Israel Recent History
Over two thousand years before Christ the Jews settled in Chaldea, a region of Mesopotamia.
For a long time they had no fixed abode; they stopped in a place until they could grow it, then they moved. Their leaders, called “Patriarchs”, had absolute power. One of the wisest and most virtuous was Abraham. He said that God had once appeared to him and promised that he would give the land of Canaan to him and his future people. This land was what the ancients called Palestine. Abraham took his people away from Chaldea and moved to this earth. All this happened 2000 years before Christ. Another great patriarch was Jacob, Abraham’s nephew. After having a dream, he changed his name and called himself Israel, that is “powerful with the help of God” and, since then, all the Jews called themselves “Israelites”. From Jacob 12 children were born, who were considered the progenitors of the 12 tribes into which the Jews divided. At the time of Jacob in Palestine there was a very severe famine which forced the Jews to emigrate to Egypt, in the valley of the Nile; it was around 1700 BC.
According to Abbreviationfinder, centuries went by and around 1300 BC the Egyptians began to persecute Jews. And here emerges among them a legislator of the Jewish people, the adopted son of the then pharaoh, who had the powers from God to convince the people to follow them to lead them to the promised land. In fact, he took them away from Egyptian slavery and began the long journey to reach it. Moses also had from God the laws that were to regulate the civil and religious life of all Jews and these were the “Ten Commandments” that he received on Mount Sinai. But Moses never reached Palestine and the task of leading the people to the land of Canaan was taken on by a great leader: Joshua. But before I can take possession of that land, the Jews had to fight hard against the Canaanites and the Philistines who settled there when the Jews were in Egypt. The leaders who followed and who worked to expel foreigners from the Palestinian land were: Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson and Samuel.
Becoming a large and powerful people, the Jews around 1000 BC, decided to gather together under one king. And the greatest of the kings of Israel was David, who reigned from 1000 to 962 BC. He was also a brave warrior, wise legislator and poet. In fact, he composed some wonderful religious hymns, called “Psalms”, collected in the Bible.
Another great king of the people of Israel was Solomon, the son of David, who went down in history, not only for his immense wealth, but also and above all for his great wisdom. He had a grandiose temple built in Jerusalem to house the “Tables” of the law that Moses had received from God on Mount Sinai.
This temple was one of the most majestic buildings erected in antiquity. The works for its construction lasted 7 years and were directed by Phoenician architects. The walls were made of stone, covered in richly decorated cedar wood. The temple was surrounded by two turns of arcades, one reserved for the public and one exclusively for priests. In the middle of the building stood the Sanctuary which housed the Ark of the Covenant.
When Solomon died, the Jewish tribes fought against each other and Palestine was divided into two kingdoms. That of Judah, with capital Jerusalem, and that of Israel, with first Shechem and then Samaria. These struggles went on for some time and weakened Jewish military forces. It was the occasion that neighboring peoples had been waiting for for some time to attack the Palestinian territory. And in 722 BC, Sargon II, king of the Assyrians, occupied all the territories of the kingdom of Israel. Jews were forced to emigrate to other countries.
After about a century it fell to the kingdom of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonians, attacked and occupied Jerusalem, razed it to the ground and led the Jews into slavery in Babylon.
In 538 BC, Cyrus, king of the Persians, conquered the Babylonian empire, but did not subject the peoples aggregated to his religion. He let the Jews worship their God, or rather allowed them to return to Palestine to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
And many Jews returned to the promised land but did not have freedom. They always remained under the Persian empire. And since then the Jewish people, except for a few very short periods in their history, never again enjoyed the freedom.
In 332 BC the Jews ended up under the reign of Alexander the Great, king of the Macedonians, and upon his death they were subdued first from Egypt and then from Syria.
In 107 BC they managed to found an independent state, but in 63 Palestine was conquered by the Romans and under their domination in Palestine Jesus was born and lived. In 65 the Jews tried but unsuccessfully to rebel against the Romans. But they were tamed violently by Titus, son of Emperor Vespasian. It was 70 after Christ when he had Jerusalem destroyed, the Temple plundered and the Jews scattered around the world.
This event gave a decisive push to start the “diaspora”, that is, the abandonment of the land of Israel by the Jews. This mass flight peaked in 135 after Christ, following another failed insurrection against the Romans.
Still 300 years the Roman domination lasted, then the dominion of Palestine passed into the hands of the Eastern Roman Empire.
