exterminate
Between 1939 and 1945, the Nazis, aided by local forces, led
systematic efforts to kill every person of Jewish extraction in Europe
(The Holocaust), causing the deaths of approximately 6 million Jews. A
quarter of those killed were children. The Polish and German Jewish
communities, which played an important role in defining the pre-1945
Jewish world, mostly ceased to exist. In the
United States and
Jews of European origin became disconnected from their
families and roots. Sepharadi and
Mizrahi Jews, who had been a
minority, became a much more significant factor in the Jewish world.
Jews who survived in central Europe, were displaced persons
(refugees); an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, established to
examine the Palestine issue, surveyed their ambitions and found that
over 95% wanted to migrate to Palestine.
In the Zionist movement the moderate Pro-British (and British citizen)
Weizmann, whose son died flying in the RAF, was undermined by
Britain's anti-Zionist policies. Leadership of the movement
passed to the
Jewish Agency in Palestine, now led by the anti-British
Socialist-Zionist party (Mapai) and led by David Ben-Gurion. In the
Jews now dominated the Zionist movement.
Illegal Jewish immigration and insurgency
Bricha and Jewish insurgency in Mandatory Palestine
See also: Anti-Jewish violence in Poland, 1944–46
British Empire was severely weakened by the war. In the Middle
East, the war had made Britain conscious of its dependence on Arab
oil. British firms controlled Iraqi oil and Britain ruled Kuwait,
Bahrain and the Emirates. Shortly after VE Day, the Labour Party won
the general election in Britain. Although Labour Party conferences had
for years called for the establishment of a
Jewish state in Palestine,
the Labour government now decided to maintain the 1939 White Paper
Buchenwald survivors arrive in
Haifa to be arrested by the British, 15
Illegal migration (
Aliyah Bet) became the main form of Jewish entry
into Palestine. Across Europe
Bricha ("flight"), an organization of
former partisans and ghetto fighters, smuggled
from Eastern Europe to Mediterranean ports, where small boats tried to
breach the British blockade of Palestine. Meanwhile,
Jews from Arab
countries began moving into Palestine overland. Despite British
efforts to curb immigration, during the 14 years of the
Jews entered Palestine. By the end of World
War II, the
Jewish population of Palestine had increased to 33% of the total
In an effort to win independence, Zionists now waged a guerrilla war
against the British. The main underground Jewish militia, the Haganah,
formed an alliance called the
Jewish Resistance Movement with the
Stern Gang to fight the British. In June 1946, following
instances of Jewish sabotage, the British launched Operation Agatha,
arresting 2700 Jews, including the leadership of the Jewish Agency,
whose headquarters were raided. Those arrested were held without
In Poland, the Kielce
Pogrom (July 1946) led to a wave of Holocaust
survivors fleeing Europe for Palestine. Between 1945 and 1948,
Jews left Poland. Their departure was largely
organized by Zionist activists in Poland under the umbrella of the
also responsible for the organized emigration of
Jews from Romania,
Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, totalling 250,000 (including
Holocaust survivors. The British imprisoned the
Jews trying to
enter Palestine in the
Atlit detainee camp
Atlit detainee camp and Cyprus internment
camps. Those held were mainly
Holocaust survivors, including large
numbers of children and orphans. In response to Cypriot fears that the
Jews would never leave (since they lacked a state or documentation)
and because the 75,000 quota established by the 1939 White Paper had
never been filled, the British allowed the refugees to enter Palestine
at a rate of 750 per month.
The unified Jewish resistance movement broke up in July 1946, after
Etzel bombed the British Military Headquarters in the
King David Hotel
killing 91 people. In the days following the bombing,
Tel Aviv was
placed under curfew and over 120,000 Jews, nearly 20% of the Jewish
population of Palestine, were questioned by the police. In the US,
Congress criticized British handling of the situation and delayed
loans that were vital to British post-war recovery. By 1947 the Labour
Government was ready to refer the Palestine problem to the newly
created United Nations.
United Nations Partition Plan
Main article: United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine
United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, 1947
On 2 April 1947, the United Kingdom requested that the question of
Palestine be handled by the General Assembly. The General
Assembly created a committee, United Nations
Special Committee on
Palestine (UNSCOP), to report on "the question of Palestine". In
July 1947 the UNSCOP visited Palestine and met with Jewish and Zionist
Arab Higher Committee
Arab Higher Committee boycotted the meetings. During
the visit the British Foreign Secretary
Ernest Bevin ordered an
illegal immigrant ship, the Exodus 1947, to be sent back to Europe.
The migrants on the ship were forcibly removed by British troops at
The principal non-Zionist Orthodox Jewish (or Haredi) party, Agudat
Israel, recommended to UNSCOP that a
Jewish state be set up after
reaching a religious status quo agreement with Ben-Gurion regarding
the future Jewish state. The agreement would grant exemption to a
quota of yeshiva (religious seminary) students and to all orthodox
women from military service, would make the Sabbath the national
Kosher food in government institutions and would
allow them to maintain a separate education system.
The majority report of UNSCOP proposed "an independent Arab
State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem", the
last to be under "an International Trusteeship System". On 29
November 1947, in
Resolution 181 (II), the General Assembly adopted
the majority report of UNSCOP, but with slight modifications. The
Plan also called for the British to allow "substantial" Jewish
migration by 1 February 1948.
Neither Britain nor the UN Security Council took any action to
implement the resolution and Britain continued detaining Jews
attempting to enter Palestine. Concerned that partition would severely
damage Anglo-Arab relations, Britain denied UN representatives access
to Palestine during the period between the adoption of Resolution 181
(II) and the termination of the British Mandate. The British
withdrawal was finally completed in May 1948. However, Britain
continued to hold
Jews of "fighting age" and their families on Cyprus
until March 1949.
Main article: 1947–48 Civil
War in Mandatory Palestine
Supply convoy on its way to besieged Jerusalem, April 1948
The General Assembly's vote caused joy in the Jewish community and
discontent among the Arab community. Violence broke out between the
sides, escalating into civil war. From January 1948, operations became
increasingly militarized, with the intervention of a number of Arab
Liberation Army regiments inside Palestine, each active in a variety
of distinct sectors around the different coastal towns. They
consolidated their presence in
Galilee and Samaria. Abd al-Qadir
al-Husayni came from Egypt with several hundred men of the Army of the
Holy War. Having recruited a few thousand volunteers, he organized the
blockade of the 100,000 Jewish residents of Jerusalem. The Yishuv
tried to supply the city using convoys of up to 100 armoured vehicles,
but largely failed. By March, almost all Haganah's armoured vehicles
had been destroyed, the blockade was in full operation, and hundreds
Haganah members who had tried to bring supplies into the city were
Up to 100,000 Arabs, from the urban upper and middle classes in Haifa,
Jaffa and Jerusalem, or Jewish-dominated areas, evacuated abroad or to
Arab centres eastwards. This situation caused the US to withdraw
their support for the Partition plan, thus encouraging the Arab League
to believe that the Palestinian Arabs, reinforced by the Arab
Liberation Army, could put an end to the plan for partition. The
British, on the other hand, decided on 7 February 1948 to support the
annexation of the Arab part of Palestine by Transjordan.
David Ben-Gurion proclaiming the Israeli Declaration of Independence
David Ben-Gurion reorganized
Haganah and made conscription obligatory.
Every Jewish man and woman in the country had to receive military
training. Thanks to funds raised by
Golda Meir from sympathisers in
the United States, and Stalin's decision to support the Zionist cause,
the Jewish representatives of Palestine were able to purchase
important arms in Eastern Europe.
Yigael Yadin the responsibility to plan for the
announced intervention of the Arab states. The result of his analysis
was Plan Dalet, in which
Haganah passed from the defensive to the
offensive. The plan sought to establish Jewish territorial continuity
by conquering mixed zones. Tiberias, Haifa, Safed, Beisan,
Acre fell, resulting in the flight of more than 250,000 Palestinian
Arabs. The situation pushed the leaders of the neighbouring Arab
states to intervene.
On 14 May 1948, on the day the last British forces left from Haifa,
Jewish People's Council
Jewish People's Council gathered at the
Tel Aviv Museum and
proclaimed the establishment of a
Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be
known as the State of Israel.
