History of Israel

Knowing history helps us to understand better—understand people of certain regions, nationalities and religions. It’s especially true about Middle East, because a lot of prejudice and false beliefs start from not knowing the history of Israel correctly.

When we look at the map of modern Middle East we can see that this small nation of 6.5 million people is surrounded by 22 Arab states. Arab countries use up 640 times the land Israel has.

Many people use the term “Palestine” for Israel’s territory. This term was first used 2000 years ago by Romans who gave this name to the land because of Philistines who used to live in the land and have since become extinct. The fact that propaganda likes to make people to think region’s Arabs are descendants of Philistines, does not make it true.

If we look at the territory of modern Israel and Jordan then this is the area that was once called “Palestine” and had this name until 1948. The territory east from the Jordan river is also part of “Palestine” and it’s a Palestinian Arab State.

Back in the 17th century BC Abraham, Isaac and Jacob started inhabiting Eretz Yisrael – The Land of Israel. Sadly they were forced to leave almost immediately because of the famine and they ended up in Egypt. In the 13th century BC the Jews left Egypt, led by Moses, spent 40 years in the desert and reached back to the Land of Israel.

1000 years BC Jerusalem became the capital of the Kingdom of David and Jerusalem is also the capital of modern Israel. 960 BC king Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem.

In 930 BC the Kingdom divided into Judea and Israel and in 722 the Assyrians conquered Israel, deporting people living there. In 586 BC Babylon conquered Judea, destroyed Jerusalem and sent Jews to Babylon.

In 538 BC the Jews started to return to their homeland, but already in 322 Alexander the Great conquered the country. 63 BC the Romans conquered Jerusalem and the Roman era began.

In 66 CE there an uprising against the Romans took place and Jerusalem was destroyed again. In 614 the Persians conquered the territory.

From 1515 to 1917 most of the Arab countries and also the Land of Israel was ruled by Ottoman Empire of Turkey. During WWI, Turkey supported Germany and when Germany was defeated, so were the Turks. In 1916 control of the southern portion of their Ottoman Empire was mandated to France and Britain. Lebanon and Syria were mandated to France and “Palestine” to Great Britain.

But already back in 1897 the First Zionist Congress took place in Basel, Switzerland, where Theodore Herzl promised that in next 50 years a Jewish State will be born.

Since no one had ever established a national homeland in “Palestine” since the Jews had done it 2,000 years before, the British looked favourably upon the creation of a Jewish national homeland throughout all of Palestine. The Jews had already begun mass immigration into “Palestine” in the 1880′s in an effort to rid the land of swamps and malaria and prepare for the rebirth of Israel. This Jewish effort to revitalize the land attracted an equally large immigration of Arabs from neighbouring areas who were drawn by employment opportunities and healthier living conditions.

In 1923, the British divided “Palestine” into two administrative districts and Jews were permitted only west of the Jordan River. The British chopped off 75% of the originally proposed Jewish homeland to form an Arab Palestinian nation called Trans-Jordan. With this partitioning the Arabs got 75% of the mandate and the rest – 25% was to be Jewish Palestinian homeland.

The Arabs, who remained to the west of Jordan River, weren’t too happy with the partitioning and launched never-ending murderous attacks upon the Jewish Palestinians in an effort to drive them out. Most terrifying were the Hebron massacres of 1929 and later during the 1936-39 “Arab Revolt.” The British at first tried to maintain order but soon realized it wasn’t possible.

The Jews were forced to form an organized defence against the Arabs Palestinians and Haganah was formed. There was also a Jewish underground called Irgun led by Menachem Begin, who later became the Prime Minister of Israel. Besides fighting the Arabs, Irgun was instrumental in driving out the pro-Arab British.

In 1947 the British turned the matter over to the United Nations. The 1947 U.N. Resolution 181 partition plan was to divide the remaining 25% of Palestine into a Jewish State and a second Arab State (Trans-Jordan being the first) based upon population concentrations. The Jews accepted the plan, but the Arabs rejected.

On May 14, 1948 the Jews declared the State of Israel. On the next day, seven neighbouring Arab states – Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Yemen invaded Israel.

Most of the Arabs living within the boundaries of Israel were encouraged to leave by the invading Arab armies to facilitate the slaughter of the Jews and were promised to be given all Jewish property after the victorious Arab armies won the war. 70% of the Arab Palestinians who left in 1948 – about 300,000 to 400,000 of them – never saw an Israeli soldier. They did not flee because they feared Jewish thugs, but because of a rational and reasonable calculus: the Jews will be exterminated; we will get out of the way while that messy and dangerous business goes forward, and we will return afterwards to reclaim our homes, and to inherit those nice Jewish properties as well. The remaining 30% either saw for themselves that these Jews would fight and die for their new nation and decided to pack up and leave or were driven off the land as a normal consequence of war.

When the 19 month war ended, the Arabs who did not flee became Israeli citizens. Those who fled became the seeds of the first wave of “Palestinian refugees.”

The end result of the 1948-49 Israeli War of Independence was the creation of a Jewish State slightly larger than that which was proposed by the 1947 United Nations. The territory that was supposed to be “Palestinian Arab State”, was occupied by Jordan and Egypt. In 1950 Trans-Jordan formally merged “West Bank” and granted all those Arabs living there Jordanian citizenship. Since Trans-Jordan was then no longer confined to one side of the Jordan River, it renamed itself Jordan. In the final analysis, the Arabs of Palestine ended up with nearly 85% of the original territory of Palestine.