After two and a half centuries the Arabs arrived in that land and brought Muslim habits and customs. They remained there for 4 centuries and were driven out of it by the Turks in 1076.
At that point the Christian states arose which could not bear that in the Holy Land, which had given birth to Jesus, unfaithful peoples alternated, one more intolerant than the other towards Christianity. And they prepared a Crusade, to take away the territory from the Turks. And in 1099 Jerusalem was conquered by the Christian prince Geoffrey of Bouillon. But this period was short. In 1187 the Turks returned to office and, despite other Crusades, there was no longer a glimmer of Christian rule in Palestine. The Turks remained masters of the territory, except for brief parentheses, until 1917.
Meanwhile, in the days of the diaspora, the Jews, wherever they landed, never managed to merge with other peoples. Therefore they were forced to found exclusively Jewish neighborhoods, like small towns within towns. These were called “ghettos.” But, however, wherever the Jews went, they continued to cultivate their religious spirit, Bible studies, and promote the traditions of their fathers. At least spiritually the people, despite everything, remained united.
The ability of the Jewish people to establish themselves in the various fields of human activities often provoked resentments and bad reactions in the countries where they often occupied positions of dominance. In the Middle Ages even entire populations were driven out of the countries where they had settled. In the modern era, real persecutions often occurred, as happened in Russia and Germany around 1880.
This is why the Jews tried to always remain united in spirit. And in 1897, a valiant Jewish patriot, Theodore Herzl, founded the “Zionist Association” whose official demonstration took place in Basel. In the program of this Association, two essential points immediately appeared: his proposal to be able to encourage in any way the return to Palestine of his people and obtain their official recognition from all over the world. And from that moment, in small groups, the Jews began to move and settle in Palestine, still subject to the Turkish empire but mainly inhabited by Arabs.
When the collapse of the Turkish empire occurred in 1917, many other Jews, living in 70 different countries, traveled to reach Palestine. Their hope was to be able to gain recognition of their community from the League of Nations, especially for their large number. But the Arabs also claimed their rights on that land where they had lived since 1200. And bloody clashes between the two peoples began. At this point the League of Nations commissioned England to handle the matter. The rights of both ethnic groups had to be guaranteed pending a final decision. This mandate, entrusted precisely to Great Britain, had to be postponed for various vicissitudes including the most important one which was the Second World War.
However, a deadline for reaching the final decision had been indicated: it was May 15th 1948.
And on May 14, 1948, at 4 pm, David Ben Gurion solemnly proclaimed the establishment of the state of Israel. And 650,000 people at that time knew that in order not to be forced into the new diaspora, they had only one choice to make: fight to the death. They had returned to their homeland after suffering terrible massacres and persecutions, by Hitler’s Nazism. Millions of Jews had been barbarously slaughtered in the death camps during the Second World War. But their tragic epic was not yet over. Immediately there were those who wanted to annihilate the young state of Israel. Five armies from Arab countries unleashed an offensive: Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Trans-Jordan and Iraq.
Then relations with all the neighboring Arab countries were settled peacefully but, in reality, they always remained tense. Israel applied its foreign policy by aligning itself more closely with the western states, especially with the United States from which, under the presidency of Truman, it obtained various kinds of aid, including technical, useful for a good start of the young state. Relations with the Soviet Union were not good, and indeed for some months, from February to July 1953, they were even interrupted. The pommel of discord was a trial, set up in that state, against some Jewish doctors. In the same year, relations were established with all the countries of Latin America. The only two states that did not recognize Israel were Spain and the Vatican.
Negotiations were entered into with Germany as Israel demanded compensation from that country equal to the value of 6 million lives cut off by Hitler and the damage of over 6 billion dollars in stripping. An agreement was reached whereby Germany paid Israel $ 100 million.
In March 1953 the Bundestag ratified this agreement. The Arab countries therefore boycotted German products. Egypt then prevented free navigation in the Suez Canal, seriously damaging Israel which was forced to turn to the United Nations Security Council. This forced Egypt to respect the rules sanctioned by the armistice. But when Egypt, in 1956, following an Anglo-Franco-Egyptian tension, caused border incidents, Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula militarily up to the Channel and abandoned the occupation only when it was able to access free navigation in the Gulf of Aqaba and obtained more security at the border with the territory of Gaza. However, incidents and tense relationships, especially with Jordan, they continued and in 1958 Israel was again forced to seek UN intervention. It was a general opinion, especially of Syria, that the total war against Israel should be resumed. Meanwhile, already in 1957, the Egyptian ostracism had resumed with the blockage of the Canal. Meanwhile, Egypt received abundant war supplies from the Soviet Union.