War of Independence
Main article: 1948 Arab–Israeli War
Avraham Adan raising the
Ink Flag marking the end of the 1948
Immediately following the declaration of the new state, both
superpower leaders, US President
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman and Soviet leader
Joseph Stalin, recognized the new state. The
Arab League members
Egypt, Transjordan, Syria,
Iraq refused to accept the UN
partition plan and proclaimed the right of self-determination for the
Arabs across the whole of Palestine. The Arab states marched their
forces into what had, until the previous day, been the British Mandate
for Palestine, starting the first Arab–Israeli War. The Arab states
had heavy military equipment at their disposal and were initially on
the offensive (the Jewish forces were not a state before 15 May and
could not buy heavy arms). On 29 May 1948, the British initiated
United Nations Security Council Resolution 50 declaring an arms
embargo on the region.
Czechoslovakia violated the resolution,
Jewish state with critical military hardware to match
the (mainly British) heavy equipment and planes already owned by the
invading Arab states. On 11 June, a month-long UN truce was put into
Following independence, the
Haganah became the
Israel Defense Forces
(IDF). The Palmach, Etzel and Lehi were required to cease independent
operations and join the IDF. During the ceasefire, Etzel attempted to
bring in a private arms shipment aboard a ship called "Altalena". When
they refused to hand the arms to the government, Ben-Gurion ordered
that the ship be sunk. Several Etzel members were killed in the
Large numbers of Jewish immigrants, many of them World
War II veterans
Holocaust survivors, now began arriving in the new state of
Israel, and many joined the IDF.
After an initial loss of territory by the
Jewish state and its
occupation by the Arab armies, from July the tide gradually turned in
the Israelis' favour and they pushed the Arab armies out and conquered
some of the territory that had been included in the proposed Arab
state. At the end of November, tenuous local ceasefires were arranged
between the Israelis, Syrians and Lebanese. On 1 December King
Abdullah announced the union of Transjordan with Arab Palestine west
of the Jordan; only Britain recognized the annexation.
Main article: 1949 Armistice Agreements
1949 Green Line
Israel signed armistices with Egypt (24 February),
Lebanon (23 March),
Jordan (3 April) and Syria (20 July). No actual peace agreements were
signed. With permanent ceasefire coming into effect, Israel's new
borders, later known as the Green Line, were established. These
borders were not recognized by the Arab states as international
boundaries. The IDF had overrun Galilee, Jezreel Valley, West
Jerusalem, the coastal plain and the Negev. The Syrians remained in
control of a strip of territory along the
Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee originally
allocated to the Jewish state, the Lebanese occupied a tiny area at
Rosh Hanikra, and the Egyptians retained the Gaza strip and still had
some forces surrounded inside Israeli territory. Jordanian forces
remained in the West Bank, where the British had stationed them before
Jordan annexed the areas it occupied while Egypt kept Gaza as
an occupied zone.
Following the ceasefire declaration, Britain released over 2,000
Jewish detainees it was still holding in Cyprus and recognized the
state of Israel. On 11 May 1949,
Israel was admitted as a member of
the United Nations. Out of an Israeli population of 650,000, some
6,000 men and women were killed in the fighting, including 4,000
soldiers in the IDF. According to United Nations figures, 726,000
Palestinians had fled or were evicted by the
Israelis between 1947 and
1949. Except in Jordan, the Palestinian refugees were settled in
large refugee camps in poor, overcrowded conditions. In December 1949,
the UN (in response to a British proposal) established an agency
(UNRWA) to provide aid to the Palestinian refugees. It became the
largest single UN agency and is the only UN agency that serves a
1948–1955: Ben-Gurion I; Sharett
Further information: Austerity in Israel, Lavon Affair, and Reprisal
See also: Provisional, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and
Sixth governments of Israel
A 120-seat parliament, the Knesset, met first in
Tel Aviv then moved
Jerusalem after the 1949 ceasefire. In January 1949,
its first elections. The Socialist-Zionist parties
the most seats (46 and 19 respectively). Mapai's leader, David
Ben-Gurion, was appointed Prime Minister, he formed a coalition which
did not include
Mapam who were
Stalinist and loyal to the USSR
Stalinist party, non-Zionist Maki won 4 seats). The Knesset
Chaim Weizmann as the first (largely ceremonial) President of
Arabic were made the official languages of the new
state. All governments have been coalitions—no party has ever won a
majority in the Knesset. From 1948 until 1977 all governments were led
Mapai and the Alignment, predecessors of the Labour Party. In those
years Labour Zionists, initially led by David Ben-Gurion, dominated
Israeli politics and the economy was run on primarily socialist lines.
Within three years (1948 to 1951), immigration doubled the Jewish
Israel and left an indelible imprint on Israeli
society. Overall, 700,000
Jews settled in
Israel during this
period. Some 300,000 arrived from Asian and North African nations
as part of the Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries.
Among them, the largest group (over 100,000) was from Iraq. The rest
of the immigrants were from Europe, including more than 270,000 who
came from Eastern Europe, mainly
Romania and Poland (over 100,000
each). Nearly all the Jewish immigrants could be described as
refugees, however only 136,000 who immigrated to
Israel from Central
Europe, had international certification because they belonged to the
Jews registered by the allies as displaced after World
and living in Displaced persons camps in Germany, Austria and
In 1950 the
Knesset passed the Law of Return, which granted to all
Jews and those of Jewish ancestry, and their spouses, the right to
Israel and gain citizenship. That year, 50,000 Yemenite Jews
(99%) were secretly flown to Israel. In 1951 Iraqi
Jews were granted
temporary permission to leave the country and 120,000 (over 90%) opted
to move to Israel.
Jews also fled from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. By
the late sixties, about 500,000
Jews had left Algeria, Morocco and
Tunisia. Over the course of twenty years, some 850,000
Jews from Arab
countries (99%) relocated to
France and the
Americas. The land and property left behind by the Jews
(much of it in Arab city centres) is still a matter of some dispute.
Today there are about 9,000
Jews living in Arab states, of whom 75%
live in Morocco and 15% in Tunisia.
Menachem Begin addressing a mass demonstration in
Tel Aviv against
negotiations with Germany in 1952
Between 1948 and 1958, the population of
Israel rose from 800,000 to
two million. During this period, food, clothes and furniture had to be
rationed in what became known as the Austerity Period (Tkufat
haTsena). Immigrants were mostly refugees with no money or possessions
and many were housed in temporary camps known as ma'abarot. By 1952,
over 200,000 immigrants were living in tents or prefabricated shacks
built by the government.
Israel received financial aid from private
donations from outside the country (mainly the United States).
The pressure on the new state's finances led Ben-Gurion to sign a
reparations agreement with West Germany. During the
some 5,000 demonstrators gathered and riot police had to cordon the
Israel received several billion marks and in return
agreed to open diplomatic relations with Germany.
At the end of 1953, Ben-Gurion retired to
Sde Boker in the
In 1949, education was made free and compulsory for all citizens until
the age of 14. The state now funded the party-affiliated Zionist
education system and a new body created by the
Haredi Agudat Israel
party. A separate body was created to provide education for the
remaining Palestinian-Arab population. The major political parties now
competed for immigrants to join their education systems. The
government banned the existing educational bodies from the transit
camps and tried to mandate a unitary secular socialist education
under the control of "camp managers" who also had to provide work,
food and housing for the immigrants. There were attempts to force
orthodox Yemenite children to adopt a secular life style by teachers,
including many instances of Yemenite children having their side-curls
cut by teachers. This led to the first Israeli public inquiry (the
Fromkin Inquiry), the collapse of the coalition, and an election
in 1951, with little change in the results. In 1953 the
party-affiliated education system was scrapped and replaced by a
secular state education system and a state-run Modern Orthodox system.
Israel were allowed to maintain their existing school system.
In its early years
Israel sought to maintain a non-aligned position
between the super-powers. However, in 1952, an antisemitic public
trial was staged in Moscow in which a group of Jewish doctors were
accused of trying to poison Stalin (the Doctors' plot), followed by a
similar trial in
Czechoslovakia (Slánský trial). This, and the
Israel to be included in the
Bandung Conference (of
non-aligned states), effectively ended Israel's pursuit of
non-alignment. On 19 May 1950, Egypt announced that the
Suez Canal was
closed to Israeli ships and commerce. In 1952 a military coup in Egypt
brought Abdel Nasser to power. The
United States pursued close
relations with the new Arab states, particularly the Nasser-led
Egyptian Free Officers Movement and Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. Israel's
solution to diplomatic isolation was to establish good relations with
newly independent states in Africa and with France, which was
engaged in the Algerian War.
