The State of Israel came into being on May, 14th, 1948 . Today, it is the only true Jewish country in the world, though it is home to both Jews and Arabs and several other minority communities. Israel was founded on idealistic beliefs of the Jews, and the fact that they were a separate nation . Jews believe that the ‘Land of Israel’ is the ‘Holy Land,’ the ‘Promised Land,’ for over four thousand years, going back to the time of the prophets, and so the region has a special importance in Jewish tradition and history . It also includes religious Jewish sites such as the ‘First,’ and the ‘Second Temples .’ Through history, the region of Palestine has been through several different rules and governments, but their always existed a Jewish presence in the region. Even though Jews were in a minority compared to the Arabs, it was nevertheless, their home. There was just a small population of indigenous Arabs before Zionism began. The first big wave of Jewish immigration to the Middle East began in 1881, when many Jews fled, fearing discrimination, under the proposal of Moses Hess . This is when the Arab-Israeli conflict began. Theodor Herzl began the Zionist movement – a Jewish nationalist movement, aiming for a separate homeland for Jews . In 1896, he published ‘Der Judenstaat,’ which was the first proper publication, propsing the idea of a separate nation . Following the establishment of Zionism, there was another mass influx of Jews, in the Middle East (Palestine) in the early 1900’s. In 1917, the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour issued the ‘Balfour Declaration,’ which “view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. ” There were two more waves of influx of Jews after the First World War. The rise of Nazism, in the pre-World War II era caused a massive immigration . This was the fifth of its kind and the largest. At the time of the Second World War, Jews very driven out from almost all over Europe. It is believed that almost six million lost their lives. In history, this is one of the worst genocides ever. They were singled out and sent to concentration camps mostly in Poland. And here, many were ‘exterminated.’ The Nazi Party of Germany was very extremist, and aimed at ‘ethnic cleansing,’ – killing all those who did not have ‘pure’ blood. And so, along with Jews, many minority communities were also affected. Handicapped and homosexuals too were not spared. This mass extermination at the time of the Second World War is known as the ‘Holocaust.’
‘British Mandate of Palestine,’ was a territory in the Middle East from 1920 to 1948, now comprising modern-day Jordan, Israel, and territories governed in different degrees of control by the Palestinian Authority .
The Anglo-American committee was formed in 1945, shortly after the end of the Second World War, to find a solution to the problem of the displaced people . After the horrors of the Holocaust, many Jews all over Europe were displaced. Kenya and Madagascar were considered as possible places to send the Jews. But the committee finally came to the conclusion that Palestine would be the only suitable place for Jews . President Truman ordered immigration certificates of upto 100,000 Jews, while the Arabs opposed it, claiming Palestine was theirs. British Prime Minister Clement Atlee agreed to it on the condition that Jewish resistance groups disarm . Professor Albert Einstein also appeared before the Committeee and made a request for a separate Jewish homeland.
But Jews still found it difficult to migrate to the Middle East. The British issued another document, called ‘The White Paper of 1939,’ which limited Jewish immigration . The Jews protested, claiming it was quite contrary to the Balfour Declaration issued earlier, favouring Jewish migration. In fact, the British were playing on both sides. A British spy, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ was encouraging Arab nationalism, as far as trans-jordan. On the other hand, they also issued the ‘White Paper.’ The Arabs too, were not satisfied. They wanted the Jewish community ousted from Palestine altogether. And so, many Jews fleeing the horrors of the holocaust, fled to Palestine, but were brought back to Europe . Cypurus became the ‘intermediate’ camp for displaced Jews; this period, when the Jews were fleeing came to be known as the ‘Exodus.’ Many Arab communities attacked Jews, and so a resistance group called ‘Haganah’ was formed to protect Jewish areas . Ten years later another military organization called ‘Irgun’ was formed . It was more aggressive in nature than Haganah, and was the party behind the bombing of the ‘King David Hotel’ in Britain . Another, even more militant group called ‘Lehi’ soon came into being .