In 1963 Ben Gurion, for health reasons, withdrew from the government. He was succeeded by L. Eshkol who, despite many contrary opinions, wanted to adopt a more moderate policy towards the Arabs.
And these took advantage of the opportunity to bring guerrilla actions against the Jews who, in 1966, resumed retaliatory actions, particularly towards Jordan. Furthermore, in early 1967 Ben Gurion took over the Ministry of Defense. Following strong military activity on the Syrian border, the United Nations intervened trying to bring the armistice back into force. Everything was futile. After Ben Gurion, General M. Dayan took over the defense. On June 5, after deciding on general mobilization, in a few hours, with the air force, he destroyed the Arab one, then attacked Jordan and Sinai, then quickly occupied Arab Jerusalem. and the West Bank. After three days Israel was attested along the eastern bank of the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights were occupied on the Syrian front.
Many diplomatic actions were undertaken by the United Nations. But other nations also intervened in the matter. The Soviet Union, considering itself impressed in its prestige, tended to rearm the Arabs. France promoted an arms embargo on Israel and so did the United States who supplied their powerful Phantom planes instead of the French Mirages.
In 1970 another war was coming, when Naser, the Egyptian leader, after obtaining very modern Soviet weapons, accepted a 90-day truce.
This truce was not only respected, but also renewed for another 90 days. But the Egyptians, when Sadat succeeded Naser, asked to be able to return to the always occupied eastern bank of the Canal. And they also set a precise term: the end of 1971, for the request to be accepted, so that it was then possible to decide whether to continue the peace or to resume the war.
While this was the situation with Egypt, Israel had to continually face the terrorist acts of the Palestinians who directed their actions from Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Until the Palestinians were ousted from these countries and even there it was possible to return to greater tranquility.
In 1971 the Soviet Union agreed to lift the exit veto for Jews there and in the years 1972/73 57,000 new immigrants arrived in Israel, of which 33,000 only from the Soviet Union. Quite a few problems arose for their accommodation. But more important problems Israel found itself having to solve because a disagreement had arisen between the government and the various political forces, regarding the non-transferability of some of the occupied territories.
While debating these issues, the Egyptians suddenly attacked Israel on the Canal on October 6, 1973 and in no time, using Soviet missiles, annihilated the Israeli air force. At the same time, on the Golan she was attacked in force by Syria, helped by Iraqi and Jordanian troops.
But Israeli troops managed to infiltrate the Egyptian forces of Sinai and went to occupy the western part of the Canal.
Once again, the United Nations Security Council stepped in and the “ceasefire” could be imposed on 22 October. Then the American Secretary of State, H. Kissinger, induced the parties to speak at a conference in Geneva and, after much effort, an agreement was reached in 1974. Israel returned to the 1967 positions; its international prestige had greatly diminished and moreover the significant losses had caused a strong deterioration in the economy.
Golda Meir, head of government, resigned on April 4 and was replaced by I. Rabin.
In June 1975 Egypt granted the reactivation of Israeli shipping. In 1976 Rabin, placed in a minority, resigned and in May 1977 M. Begin became Prime Minister.
On November 20, Egyptian Prime Minister Sadat visited Jerusalem and Begin returned the visit on December 25. All this allowed the reopening of direct peace negotiations between the two countries. This, however, on the one hand intensified Israeli military operations against southern Lebanon, where the Palestinian terrorist attacks were being prepared, and on the other hand brought various dissensions to Egypt from other Arab countries.
And the mediation of the United States was important for the consolidation of the peace between the two countries. In fact, on September 17, 1978 in Camp David, the then American President Carter, with Begin and Sadat, signed an agreement, ratified on March 26, 1979. With this agreement, Israel began a gradual withdrawal of forces from Sinai and a commitment to continue negotiations for the autonomy of the West Bank and Gaza.
In the meantime, a deep rift had been going on in the Israeli government as some ministers, more concerned about the precarious economic situation than the political one, resigned and Begin was forced to call early elections.