In the January 1955 elections
Mapai won 40 seats and the Labour Party
Moshe Sharett became prime minister of
Israel at the head of a
left-wing coalition. Between 1953 and 1956, there were intermittent
clashes along all of Israel's borders as Arab terrorism and breaches
of the ceasefire resulted in Israeli counter-raids. Palestinian
fedayeen attacks, often organized and sponsored by the Egyptians, were
made from (Egyptian occupied) Gaza. Fedayeen attacks led to a growing
cycle of violence as
Israel launched reprisal attacks against
Gaza. In 1954 the
Uzi submachine gun first entered use by the
Israel Defense Forces. In 1955 the Egyptian government began
recruiting former Nazi rocket scientists for a missile
Archaeologist and General
Yigael Yadin purchased the
Dead Sea Scrolls
on behalf of the State of Israel. The entire first batch to be
discovered were now owned by
Israel and housed in the Shrine of the
Book at the
Sharett's government was brought down by the Lavon Affair, a crude
plan to disrupt US–Egyptian relations, involving Israeli agents
planting bombs at American sites in Egypt. The plan failed when
eleven agents were arrested. Defense Minister Lavon was blamed despite
his denial of responsibility. The Lavon affair led to Sharett's
resignation and Ben-Gurion returned to the post of prime minister.
1955–1963: Ben-Gurion II
Further information: Suez Crisis
See also: Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth governments of Israel
In 1956, the increasingly pro-Soviet President Nasser of Egypt,
announced the nationalization of the (French and British owned) Suez
Canal, which was Egypt's main source of foreign currency. Egypt also
Gulf of Aqaba
Gulf of Aqaba preventing Israeli access to the Red Sea.
Israel made a secret agreement with the French at Sèvres to
co-ordinate military operations against Egypt. Britain and
already begun secret preparations for military action. It has been
alleged that the French also agreed to build a nuclear plant for the
Israelis and that by 1968 this was able to produce nuclear weapons.
France arranged for
Israel to give them a pretext for
seizing the Suez Canal.
Israel was to attack Egypt, and Britain and
France would then call on both sides to withdraw. When, as expected,
the Egyptians refused, Anglo-French forces would invade to take
control of the Canal.
Israeli paratroopers dig in near the Mitla Pass, 31 October 1956
Israeli forces, commanded by General Moshe Dayan, attacked Egypt on 29
October 1956. On 30 October Britain and
France made their pre-arranged
call for both sides to stop fighting and withdraw from the Canal area,
and for them to be allowed to take up positions at key points on the
Canal. Egypt refused and the allies commenced air strikes on 31
October aimed at neutralizing the Egyptian air force. By 5 November
Israelis had overrun the Sinai. The Anglo-French invasion began
that day. There was uproar in the UN, with the
United States and USSR
for once in agreement in denouncing the actions of Israel, Britain and
France. A demand for a ceasefire was reluctantly accepted on 7
At Egypt's request, the UN sent an Emergency Force (UNEF), consisting
of 6,000 peacekeeping troops from 10 nations to supervise the
ceasefire. This was the first ever UN peacekeeping operation. From 15
November the UN troops marked out a zone across the
Sinai to separate
the Israeli and Egyptian forces. Upon receiving US guarantees of
Israeli access to the Suez Canal, freedom of access out of the Gulf of
Aqaba and Egyptian action to stop Palestinian raids from Gaza, the
Israelis withdrew to the Negev. In practice the Suez Canal
remained closed to Israeli shipping. The conflict marked the end of
West-European dominance in the Middle East.
Nasser emerged as the victor in the conflict, having won the political
battle, however the Israeli military learnt that it did not need
British or French support in order to conquer
Sinai and that it could
Sinai peninsula in a few days. The Israeli political
leadership learnt that
Israel had a limited time frame within which to
operate militarily after which international political pressure would
restrict Israel's freedom of action.
In 1956, two modern-orthodox (and religious-zionist) parties, Mizrachi
and Hapoel HaMizrachi, joined to form the National Religious Party.
The party was a component of every Israeli coalition until 1992,
usually running the Ministry of Education.
Mapai was once again
victorious in the 1959 elections, increasing its number of seats to
47, Labour had 7. Ben-Gurion remained Prime Minister.
In 1959, there were renewed skirmishes along Israel's borders that
continued throughout the early 1960s. The
Arab League continued to
maintain an economic boycott and there was a dispute over water rights
in the River
Jordan basin. With Soviet backing, the Arab states,
particularly Egypt, were continuing to build up their forces. Israel's
main military hardware supplier was France.
US newsreel on the trial of Adolf Eichmann
Rudolph Kastner, a minor political functionary, was accused of
collaborating with the Nazis and sued his accuser. Kastner lost the
trial and was assassinated two years later. In 1958 the Supreme Court
exonerated him. In May 1960 Adolf Eichmann, one of the chief
administrators of the Nazi Holocaust, was located in Argentina by the
Mossad, which later kidnapped him to Israel. In 1961 he was put on
trial, and after several months found guilty and sentenced to death.
He was hanged in 1962 and is the only person ever sentenced to death
by an Israeli court. Testimonies by
Holocaust survivors at the trial
and the extensive publicity that surrounded it has led the trial to be
considered a turning point in public awareness of the Holocaust.
In 1961 a
Herut no-confidence motion over the Lavon affair led to
Ben-Gurion's resignation. Ben-Gurion declared that he would only
accept office if Lavon was fired from the position of the head of
Histadrut, Israel's labour union organization. His demands were
Mapai won the 1961 election (42 seats keeping Ben-Gurion
as PM) with a slight reduction in its share of the seats. Menachem
Herut party and the Liberals came next with 17 seats each. In
Mossad began assassinating German rocket scientists working
in Egypt after one of them reported the missile program was designed
to carry chemical warheads. This action was condemned by Ben-Gurion
and led to the
Mossad director, Isser Harel, resignation. In 1963
Ben-Gurion quit again over the Lavon scandal. His attempts to make his
Mapai support him over the issue failed.
Levi Eshkol became
Mapai and the new prime minister.
Further information: Six-Day War
See also: Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth governments of Israel
Yigael Yadin began excavating Masada. In 1964, Egypt, Jordan
and Syria developed a unified military command.
Israel completed work
on a national water carrier, a huge engineering project designed to
transfer Israel's allocation of the
Jordan river's waters towards the
south of the country in realization of Ben-Gurion's dream of mass
Jewish settlement of the
Negev desert. The Arabs responded by trying
to divert the headwaters of the Jordan, leading to growing conflict
Israel and Syria.
In 1964, Israeli Rabbinical authorities accepted that the Bene Israel
of India were indeed Jewish and most of the remaining Indian Jews
migrated to Israel. The 2,000-strong Jewish community of Cochin had
already migrated in 1954. Ben-Gurion quit
Mapai to form the new party
Rafi, he was joined by
Shimon Peres and Moshe Dayan. Begin's Herut
party joined with the Liberals to form Gahal.
Mapai and Labour united
for the 1965 elections, winning 45 seats and maintaining Levi Eshkol
as Prime Minister. Ben-Gurion's Rafi party received 10 seats, Gahal
got 26 seats becoming the second largest party.
Until 1966, Israel's principal arms supplier was France, however in
1966, following the withdrawal from Algeria, Charles de Gaulle
France would cease supplying
Israel with arms (and refused
to refund money paid for 50 warplanes). On 5 February 1966, the
United States announced that it was taking over the former French and
West German obligations, to maintain military "stabilization" in the
Middle East. Included in the military hardware would be over 200 M48
tanks. In May of that year the US also agreed to provide A-4 Skyhawk
tactical aircraft to Israel. In 1966 security
restrictions placed on
Arab-Israelis were eased and efforts made to
integrate them into Israeli life.
In 1966, Black and white TV broadcasts began. On 15 May 1967, the
first public performance of Naomi Shemer's classic song "
Gold" took place and over the next few weeks it dominated the Israeli
airwaves. Two days later Syria, Egypt and
Jordan amassed troops along
the Israeli borders, and Egypt closed the
Straits of Tiran
Straits of Tiran to Israeli
shipping. Nasser demanded that the UNEF leave Sinai, threatening
escalation to a full war. Egyptian radio broadcasts talked of a coming
genocide. On 26 May Nasser declared, "The battle will
be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy
Israel considered the
Straits of Tiran
Straits of Tiran closure a Casus
belli. Egypt, Syria,
Iraq signed defence pacts and Iraqi
troops began deploying to Jordan, Syria and Egypt.
announced that it would send troops to Egypt. Between 1963 and 1967
Egyptian troops had tested chemical weapons on Yemenite civilians as
part of an Egyptian intervention in support of rebels.