After the Second World War, the United Nations Orgaization was born. The League of Nations, which was formed after the first world war failed, and was unable to maintain stability in Europe for long. The UNO was formed with a new enthusiasm, to protect and promote human rights, and to avioid any furture wars. The Second World War proved to be a bitter experience for both the Allies, and the German Nazis. Both suffered many casualities, and heavy military, financial and territorial loses. After the nightmare of the holocaust, and UN General Assembly approved the ‘1947 UN Partition Plan’ dividing Palestine into two lands, one would be a Jewsih majority regions, with roughly 55% of the original area, and the other, for the Arabs, with about 45% the area . Jerusalem and Bethlehem was not to be a part of either . It would be administered by the UN to avoid war and aggression . Following the UN proposal, the to-be Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion accepted it on November 29, 1947. The Arab League, an Arab Party rejected it roundly, and their was a violent three day strike, with attacks on Jewish buildings and institutions . These initial clashes resulted in the 1948 War of Independence. The State of Israel was created on 14th May. Following the creation, neighbouring countries attacked Israel. The armies of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon declared war . The forces of Haganah and Irgun however were able to successfully halt the advance. A ceasefire was declared in 1949, and temporary boundaries called ‘The Green Line’ were made . Jordan occupied large mountainous regions, which we now call the West Bank . Eygpt took control of a small strip of coastal land, which we know as the Gaza Strip . Many Arabs were expelled from the newly created Israel. This Palestinian exodus is refereed to as ‘Nakba’ by the Arabs, meaning ‘disaster .’ On the other hand, the Jewish population of West Bank and Gaza fled to Israel . Jews were duly expelled from the neighbouring Muslim countires. Many settled in Israel, while others moved to America and Europe .
David Ben Gurion played a vital role in the formation of Israel. From a very early age, he was idealistic, and was a strong follower of the Zionist movement, and believed in a spearate homeland for the Israelites . He was the spirit of the Israeli nation, and played the most important role in creating the Jewish homeland. David Ben Gurion was also the first Prime Minister of Israel . He helped thousand of Jews into Israel at the time when the British issued the White Paper, creating problems for Jewish immigrants . After independence, Gurion sought to finish all the resistance groups, like Irgun and Lehi and replaced them with a strong central ‘Israeli Defense Forces .’
The United States of America, under the presidency of Truman was one of the first nations to recognize the State of Israel as a country . Throughout the conflict, American presidents, along with civil communities and organizations had supported the Jews, and the Balfour Declaration, and its proposal of a separate Jewish homeland – the Zionist movement . Secretary of State, George Marshall though, did not share Truman’s ideas . He put forward his opinion that support for Israel could damage US relations with the Muslim countires in the region, which would limit their access to important resources like oil . It would also destabilize the region indefinitely. In spite of opposition from departments of State and Defense, Truman recognizd Israel as a separate state minutes after it was created . At that time though the US did not lift an arms embargo and delayed a request for a loan from Israel. Even still, the strongest army in the Middle East was the British Officered Arab Legion. With limited weapons, they were still able to defeat much larger and stronger armies. The Eygtian Army was large, but was not trained for war, which is one of the reasons why Jews were able to defeat them so easily.
Even as early as 1945, Truman had put forward his proposal that Jewish refugees be shifted to Palestine. The relationship evolved slowly. Based more on idealogical and historical connections – one common factor was the Judeo-Christian history and faith . But most of all, was Israel’s geographical importance. Israel holds a very strategic place in the Middle East, which is one of the major reasons that the US felt it was very important to develop good relations with it . Jews also provided the Americans and the British with military superiorty. British, American and Jewish scientists helped create the nuclear bomb . Military and economic aid to Israel during the 1950’s and 1960’s was only moderate. In fact during the Suez canal crisis, the US was slow to provide aid, and insisted that Israeli forces retreat from the Sinai penninsula. Israel forces had captured this from Egypt during the war . During these decades, France provided Israel with greatest aid, to counter threat from Eygpt . At first Israel had much stronger ties with France than with any other country . The reason behind this was simple. Their one common problem – Gamel Abdel Nasser . The Egyptian president was a great believer of Arab unity and nationalism . For Israel, Egypt was its strongest contender . But with French aid in 1967, it got defeated .
Britain remained largely indifferent to Israel for some time . Both the Labour and Conservative circles strongly opposed the creation of a separate state . In fact, after the war, the Labour government deliberately made it difficult for Jewish survivors to migrate to Palestine.
Most people believe that the relations between Israel and the US evolved under the Kennedy adminsitration, by the sale of ‘Hawk’ anti-aircraft missiles, but scholars hold a different view . They believe that it was under the second Eisenhower adminsitration that the US realized the strategic importance of Israel . Indifference to Israel could be very detrimental to American interests. US foreign policy was always aimed at supporting the oil-rich countries, and so, it miantained a neutral position in the Arab-Israeli conflict, so as not to anger the neighbouring Muslim countries . During the 1956 Suez Crisis, the US forced a ceasefire on France, Britain and Israel, fearing that Egypt would opt for Soviet support . Later, Egypt and US developed closer ties. To maintain a greater foothold in the region, the US was not too closely allied with Israel, and in the 1960’s, the Hawk anti-aircraft missiles were being sold not only to Israel, but also to Egypt and Jordan .