These were carried out on June 30, 1981 and confirmed, even if only slightly, the supremacy of Likud, a far-right party, over the Labor Party. The new government had Shamir in Foreign Affairs and Sharon in Defense. Israeli repressions intensified against the Palestinians of the Palestine Liberation Organization, with which a truce was agreed for the intervention of P. Habib, sent by the current US president, namely Ronald Reagan.
On April 25, 1982 the evacuation of Sinai was completed but military actions, especially in southern Lebanon, continued.
Until in that country A. Gumayyil was elected president who was more inclined than his predecessors to a peace with Israel. So it was done and then Begin considered his political work ended and retired. His successor, Shamir, called for early elections on July 23, 1984, which marked a good progress for the Labor Party, whose leader S. Peres agreed with the head of Likud, Y. Shamir, for an alliance government under whose leadership they would take turns each for half term.
This government immediately committed itself to implementing the gradual withdrawal from Lebanon where, however, there remained a border of a few kilometers where about 115,000 Lebanese were grouped.
During Peres’ presidency, inflation dropped significantly; consular relations with the Soviet Union resumed in June 1986; there were meetings with the king of Morocco and the Egyptian chief Mubarak. But Israel’s refusal to participate in the Middle East Conference under the auspices of the United Nations, in which the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine would also participate, was also reiterated. And for this, in December 1987 the protest of the Palestinians exploded, known as the “intifada”.
The Israeli situation worsened and brought many other lacerations among Jewish communities around the world. On November 1, 1988 there were political elections that assigned the majority of seats to the right and the government, in a large coalition, was chaired by Shamir, while Peres moved to the finances.
On November 15 the Palestinian National Council in Algiers proclaimed the Palestinian state and George Bush, the American president, proposed for a solution of the problem with Israel, and began talks that were to lead to the end of the intifada. On May 15, 1989, the Israeli government approved a pacification plan that sparked widespread discussions between possibilists and intransigents, which resulted in the spectacular kidnapping of an important sheikh, for the sole purpose of forcing the United States into forceful action.
Within the government, Shamir increasingly limited the agreements with the Labor Party as those with the minority nationalist formations developed.
In January 1991, during the Gulf War, Iraq directed missiles against Israel. The United States forced Israel not to intervene in the conflict. After which G. Bush initiated talks between Israel, Palestine and representatives of other Arab states, such as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, in Madrid on 30 October.
Contrary to these negotiations were the far-right parties that left the government in January 1992 and so in February Rabin returned to the leadership of the Labor party while Shamir remained head of Likud. In June 1992 the Labor Party won the elections and Rabin immediately declared himself willing to relax, agreed to continue the peace negotiation in Washington, to be inclined to return the occupied territories, to be in favor of elections in the West Bank and Gaza and to return to Syria. most of the Golan Heights, leaving only a buffer zone manned by United Nations forces or a multinational corporation. All this had also resulted from the willingness of the new president of the republic, E, Weizman, elected on March 24, 1993, to start a clear improvement in relations with the Palestinians.
But in the midst of all this, Rabin was certainly unable to capture the moods of the people, especially those of the right-wing extremists who procured significant bloodshed for their opposition to détente. Like the massacre perpetrated by colonist B. Goldstein when he killed about 30 Muslim faithful in the Hebron mosque on 25 February 1994. Then on November 4, 1995, Rabin himself was killed in the square in Tel Aviv by the young extremist Y. Amir.
On May 29, 1996, new elections brought B. Netanyahu, head of a far-right coalition, to the government, which immediately reduced the agreements with the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine, leaving fear of the end of the peace agreements.
For this reason, in mid-October 1998, American President Clinton solicited new meetings between the parties, with the effective mediation also of King Husayn of Jordan, and on October 23, 1998 in the locality of Wye Plantation an agreement was stipulated which established, before all, the Israeli acceptance of freeing a good percentage of the West Bank territories.
This point brought serious dissension within the government where Netanyahu did not lose the majority just by one vote, due to the Arab Democratic Party.
Despite Clinton’s visit to both the state of Israel and the Palestinian territories, the internal situation did not ease and Netanyahu was forced to dissolve the Parliament in advance and to call for new elections which, held on May 17, 1999, gave, in the first round, the success for Labor candidate Ehud Barak.
In July, the government was formed in which the Orthodox Shas were present and the Arab parties absent.
The Wye Plantation agreements came back to the fore and the agreement was reached in September 1999. This accelerated the withdrawal times of the Israelis from the occupied territories while the question of the crucial fate of Jerusalem remained unsolved.