NOTE: THIS IS THE FIFTH IN A SERIES OF POSTS PROVIDING A COMPREHENSIVE PALESTINE-ISRAEL TIMELINE. THE COMPLETED TIMELINE WILL BE AVAILABLE AS A PDF AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE SERIES.
PALESTINE-ISRAEL TIMELINE: 1948-1967
1948-1951: Israel’s population increases from about 650,000 to slightly over 1.3 million, the result of an influx of some 684,000 immigrants. About half of the new immigrants are Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe. Others come from long-established Jewish communities in such Arab countries as Egypt, Iraq, Yemen and Morocco. Israeli authorities take over vacant Palestinian villages, urban dwellings, and farmland to house and feed the immigrants. The absorption of Palestinian land property into the Israeli economy makes it next to impossible for Israel to consider the repatriation of the Palestinians.
1948-1956: Overall, about 450,000 Sephardic (Oriental) Jews from Arab countries arrive in Israel. This group becomes an impoverished sector of the Israeli population.
1948-1958: The Israeli government expropriates thousands of acres of Israeli Arab land and forcibly relocates the displaced inhabitants; Arabs also face wage and employment discrimination.
1948-1966: Arab areas in Israel are placed under the authority of a Military Administration that requires Israeli Arabs to carry special identity cards and to obtain travel permits to go from one village to another.
1948-1967: Palestinian exiles place their hopes for repatriation on outside forces, tying the recovery of Palestine to external Arab regimes.
1949: The main features of Israel’s political system are established: a parliamentary democracy with a unicameral legislature (called the Knesset). All citizens receive suffrage at age 18. The prime minister and cabinet have a particularly strong role in policy formulation and decision making; the presidency is primarily ceremonial.
1949: Chaim Weizmann becomes Israel’s first president.
1950: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is founded to oversee the welfare of the refugee camps; 960,000 Palestinians are registered for relief. Opportunities in host countries vary. Restrictions on freedom of movement are harsh in Egypt and Lebanon. Syria, Iraq, and Jordan allow Palestinians to work and open businesses. Only Jordan allows refugees to become citizens.
1950: The Law of Return becomes a foundational principle of the new Israeli state, giving every Jew in the world the right to immigrate to Israel.
1950s: The Israelis adopt the doctrine of retaliation in force, sometimes referred to as “Ben-Gurionism.” The core principle of this doctrine is that every act of Arab aggression against Israel will be met by an armed response well out of proportion to the original act itself.
1952: The Knesset passes the Nationality Law which, in addition to granting automatic citizenship to any Jewish immigrant, awards Israeli citizenship to those Arabs who can prove their long-standing residence in Palestine. (160,000 Palestinian Arabs remain within the post-1949 borders of the Jewish state.) Measures are designed to keep this group from developing cohesive representative organizations.
1953: Jewish religious courts are recognized as part of the formal judicial system of Israel and are awarded exclusive jurisdiction over matters of personal status. The courts are under the supervision of the Supreme Rabbinical Council which is exclusively controlled by the Orthodox rabbinical establishment.
February 1955: Israel attacks the Gaza Strip; 38 Egyptians are killed and Egypt’s military weakness is exposed.
Late 1950s: Palestinian resistance organizations begin to form. One of these groups is Al-Fatah, founded by a group of young Palestinian university graduates working in Kuwait. Al-Fatah emphasizes Palestinian nationalism above all else. Palestinian guerrillas based in Syria conduct raids into Israel through Jordanian territory; Israel retaliates against targets in Jordan.
1960s: Frequent clashes erupt along the Jordanian-Israeli border.
1964: The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is founded under the auspices of the Arab League. Based in Cairo, the organization is an attempt by the Arab states to restrict Palestinian resistance activity and to prevent the Palestinian movement from operating independently. The Arab governments select Ahmad Shuqayri, a lawyer from one of Palestine’s notable families, to be chairman of the organization. The majority of the PLO’s executive council are from the traditional Palestinian nobility. Their lives are far removed from the lives of those in the refugee camps.
May 1967: Soviet and Syrian intelligence services report (erroneously) that Israel is preparing a large-scale military operation against Syria for its sponsorship of Palestinian guerrilla activities.
Nasser – in an effort to bolster his Pan-Arab leadership role — responds to the (perceived) threat to Syria by deploying troops in the Sinai Peninsula. Pro Nasser, anti-Israeli demonstrations break out in several Arab cities. Nasser requests that all UN forces be withdrawn from the Sinai. UN forces that had formed a shield between Egypt and Israel are evacuated.
Nasser reoccupies the UN positions at Sharm al-Shaykh and (bluffingly) announces a blockade on Israeli shipping passing through the Straits of Tiran.
May 30, 1967: King Hussein of Jordan flies to Cairo to sign a mutual defense pact with Egypt. Iraq joins the pact a few days later.
June 5, 1967: The Israeli air force attacks air bases throughout Egypt and destroys most of the Egyptian air force while it is still on the ground. The Syrian and Jordanian air forces are also destroyed.
Israeli forces defeat the Egyptian army in thr Sinai and advance to the east bank of the Suez Canal.
Jordan engages Israeli forces in the Jerusalem area and is driven out of East Jerusalem and across the Jordan River, abandoning the West Bank to Israeli occupation. The Jordanian army is temporarily out of action as a fighting unit. Jordan receives 300,000 new refugees fleeing the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army wrests the Golan Heights from Syrian control; 80,000 inhabitants are uprooted.
Israel finds itself administering a new Arab population of 1.5 million people.
June 9, 1967: Egypt and Israel sign a cease-fire agreement. Egypt’s losses include 12,000 men and 80% of its air force and armor.
June 11, 1967: Cease-fire is agreed to on the Golan front; 2,500 Syrians are dead.
1967: The Arab defeat in the June 1967 war serves as the catalyst that transforms the PLO into an independent resistance organization devoted to armed struggle against Israel. Also, several small Palestinian guerrilla organizations become active in the Gaza Strip and Jordan. The most successful, Al-Fatah, headed by Yasir Arafat, had recently moved its operation to Jordan from Kuwait. Al-Fatah rapidly emerges as the most formidable of the independent commando organizations.
1967: Israel annexes Arab East Jerusalem.
1967: Egypt’s air force and armor are restored to their prewar levels by the end of the year, largely due to an extensive Soviet effort. Egypt is now totally dependent on the Soviet Union for its military survival.
Late 1967: The West Bank (2270 square miles) is now inhabited by an estimated 596,000 Palestinian Arabs; the Gaza Strip (140 square miles) has nearly 350,000 Palestinian inhabitants, most of them refugees.
November 22, 1967: Resolution 242 is adopted by the UN Security Council. It calls for a just and lasting peace based on the withdrawal of Israeli forces from territories occupied in the June War and the acknowledgment of the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries. It also affirms the need to achieve a just settlement of the refugee problem. Egypt, Jordan, and Israel endorse the resolution. Syria and the Palestinian organizations reject it. The resolution is ambiguous and fails to provide a consensual basis for a peace settlement.