Status Quo Side: Arab States
Non-Status Quo Side: Palestinian Jews (Israel)
Region: Middle East
Conflict Type: Interstate
Issues in Dispute: Ethnic, Governance, Independence
During World War II previous British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, set forth in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, wavered in the face of Arab resentment and London's wish to deny Arab support to Nazi Germany during World War II, and subsequently to the USSR. Restrictions on Jewish immigration bred a militant Jewish underground army committed to smuggling in Nazism's victims, 100,000 of whom had remained after war's end in former prison camps. Britain, unable to reconcile Arab and Jewish historical, legal, and political claims in the Mandate it had been awarded by the League of Nations, and bogged down in a guerrilla war in Palestine, handed the problem to the UN.
The UNGA approved the partition of Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem's status to be settled later. Arab states had threatened to counter partition by force if necessary, and the Jewish-British guerrilla war was superseded by mounting violence of the Arab population against the Jews. With UN failure either to placate the Arabs or enforce partition, Britain withdrew on May 14 1948 as the League of Nations Mandate expired and the State of Israel was proclaimed.
Forces of Egypt, Transjordan (later called Jordan), Iraq, Syria and Lebanon entered the former territory of Palestine "to establish security." On May 29 both sides agreed to a 4-week truce supervised by a UN mediator. When hostilities resumed the Jews, armed from abroad, proved superior. On July 18 a general truce was reimposed and all but Egypt withdrew from the war. Violations on both sides continued with serious fighting recurring in October and December in the Negev. UN mediator Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte was assassinated in September by Israeli extremists.
His successor UN official Ralph Bunche, an American, achieved an effective cease-fire early in January 1949. General armistice agreements were signed by Israel with Egypt on February 1949 and subsequently with each of the other belligerents. [See SIN, SUE, AIW and MEW.]
Copyright © 1999 Lincoln P. Bloomfield and Allen Moulton