First Arab-Israeli War (1948-1949)

First Arab-Israeli War or Arab-Israeli War of 1948. It was a Conflict developed between the years 1948 and 1949 , where the army of the newly founded State of Israel and the Arabs of Lebanon , Syria , Iraq , Kingdom of Egypt and Transjordan fought opposed to the creation of the Jewish state.

The war ended in 1949 with the signing of an armistice in Rhodes and resulted in Israel’s victory and expansion. As a result of it, more than half a million Arabs took refuge in Jordan and the Gaza Strip .



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  • 1 Historical Background
    • 1 The creation of the state of Israel
  • 2 Arab-Israeli War of 1948
    • 1 Development of the conflict
  • 3 Results of the War
  • 4 Consequences of the conflict
  • 5 Sources

Historical background

The Region known as the Middle East comprises Egypt and all the Arabian lands east of Egypt, as well as Turkey (non-Arab) and Iran (which, strictly speaking, is not an Arab state, although it contains numerous Arabs in the far north of the Persian Gulf ). The Middle East also includes the Jewish state of Israel, established in 1948.

After the First World War , the victorious powers reorganized the European map with two purposes: to weaken Germany and also to “fill” the great “empty spaces” that the defeat of the Russian empires had left in Europe and in the region called the Middle East. , Austro-Hungarian and Turkish. Turkey became a republic and the rest of the territories of the region were divided between Great Britain and France , except in the case of Palestine . In this case, during the war and to gain the support of the international Jewish community, the British government had promised to establish “a national homeland” for Jews. SinceIn 1920 , Zionist organizations fighting for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine put pressure on the British government demanding that it keep its promise.

The Palestine region was inhabited by a population of Arab origin. The arrival of Jewish immigrants to the region led to tensions and clashes between Palestinian Arabs and British authorities. The Nazi extermination policy increased the flow of immigrants and, at the end of World War II , Arabs and Jews claimed their right to have a state of their own.

Product of Zionism against the anti-Semitism that existed in many European countries, throughout the 19th century , the idea of ​​establishing a State in which they could live freely spread among Jews. Groups are formed, like the “Lovers of Zion “, who devised the possibility of emigrating to Palestine, the Promised Land of the Hebrew people. In 1882 , Leon Pinsker put forward the idea of ​​”self-determination of the Jewish people.” Soon after, Theodor Herzl (a Jew living in Budapest , Hungary) laid the foundations of Zionism. The political program of Zionism was based on the cultural unity of the Jewish people and upheld the need to create a Jewish state in Palestine. To achieve that goal, in 1897 , Jews from around the world agreed to the creation of the World Zionist Organization, inspired by Herzl’s thinking.

The creation of the state of Israel

It all started when large numbers of Jews began to settle in Palestine, a British possession, in the hope of creating a Jewish “national home”. The Arabs of Palestine were implacably hostile to the idea of ​​a separate Jewish state, in the territory they considered their homeland.

World War II intensified the problem as hundreds of thousands of fugitive Jews from Hitler’s Europe were searching for a place to settle. In 1945 the United States urged England to host 100,000 Jews in Palestine, but the British reluctantly refused to offend the Arabs.

The Jews, after all their race had suffered at the hands of the Nazis, were determined to fight for their “national home.” They launched a terrorist campaign against Arabs and British.


Partition of Palestine

The English responded by arresting Jewish leaders and driving off their shores crowded with suspected immigrants.

England was not in a position to face the problem, it invited the United Nations to take charge of it and in November 1947 the UN voted to divide Palestine into two independent states, one Arab and one Jewish, in addition to the creation of a zone International in Jerusalem under UN control. This fact caused the expulsion of a large part of the Arab people who lived there.

In early 1948 the British abandoned the mandate and withdrew their troops, even though an armed struggle had already begun between Jews and Arabs, who bitterly resented the loss of half of Palestine.