Israel responded by calling up its civilian reserves, bringing much of
the Israeli economy to a halt. The
Israelis set up a national unity
coalition, including for the first time Menachem Begin's party, Herut,
in a coalition. During a national radio broadcast, Prime Minister Levi
Eshkol stammered, causing widespread fear in Israel. To calm public
Moshe Dayan (Chief of Staff during the
Sinai war) was
appointed Defence Minister.
Uzi Narkiss, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Chief of staff Yitzhak
Rabin and Gen.
Rehavam Ze'evi in the Old City of Jerusalem, 7 June
On the morning before Dayan was sworn in, 5 June 1967, the Israeli air
force launched pre-emptive attacks destroying first the Egyptian air
force, and then later the same day destroying the air forces of Jordan
Israel then defeated (almost successively) Egypt, Jordan
and Syria. By 11 June the Arab forces were routed and all parties had
accepted the cease-fire called for by UN Security Council Resolutions
235 and 236.
Israel gained control of the
Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza
Strip, the Golan Heights, and the formerly Jordanian-controlled West
Bank of the
Jordan River. East
Jerusalem was arguably annexed by
Israel. Residents were given permanent residency status and the option
of applying for Israeli citizenship. The annexation was not recognized
internationally (the Jordanian annexation of 1948 was also
Other areas occupied remained under military rule (Israeli civil law
did not apply to them) pending a final settlement. The Golan was also
annexed in 1981. On 22 November 1967, the Security Council adopted
Resolution 242, the "land for peace" formula, which called for the
establishment of a just and lasting peace based on Israeli withdrawal
from territories occupied in 1967 in return for the end of all states
of belligerency, respect for the sovereignty of all states in the
area, and the right to live in peace within secure, recognized
boundaries. The resolution was accepted by both sides, though with
different interpretations, and has been the basis of all subsequent
peace negotiations. After 1967 the US began supplying
aircraft and the Soviet block (except Romania) broke off relations
with Israel. Antisemitic purges led to the final migration of the last
Jews to Israel.
For the first time since the end of the British Mandate,
visit the Old City of
Jerusalem and pray at the
Western Wall (the
holiest site in modern Judaism), to which they had been denied access
by the Jordanians in contravention of the 1949 Armistice agreement.
The four-meter-wide public alley beside the Wall was expanded into a
massive plaza and worshippers were allowed to sit, or use other
furniture, for the first time in centuries. In Hebron,
access to the
Cave of the Patriarchs
Cave of the Patriarchs (the second most holy site in
Judaism) for the first time since the 14th century (previously Jews
were only allowed to pray at the entrance). A third Jewish holy
site, Rachel's Tomb, in Bethlehem, also became accessible.
Israel self-sufficient in energy.
Moshe Levinger led a group of Religious Zionists who created
the first Jewish settlement, a town near
Hebron called Kiryat Arba.
There were no other religious settlements until after 1974.
Ben-Gurion's Rafi party merged with the Labour-
Ben-Gurion remained outside as an independent. In 1968, compulsory
education was extended until the age of 16 for all citizens (it had
been 14) and the government embarked on an extensive program of
integration in education. In the major cities children from mainly
Mizrahi neighbourhoods were bused to newly established middle
schools in better areas. The system remained in place until after
In March 1968, Israeli forces attacked the Palestinian militia, Fatah,
at its base in the Jordanian town of Karameh. The attack was in
response to land mines placed on Israeli roads. The
after destroying the camp, however the
Israelis sustained unexpectedly
high casualties and the attack was not viewed as a success. Despite
heavy casualties, the Palestinians claimed victory, while
PLO (of which it formed part) became famous across the Arab world.
In early 1969, fighting broke out between Egypt and
Israel along the
Suez Canal. In retaliation for repeated Egyptian shelling of Israeli
positions along the Suez Canal, Israeli planes made deep strikes into
Egypt in the 1969–1970 "
War of Attrition".
War of Attrition, Jarring Mission, Rogers Plan,
Munich massacre, and
Yom Kippur War
See also: Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth governments of
In early 1969,
Levi Eshkol died in office of a heart attack and Golda
Meir became Prime Minister with the largest percentage of the vote
ever won by an Israeli party, winning 56 of the 120 seats after the
1969 election. Meir was the first female prime minister of
the first woman to have headed a Middle Eastern state in modern
Gahal remained on 26 seats, and was the second largest
MV Netanya, one of the ships assigned to support boats in the
In December 1969, Israeli naval commandos took five missile boats
during the night from Cherbourg Harbour in France.
Israel had paid for
the boats but the French had refused to supply them. In July 1970 the
Israelis shot down five Soviet fighters that were aiding the Egyptians
in the course of the
War of Attrition. Following this, the US worked
to calm the situation and in August 1970 a cease fire was agreed.
In September 1970
King Hussein of
Jordan drove the Palestine
Liberation Organization out of his country. On September 18, 1970,
Syrian tanks invaded Jordan, intending to aid the PLO. At the request
of the US,
Israel moved troops to the border and threatened Syria,
causing the Syrians to withdraw. The centre of
PLO activity then
shifted to Lebanon, where the 1969
Cairo agreement gave the
Palestinians autonomy within the south of the country. The area
controlled by the
PLO became known by the international press and
locals as "Fatahland" and contributed to the 1975–1990 Lebanese
Civil War. The event also led to
Hafez al-Assad taking power in Syria.
Egyptian President Nasser died immediately after and was succeeded by
Increased Soviet antisemitism and enthusiasm generated by the 1967
victory led to a wave of Soviet
Jews applying to emigrate to Israel.
Those who left could only take two suitcases. Most
Jews were refused
exit visas and persecuted by the authorities. Some were arrested and
Gulag camps, becoming known as Prisoners of Zion. During 1971,
violent demonstrations by the Israeli Black Panthers, made the Israeli
public aware of resentment among
Jews at ongoing
discrimination and social gaps. In 1972 the US Jewish Mafia
leader, Meyer Lansky, who had taken refuge in Israel, was deported to
the United States.
At the 1972 Munich Olympics, two members of the Israeli team were
killed, and nine members taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists. A
botched German rescue attempt led to the death of the rest along with
five of the eight hijackers. The three surviving Palestinians were
released by the West German authorities eight weeks later without
charge, in exchange for the hostages of hijacked Lufthansa Flight
615. The Israeli government responded with a bombing, an
assassination campaign against the organizers of the massacre and a
raid on the
PLO headquarters in
Lebanon (led by future Prime Minister,
In 1972 the new Egyptian President
Anwar Sadat expelled the Soviet
advisers from Egypt. This and frequent invasion exercises by Egypt and
Syria led to Israeli complacency about the threat from these
countries. In addition the desire not to be held responsible for
initiating conflict and an election campaign highlighting security,
led to an Israeli failure to mobilize, despite receiving warnings of
an impending attack.
143rd Division crossing the
Suez Canal in the direction of Cairo
Yom Kippur War, 15 October 1973
Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War (also known as the October War) began on 6 October
1973 (the Jewish Day of Atonement), the holiest day in the Jewish
calendar and a day when adult
Jews are required to fast. The Syrian
and Egyptian armies launched a well-planned surprise attack against
the unprepared Israeli Defense Forces. For the first few days there
was a great deal of uncertainty about Israel's capacity to repel the
invaders. Both the Soviets and the Americans (at the orders of Richard
Nixon) rushed arms to their allies. The Syrians were repulsed by the
tiny remnant of the Israeli tank force on the Golan and, although the
Egyptians captured a strip of territory in Sinai, Israeli forces
crossed the Suez Canal, trapping the Egyptian Third Army in
were 100 kilometres from Cairo. The war cost
Israel over 2,000 dead,
resulted in a heavy arms bill (for both sides) and made
aware of their vulnerability. It also led to heightened superpower
tension. Following the war, both
Israelis and Egyptians showed greater
willingness to negotiate. On 18 January 1974, extensive diplomacy by
US Secretary of State
Henry Kissinger led to a Disengagement of Forces
agreement with the Egyptian government and on 31 May with the Syrian
The war led the Saudi government to initiate the 1973 oil crisis, an
oil embargo in conjunction with OPEC, against countries trading with
Israel. Severe shortages led to massive increases in the price of oil,
and as a result, many countries broke off relations with
downgraded relations, and
Israel was banned from participation in the
Asian Games and other Asian sporting events.
State funding was introduced for elected parties. The new system made
parties independent of wealthy donors and gave
Knesset members more
power over party funding, however it also made them less dependent on
existing party structures and able to take their funding
elsewhere. Prior to the December 1973 elections,
Gahal and a
number of right-wing parties united to form the
Likud (led by Begin).
In the December 1973 elections, Labour won 51 seats, leaving Golda
Meir as Prime Minister. The
Likud won 39 seats.
