First Arab-Israeli War of 1948-1949

The 1948 Israeli War of Independence began when the United Nations decided to partition Palestine into separated Jewish and Arab states. The Arabs were not satisfied with the deal, as they wanted Palestine to be for Arabs only. They said that they would "fight for every inch of our country." Riots ensued almost immediately after the Partition Plan was approved. Arabs were able to take over many British military bases, and used the weaponry they acquired to launch attacks on Jewish communities. Jewish militias fought back, and after the British left Palestine, Israel was declared a state.

The 1948 War of Independence was a conflict that was instigated by the proposition of a compromise. For that reason, the topic is consistent with the theme of "Conflict and Compromise," although the conflict and compromise are not chronological.

The war was a major social, economic, and political event of the mid 20th century. The war is referred to by many terms, all which have their own bias. The non-Palestinian Arabs call the war the First Palestine War, the Palestinian Arabs call it al-Nakba (the disaster), and the Palestinian Jews call the war the War of Independence.

However it is referred to, the war can be divided into three distinct sections: the Internal War, the Civil War, and the International War.

The Internal War was fought from 1945 through November of 1947. It was mainly a string of terrorist activities perpetrated mainly by the Jews, although the Arabs did engage in some violence as well. The objective in this war was to influence British policy in Palestine.

The Civil War was fought from November of 1947 through May of 1948. The Civil War started after the British had left the mandate and lasted until Israel called itself a country. In the beginning of this stage of the war, the Arabs were the force that was on the offensive. As the war continued, however, the Jewish forces began to engage in more offensive campaigns.

The final stage of the 1948 War was the International War. The International War lasted from May 15th, 1948 until January 1949. In this portion of the conflict, Israel's Arab neighbors invaded the new country. The major events and consequences of the International War are listed below:

Sequence of Events

  • May 14, 1948 Israel declared a state
  • May 14, 1948 UN mediator assigned to Palestine (Count Folke Bernadotte)
  • May 15, 1948 Arab armies enter Palestine
    • The Arab Legion went into area allocated to Arabs in Judea and Samaria
    • Egyptian army deployed to Gaza and Beersheba
    • Lebanese army went into Arab Galilee
    • Iraqis with Arab Legion
    • Syrians on stayed on Palestinian border
  • Mid-June, 1948 Count Bernadotte secures month-long truce → Israeli arms build up → fighting picks up again → successful Israeli offensives (manage to secure Tel Aviv)
  • Sep. 16, 1948 Count Bernadotte recommends to UN that Jerusalem become an international city under UN control, that Negev be given to Arabs and Galilee to Israel, and that Arab refugees be permitted to return → Stern Gang (Israeli extremists) felt that Israel was threatened by these recommendations
  • Sep. 17, 1948 Count Bernadotte assassinated by Stern Gang → fighting breaks out again
  • Dec. 1, 1948 King Abdullah of Transjordan agrees to cease-fire with Israel
  • Jan. 1949 Egyptian Army disorganized and in chaos (in Gaza and Nagev) → sign armistice at Rhodes with Israel (Feb. 24, 1949)
  • Later armistices issued in 1949 between Israel and Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan


  • Israel increased its land mass by approx. 20%
  • King Abdullah of Transjordan annexes Judea and Samaria, and renames his kingdom the Hashmite Kingdom of Jordan
  • Egypt kept possession of the Gaza Strip

How did the Israelis do it?

  • Arab difficulties with logistics and organization
    • Arab forces had no unified command
    • Arabs had no central, agreed-upon goals
    • Arabs set at odds by traditional rivalries
    • Divisions among Arab leadership (brought on by conflicting interests and goals)
  • Factors in Israeli victory
    • unified command
    • fought with determination
    • fought with weapons procured from Czechoslovakia during truce period
    • employed effective terrorism (e.g. attack of Deir Yassin in 1948) and guerrilla tactics

Ironically, the Arabs ended up with much less land then they would have, had they simply accepted the original British partition plan to begin with:

external image 1946_arab_and_jewish_map.jpg

external image palestine_partition_detail_map1947.jpgThough the Israelis won the war their goal was not achieved without compromise...
- Farmland was gutted and mined. Their main agricultural products that acted as the basis of the Yishuv [Jewish community] were destroyed, leading to poor economic capability and progression.
- Israeli Military Costs: $500 Million
- Death Toll: 6,373 Israelis (approximately 1% of Jewish Population)

Refugee Problem

  • After the war the United Nations estimated the number of refugees to be over 700,000.
  • Who's to Blame?
    • Jewish Israelis (New Historian View): It can be said that aggressive military tactics caused the Palestinian civilians to flee After the civilians left Jewish immigrants tool over the area and barred the return of Arab return. The Arabs believe that they were systematically driven out of Palestine through the Jewish military strategy: Plan D. They believe that Plan D was a plan to ethnically cleanse that area of Arabs. Due to the brutal attack on the 2 major cities of Haifa and Jaffa, the Arabs fled to save their lives from the Palestinians. New historian's believe that the Jewish Army took more land then was necessary and then the Jewish civilians began to take their land and cultivate it. This barred the Arab return and led to the large refugee problem (Morrison).
    • Arabs (Old Historian View): The Arabs rejected the Partition of Palestine and after they began to revolt. The Arabs made the first strike on the Jewish people and so in defense the Jewish military, the Haganah, made Plan D to protect themselves. Also after the Haganah attacked the Arabs sent a paincked radio announcement to the Arab civilians that influenced them to leave their homes and flee for their lives, which led to the refugee problem. Lastly after the Arabs had clearly lost the war they were unwilling to make quick negotiations, and thus lost the opportunity to make negotiations and help many of the Arab refugees (Karsh).
- Morris, Benny. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949. New
York: Cambridge UP, 1987. Print.

- Karsh, Efraim. Rethinking the Middle East. London: Frank Cass, 2003. Questia. 2 Nov. 2009<>.
external image nakba-757134.jpg

Bickerton, Ian J, and Carla L Klausner. A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2005.