The Establishment of the State of Israel Part II
Against the establishment of a Jewish state
Known as the Balfour Declaration, the British’s support for the Zionist movement represented the first major diplomatic breakthrough for the Jewish nationalist movement.
Thus, with renewed optimism, the Zionists continued their state-building project, including the organization of Jewish immigration to the area and the acquisition of Arab-owned land in Palestine. During the interwar period, land purchases were largely financed by wealthy Jews in Europe, and in 1929 the work and financing were further systematized through the establishment of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
The Zionist movement also organized itself militarily. Haganah was the Zionist movement’s military organization, but other Jewish paramilitary groups were also active. The military battles took place both against the Palestinians and in the interwar period against the British troops stationed in the area of mandate. When the First World War was over and the British took control of their new mandate, the ongoing unrest became a recurring problem. When the State of Israel was created, Haganah was dissolved, but the structures remained the same in the state’s official defense – most commonly referred to as the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces).
The Sykes-Picot agreement was not the only one the British had signed during the First World War. Promises of future ownership of the land were also given to Arab leadership. The British’s contradictory promises presented major governance problems in the area, and major challenges for the Zionist movement. The existing Arab population of Palestine remained strong opponents of the Zionist attempts to establish a Jewish state. General strikes and violent clashes – between the British and the Palestinians, the British and the Zionists and the Zionists and the Palestinians – marked the interwar period in Palestine.
At the same time, the situation for Europe’s Jews gradually deteriorated. Nazism had gained a solid foothold. Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party won political power in Germany. Gradually, Hitler’s Jewish persecutions took place completely openly and became limitless in his brutality.
A total of six million people died as a result of the Nazis’ attempt to wipe out the Jewish people during World War II. Jews from all over the world, including Norway, were sent to Hitler’s death camps. The Nazi genocide – called Shoa in Israel – became a major turning point in the history of Zionism. Now the pressure increased for the Jews to have their own state.
In the Palestine mandate, the British were losing control. In 1947, therefore, the United Kingdom decided to withdraw completely from the area. Palestine was thus surrendered to the newly formed UN, which in May 1947 set up a commission to come to a conclusion on how to solve the problem in Palestine.
The establishment of the State of Israel
On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted in favor of the UN Commission’s proposal for Resolution 181 – the so-called Palestine Sharing Plan. The proposed resolution decided that the area of Palestine should be divided into an independent Jewish state, an independent Arab state and an international zone (in and around Jerusalem). The divisional plan was blatantly rejected by the Arab states. The Zionist movement, at this time led by David Ben-Gurion, in turn chose to accept the division, even though they also wanted a larger area for their state.
On the afternoon of May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the creation of a “Jewish state in Eretz Israel named the State of Israel.” A number of countries immediately recognized Israel, including the Soviet Union and the United States. The following day, May 15, 1948, a number of Arab states declared war with their new neighboring country.
When the first Arab-Israeli war broke out in May 1948, it was really only a formalization of the civil war-like state that had prevailed in the area during the period since the United Nations adopted the disputed division plan in November of the previous year. In Israel, the story of the war in 1948 has been a very controversial topic. The debate over what really happened in the days before, during and after the war has mainly been between the “old” Zionist storytellers and a group of Israeli academics called the “new” historians.
The war changed the boundaries and demographics of the new state. The area under Israel’s control at the end of the war was 22 percent larger than what the Jewish state’s plan of division had announced. In addition, Jordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt Gaza Strip – both areas that were intended for the independent Arab state.
According to TRAVELATIONARY, a large number of Palestinians fled their homes in the period before, during and after the establishment of the State of Israel. By the end of the war, in the winter of 1949, as many as 750,000 Palestinians had become refugees. The question of the fate of the Palestinian refugees remains one of the main controversy in the attempts to find a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
During the war, several ceasefires were entered into following UN resolutions. Secretary General Trygve Lie appointed the Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte as mediator, but his plan was also rejected. Bernadotte was assassinated by Jewish terrorists from the Lehi Group on September 17, 1948, and was followed by US diplomat Ralph Bunche. The UN broker was supported by military observers who were to monitor the ceasefire. The observers came from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), and from 1949 were assigned to ensure that the ceasefire agreements between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria respectively was complied with. Iraq refused to conclude a similar agreement.