The War of Independence: 1948

Sub Title : The first Arab-Israel war; the very day Israel was created

Issues Details : Vol 17 Issue 5 Nov – Dec 2023

Author : Ashwani Sharma , Editor-in-Chief

Page No. : 18

Category : Geostrategy

: November 27, 2023


The War of Independence in Israel, also known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, marked a pivotal moment in the Middle East and for Jewish and Palestinian communities. This conflict arose out of the geopolitical and social unrest following the end of the British Mandate for Palestine and the subsequent partition resolution passed by the United Nations.

Background. The United Nations, in an attempt to resolve the long-standing conflict between Jewish and Arab populations in Palestine, proposed a plan to partition the territory into separate Jewish and Arab states in 1947. The Jewish leadership accepted the plan, but the Arab leadership, both within Palestine and in the surrounding Arab nations, rejected it, leading to increased violence.

Declaration of Independence and War. On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. This declaration came a day before the official expiration of the British mandate. The new state was recognized by the United States, the Soviet Union, and many other countries, but was met with hostility by the neighbouring Arab nations.

Following the declaration, forces from Egypt, Transjordan (Jordan), Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, along with Palestinian Arab contingents, launched military operations against Israel, marking the official start of the War of Independence. The war can be divided into two main phases: the civil war between Jewish and Palestinian Arab communities and the actual interstate war following the declaration of Israeli independence.

Phases of War:

  • Civil War Phase (Nov 1947 – May 1948): Before the end of the British mandate, the civil war phase saw increasing violence and skirmishes between Jewish and Palestinian Arab communities.
  • Interstate War Phase (May 1948 – July 1949): After the British withdrawal and Israeli declaration of independence, neighbouring Arab states invaded. The fighting was intense and moved through several truces and phases, with Israeli forces generally gaining the upper hand.

Outcome. The outcome of the War of Independence was a significant territorial gain for Israel beyond the boundaries set by the UN partition plan. For the Palestinians, the war resulted in a tragic loss and the displacement of a large number of refugees, an event referred to as Al-Nakba (The Catastrophe). Israel’s victory solidified its sovereignty and allowed for the absorption of substantial Jewish immigration. However, it did not bring about peace in the region. No formal peace agreements were signed (only armistice agreements), and the conflict over territory and the status of Palestinian refugees continued to be a source of tension.

The War of Independence is a foundational event in Israeli history, celebrated as a moment of national liberation. For Palestinians, it is mourned as a catastrophe that led to dislocation and loss of their homeland. This duality reflects the complex and often painful history of the region.