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Arab-Israeli War (1948)


The British Mandate of Palestine

Following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I, Great Britain acquired a mandate from the League of Nations to govern Palestine in 1922. This mandate formally incorporated the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which expressed Great Britain’s support for “the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine”[1] and laid the groundwork for the massive immigration of Jews into their ancestral homeland in years to come. The British mandate ceased to exist on 14th May 1948 following the adoption of Resolution 181 by the United Nations on 29th November 1947.


Additional context:

  • The eruption of World War II and the prosecution of Jews in Europe significantly contributed to Jewish immigration into Palestine during the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Palestine failed to declare independence at the end of the British mandate. 
  • The United Nations was one of the first international bodies to address the question of Palestine, creating the Partition Plan that intended to create two separate Arab and Jewish states.


The Resolution 181

Resolution 181, also called the Partition Plan, intended to separate the region of Palestine into two separate states, with Jerusalem falling under a special international regime. The resolution was a response to the growing tensions and violence between Arabs and Jews. It sought to address the conflicting national aspirations and provide a peaceful solution. 


The Arab-Israeli War

The British handling of the mandate caused discontent among the Arab population, who felt that its historical and cultural claims to the land were being overshadowed by the establishment of a new state. In addition to that, years of ongoing clashes, with one side accusing the other of hostilities, helped create a stage for a military confrontation. The tensions finally culminated with the expiration of the British mandate and Israel’s declaration of independence on 14th May 1948. The next day, six Arab nations, including Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, decided to attack their smaller neighbor Israel. The war lasted almost a year, with the United Nations brokering two cease-fires throughout its duration. Yet, despite that, fighting continued until the peace negotiations commenced in February 1949. In the end, Israel gained some of the territory that was initially given to Palestine under United Nations Resolution 181. Meanwhile, Egypt and Jordan took control of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. 


The Aftermath

The immediate aftermath of the Arab-Israeli War saw significant geopolitical and social changes in the region. The war resulted in the displacement of a large number of Palestinians, leading to a refugee crisis that has had lasting implications. Furthermore, Israel's territorial gains led to its international recognition by major powers like the United States and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, though, the relationships between Israel and neighboring Arab states continued to deteriorate even after the end of the war. 

  1. United Nations: "History of the Question of Palestine"
  2. The United States Office of the Historian: "The Arab-Israeli War of 1948"