In May 1948, Ben Gurion proclaimed the creation of the new independent state of Israel, with its capital in the city of Tel Aviv . The Arab League declared war on him. The Arab League was made up of Algeria , Egypt , Saudi Arabia , Iraq , Jordan , Yemen , Syria and Libya , which had founded it in 1945 with the aim of strengthening ties of solidarity between the Arab states, coordinating their foreign policy and constituting a collective defense alliance.

Arab-Israeli War of 1948

The movement of protest and riots of the Arabs against partition quickly spread through Palestine. At the same time, with the withdrawal of the British from some areas, the confrontation broke out between Palestinian Arabs and Zionists for control of these. The greater Jewish military capacity, both in number of men and in organization and weaponry, soon gave superiority to the nascent Zionist army and its parallel military forces. Between December 1947 and May 1948, the eve of the proclamation of the State of Israel and the entry into the warlike conflict of the Arab States, the Zionists had already conquered practically all the territory destined for the Jewish State, except the Negev , in addition from the Arab cities of Saffad ,Jaffa and Tiberias and controlled some areas, such as the Jerusalem corridor, beyond the partition map.

The war was presented to the Zionists as a historic opportunity to force another reality beyond the resolution 181 of the UN . For Ben Gurion, it was time to expand the borders and change the demographic structure of the conquered territory. Although he defended the right of the Jewish people to the entire “Land of Israel”, he accepted partition and the creation of a Jewish state in only one part. In the same way, when the opportunity allowed to expand the territory and expel the Arabs, it was taken advantage of, thus adapting to the objectives of Zionism .

Development of the conflict

The so-called war of independence lasted from May 15 to January 6, 1949, although the fighting was interrupted by various truces and ceasefires agreed by the United Nations Security Council.


Arab attack

The bases of the Arab army that invaded Israel that day were made up of: the Palestinians themselves, integrated into 2 paramilitary organizations, the Níyand the Fútuwa , together with the guerrilla forces of the Mufti of Jerusalem; Within them, forces from other Arab countries were integrated, highlighting the Arab Legion of Transjordan , which due to its geographical position, was the closest, seeking to annex Jerusalem and create a Jordanian-Palestinian kingdom; Iraq cooperated with this Arab Legion; Syria also contributed a significant number of troops, as did Lebanon . Arab countries also created an Arab Liberation Army. All these troops numbered about 400,000 men.

As for the Israeli army, its basic nucleus was the Haganah , a Jewish protection organization, which joined the British army during World War II . This organization, through the creation of regular military structures and the acquisition of heavy weapons, was transformed into an authentic army, which managed to mobilize some 30,000 men.

The most vulnerable aspects of the Jewish position were its small number, the large number of fronts to fight, and its equipment, since at the beginning of the war it did not have heavy weapons or aviation. This inferiority was compensated with the higher degree of qualification of its personnel, as well as being under a unified command, far from the internal dissensions that cracked the Arab army.

The war was waged simultaneously on several fronts: in the north, against the Syrian, Lebanese and Arab Liberation Army armies; at the center against the Transjordan Arab Legion and forces from Iraq and the Arab Liberation Army; and in the south against Egypt.

  • The first phase of the war lasted from May 15 to June 11 , 1948, when the UN agreed to the first truce. On the northern front the Syrians attacked the Galilee , along with the Lebanese, being repulsed by the Israelis. On the central front, the Iraqis attacked through Samaria , being detained near the Mediterranean . Also noteworthy is the battle for Jerusalem, where the Arab Legion acted, which was divided and also blocked, because the Arabs cut off their connection with Tel Aviv . The Israelis were forced to build a new highway, the Burma Highway, and later they managed to break the Arab siege. As for the southern front, the Egyptians attacked by two routes: the one from the coast to Gaza and the Negev, which was isolated from the rest of the country. Given the seriousness of the situation, the Security Council ordered a truce from June 11, lasting 4 weeks. The truce benefited the Israelis, as they increased their troops and their weapons. The UN sent a mediator, Count Bernadotte, a Swede, who proposed a peace plan, but was rejected by both parties. On July 9 the Arabs did not accept the extension of the truce and the fighting resumed.
  • From July 9 to 18, the second phase of the war takes place, which also ends with a truce. On the northern front the Arabs were held back, and even pushed back in places. While on the central front the struggle for control of Jerusalem continued. On the southern front, a corridor was opened to the Negev. Thus there is an advance of Israeli troops in general. The new truce takes effect on July 18 , but on September 17 Count Bernadotte is assassinated in Jerusalem by Jewish terrorists.


