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History, Independence and War

partition plan, Transjordan, Palestinian Arabs, spiritual connections, British mandate

On May 14, 1948, when the British mandate over Palestine expired, Jewish authorities declared the establishment of the State of Israel. The declaration recalled the religious and spiritual connections of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, without mention of specific boundaries; guaranteed “freedom of religion and conscience, of language, education, and culture”; provided a framework for a democratic Jewish state founded on liberty, justice, and peace; and called for peaceful relations with Arab neighbors. The state declared itself open for Jewish immigration. A provisional government was established, with Jewish Agency chairman David Ben-Gurion as prime minister and former Jewish Agency president Chaim Weizmann as president. The United States and the USSR, along with many other states, quickly recognized the new government.

The Arab League declared war on the new state, and Egypt, Transjordan (now Jordan), Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq announced that their armies would enter the area to restore order. The newly established Israel Defense Forces (IDF), formed from prestate defense organizations, successfully repelled Arab forces. Fighting continued into early 1949, when Israel and each of the bordering states signed truce agreements that established the borders of the new state. Iraq, which shared no borders with Israel, did not sign any agreements.

The agreements left Israel in control of territory beyond what the partition plan allocated to it. Portions of territory that the UN plan had allocated to Palestinian Arabs came under Egyptian and Jordanian control (Egypt took over Gaza Strip, and Jordan gained control of the West Bank). Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan. Several hundred thousand Arabs fled Israel for more secure areas in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and in neighboring Arab states. Of the original Arab population in Palestine only about 160,000 remained in the territory that was now Israel. Permanent peace negotiations were supposed to follow the armistice agreements but did not. The Arabs refused to recognize or negotiate with Israel.

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