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Independence Declared 1948
Joined UN 1949

Events leading up to statehood.

Britain was entrusted with a League of Nations mandate over Palestine in 1922. This provided an interim resolution to the power vacuum in post World War I Palestine caused by the 1917 defeat of the Turks by British forces and the subsequent collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Jewish and Arab communities were granted the right to run their internal affairs, but this was not without tensions, and outbreaks of violence occurred during the 1920s and 1930s.

Statehood for Israel arose from the British mandated territory of Palestine, 19221947. Having embraced partition as a solution in 1937, Britain almost at once began backing away from that position while Ben-Gurion, having a nominal blessing from a great power for an actual homeland, never wavered. World War II was approaching and Britain needed support from the Arab states. This outweighed sympathy for a small Jewish State. In 1939, Britain published a white paper reversing the partition plan, leaving the Arabs with the whole of Palestine. The twentieth Zionist Congress formally voted to hold Britain to its mandate and the Balfour Declaration.

Britain's reversal of policy had the unintended effect of driving the Jews to seek their own military power. Until then, the Jews had embraced defense with great success. The white paper drove them to opt for offensive weapons and tactics. The Zionists began openly opposing Britain.

During W.W.II, the concept of partition was abandoned in favor of the whole of Palestine becoming Eretz Israel. This became known as the Biltmore agreement after the NY Hotel where Ben-Gurion and Weizmann inked the document.

Once the extent of the holocaust became known (six million Jews), this great loss turned into a great moral sympathy for a Jewish homeland throughout Europe and the Americas. Few people could argue against their right to a homeland. Zionist resolve had hardened, and they took advantage of this new sympathy for their cause. Ben-Gurion, ever the hawk, used this hardened resolve to wrest the leadership of the movement from Weizmann.

After the war, a part of the Zionist movement rebelled against Britain using terror as a weapon. Britain's crackdown immediately gave the Zionists second thoughts. They then looked to America and backed away from their Biltmore Agreement to appease the Americans. The "special relationship" between America and Israel stems from this pragmatic shift for an external sponsor.

In April 1947, after failing to reconcile the conflicting demands of both the Jewish and Arab communities, Britain indicated an intention to withdraw from Palestine and requested that a permanent solution be discussed by the United Nations General Assembly. Subsequently, a United Nations Special Committee was established to draft proposals for the future of Palestine.

Under the chairmanship of Dr. H. V. Evatt, the Australian Minister for External Affairs, the UN Special Committee recommended the establishment of an independent Jewish State in Palestine, together with a neighboring independent Arab State, and this was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in November 1947.

The State of Israel was subsequently proclaimed in Tel Aviv on 14 May 1948 under a picture of Jabotinsky. On 11 May 1949, Israel became a member of the united Nations. See Zionism for more. Israel's boundaries were redrawn after the 1967 war. By its historic vote, the General Assembly endorsed the establishment of both a Jewish and a Palestinian state. This, of course, was the supreme triumph for Zionist diplomacy. While the Jews rejoiced, The Palestinian Arabs cried foul and claimed the UN vote was neither justified nor fair. Never mind that they had done little to prepare for statehood; Palestine has been their home for millennia.

As luck would have it, both superpowers of the day endorsed Zionism. Harry Truman recognized the State of Israel over the advice of his State Department. Joseph Stalin doubtless had other ideas in mind.

By providing international legitimacy to both Arab and Jewish states in Palestine, the UN unwittingly, but formally, established conditions for continued strife. A half century later, neither side can accept the legitimacy of the other; little has changed. Most citizens on each side have never known conditions of peace free of war or terror.

Resolution #181, calling for the partition of the British-ruled Palestine Mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state, was passed on May 14 1948. The next day the armies of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Trans-Jordon invaded Palestine.

Publisher's questions:

  • What can we do individually or groupwise to bring these old foes into dialogue?
  • How can we reach out to our brethren on each side at the grassroots level?
  • How can we straighten out diplomatic blundering of the kind that would impose a constitutional government upon the Palestinian Arabs while allowing Israel to operate without one?


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