In May 1974, Palestinians attacked a school in Ma'alot, holding 102
children hostage. Twenty-two children were killed. In November 1974
PLO was granted observer status at the UN and Yasser Arafat
addressed the General Assembly. Later that year the Agranat
Commission, appointed to assess responsibility for Israel's lack of
preparedness for the war, exonerated the government of responsibility,
and held the Chief of Staff and head of military intelligence
responsible. Despite the report, public anger at the Government led to
Golda Meir's resignation.
1974–1977: Rabin I
Further information: Operation Entebbe
See also: Seventeenth government of Israel
Following Meir's resignation,
Yitzhak Rabin (Chief of Staff during the
Six Day War) became prime minister. Modern Orthodox
Zionist followers of the teachings of Rabbi Kook), formed the Gush
Emunim movement, and began an organized drive to settle the West Bank
and Gaza Strip. In November 1975 the United Nations General Assembly,
under the guidance of Austrian Secretary General Kurt Waldheim,
adopted Resolution 3379, which asserted
Zionism to be a form of
racism. The General Assembly rescinded this resolution in December
1991 with Resolution 46/86. In March 1976 there was a massive strike
by Israeli-Arabs in protest at a government plan to expropriate land
in the Galilee.
In July 1976, an Air
France plane carrying 260 people was hijacked by
Palestinian and German terrorists and flown to Uganda, then ruled by
Idi Amin Dada. There, the Germans separated the Jewish passengers from
the non-Jewish passengers, releasing the non-Jews. The hijackers
threatened to kill the remaining, 100-odd Jewish passengers (and the
French crew who had refused to leave). Despite the distances involved,
Rabin ordered a daring rescue operation in which the kidnapped Jews
were freed. UN Secretary General Waldheim described the raid as
"a serious violation of the national sovereignty of a United Nations
member state" (meaning Uganda). Waldheim was a former Nazi
and suspected war criminal, with a record of offending Jewish
In 1976, the ongoing
Lebanese Civil War
Lebanese Civil War led
Israel to allow South
Lebanese to cross the border and work in Israel. In January 1977,
French authorities arrested Abu Daoud, the planner of the Munich
massacre, releasing him a few days later. In March 1977 Anatoly
Sharansky, a prominent
Refusenik and spokesman for the Moscow Helsinki
Group, was sentenced to 13 years' hard labour.
Rabin resigned on April 1977 after it emerged that his wife maintained
a dollar account in the
United States (illegal at the time), which had
been opened while Rabin was Israeli ambassador. The incident became
known as the Dollar Account affair.
Shimon Peres informally replaced
him as prime minister, leading the Alignment in the subsequent
Camp David Accords, 1978 South
See also: Eighteenth and Nineteenth governments of Israel
In a surprise result, the
Likud led by
Menachem Begin won 43 seats in
the 1977 elections (Labour got 32 seats). This was the first time in
Israeli history that the government was not led by the left. A key
reason for the victory was anger among
Jews at discrimination,
which was to play an important role in Israeli politics for many
years. Talented small town
Mizrahi social activists, unable to advance
in the Labour party, were readily embraced by Begin. Moroccan-born
David Levy and Iranian-born
Moshe Katzav were part of a group who won
Mizrahi support for Begin. Many Labour voters voted for the Democratic
Movement for Change (15 seats) in protest at high-profile corruption
cases. The party joined in coalition with Begin and disappeared at the
In addition to starting a process of healing the Mizrahi–Ashkenazi
divide, Begin's government included Ultra-Orthodox
Jews and was
instrumental in healing the Zionist–Ultra-Orthodox rift, however it
did so at the cost of expanding the exemption from military service to
Haredi Jewish students of military age. This led to creation of a
huge class of unemployed
Jews (the exemption was conditional on
attendance of a religious seminary, so they kept studying until they
were too old for military service). By remaining students, they were a
massive burden on the state, while also failing to participate in the
Begin's liberalization of the economy led to hyper-inflation (around
150% inflation) but enabled
Israel to begin receiving US financial
aid. Begin actively supported Gush Emunim's efforts to settle the West
Bank and Jewish settlements in the occupied territories received
government support, thus laying the grounds for intense conflict with
the Palestinian population of the occupied territories.
In November 1977, Egyptian President
Anwar Sadat broke 30 years of
Israel by visiting
Jerusalem at the invitation of
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Sadat's two-day visit included
a speech before the
Knesset and was a turning point in the history of
the conflict. The Egyptian leader created a new psychological climate
Middle East in which peace between
Israel and its Arab
neighbours seemed possible.
Sadat recognized Israel's right to exist
and established the basis for direct negotiations between Egypt and
Israel. Following Sadat's visit, 350
Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War veterans organized
Peace Now movement to encourage Israeli governments to make peace
with the Arabs.
In March 1978, eleven armed Lebanese Palestinians reached
boats and hijacked a bus carrying families on a day outing, killing 38
people, including 13 children. The attackers opposed the
Egyptian–Israeli peace process. Three days later, Israeli forces
Lebanon beginning Operation Litani. After passage of
United Nations Security Council Resolution 425, calling for Israeli
withdrawal and the creation of the United Nations Interim Force in
Lebanon (UNIFIL) peace-keeping force,
Israel withdrew its troops.
Jimmy Carter and
Anwar Sadat celebrating the signing
Camp David Accords
In September 1978, US President
Jimmy Carter invited President Sadat
and Prime Minister Begin to meet with him at Camp David, and on 11
September they agreed on a framework for peace between
Egypt, and a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. It set out broad
principles to guide negotiations between
Israel and the Arab states.
It also established guidelines for a West Bank–Gaza transitional
regime of full autonomy for the Palestinians residing in these
territories, and for a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The
treaty was signed 26 March 1979 by Begin and Sadat, with President
Carter signing as witness. Under the treaty,
Israel returned the Sinai
peninsula to Egypt in April 1982. The final piece of territory to be
repatriated was Taba, adjacent to Eilat, returned in 1989. The Arab
League reacted to the peace treaty by suspending Egypt from the
organization and moving its headquarters from
Cairo to Tunis. Sadat
was assassinated in 1981 by Islamic fundamentalist members of the
Egyptian army who opposed peace with Israel. Following the agreement
Israel and Egypt became the two largest recipients of US military and
financial aid (
Iraq and Afghanistan have now overtaken them).
In December 1978 the Israeli
Merkava battle tank entered use with the
IDF. In 1979, over 40,000 Iranian
Jews migrated to Israel, escaping
Islamic Revolution there. On 30 June 1981, the Israeli air force
destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor that
France was building for
Iraq. Three weeks later, Begin won yet again, in the 1981 elections
(48 seats Likud, 47 Labour).
Ariel Sharon was made defence minister.
The new government annexed the
Golan Heights and banned the national
airline from flying on Shabbat. By the 1980s a diverse set of
high-tech industries had developed in Israel.
In the decades following the 1948 war, Israel's border with Lebanon
was quiet compared to its borders with other neighbours. But the 1969
Cairo agreement gave the
PLO a free hand to attack
Israel from South
Lebanon. The area was governed by the
PLO independently of the
Lebanese Government and became known as "Fatahland" (
Fatah was the
largest faction in the PLO). Palestinian irregulars constantly shelled
the Israeli north, especially the town of Kiryat Shmona, which was a
Likud stronghold inhabited primarily by
Jews who had fled the Arab
world. Lack of control over Palestinian areas was an important factor
in causing civil war in Lebanon.
In June 1982, the attempted assassination of Shlomo Argov, the
ambassador to Britain, was used as a pretext for an Israeli invasion
aiming to drive the
PLO out of the southern half of Lebanon. Sharon
agreed with Chief of Staff
Raphael Eitan to expand the invasion deep
Lebanon even though the cabinet had only authorized a 40
kilometre deep invasion. The invasion became known as the 1982
War and the Israeli army occupied Beirut, the only time an
Arab capital has been occupied by Israel. Some of the Shia and
Christian population of South
Lebanon welcomed the Israelis, as PLO
forces had maltreated them, but Lebanese resentment of Israeli
occupation grew over time and the Shia became gradually radicalized
under Iranian guidance. Constant casualties among Israeli
soldiers and Lebanese civilians led to growing opposition to the war
In August 1982, the
PLO withdrew its forces from
Lebanon (moving to
Israel helped engineer the election of a new Lebanese
president, Bashir Gemayel, who agreed to recognize
Israel and sign a
peace treaty. Gemayal was assassinated before an agreement could be
signed, and one day later Phalangist Christian forces led by Elie
Hobeika entered two Palestinian refugee camps and massacred the
occupants. The massacres led to the biggest demonstration ever in
Israel against the war, with as many as 400,000 people (almost 10% of
the population) gathering in Tel Aviv. In 1983, an Israeli public
inquiry found that Israel's defence minister, Sharon, was indirectly
but personally responsible for the massacres. It also recommended
that he never again be allowed to hold the post (it did not forbid him
from being Prime Minister). In 1983, the
May 17 Agreement was signed
Israel and Lebanon, paving the way for an Israeli withdrawal
from Lebanese territory through a few stages.