It was after the ‘Six Day War of 1967’, under the Johnson administration that slightly stronger ties began getting established . Israel attacked Jordan. This was disturbing for the US since Jordan was also an ally. The ‘Six Day War’ was fought between Israel and its Arab neighbours . Many Arab states, especially Egypt aligned themselves with the Soviets. At the end, Israel had gained superiority above all her neighbours, and had occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai penninsula and Golan Heights . In 1968 Johnson approved the sale of ‘Phantom’ fighters to Israel, but arms were also being sold to Lebanon and Saudi Arabia to keep the Soviets at bay . Ties between the US and Israel became even stronger after the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and the signing of the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty in 1979. “Egyptian foreign policy began to shift as a result of the change in Egypt’s leadership from President Gamal Abdel-Nasser to Anwar Sadat and the emerging peace process between Egypt and Israel. Sadat realized that reaching a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a precondition for Egyptian development. To achieve this goal, Sadat ventured to enhance US-Egyptian relations to foster a peace process with Israel .” Aid from the 50’s to the 70’s was almost $3.2 billion. After that, it is believed that Israel became the recipient receiving greatest aid from the US . In 1970 came the Rogers Plan . It proposed a ceasefire on either side of the Suez Canal, but failed because of lack of cooperation from Israel . The Egyptian president suddenly decided to expel all Soviet diplomats from Egypt, and extended an appeal for support from the US. Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, starting the Yom Kippur War . During the 1973 war, after a week of heavy fighting, the US supplied Israel with military aid, after Israel’s own reserves of ammunition were exhausted . The US exerted great pressure on Israel from destroying the Egyptian army, which it had surrounded .
Under the Carter administration began a long peace process in the Middle East, and establishment of bilateral US-Israeli relations . Jimmy Carter started the Camp David process, asking Israel to withdraw from captured territory, in order to maintain friendly ties with Egypt . Carter also supported Palestinians and their plight for a separate homeland . This increased tensions between the US and Israel. Relations became dramatically better under the Reagan administration, due to factors like countering terrorism, increasing security and the threat from the Soviet bloc . In 1983, the two sides formed a Joint Political Military Group. In 1984 began joint military exercizes and training . Ties strengthened during the second Raegen administration, and Israel was granted the status of “a major non-NATO ally. ’ A free trade aggreement was enacted in 1985. Since then, all customs duties have been removed . During the second Raegen administration, talks were also held with the Palestinian Liberation Organization – an Arab group, for the liberation of Palestinians. The Bush administration that followed was not as friendly . Secretary of State, James Barker told a pro-Israeli committee that East Jerusalem was not a part of Israel, but was occupied territory. During this time began the Iraq-Kuwait crisis . Iraq attacked Israel, but the US advised it not to retaliate, presuming the Iraq wanted to draw Irael into the conflict, and have Egypt and Syria on its side, all against Israel . Bush and Baker were also behind the ‘Madrid Peace Conference’ in 1991 urging all parties to hold negotiations . The foreign policy of the Clinton administration was much more peaceful, aimed at developing positive relations with Israel and the PLO . The Jordan-Israeli Treaty was signed during his term . Aid was offered to Israel for anti-terror activities . But Clinton did not take a firm stand on Israel. The Oslo Agreement was finalized in Oslo, 1993 and then signed in Washington. “In essence, the accords called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank and affirmed a Palestinian right of self-government within those areas through the creation of a Palestinian Authority .” During the current Bush administration, relations have been a mix. Initially relations were good, but in 2001, Israeli Prime Minister accused the Bush government of supporting Arabs to follow their War on Terror . The Lebanon Was also created an atmosphere of mistrust. A resistance group, called ‘Hezbollah’ defeated the Israeli army, and forced them to retreat from Lebanon. Many resistance groups like Hamas and Fatah have also sprung up in Palestine. The Arab-Israeli conflict continues to be one of the major unsolved issues in the world today, and is also a top issue on the agenda of the UNO.
The special relation between the US and Israel has thus been determined by many random factors like religious, societal ties, maintenance of regional stability, and trade. Recent polls reveal that for America, Israel is a third ally, followed by the United Kingdom and Canada .
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