Arab-Israeli Wars Essay

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Arab-Israeli Wars

Palestinian and Arab views on the Middle East conflicts and the Israeli views could not have been more in conflict over the last several decades. As many of the post second world war conflicts have had as cause, the colonial footprint of the "great powers," has left a severe mark on the Middle Eastern region, particularly because of the Israeli-Palestinian issues. The British Empire tried to create a region of stability between the Arabs and the Jews but failed severely as it became perceived as an intrusion in a region that was seeking its own identity and power.

As Peter Calvocoressi presents, the 1937 Peel Commission enforced a separation of those territories in three equal parts: an Arab, a Hebrew and a British between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. As Europe's troubles put more and more pressure on the British Empire, the support that the Empire offered more for the Arabs made the Hebrews to seek a solution towards the West, in the United States. Helped by a strong Hebrew lobby in the American capital city and having massive waves of Jews coming to the territories of what is now Israel, the Zionist movement gained strong support from the United States (Calvocoressi, 2009) .

The second world war weakened even more the British Empire's influence in the Middle Eastern region and was forced, also due to strong Jewish extremist forces, to accept the UNSCOP Plan which created the three Arabic segments and three Jewish ones under the close observation and examination of an international force. This moment, together with the official unilateral formation of the state of Israel in 1945, created the conditions for many of the armed conflicts that appeared since then in the Middle Eastern region. As the Arabs states did not accept both decisions, tensions began to grow.

The rapid installation as world powers on the international arena for the United States and the Soviet Union led to the creation of an immense chessboard of the world in which each region became a place for strategic battles. Israel became as important for the U.S. As for the Soviets, and, after Truman decided to recognize the newly formed state, the Soviets had to make the same move. Israel's key position in the region became therefore crucial for the United States policies to counterattack the growing Soviet influence. The constant support that Israel received from the United States and the United Nations in terms of economic and military development made the country not only stronger in the region but also more difficult to protect in face of Arab adversity. Many authors, like Nye or Calvocoressi, argue that the reason for which Israel was not destroyed in the several wars after 1948 was its strong obedience and alliance with the United States. Understanding the difficult situation in which it found itself, Israel began to reach for regional alliances as well to counterbalance the Arab policies and attacks.

Difficult to comprehend in today's world, Israel and Iran created strong frameworks for political and economical cooperation between the 1950s and 1980s. The common enemy that the two countries shared, the Arab states, made them build important economic but most of all military information networks that helped both countries to survive as non-Arab countries in an "Arab Sea" of turmoil.

The anti-Israeli feelings and rapid violent reaction against the Jewish state began immediately after the Israeli declaration of independence as five of the most important Arab countries attached Israel: Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Although numerically superior, the Arab military coordination was very poor. With a report of 40 Arabs to 1 Jew, the 1948 conflict was actually not won by Israel, but lost by the Arabs. Perceptions of the conflict in the two camps offered extremists on both sides the reasons to continue in the following years a policy of all or nothing. The huge wave of Palestinian refuges which counted to more than seven hundred thousand and the feeling of losing the first real battle fought together brought humility and the desire to revenge on the part of the five Arab states. For Israel, the conflict was a strong statement of its position and power in the region and the first real test of endurance in face of high danger. As Joseph Nye presents, the creation of the pan-Arabic unity began as a battle against Israel, and all those that attempted to engage in a more peaceful and dialogue-based relation with the Jewish state were discarded from the policy making environment (Nye, 2002). As history shows, reaching peace with Israel was not an option in the eyes of the defeated Arab coalition: the assassinations of King Abdullah of Jordan in 1951 and of Egyptian President al-Sadat were direct results of their attempts to sign peace treaties with Israel.

The views and understandings of the conflicts of the 1950s to the 1980s were, as mentioned before very different for the two parties involved. Even if realizing or not, the two entities began to be used by the United States and the Soviet Union of pieces of a puzzle and moved around from time to time. The U.S.S.R. carried out its indirect attacks on the United States by using Israel as a target: it offered military support to Egypt and supported the Arab state to create instability in the region. By entering the Suez Channel dispute, Israel got itself playing a very dangerous game which led not only to a negative reaction from the Soviets but also a deterioration of its relations with the United States.

Following France and the UK in attacking Egypt, which began to control the Suez Channel with Soviet support, Israel became a direct target for the Soviets, as the United States refused to offer its support for the Israeli-European alliance. As Alteras points out, Israel had to make a difficult decision after winning the war with Egypt: it had to go down from the rather arrogant position and accept that the external pressures of Soviet rocket attacks and the withdrawal of American economic and political support. (Alteras, 1993). Therefore, the high ambitions of becoming a strong and autonomous player in the Middle Eastern region almost caused an international confrontation. Facing serious threats from Moscow of rocket attacks on Israel, the UK and France, the United States put a strong pressure for Israel to withdraw from Egypt. A conflict with potentially destructive effects on the global arena had to be prevented as the world economic instability was only the first step to an another global war. (Risse-Kappen, 1997) This conflict had also significant effects on the West, as it drew severe cracks in the Western Alliance, especially between the United State and France. This conflicted proved the weakness of NATO and led, besides a fragile U.S.-UK relation to the French withdrawal from the military interventions of NATO from that time on. (Calvocoressi, 2009).

The end of the 1960s sees the next large conflict between the Arab world and Israel with the Six Days War. This confrontation is the one that left the most important mark on the region, and especially for the Palestinian people. Tensions, and later on conflict, escaladed when Egyptian President Nasser asked the UN forces in Egypt to leave and sent more than o hundred thousand soldiers, hundreds of tanks and attack planes to one of Israel Southern ports, Elat. As Oren argues, tension exploded when a Soviet report argued that Israel was planning to invade Syria (Oren, 2002). Nonetheless, Israel replied to the Egyptian movements by its modern air force attacks of Egypt, Jordan and Syrian air strikes capabilities. Israel occupied, as a result of this the famous territories that have since then started bloodshed disputes for the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula and also the Golan Heights. The violent war that the November 1967 UN Security Council Resolution ended created more fractures in the already fragile political and social environment of the region. By becoming more and more isolated, Israel also became stronger, realizing that it could not always count on the support of the United States or France as their actions also disturbed severely the interest of the U.S.S.R. In the region.

The Egyptian-Israeli tension continued even after the 1967 UN Resolution and began to have other connotations than the strategic and military objectives that the significant parties to the situation had: the U.S., the U.S.S.R., France, the UK, Israel and Egypt. The highest commodity of the time, oil, began to be used as a bargaining tool for the OAPEC countries. After the almost unexpected attack on Israel by Egypt and Syria in 1973, the major oil producing countries of that region threatened to take out from the supply chain 5% of their production each month if Israel would not be forced to leave the territories it occupied in the previous confrontation. With an increase of 70% on the oil market, Israel's position caused the oil crisis and global financial and economical cracks that shaped modern realities. The 1973 Yom Kippur war… [END OF PREVIEW]

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