Israel continued to
operate against the
PLO until its eventual departure in 1985, and kept
a small force stationed in Southern
Lebanon in support of the South
Lebanon Army until May 2000.
1983–1992: Shamir I; Peres I; Shamir II
Further information: 1983
Israel bank stock crisis, South Lebanon
conflict (1985–2000), First Intifada, and Gulf War
See also: Twentieth, Twenty-first, Twenty-second,
Twenty-third, and Twenty-fourth governments of Israel
Patriot missiles launched to intercept an Iraqi Scud over Tel Aviv
during the Gulf War
In September 1983, Begin resigned and was succeeded by Yitzhak Shamir
as prime minister. The 1984 election was inconclusive, and led to a
power sharing agreement between
Shimon Peres of the Alignment (44
seats) and Shamir of
Likud (41 seats). Peres was prime minister from
1984 to 1986 and Shamir from 1986 to 1988. In 1984, continual
Jews by the Ashkenazi
Ultra-Orthodox establishment led political activist
Aryeh Deri to
leave the Agudat
Israel party and join former chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
in forming Shas, a new party aimed at the non-Ashkenazi Ultra-Orthodox
vote. The party won 4 seats in the first election it contested and
over the next twenty years was the third largest party in the Knesset.
Shas established a nationwide network of free
schools. In 1984, during a severe famine in Ethiopia, 8,000 Ethiopian
Jews were secretly transported to Israel. In 1986 Natan Sharansky, a
famous Russian human rights activist and Zionist refusenik (denied an
exit visa), was released from the
Gulag in return for two Soviet
In June 1985,
Israel withdrew most of its troops from Lebanon, leaving
a residual Israeli force and an Israeli-supported militia in southern
Lebanon as a "security zone" and buffer against attacks on its
northern territory. Since then, IDF fought for many years against the
Shia organization Hezbollah, which became a growing threat to Israel.
By July 1985, Israel's inflation, buttressed by complex index linking
of salaries, had reached 480% per annum and was the highest in the
world. Peres introduced emergency control of prices and cut government
expenditure successfully bringing inflation under control. The
currency (known as the old Israeli shekel) was replaced and renamed
Israeli new shekel
Israeli new shekel at a rate of 1,000 old shkalim = 1 new shekel.
In October 1985,
Israel responded to a Palestinian terrorist attack in
Cyprus by bombing the
PLO headquarters in Tunis. Growing Israeli
settlement and continuing occupation of the
West Bank and Gaza Strip,
led to the first Palestinian Intifada (uprising) in 1987, which lasted
until the Madrid Conference of 1991, despite Israeli attempts to
Human rights abuses by Israeli troops led a group of
Israelis to form B'Tselem, an organization devoted to improving
awareness and compliance with human rights requirements in Israel.
In August 1987, the Israeli government cancelled the
IAI Lavi project,
an attempt to develop an independent Israeli fighter aircraft. The
Israelis found themselves unable to sustain the huge development
costs, and faced US opposition to a project that threatened US
Israel and US global military ascendancy. In September
Israel launched an
Ofeq reconnaissance satellite into orbit,
Shavit rocket, thus becoming one of only eight countries
possessing a capacity to independently launch satellites into space
(two more have since developed this ability). The Alignment and Likud
remained neck and neck in the 1988 elections (39:40 seats). Shamir
successfully formed a national unity coalition with the Labour
Alignment. In March 1990, Alignment leader
Shimon Peres engineered a
defeat of the government in a non-confidence vote and then tried to
form a new government. He failed and Shamir became prime minister at
the head of a right-wing coalition.
In 1990, the
Soviet Union finally permitted free emigration of Soviet
Jews to Israel. Prior to this,
Jews trying to leave the
persecution; those who succeeded arrived as refugees. Over the next
few years some one million Soviet citizens migrated to Israel.
Although there was concern that some of the new immigrants had only a
very tenuous connection to Judaism, and many were accompanied by
non-Jewish relatives, this massive wave of migration slowly
transformed Israel, bringing large numbers of highly educated Soviet
Jews and creating a powerful Russian culture in Israel.
In August 1990,
Iraq invaded Kuwait, triggering the
Gulf War between
Iraq and a large allied force, led by the United States.
Israel with 39 Scud missiles.
Israel did not retaliate at request of
the US, fearing that if
Israel responded against Iraq, other Arab
nations might desert the allied coalition.
Israel provided gas masks
for both the Palestinian population and Israeli citizens, while
Netherlands and the
United States deployed Patriot defence batteries
Israel as protection against the Scuds. In May 1991, during a
36-hour period, 15,000 Beta
Israel (Ethiopian Jews) were secretly
airlifted to Israel. The coalition's victory in the
Gulf War opened
new possibilities for regional peace, and in October 1991 the US
President, George H.W. Bush, and
Soviet Union Premier, Mikhail
Gorbachev, jointly convened a historic meeting in Madrid of Israeli,
Lebanese, Jordanian, Syrian, and Palestinian leaders. Shamir opposed
the idea but agreed in return for loan guarantees to help with
absorption of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. His
participation in the conference led to the collapse of his
1992–1996: Rabin II; Peres II
Oslo Accords and Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin
See also: Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth governments of Israel
In the 1992 elections, the Labour Party, led by Yitzhak Rabin, won a
significant victory (44 seats) promising to pursue peace while
promoting Rabin as a "tough general" and pledging not to deal with the
PLO in any way. The pro-peace Zionist party
Meretz won 12 seats, and
the Arab and communist parties a further 5, meaning that parties
supporting a peace treaty had a full (albeit small) majority in the
Knesset. Later that year, the Israeli electoral system was changed to
allow for direct election of the prime minister. It was hoped this
would reduce the power of small parties (mainly the religious parties)
to extract concessions in return for coalition agreements. The new
system had the opposite effect; voters could split their vote for
prime minister from their (interest based) party vote, and as a result
larger parties won fewer votes and smaller parties becoming more
attractive to voters. It thus increased the power of the smaller
parties. By the 2006 election the system was abandoned.
Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton, and
Yasser Arafat during the Oslo Accords
signing ceremony at the
White House on 13 September 1993
On 25 July 1993,
Israel carried out a week-long military operation in
Lebanon to attack
Hezbollah positions. On 13 September 1993, Israel
Palestine Liberation Organization
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Oslo
Accords (a Declaration of Principles) on the South Lawn of the
White House. The principles established objectives relating to a
transfer of authority from
Israel to an interim Palestinian Authority,
as a prelude to a final treaty establishing a Palestinian state, in
exchange for mutual recognition. The DOP established May 1999 as the
date by which a permanent status agreement for the
West Bank and Gaza
Strip would take effect. In February 1994, Baruch Goldstein, a
follower of the Kach party, killed 29 Palestinians and wounded 125 at
Cave of the Patriarchs
Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, which became known as the Cave
of the Patriarchs massacre. Kach had been barred from participation in
the 1992 elections (on the grounds that the movement was racist). It
was subsequently made illegal.
Israel and the
PLO signed the
Gaza–Jericho Agreement in May 1994, and the Agreement on Preparatory
Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities in August, which began the
process of transferring authority from
Israel to the Palestinians. On
25 July 1994,
Israel signed the Washington Declaration,
which formally ended the state of war that had existed between them
since 1948 and on 26 October the Israel–
Jordan Treaty of Peace,
witnessed by US President Bill Clinton.
Yitzhak Rabin and
Yasser Arafat signed the
Israeli–Palestinian Interim Agreement on the
West Bank and the Gaza
Strip on 28 September 1995 in Washington. The agreement was witnessed
Bill Clinton on behalf of the
United States and by
Russia, Egypt, Norway and the European Union, and incorporates and
supersedes the previous agreements, marking the conclusion of the
first stage of negotiations between
Israel and the PLO. The agreement
PLO leadership to relocate to the occupied territories and
granted autonomy to the Palestinians with talks to follow regarding
final status. In return the Palestinians promised to abstain from use
of terror and changed the Palestinian National Covenant, which had
called for the expulsion of all
Jews who migrated after 1917 and the
elimination of Israel.