October, 1948 Battles

  • On October 15, fighting between Israelis and Egyptians resumed in the Negev, while the rest of the fronts are inactive. The Israelis manage to reestablish communications in the Negev, and push the Egyptians into Gaza. On October 23, a new Security Council resolution paralyzes hostilities. However, from the 28th to the 31st of that month the Israelis launched an offensive against the Lebanese and took back the Galilee, thus practically ending their northern front.
  • The final offensive against the Egyptians took place between December 22 and January 6, 1949, with the intention of destroying the Egyptian army and achieving a position of strength in future peace negotiations, penetrating the Sinai , but was stopped. by the British announcement that if the Israeli attack did not stop they would be forced to act, under their 1936 treaty with Egypt . Finally a final truce was reached on January 6, 1949.
  • Still other military actions took place while the armistice agreements were signed, notably the Israeli takeover of the port of Eilat in the northern Gulf of Akaba .

The armistice agreements were born from the Egyptian government, which would later be joined by the rest of the Arab countries, and were considered provisional until the signing of the final peace treaties. In them the lines of the military fronts were delimited as borders. With Egypt they were signed on February 24, 1949, on March 23 with Lebanon, on April 3 with Transjordan, where it was agreed to divide Jerusalem into 2 areas: one under Arab control and the other under Jewish control. Finally, on July 20 they were signed with Syria.

War results


Israel expansion

Against all odds, the Israelis managed to survive and even occupy a larger portion of Palestine. The UN played an important role in bringing the war to an end. Israel’s triumph was due in part to its own desperate resistance and the fact that the Arabs were divided among themselves and ill-equipped. The most tragic consequence of the war was the situation of the Palestinian Arabs who were within the new state of Israel. After Jewish terrorists murdered the entire population of a Palestinian village, almost a million Arabs fled to Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria where they settled in miserable refugee camps. Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan, and despite the fact that the United StatesGreat Britain and France guaranteed Israel’s borders, the Arab states did not consider the ceasefire permanent; this was only the first stage in the fight to destroy Israel and liberate Palestine.

The war ended in 1949 with the signing of an armistice in Rhodes. As a result of this war, the newly created state of Israel reached 20,000 km² by occupying the western Galilee ( Nazareth ), the southern coastal strip to Gaza, and a corridor through the Judean Mountains , which included the western sector of Jerusalem. More than half a million Arabs took refuge in Jordan and the Gaza Strip (under Egyptian administration).

Consequences of the conflict

The peace treaties foreseen for these agreements were never signed. As a result of the conflict, 2 serious refugee problems were created: that of the Palestinian Arabs hosted in other Arab countries, and that of the Jews expelled from the Arab territories settled in Israel.

The Arab defeat shocked all the Arab countries, causing tensions of all kinds within their societies, which led to the processes of revolutions and various coups d’état, and which changed the face of the Arab countries. On the other hand, the Israeli victory confirms the existence of the new State of Israel, which was quickly recognized by the US and the USSR . They also managed to expand to 78% the territory of Palestine they occupied (55% was attributed in the plan), while of Arab Palestine only the territories of Gaza, under Egyptian administration, and the West Bank , which was annexed by Jordan, remained .


by Abdullah Sam
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