The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict 1948–2000


May 14

The British officially withdraw from Palestine, and the Jewish National Council proclaims the State of Israel. Neighboring Arab nations, which rejected the partition of Palestine, immediately invade, intent on crushing the newly declared State of Israel. The conflict is known as Israel’s War of Independence. Fighting continues with sporadic truces into 1949. During the cease-fires, both sides organize their militaries and stock up on weapons. On the Israeli side, several militias join to form the Israel Defense Force (IDF). Arab nations and the Palestinians were not as efficient in reorganizing their militaries as Israel.

Although Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948, triggered the first full-scale war, armed conflicts between Jews and Arabs had been frequent since Great Britain received the League of Nations mandate for Palestine in 1920. From 1945 to 1948 Zionists waged guerrilla war against British troops and against Palestinian Arabs supported by the Arab League, and they had made substantial gains by 1948. The 1948–49 War reflected the opposition of the Arab states to the formation of the Jewish state of Israel in what they considered to be Arab territory.


February 24

Egyptian-Israeli General Armistice Agreement is signed.

March 23

Lebanese-Israeli General Armistice Agreement is signed.

April 3

Jordanian-Israeli General Armistice Agreement  is signed.

May 11

Israel’s government, with Chaim Weizmann as president and David Ben-Gurion as prime minister, is admitted to the UN.

July 20

Israel-Syria Armistice Agreement is signed.

None of the countries sign formal peace treaties with Israel. Israel increases its original territory by 50%, taking western Galilee, a broad corridor through central Palestine to Jerusalem, and part of modern Jerusalem. The new border is called the Green Line. As many as 750,000 Palestinians either flee or are forced from what was previously Palestine. The Palestinian defeat and exodus is known as the Nakba, or disaster.

For decades Israel has tried to erase from public consciousness the Green Line, the pre-1967 boundary with the West Bank at the heart of stalled negotiations for a Palestinian state.

Israel has built on either side of the Green Line and deleted it from textbooks and weather maps.



The Israeli General Staff had been ordered to prepare a plan to occupy the Sinai Peninsula. International conditions did not permit Ben-Gurion to act immediately, but he was willing to bide his time until an appropriate opportunity came along.


From 1949 to 1956 the armed truce between Israel and the Arabs, enforced in part by the UN forces, was punctuated by raids and reprisals. Among the world powers, the United States, Great Britain, and France sided with Israel, while the Soviet Union supported Arab demands. Tensions mounted during 1956 as Israel became convinced that the Arabs were preparing for war.

July 19

Egypt’s ambassador to the United States entered a meeting with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. He brought with him a proposal aimed at overcoming differences between Egypt and the United States over a package of American aid to help build a vast dam and hydroelectric project at Aswan. But without warning and with few niceties, the ambassador was informed that the United States had decided that Egypt could not successfully complete this project. The United States was therefore withdrawing the offer of assistance it had made only six months earlier, in December 1955.

Apart from cotton, the only big foreign-exchange earner in Egypt was the Suez Canal. The canal was owned by a private corporation that behaved like a sovereign entity; it was on Egyptian soil, but the Egyptian government derived little financial benefit from it.

July 26

Egypt takes control of Suez Canal. The Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas across Egypt, was completed by French engineers in 1869. For the next 87 years, it remained largely under British and French control, and Europe depended on it as an inexpensive shipping route for oil from the Middle East.

October 29

Israel launches attack on Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and drives toward Suez Canal. After months of diplomatic comings and goings, marked by proposals by the United States that had had no prospect of being accepted by either party, Britain and France did enter into a secret alliance with Israel to occupy the Canal Zone and bring down Nasser. The joint military operations at the end of October were brilliantly successful, but they led to diplomatic disaster for Britain and (to a lesser degree) France. The United States had not been consulted about all this, and Eisenhower publicly demanded a cease-fire and the prompt withdrawal of foreign forces from the Canal Zone.

November 6

A cease-fire, forced by U.S. pressure, stops British, French, and Israeli advance.


June 2

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is formed. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), coordinating council for Palestinian organizations, founded by Egypt and the Arab League and initially controlled by Egypt. Composed of various guerrilla groups and political factions, the PLO is dominated by Al Fatah, the largest group, whose leader, Yasir Arafat, was chairman of the PLO from 1969 to 2004 and established Palestinian control over the organization. Other groups in the PLO include the Syrian-backed As Saiqa and the Marxist-oriented Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).