The agreement was opposed by
Hamas and other Palestinian factions,
which launched suicide bomber attacks at Israel. Rabin had a barrier
constructed around Gaza to prevent attacks. The growing separation
Israel and the "Palestinian Territories" led to a labour
shortage in Israel, mainly in the construction industry. Israeli firms
began importing labourers from the Philippines, Thailand,
Romania; some of these labourers stayed on without visas. In addition,
a growing number of Africans began illegally migrating to Israel. On 4
November 1995, a far-right-wing religious Zionist opponent of the Oslo
Accords, assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In February 1996
Rabin's successor, Shimon Peres, called early elections. In April
Israel launched an operation in southern
Lebanon as a result of
Hezbollah's Katyusha rocket attacks on Israeli population centres
along the border.
1996–2001: Netanyahu I; Barak
Further information: 2000
Camp David Summit
See also: Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth governments of Israel
The May 1996 elections were the first featuring direct election of the
prime minister and resulted in a narrow election victory for Likud
leader Binyamin Netanyahu. A spate of suicide bombings reinforced the
Likud position for security.
Hamas claimed responsibility for most of
the bombings. Despite his stated differences with the Oslo Accords,
Prime Minister Netanyahu continued their implementation, but his prime
ministership saw a marked slow-down in the Peace Process. Netanyahu
also pledged to gradually reduce US aid to Israel.
In September 1996, a Palestinian riot broke out against the creation
of an exit in the
Western Wall tunnel. Over the subsequent few weeks,
around 80 people were killed as a result. In January 1997
Netanyahu signed the
Hebron Protocol with the Palestinian Authority,
resulting in the redeployment of Israeli forces in
Hebron and the
turnover of civilian authority in much of the area to the Palestinian
In the election of July 1999,
Ehud Barak of the Labour Party became
Prime Minister. His party was the largest in the
Knesset with 26
seats. In September 1999 the Supreme Court of
Israel ruled that the
use of torture in interrogation of Palestinian prisoners was
illegal. On 21 March 2000,
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II arrived in Israel
for a historic visit.
On 25 May 2000,
Israel unilaterally withdrew its remaining forces from
the "security zone" in southern Lebanon. Several thousand members of
Lebanon Army (and their families) left with the Israelis.
The UN Secretary-General concluded that, as of 16 June 2000,
Israel had withdrawn its forces from
Lebanon in accordance with UN
Security Council Resolution 425.
Lebanon claims that
to occupy Lebanese territory called "Sheba'a Farms" (however this area
was governed by Syria until 1967 when
Israel took control). The
Sheba'a Farms provided
Hezbollah with a ruse to maintain warfare with
Israel. The Lebanese government, in contravention of the UN
Security Council resolution, did not assert sovereignty in the area,
which came under
Hezbollah control. In the Fall of 2000, talks were
Camp David to reach a final agreement on the Israel/Palestine
Ehud Barak offered to meet most of the Palestinian teams
requests for territory and political concessions, including Arab parts
of east Jerusalem; however, Arafat abandoned the talks without making
Following its withdrawal from South Lebanon,
Israel became a member of
Western European and Others Group
Western European and Others Group at the United Nations. Prior to
Israel was the only nation at the UN which was not a member of
any group (The Arab states would not allow it to join the Asia group),
which meant it could not be a member of the Security Council or
appoint anyone to the International Court and other key UN roles.
Since December 2013 it has been a permanent member of the group.
In July 2000,
Aryeh Deri was sentenced to 3 years in prison for bribe
taking. Deri is regarded as the mastermind behind the rise of
was a government minister at the age of 24. Political manipulation
meant the investigation lasted for years. Deri subsequently sued a
Police Officer who alleged that he was linked to the traffic-accident
death of a witness, who was run over in New York by a driver who had
once been in the employ of an associate of Deri.
On 28 September 2000, Israeli opposition leader
Ariel Sharon visited
the Al-Aqsa compound, or Temple Mount, the following day the
Palestinians launched the al-Aqsa Intifada. David Samuels and Khaled
Abu Toameh have stated that the uprising was planned much
earlier. In October 2000, Palestinians destroyed Joseph's
Tomb, a Jewish shrine in Nablus.
The Arrow missile, a missile designed to destroy ballistic missiles,
including Scud missiles, was first deployed by Israel. In 2001, with
the Peace Process increasingly in disarray,
Ehud Barak called a
special election for Prime Minister. Barak hoped a victory would give
him renewed authority in negotiations with the Palestinians. Instead
Ariel Sharon was elected PM. After this election,
the system of directly electing the Premier was abandoned.
Further information: Second Intifada, Israeli
West Bank barrier, and
Israel's unilateral disengagement plan
See also: Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth governments of Israel
West Bank barrier route built (red), under construction
(pink) and proposed (white), as of June 2011[update]
The failure of the peace process, increased Palestinian terror and
occasional attacks by
Hezbollah from Lebanon, led much of the Israeli
public and political leadership to lose confidence in the Palestinian
Authority as a peace partner. Most felt that many Palestinians viewed
the peace treaty with
Israel as a temporary measure only. Many
Israelis were thus anxious to disengage from the Palestinians. In
response to a wave of suicide bomb attacks, culminating in the
"Passover massacre" (see List of Israeli civilian casualties in the
Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield in March
2002, and Sharon began the construction of a barrier around the West
Bank. Around the same time, the Israeli town of
Sderot and other
Israeli communities near Gaza became subject to constant shelling and
mortar bomb attacks from Gaza.
Jews from Latin America began arriving in
Israel due to
economic crises in their countries of origin. In January 2003 separate
elections were held for the Knesset.
Likud won the most seats (27). An
anti-religion party, Shinui, led by media pundit Tommy Lapid, won 15
seats on a secularist platform, making it the third largest party
(ahead of orthodox Shas). Internal fighting led to Shinui's demise at
the next election. In 2004, the Black
Hebrews were granted permanent
residency in Israel. The group had begun migrating to
Israel 25 years
earlier from the United States, but had not been recognized as
the state and hence not granted citizenship under Israel's Law of
Return. They had settled in
Israel without official status. From 2004
onwards, they received citizen's rights.
The Sharon government embarked on an extensive program of construction
of desalinization plants that freed
Israel of the fear of drought.
Some of the Israeli desalinization plants are the largest of their
kind in the world.
In May 2004,
Israel launched Operation Rainbow in southern Gaza to
create a safer environment for the IDF soldiers along the Philadelphi
Route. On September 30, 2004,
Israel carried out Operation Days of
Penitence in northern Gaza to destroy the launching sites of
Palestinian rockets which were used to attack Israeli towns. In 2005,
all Jewish settlers were evacuated from Gaza (some forcibly) and their
homes demolished. Disengagement from the
Gaza Strip was completed on
12 September 2005. Military disengagement from the northern West Bank
was completed ten days later.
In 2005 Sharon left the
Likud and formed a new party called Kadima,
which accepted that the peace process would lead to creation of a
Palestinian state. He was joined by many leading figures from both
Likud and Labour.
Hamas won the Palestinian legislative election, 2006, the first and
only genuinely free Palestinian elections. Hamas' leaders rejected all
agreements signed with Israel, refused to recognize Israel's right to
exist, refused to abandon terror, and occasionally claimed the
Holocaust was a Jewish conspiracy. The withdrawal and
left the status of Gaza unclear,
Israel claimed it was no longer an
occupying power but continued to control air and sea access to Gaza
although it did not exercise sovereignty on the ground. Egypt insisted
that it was still occupied and refused to open border crossings with
Gaza, although it was free to do so.
On April 2006
Ariel Sharon was incapacitated by a severe haemorrhagic
Ehud Olmert became Prime Minister.
Further information: Start-up Nation, 2006
Hamas cross-border raid,
Lebanon War, and Gaza
See also: Thirty-first government of Israel
Ehud Olmert was elected Prime Minister after his party, Kadima, won
the most seats (29) in the Israeli legislative election, 2006. In 2005
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was officially elected president of Iran; since
then, Iranian policy towards
Israel has grown more confrontational.
Israeli analysts believe Ahmadinejad has worked to undermine the peace
process with arms supplies and aid to Hezbullah in South
Hamas in Gaza, and is developing nuclear weapons, possibly for
use against Israel. Iranian support for
Hezbollah and its nuclear
arms program are in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions
1559 and 1747. Iran also encourages
Holocaust denial. Following the
Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon,
Hezbollah had mounted periodic
attacks on Israel, which did not lead to Israeli retaliation.
