Since the United Nations partition of PALESTINE in 1947 and the
establishment of the modern state of ISRAEL in 1948, there have been four
major Arab-Israeli wars (1947-49, 1956, 1967, and 1973) and numerous
intermittent battles. Although Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in
1979, hostility between Israel and the rest of its Arab neighbors,
complicated by the demands of Palestinian Arabs, continued into the 1980s.


The first war began as a civil conflict between Palestinian Jews and
Arabs following the United Nations recommendation of Nov. 29, 1947, to
partition Palestine, then still under British mandate, into an Arab state
and a Jewish state. Fighting quickly spread as Arab guerrillas attacked
Jewish settlements and communication links to prevent implementation of the
UN plan.

Jewish forces prevented seizure of most settlements, but Arab
guerrillas, supported by the Transjordanian Arab Legion under the command
of British officers, besieged Jerusalem. By April, Haganah, the principal
Jewish military group, seized the offensive, scoring victories against the
Arab Liberation Army in northern Palestine, Jaffa, and Jerusalem. British
military forces withdrew to Haifa; although officially neutral, some
commanders assisted one side or the other.

After the British had departed and the state of Israel had been
established on May 15, 1948, under the premiership of David BEN-GURION, the
Palestine Arab forces and foreign volunteers were joined by regular armies
of Transjordan (now the kingdom of JORDAN), IRAQ, LEBANON, and SYRIA, with
token support from SAUDI ARABIA. Efforts by the UN to halt the fighting
were unsuccessful until June 11, when a 4-week truce was declared. When the
Arab states refused to renew the truce, ten more days of fighting erupted.
In that time Israel greatly extended the area under its control and broke
the siege of Jerusalem. Fighting on a smaller scale continued during the
second UN truce beginning in mid-July, and Israel acquired more territory,
especially in Galilee and the Negev. By January 1949, when the last
battles ended, Israel had extended its frontiers by about 5,000 sq km
(1,930 sq mi) beyond the 15,500 sq km (4,983 sq mi) allocated to the Jewish
state in the UN partition resolution. It had also secured its
independence. During 1949, armistice agreements were signed under UN
auspices between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. The
armistice frontiers were unofficial boundaries until 1967.


Border conflicts between Israel and the Arabs continued despite
provisions in the 1949 armistice agreements for peace negotiations.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who had left Israeli-held
territory during the first war concentrated in refugee camps along Israel's
frontiers and became a major source of friction when they infiltrated back
to their homes or attacked Israeli border settlements. A major tension
point was the Egyptian-controlled GAZA STRIP, which was used by Arab
guerrillas for raids into southern Israel. Egypt's blockade of Israeli
shipping in the Suez Canal and Gulf of Aqaba intensified the hostilities.

These escalating tensions converged with the SUEZ CRISIS caused by the
nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian president Gamal NASSER.
Great Britain and France strenuously objected to Nasser's policies, and a
joint military campaign was planned against Egypt with the understanding
that Israel would take the initiative by seizing the Sinai Peninsula. The
war began on Oct. 29, 1956, after an announcement that the armies of
Egypt, Syria, and Jordan were to be integrated under the Egyptian commander
in chief. Israel's Operation Kadesh, commanded by Moshe DAYAN, lasted less
than a week; its forces reached the eastern bank of the Suez Canal in
about 100 hours, seizing the Gaza Strip and nearly all the Sinai Peninsula.
The Sinai operations were supplemented by an Anglo-French invasion of Egypt
on November 5, giving the allies control of the northern sector of the Suez

The war was halted by a UN General Assembly resolution calling for an
immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of all occupying forces from Egyptian
territory. The General Assembly also established a United Nations
Emergency Force (UNEF) to replace the allied troops on the Egyptian side of
the borders in Suez, Sinai, and Gaza. By December 22 the last British and
French troops had left Egypt. Israel, however, delayed withdrawal,
insisting that it receive security guarantees against further Egyptian
attack. After several additional UN resolutions calling for withdrawal and
after pressure from the United States, Israel's forces left in March 1957.

SIX-DAY WAR (1967)

Relations between Israel and Egypt remained fairly stable in the
following decade. The Suez Canal remained closed to Israeli shipping, the
Arab boycott of Israel was maintained, and periodic border clashes occurred
between Israel, Syria, and Jordan. However, UNEF prevented direct military
encounters between Egypt and Israel.

By 1967 the Arab