Thesis: Arab-Israeli War 1948

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¶ … Arab-Israeli War 1948

The war of 1948 is also called The War of Independence Arabs. The war began about December 1, 1947. This war is divided into the pre-independence period and the post-independence period. The pre-Independence period began shortly after the passage of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 which was supposed to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab State, and an international area including Jerusalem and a large area around it. The Jews were to get about 55% of the country. The plan was fragile, but it could perhaps have worked had the sides wanted it to work (Israel War of Independence, 2008).

But the Arabs rejected partition and called for a war to rid Palestine of the Jews. The British sabotaged the efforts of the UN to internationalize Jerusalem, and encouraged the Arabs to go to war. They provided large quantities of arms to the Arab Legion. The Jews greeted the news of partition with joy but it was obvious that there would be a tragic armed clash. Riots and terror attacks soon started after the partition plan was announced and gradually escalated. Irgun bombs began exploding in Arab sections of the old city of Jerusalem and in Yaffo. In Jerusalem, the Arabs blew up the Jewish Agency and subsequently killed about 60 people in the Ben Yehuda Street Bombing in February (Israel War of Independence, 2008).

This war broke out when five Arab nations invaded territory in the former Palestinian mandate immediately following the announcement of the independence of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948. During this time the United States had offered de facto recognition of the Israeli Provisional Government, but during the war, the United States maintained an arms embargo against all belligerents (The Arab-Israeli War of 1948, n.d).

During the post-independence period, there were three periods of fighting and at least two truces. The first phase of fighting lasted from May 15 to June 10, 1948. The second stage of fighting, the "ten days" lasted approximately from July 9 to July 18. The final period of fighting lasted from October 15, 1948 until about January 7, 1949. During the truce periods there was constant small scale fighting and even a couple of larger actions. Not a day passed during the "truces" without at lease one person being killed. The regular armies more or less obeyed the truces, at least outside Jerusalem, but the Arab irregulars, including the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab Liberation Army of Fawzi el Kawkji generally disregarded the truce periods. The principle determining factor for the Jews was the ability to remain a viable force during the pre-independence period, and then to transform from a guerilla force into a regular army capable of withstanding the onslaught of regular Arab armies. The CIA had estimated that the Jewish side would lose the war, even without taking into account the participation of the Arab states (Israel War of Independence, 2008).

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Transjordan's Arab Legion tried to capture the entire city of Jerusalem. It shelled it cutting off its Jewish residents from the coastal plain. Some western portions of Jerusalem came under Israel's control after Israeli forces broke the Arab siege of the city. During the first four weeks of Arab attacks, 200 Jewish civilians were killed and over 1,000 were wounded. In the process of defending themselves, Israeli forces managed to capture some suburbs and villages from the Arabs (1948 Arab-Israeli War, 2007).

The Israeli defenders were not as triumphant in protecting the Jewish community of eastern Jerusalem. On May 28, 1948, the Arab Legion took the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Following 10 months of fighting, an armistice agreement was signed on April 3, 1949. This divided Jerusalem along the November 1948 ceasefire lines of Israeli and Transjordanian forces, with several areas of no-man's land. The armistice line provided a temporary border between what had formerly been two mixed communities. Western Jerusalem became the capital city of Israel. Eastern Jerusalem, including the holy sites, was then occupied by Transjordan, which in 1949 became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The city was essentially divided between two armed camps separated by barbed wire, concrete walls, minefields and bunkers (1948 Arab-Israeli War, 2007).

In November of 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 also known as the Partition Resolution. This would divide Great Britain's former Palestinian mandate into Jewish and Arab states in May 1948. Under this resolution, the area of religious significance surrounding Jerusalem would remain under international control administered by the United Nations. The Palestinian Arabs refused to recognize this resolution which they regarded as favorable to the Jews and unfair to the Arab population that would remain in Jewish territory under the partition. The United States sought a middle way by supporting the United Nations resolution, but also encouraging negotiations between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East (The Arab-Israeli War of 1948, n.d).

The United Nations resolution ignited a conflict between Jewish and Arab groups within Palestine. The fighting began with attacks by irregular bands of Palestinian Arabs attached to local units of the Arab Liberation Army composed of volunteers from Palestine and neighboring Arab countries. These groups opened their attacks against Jewish cities, settlements, and armed forces. The Jewish forces were made up of the Haganah, the underground militia of the Jewish community in Palestine, and two small irregular groups, the Irgun, and LEHI. The objective of the Arabs was initially to block the Partition Resolution and to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state. T he Jews, on the other hand, hoped to gain control over the territory allotted to them under the Partition Plan (The Arab-Israeli War of 1948, n.d).

Following Israel declaration of its independence on May 14, 1948, the fighting intensified with other Arab forces joining the Palestinian Arabs in attacking territory in the former Palestinian mandate. In May, the Arabs launched an air attack on Tel Aviv, which the Israelis resisted. This battle was followed by the invasion of the former Palestinian mandate by Arab armies from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. Saudi Arabia provided a formation that fought under the Egyptian command. British trained forces from Transjordan that eventually intervened in the conflict, but only in areas that had been designated as part of the Arab state under the United Nations Partition Plan. After tense early fighting, Israeli forces, now under joint command, were able to gain the offensive (The Arab-Israeli War of 1948, n.d).

The United Nations helped bring about two cease-fires during the conflict. Israel and the Arab states did not reach a formal armistice agreement until February. Under a separate agreement between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Syria, these bordering nations agreed to formal armistice lines. Israel expanded some territory that had formerly been granted to Palestinian Arabs under the United Nations resolution in 1947. Egypt and Jordan kept control over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The United States did not become involved with the armistice negotiations, but their hope was that instability in the Middle East would not interfere with the international balance of power between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Arab-Israeli War of 1948 ultimately led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs (The Arab-Israeli War of 1948, n.d).

When Israel achieved its independence in 1948, the Haganah became the de facto Israeli army. It was at this time that the country was invaded by the regular forces of Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. Israel's provisional government put forth an order that provided the legal framework for the country's armed forces. This order established the official name Zvah Haganah Le Yisrael and outlawed the existence of any other military force within Israel. The rebel Irgun and Stern Gang were reluctant to separate. There was fighting between Irgun and regular military forces that broke out when the supply ship Altalena arrived at Tel Aviv with 900 men and a load of arms and ammunition for the Irgun. The army managed to sink the ship, destroying the arms. As a result many members of the Irgun were arrested. A bigger problem that arose was how to disband the Palmach, which had become an elite military unit within the Haganah and had strong political ties to the socialist-oriented kibbutzim (Israeli War of Independence 1948-1949, 2000).

The ranks of the troops grew rapidly to about 100,000 at the height of the War of Independence. Many able-bodied men, plus many women, were recruited to fight. There were thousands of foreign volunteers, mostly veterans of World War II, all who came to the aid of Israel. The newly independent state rapidly assembled to meet the Arab invaders. By July of 1948, the Israelis had set up an air force, a navy, and a tank battalion. Weapons and ammunition were obtained from abroad, primarily from Czechoslovakia. There were three B-17 bombers that were bought in the United States through black… [END OF PREVIEW]

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