Similarly, the withdrawal from Gaza led to incessant shelling of towns
around the Gaza area with only minimal Israeli response. The failure
to react led to criticism from the Israeli right and undermined the
On 14 March 2006,
Israel carried out an operation in the Palestinian
Authority prison of
Jericho in order to capture
Ahmad Sa'adat and
several Palestinian Arab prisoners located there who assassinated
Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001. The operation was conducted
as a result of the expressed intentions of the newly elected Hamas
government to release these prisoners. On 25 June 2006, a
crossed the border from Gaza and attacked a tank, capturing Israeli
soldier Gilad Shalit, sparking clashes in Gaza.
Nahal Brigade soldiers returning after the 2006
On 12 July,
Israel from Lebanon, shelled Israeli
towns and attacked a border patrol, taking two dead or badly wounded
Israeli soldiers. These incidents led
Israel to initiate the Second
Lebanon War, which lasted through August 2006. Israeli forces entered
some villages in Southern Lebanon, while the air force attacked
targets all across the country.
Israel only made limited ground gains
until the launch of Operation Changing Direction 11, which lasted for
3 days with disputed results. Shortly before a UN ceasefire came into
effect, Israeli troops captured Wadi Saluki. The war concluded with
Hezbollah evacuating its forces from Southern Lebanon, while the IDF
remained until its positions could be handed over to the Lebanese
Armed Forces and UNIFIL.
In 2007 education was made compulsory until the age of 18 for all
citizens (it had been 16). Refugees from the genocide in Darfur,
mostly Muslim, arrived in
Israel illegally, with some given
Asylum. Illegal immigrants arrived mainly from
addition to foreign workers overstaying their visas. The numbers of
such migrants are not known, and estimates vary between 30,000 and
An American billionaire casino owner, Sheldon Adelson, set up a free
Israel Hayom with the express intention of reducing the
influence of the dominant (centre-left) newspaper
Yediot Ahronot and
causing a right-ward shift in Israeli politics by supporting
In June 2007,
Hamas took control of the
Gaza Strip in the course of
the Battle of Gaza, seizing government institutions and replacing
Fatah and other government officials with its own. Following the
takeover, Egypt and
Israel imposed a partial blockade, on the grounds
Fatah had fled and was no longer providing security on the
Palestinian side, and to prevent arms smuggling by terrorist groups.
On 6 September 2007, the Israeli Air Force destroyed a nuclear reactor
in Syria. On 28 February 2008,
Israel launched a military campaign in
Gaza in response to the constant firing of Qassam rockets by Hamas
militants. On July 16, 2008,
Hezbollah swapped the bodies of Israeli
Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, kidnapped in 2006, in
exchange for the Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, four Hezbollah
prisoners, and the bodies of 199 Palestinian Arab and Lebanese
Olmert came under investigation for corruption and this led him to
announce on 30 July 2008, that he would be stepping down as Prime
Minister following election of a new leader of the
Kadima party in
Tzipi Livni won the election, but was unable to form a
coalition and Olmert remained in office until the general election.
Israel carried out
Operation Cast Lead
Operation Cast Lead in the
Gaza Strip from 27
December 2008 to 18 January 2009 in response to rocket attacks from
Hamas militants, leading to a decrease of Palestinian rocket
2009–present: Netanyahu II
Further information: 2011 Israeli social justice protests, Tamar gas
field, Operation Pillar of Defense, and 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict
See also: Thirty-second, Thirty-third, and Thirty-fourth
governments of Israel
In the 2009 legislative election
Likud won 27 seats and
however, the right-wing camp won a majority of seats, and President
Shimon Peres called on Netanyahu to form the government. Russian
Yisrael Beiteinu came third with 15 seats, and
Labour was reduced to fourth place with 13 seats. In 2009, Israeli
Yitzhak Tshuva announced the discovery of huge natural gas
reserves off the coast of Israel.
On 31 May 2010, an international incident broke out in the
Mediterranean Sea when foreign activists trying to break the maritime
blockade over Gaza, clashed with Israeli troops. During the struggle,
nine Turkish activists were killed. In late September 2010 took place
direct negotiations between
Israel and the Palestinians without
success. As a defensive countermeasure to the rocket threat against
Israel's civilian population, at the end of March 2011
Israel began to
operate the advanced mobile air defence system "Iron Dome" in the
southern region of
Israel and along the border with the Gaza Strip.
Tel Aviv on 6 August 2011
On 14 July 2011, the largest social protest in the history of Israel
began in which hundreds of thousands of protesters from a variety of
socio-economic and religious backgrounds in
Israel protested against
the continuing rise in the cost of living (particularly housing) and
the deterioration of public services in the country (such as health
and education). The peak of the demonstrations took place on 3
September 2011, in which about 400,000 people demonstrated across the
In October 2011, a deal was reached between
Israel and Hamas, by which
the kidnapped Israeli soldier
Gilad Shalit was released in exchange
for 1,027 Palestinians and Arab-Israeli prisoners. In March
2012, Secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhir
al-Qaisi, a senior PRC member and two additional Palestinian militants
were assassinated during a targeted killing carried out by Israeli
forces in Gaza. The Palestinian armed factions in the Gaza
Strip, led by the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees,
fired a massive amount of rockets towards southern
retaliation, sparking five days of clashes along the Gaza border.
In May 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement
with the Head of Opposition
Shaul Mofaz for
Kadima to join the
government, thus cancelling the early election supposed to be held in
September. However, in July, the
Kadima party left Netanyahu's
government due to a dispute concerning military conscription for
Jews in Israel.
In June 2012,
Israel transferred the bodies of 91 Palestinian suicide
bombers and other militants as part of what Mark Regev, spokesman for
Netanyahu, described as a "humanitarian gesture" to PA chairman
Mahmoud Abbas to help revive the peace talks, and reinstate direct
Israel and the Palestinians. On 21 October
United States and
Israel began their biggest joint air and
missile defence exercise, known as Austere Challenge 12, involving
around 3,500 US troops in the region along with 1,000 IDF personnel,
expected to last three weeks. Germany and Britain also
participated. In response to over a hundred rocket attacks on
southern Israeli cities,
Israel began an operation in Gaza on 14
November 2012, with the targeted killing of Ahmed Jabari, chief of
Hamas military wing, and airstrikes against twenty underground sites
housing long-range missile launchers capable of striking Tel Aviv. In
January 2013, construction of the barrier on the Israeli-Egyptian
border was completed in its main section.
Benjamin Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister again after the Likud
Yisrael Beiteinu alliance won the most seats (31) in the 2013
legislative election and formed a coalition government with secular
Yesh Atid party (19), rightist
The Jewish Home
The Jewish Home (12) and
Hatnuah (6), excluding
Haredi parties. Labour came in third
with 15 seats. In July 2013, as a "good will gesture" to restart
peace talks with the Palestinian Authority,
Israel agreed to release
104 Palestinian prisoners, most of whom had been in jail since before
the 1993 Oslo Accords, including militants who had killed Israeli
civilians. In April 2014,
Israel suspended peace talks after
Fatah agreed to form a unity government.
Following an escalation of rocket attacks by Hamas,
Israel started an
operation in the
Gaza Strip on 8 July 2014, which included a
ground incursion aimed at destroying the cross-border tunnels.
Differences over the budget and a "Jewish state" bill triggered early
elections in December 2014. After the 2015 Israeli elections,
Netanyahu renewed his mandate as Prime Minister when
Likud obtained 30
seats and formed a right-wing coalition government with
The Jewish Home
The Jewish Home (8), and Orthodox parties
Shas (7) and United Torah
Judaism (6), the bare minimum of seats required to form a coalition.
Zionist Union alliance came second with 24 seats.
Main article: Demographic history of Palestine
Population of the Land of
Estimated Jewish Population (thousands)
Estimated Total Population
Israel by decade
World Jewry percentage
GDP per capita (current US$)
Archaeology of Israel
History of the Arab–Israeli conflict
History of Israeli nationality
History of Jerusalem
History of the
Judaism in the Land of Israel
History of the Middle East
History of Palestine
History of Zionism
Jewish military history
LGBT history in Israel
List of Israeli museums
List of Jewish leaders in the Land of Israel
List of years in Israel
Politics of Israel
Postage stamps and postal history of Israel
Timeline of Israeli history
^ "The Chosen Few : How Education Shaped Jewish History,
70–1492, by Botticini and Eckstein, Chapter 1, especially page 17,
^ "Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel".
of Foreign Affairs. 14 May 1948. Archived from the original on 21
March 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
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