Jordan also got most of Jerusalem, including the Old City and the Western Wall.

From 1949-67 when all of Judea-Samaria and Gaza were under Arab control, no effort was ever made to create a Palestinian State for the Arabs living there. Isn’t it curious how Arafat and his “Palestinian Liberation Organization, formed in 1964, discovered their “ancient” identity and a need for “self-determination” and “human dignity” on this very same West Bank only after Israel regained this territory (three years later in 1967) following Jordan’s attempt to destroy Israel? Why was no request ever made upon King Hussein of Jordan by the Arabs living on the West Bank when he occupied it? Is it logical that the PLO was formed in 1964 to regain the lands they would lose three years later in 1967?

Throughout much of May 1967, the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian armies mobilized along Israel’s borders in preparation for a massive invasion to eliminate the State of Israel. But Israel planned and executed a pre-emptive strike against Egypt and destroyed its Air Force. Unaware that the Egyptians had no more air force, Jordan launched an attack from Judea and Samaria into Israel, while Syrian troops prepared to descend down the Golan Heights high ground into northern Israel.

After this Six Day War Israel gained Judea, Samaria, Gaza, Golan Heights and also the Sinai desert. It was also very important for Israel because the 3000 year capital – Jerusalem – was back in Israeli control and the Jews could again pray at the Western Wall.

At the time 850,000 Arabs were living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. After the war they started calling themselves the “second wave of refugees”. They planned to leave the territories after the war, but General Moshe Dayan asked them to stay. Dayan planned to educate people, give them jobs, medical assistance and other they needed for life.

In 1982 Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty and Israel gave the Sinai back to Egypt. Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria remained Israeli territory.

In 1987 the first “intifada” or uprising started after Israeli soldiers killed six members of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad. Intifada lasted until 1991 when Israel was able to crush it. Official end to the uprising came in 1993, when Israeli Government and PLO signed Oslo treaties. In addition they agreed that Israeli defence forces will leave Gaza, Judea and Samaria and that a Palestinian Authority is to be created. The treaties stated that Arabs will rule Gaza, Judea and Samaria for five years and after that a definitive peace treaty was to be born.

The parties also signed a treaty of mutual recognition – Israel was to recognize PLO as the representative of Arabs and PLO was to recognize Israel’s right of existence.

In 2000 US president Bill Clinton asked PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli PM Ehud Barak to Camp David to get a final solution for the conflict. The solution never happened and the “second intifada” that began in 2000 crushed also the treaties of Oslo.

The Arabs claim that the second uprising began because opposition leader and later Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the al-Aqsa mosque with soldiers. Later the Arabs claimed that the uprising started because of “Israeli occupation in West Bank and Gaza”. Also, American and European reports do not support the claim that Sharon was the reason for the uprising.

Israeli Defence Forces took back Judea, Samaria and Gaza; in 2001 terrorist groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa martyrs’ brigade started suicide terror attacks in Israel, which in return was the reason of counter-attacks by IDF, and targeted killings of terrorist leaders.

UN Security Council resolution from 12th of March, 2002 called for creating a Palestinian state that would exist side by side with Israel in peace and security. A Peace Quarter was created with US, EU, Russia and UN, with the goal to create the Palestinian State in Judea, Samaria and Gaza in next three years. It’s 2008 and the goal hasn’t been achieved.

After the wave of violence the Prime Minister Ehud Barak called for early elections, hoping to win the elections and get a new mandate for negotiations with Arabs. Still, the election in 2001 was won by Likud and Ariel Sharon. He promised people security and it was an essential need for the people whose lives were shattered in suicide bombing campaign.

Sharon built the security fence between Israel and Judea-Samaria; and removed all settlers and army from Gaza Strip in 2005. Gaza was given entirely to Palestinian Authority, but the terror attacks and constant rocket bombings from Gaza never ended.

The unilateral “disengagement” from Gaza was done in the summer of 2005, but Sharon’s career in Likud was endangered, because not everyone in the party was happy with the plan. In November Sharon started a new centrist party Kadima and left Likud with his supporters. Likud elected a new chairman, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposed the disengagement.

Sharon’s new party gained a lot of support, but fate played a trick on the man himself. In December he had a slight stroke and in the end of January a massive one. He has been in coma since.

Sharon’s right hand man Ehud Olmert led the country to early elections in March 2006 and won the election. With coalition partners he formed a new government which was unsuccessful in governing throughout its term. In 2006 Olmert started a war against Lebanese terrorist group Hizbollah, but that ended with no results; through his reign he had to fight the corruption charges brought up by Attorney General and led to his resignation in 2008. He never fulfilled Kadima’s main election promise – to bring peace and security to Israel.

Early elections were held on February 10, 2008, and the right wing bloc, led by Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu swept to a convincing victory. Although Kadima, led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, won 28 seats in Knesset and Likud only 27, the right wing bloc has 65 seats altogether and therefore president Shimon Peres asked Netanyahu to form a government.

Netanyahu’s Government took the oath of office on March 31, 2009, consisting of 30 ministers from Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, Avoda (Labour) and Habayit Hayehudi.