1925 to 2000
British rule over Palestine was a force for modernization. The
British invested considerable sums in developing the country's
infrastructure. The Jewish community participated in public works
projects, such as the construction of roads, and also established
settlements, newspapers, and communal institutions.
However, the interwar years were also marked by violent discord
between Palestinian Arabs, Jewish settlers, and British overseers.
The burgeoning Arab nationalist movement saw the rapid increase
of the Jewish population as a threat and demanded that the British
authorities halt or limit Jewish immigration. The British acceded
to their demands and severely curtailed Jewish immigration, even
though the rise of Nazism was rapidly threatening the safety of
Jews throughout Europe. In response, the Zionist movement became
more militant, defying the British by sneaking in illegal immigrants,
forming underground paramilitary organizations, and stockpiling
During World War II, Palestine's residents were apprehensive about
the possibility of a German attack, especially after forces led
by German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel reached El Alamein in 1942.
Despite their growing antipathy to the British authorities, Palestine's
Jewish community actively supported the Allied war effort. Jews
served in special units in the British army and fought in Egypt,
Italy, and Europe.
The Holocaust galvanized both world and Jewish support for the
creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. In 1947 the United Nations
voted to partition Palestine into two independent states --one
Jewish; the other Arab. Jerusalem was to remain an international
The Zionist leadership agreed to the plan but Arab leaders opposed
it. On May 14, 1948, one day after the British withdrew their
forces from Palestine, Jewish leaders declared an independent
Jewish state. The country was left in a state of war, with forces
from surrounding Arab states battling the Jewish inhabitants.
A series of peace treaties signed in 1949 brought the conflict
to an end.
The new state of Israel established itself as a parliamentary
democracy, and, with aid from overseas Jewish communities and
the United States, it lost little time in developing its infrastructure
Since its establishment Israel has absorbed many waves of immigration,
from the European and Yemenite Jews who flooded its shores in
the 1940s-1950s to the Ethiopian and Russian Jews who arrived
in the 1980s-1990s.
Israel has managed to survive five more full-scale wars with its
Arab neighbors, including the Suez Campaign (1956), the Six Day
War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), and the Lebanon War (1982).
The Six Day War, which brought hundreds of thousands of Palestinian
Arabs under Israeli rule, had the most lasting consequences for
both Israelis and Palestinians. As the debate within Israel over
how best to achieve peace with its Arab neighbors intensified,
the Palestinian resistance movement grew increasingly aggressive,
adopting terrorism as its weapon of choice. In late 1987, unrest
among the Palestinian population of the Israeli occupied West
Bank erupted into several years of civil disturbances known as
International pressure on Israeli and Arab leaders to negotiate
an end to the conflict has grown. A series of peace agreements
negotiated during the 1990s led to hope that lasting peace was
on the horizon. In autumn 2000, however, a series of violent clashes
between Israelis and Arabs in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza
raised grave doubts within both communities about the peace process
and the future of relations between Israeli Jews and the Arab
populations of the region.