In the year 1948, Israel declared independence and was recognised as a member of the UN. The declaration of the creation of Israel, however, triggered a strong response in the five neighbouring Arab states of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, who moved in to occupy the former Mandatory Palestine region. This came to be known as the infamous Arab-Israeli War.
Civil war raged for a year until all sides were urged to arrive at a ceasefire in 1949. The result was creation of an armistice between the nations, allowing the “West bank region to temporarily become a part of Jordan while the Gaza Strip became a part of Egypt”.
Despite the ceasefire after the Arab-Israeli War, however, countless conflicts and confrontations between the nations followed….
- The Suez Crisis: This was a significant event that took place in 1956. The conflict began after the Arab-Israeli War when Egypt seized control of the Suez Canal, which at the time was considered an important Egyptian waterway, connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. In response to this, Egypt was abruptly attacked by Israel supported by France and Great Britain. The conflict was damaging to the diplomatic relations between the countries and nearly sparked the involvement of the Soviet Union during the time. Eventually, however, Israel, Great Britain and France withdrew their troops from the region, allowing Egypt to retain control of the Suez Canal to this day. The rapidly escalating tensions during the time prompted a response from the UN who sent peacekeepers to prevent further conflict in the region.
- The Six-day War: a largely unforeseen war that was the result of a surprise attack by Israel on neighbouring nations such as Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Despite the fact that the war only lasted for 6 days, Israel managed to seize control of key regions such as the Gaza strip and the Sinai Peninsula.
- The Yom Kippur War: A few years after the Six Day War, in 1973 Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel. Syria’s objective was primarily to regain control of the Golan Heights. However, this endeavour was largely unsuccessful as Syria failed to recapture the region. Two weeks after the start of the war, the United Nations passed a resolution to bring an end to the war.
- The Lebanon War- 1982 marked the start of another significant war after nearly a decade. During this war, Israel invaded Lebanon in the hope of eliminating the Palestine Liberation Organisation from the region. This organisation, founded in 1964, was primarily aimed at ensuring the creation of a “Palestinian State within Israel”. Israel was ultimately successful and managed to eliminate the PLO from Lebanon.
- The First Palestinian Intifada (1987)- Five years after the start of the Lebanon War, there was a massive uprising in Palestine opposing Israel’s annexation of the Gaza strip along with the West Bank. The First Intifada holds great significance to the current conflict as it marks the start of a peace process between the two nations aided by US involvement. The Oslo Peace Accord (1993) was a treaty that was ratified by the PLO( Palestine Liberation Organisation) and Israel at the time. It marked significant progress in establishing peace and negating violence between the two regions during the time. The ratification of the accord by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat was “hailed as a political breakthrough that would constitute the dawn of a new era for the Middle East”.
- The Second Palestinian Intifada: This was yet another uprising from the Palestinians launched in the year 2000. Unlike the previous Intifada, however, the violence caused by the uprising continued for years culminating in a cease-fire. The second Palestinian Intefada, violent as it was, was of great significance to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Israel, post this uprising declared that it aimed to “remove all troops and Jewish settlements from the Gaza strip by the end of 2005”.
Each of these conflicts over the years have contributed to the crises in the region. To this day, the Middle East conflict remains unresolved. Part Four of this series will explore the state of the conflict as it stands today and plausible resolutions that experts, governments, peacekeeping bodies and historians have deliberated over the years.